'Golden hellos' lose allure for teacher recruitment

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The Independent Online

The "golden hellos" introduced last year to boost teacher recruitment appear to have lost their appeal, according to early figures for this year's applications.

The "golden hellos" introduced last year to boost teacher recruitment appear to have lost their appeal, according to early figures for this year's applications.

Applications for one-year post-graduate teaching (PGCE) courses in shortage subjects such as maths, which rose last year on the promise of £5,000 incentives - half paid before trainees qualify - have dipped again.

Figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Register show that early applications to UK training courses are down 20% in maths and 27% in chemistry on the same time last year.

And the extension of "golden hellos" to students training to teach modern foreign languages appears to have done nothing to stem a decline.

Numbers applying for courses in French and German are down 22% and 21% respectively.

There has also been a significant drop in the numbers applying for PGCE courses in primary education.

These are still oversubscribed and do not carry golden hellos but applications are down by a quarter on last year - and to half their level in 1994.

Senior Government sources dismissed the statistics, saying applications normally peaked in spring for courses beginning the following September.

But teachers' leaders said the poor start for this year's applications - apparently already discounting the impact of last year's incentives - showed the depth of the teacher recruitment crisis.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have close to full employment and a very competitive jobs market for good honours graduates.

"Teaching is having to fight very hard to attract good graduates and at the moment it is failing."

Independent analyst Dr John Howson said the big drop in applications this year appeared to be among older entrants to teaching.

"People, particularly those who already have financial commitments, are saying we can't afford to take on the extra debt of a fourth year of study," he said after analysing the latest applications.

"The message to the Government has to be that they have to consider proper training salaries for teachers."

"Golden hellos had an impact last year, but they don't compare with a training salary of, say, £10,000 for a trainee teacher."

A senior Government source said that at this stage last year, only 14% of applications to PGCE courses had been received.

Golden hellos increased applications for maths courses by 30% last year, and ministers were confident they would succeed again.

"We will judge the impact of golden hellos when we see the final number of applications," the source said.

Graduates were leaving it until later in the year before deciding between career options. Golden hellos for teaching courses would be heavily promoted early next year.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis accused the Government of complacency over teacher recruitment.

"Piecemeal incentives for a few subjects mean risking future shortages in the rest," he said.

"The crisis in recruitment of primary teachers is especially worrying.

"The Liberal Democrats have long called for a training salary for all student teachers of around half the average starting salary. Today's figures prove nothing less will do."