Teacher recruitment hits low point

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The Independent Online
RECRUITMENT TO secondary school teaching is plummeting and fewer people are applying to teach mathematics than at any time for more than a decade, according to new figures released today.

The National Association of Head Teachers warned that graduate recruitment is lagging well behind government targets in every subject except PE and history. It said that only a substantial pay rise for teachers would halt the decline. Official statistics from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry for one-year postgraduate Certificate of Education applicants compares the number of students who have accepted places on teacher training courses this year with the same figure in mid-August last year.

Mathematics is down by nearly a third and physics by 39 per cent. All secondary subjects show a reduction apart from classics, although primary teaching acceptances are up.

A spokesman for the association said: "While the overall position is extremely serious, there are particularly alarming figures for maths and physics. These statistics have severe implications for the quality of future maths and physics teaching and for students' results." Ministers are so concerned about teacher recruitment that last autumn they began a pounds 1.5m advertising campaign based on the slogan: "No one forgets a good teacher". But today's figures suggest that the campaign has, so far, made little impact.

The Government is due to publish a Green Paper on teacher recruitment later this year. It is expected to propose performance-related pay to attract bright graduates. In mathematics, acceptances amount to only 40 per cent of the Government target for this year, in sciences 60 per cent, in modern languages 64 per cent and in information technology 48 per cent.

The association's general secretary, David Hart, said: "The teacher recruitment crisis poses a major threat to the Government's public sector pay policy. Any pay settlement for next year which equates with its inflation target of 2.5 per cent will serve only to make the crisis even worse.

"Government pleas for pay restraint in the private sector and threats of sanctions against so-called fat cats in the utility companies will not recruit one extra teacher. Schools will not recruit teachers of the right quality and in the right quantity unless significant salary increases are awarded to the teaching profession." Mr Hart acknowledged that last- minute acceptances might change the picture slightly but said it would take a "quantum leap" to hit the Government's targets in most subjects.

The survey notes that the mathematics figures are even worse than those in the mid-eighties, the previous low point.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The Government is concerned about the reduction in students starting courses in maths and science. The Green Paper will offer the first fundamental look for many years at teaching as a profession. We are going to ensure that we attract, retain and motivate the brightest and best teachers."

He pointed out that targets for primary school teachers were being met: the Government's pledge to reduce infant class sizes was not in danger.