Teaching course drop-outs cost £100m a year

Recruitment to teacher training rises but new research shows four out of 10 students never reach the classroom
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The Independent Online

Almost £100m a year is being spent training teachers who never set foot in the classroom, according to research published yesterday.

Four out of ten students recruited to teacher training either dropped out before they completed the course or passed and did not enter the profession, according to the research commissioned by the National Union of Teachers.

The research, by Professors Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson, of Liverpool University's Centre for Education and Policy Research, said: "The stark fact is that about 40 per cent of trainees cannot be traced to teaching. The cost of initial teacher training, including training salaries, is currently £245 million a year. The loss to the public purse will therefore be about £100 million."

The research also revealed that 18 per cent of those who became teachers quit within three years of starting work.

The report took the gloss off figures published earlier in the day that showed recruitment to teacher training courses at its highest level for seven years. The figures show nearly 29,000 people started BEd and PGCE courses this autumn – five per cent up on the previous year.

Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, said: "These excellent figures show the Government's strategy for recruiting more teachers is working."

The figures fail to take into account an increase in the number of mature graduates entering teaching as a second career. Their numbers would boost the figure to more than 30,000 – bringing the overall rise compared with last year to seven per cent. Professor Smithers said the Government had "met with some success and is right to celebrate." But he said: "A lot of experienced teachers are leaving."

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Those who actually enter teaching and stay in teaching ... are a very small percentage of those who opt for courses." The research showed the number of resignations from state schools this summer had almost doubled since three years ago. There were 36,483 resignations from full-time posts and 12,880 from fixed term or part-time contracts. About 24,400 either quit the profession or retired.

Professor Smithers said: "It looks as though things are going to get worse simply because of the age profile of the profession." The research showed 38 per cent were aged between 40 and 49 while 21 per cent were between 50 and 59.

Among secondary school teachers, the most frequently cited reason for quitting were workload (57 per cent), pupil behaviour (45.1 per cent) and government initiatives (37.2 per cent). Others included salary (24.5 per cent), stress (21.6 per cent) and status/-recognition (24.5 per cent). Difficult parents were mentioned by more than one in 10.

Julie Grant, the president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "Unless the Government offers some radical solutions to the serious problem of teachers' workload, nothing will stem the growing haemorrhage of good teachers.

"Improving recruitment is only half the battle. It is equally vital to retain teachers ... once they are trained. Until teachers are given the respect they deserve, there will be no hope of ... truly addressing teacher shortages."

However, Ralph Tabberer, the chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, said: "Increasing the number of recruits for the second year in succession at a time when competition for good graduates has been tougher than ever is a remarkable achievement."