Teacher shortages predicted: Training plans seen as 'catastrophic'

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The Independent Online
MASSIVE teacher shortages have been predicted as a result of government plans to take teacher training out of universities and into classrooms.

New figures show that plans to recruit more teachers in shortage subjects are bound to fail. Schools cannot cope with training, and if the recession has not put an end to teacher shortages then a return to prosperity will spell disaster, a leading professor said last night.

A survey to be presented to government officials today shows that ministers' targets for increasing the numbers going into maths, science and modern languages will not be met next year.

The universities say that they have had to cut staff posts and training places because new 'training partnerships' mean they must pay schools an average of pounds 800 for teaching practice places which used to be offered free of charge. Schools are also reluctant to offer training under the new system because of shortages of time and resources.

The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) has compiled figures on the plans of 38 university departments. It will present them to the Department for Education at a meeting today.

The survey reveals that training places for modern language teachers may decrease slightly in 1994 despite plans to increase them by 240. In science, the Government wants 415 extra places but only 52 are being offered, and in maths, just 110 extra places are available despite a planned increase of 220.

Two universities, Warwick and Bath, have decided to close their four-year undergraduate courses for secondary school teachers and to concentrate on one-year post-graduate courses, and the University of York will stop training teachers of Russian, Spanish and Italian.

Professor Ted Wragg, director of the school of education at the University of Exeter, said that if the new system was exacerbating shortages during a recession, it would have catastrophic consequences when graduate unemployment dropped. He has written to the Department for Education to warn that the dire teacher shortages of the late Eighties could return.

'We have all the makings of a disaster. The quality institutions are moving out of teacher training because the Government wants to shoot teacher training into schools. This is a move down-market . . . We also have the problems of student loans and tuition fees, disaffection amongst teachers in their twenties and a blight on recruitment which will be caused by an increase in graduate jobs,' he said.

Tony Edwards, chairman of UCET and professor of education at the University of Newcastle, said universities had had to cut back because of the reforms and schools were often too hard-pressed by other demands to take on teacher training as well.

'The Government is trying to dismantle one system before it has another in its place,' he said.