Oxford fails to fill places for teachers

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The Independent Online
OXFORD UNIVERSITY has failed to fill its teacher training places for the first time in its history as the teacher recruitment crisis deepens.

The university's department of educational studies has filled only 15 of its 26 places for secondary maths, the subject that has one of the biggest national shortfalls in applicants.

Twenty years ago, more than 200 of Oxford's new graduates signed up for one-year postgraduate teaching courses throughout Britain. Last year, the figure was just 57.

Professor Richard Pring, the education department's head, who will next month join a delegation of education professors to David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday that student teachers should be paid a salary.

He said: "We have never before failed to fill our places in any subject. There is such a massive crisis in teacher recruitment and the full extent of it has not been recognised.

"Most people are in such debt when they leave university that they cannot face the idea of another year in debt. That is particularly true for maths graduates who can command good salaries elsewhere."

His department writes to all second and third-year Oxford university undergraduates asking them to consider teaching as a career but last year only 19 of the university's science and maths graduates chose teaching compared with 27 the year before. The figures for arts are down from 67 to 38 out of a total of 3,000 graduates.

Professor Pring said ministers must stop denigrating the profession if they wanted to recruit enough teachers. "You have to make people feel that the profession is worth going into. The constant bashing from Mr Blair and Mr Blunkett doesn't help."

The job also had to be made more attractive to creative, intelligent people, he added. At present, it involved "too much bureaucracy and endlessly filling in bits of paper".

Nationally, recruitment for teacher training in all secondary courses is 20 per cent short of the official target. Maths is recruiting at only 50 per cent of its target.

Ministers are ignoring the role of poverty in depressing school standards, a leading education professor said yesterday.

Professor Peter Mortimore, director of London University's institute of education, who has researched schools for more than 20 years, said: "The Government has now taken the message that schools can improve themselves. That is terrific. But like zealots they have gone too far in suggesting that poverty has no impact. That is lunacy."

Estelle Morris, the Schools Standards minister, said: "Of course we must recognise the need to provide extra support to overcome disadvantage. However, let nobody say that children from deprived backgrounds do not have the same right to a good education. Poverty cannot be an excuse for failure."