Teacher agency drops demand for top degrees

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The Independent Online
A target requiring the majority of trainee teachers to hold a top degree has been scrapped. The move emerged as a recruitment drive is launched to remedy a growing shortfall in the profession, says Education Correspondent Lucy Ward.

The Teacher Training Agency's goal of eight out 10 trainee teachers holding a first- or upper-second-class degree by 2002 is being scaled down before it has even been implemented.

Instead, as the TTA will reveal today at the launch of a high-profile campaign to lure recruits to the profession, the Government will aim to ensure 95 per cent of all entrants to post-graduate teacher training courses have at least a lower-second.

The original target, outlined in August in a letter from the agency to providers of teacher training, was quietly dropped after protests that it was unrealistic.

However, today's launch will see the agency outlining new goals on the qualifications of entrants to teaching courses.

It will aim to lift the average A-level grades of entrants from its present level of a C and two Ds to at least three Cs - the average for non-teacher training courses.

Whitehall sources said yesterday: "Teaching trainees should at least have the same qualifications as entrants to other degree programmes. I don't see why we should stand for anything less on that - a weak teacher does more harm than an absent teacher."

The launch will see the unveiling of a pounds 1.5m advertising campaign to boost recruitment, featuring cinema adverts spreading the message: "No one forgets a good teacher."

Applications for courses have dropped sharply as the economic recovery has increased the career options for graduates.

At the end of August, there were 1,433 graduates applying to teach maths in secondary schools, compared with 2,246 in 1994. For science, there were fewer than 3,000 applications compared with 4,000 in 1994.

Amid the efforts to attract high quality new recruits to teaching, local authorities are also seeking government help in removing those not up to standard.

A pounds 17m cash pot being considered by ministers will allow schools to pay off bad teachers to remove them from the classroom as early as possible. This follows an approach by Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association and leader of the local authority employers.

Mr Lane said a fund was needed to allow schools to implement a new agreement on fast-track procedures for removing incompetent teachers without a loss of momentum. No dismissal should take longer than two terms in total, the agreement says.