Teachers' leaders alert MPs to recruitment crisis

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The Independent Online
Teachers' leaders from the state and independent sectors yesterday joined forces to impress upon the Government a growing crisis in recruitment to the profession.

As Baroness Blackstone, the higher education minister, was attempting to calm fears of a further decline with a promise of pounds 10m designed to reduce the impact of tuition fees for trainee teachers, teaching associations were insisting a whole package of measures would be needed to reverse the downward spiral.

Their submissions, presented to a sub-committee of the Commons education and employment committee, bring together for the first time since the general election evidence of the scale of the problems which ministers acknowledge must be solved if their standards crusade is to succeed.

Teachers' leaders called for changes ranging from more rigorous entry criteria for initial teacher training courses to improved salary levels. The Head Masters' and Head Mistresses' Conference, representing independent schools, proposed a high-profile advertising campaign for the profession modelled on recruitment campaigns used by the armed forces.

According to figures from the teacher training agency, which oversees training and recruitment, significant vacancies remain on this year's courses in designated shortage subjects such as modern languages, mathematics, information technology and design and technology.

Even in primary teacher training, where recruitment is considered less of a problem, applications for initial training are down by as much as 13 per cent this year compared with last.

There were increasing concerns over the quality of newly qualified teachers, the committee heard. John Sutton, General Secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said both quality and quantity have begun to decline in the past 18 months.

The National Primary Head Teachers' Association reported members' concerns that some teacher training institutions were reluctant to fail unsuitable candidates, and sometimes produced ambiguous references for trainees. University figures show that the average A-level points scored by entrants for undergraduate teacher training courses are the lowest in any major subject area.

Nick Jarman, an education consultant, is to take on the temporary management of Hackney's education service. His appointment follows a highly critical inspectors' report on the local education authority in the London borough. Mr Jarman, who has worked with a range of authorities throughout the country, will continue in the job until a permanent replacement is found.