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Agency spotlights training shortfall

This week's performance tables reveal that those educating the country's future teachers have a long way to travel before they meet Government targets, but the assessments have attracted criticism. Nicolas Barnard reports

PERFORMANCE tables for teacher education published for the first time today show how far the profession has to go to meet its targets.

Data collected by the Teacher Training Agency demonstrates the scale of the challenge it faces to attract better qualified students on to courses, more men into primary schools and more people from ethnic minorities into teaching.

Men made up just 14 per cent of the intake on to primary teacher training courses in the year covered by the figures, 1996-97. Ethnic minorities made up 5 per cent in primary and 7 per cent for secondary courses.

And at a time of national recruitment shortages, TTA chief executive Anthea Millett said that created additional problems: "We are fishing from only half the pool."

Only 15 per cent of undergraduate primary entrants had an A-level score of 20 or more - equivalent to a grade B and two Cs. For secondary it was even lower - down to 2 per cent for modern language specialists and zero for information technology.

Ms Millett said: "I am not content that the A-level scores for primary undergraduate entrants should be so much lower than the average for all undergraduate courses."

The national average for all subjects is 18.5 points compared to 13.5 for teacher training. The TTA also wants to increase numbers of PGCE entrants accepted with a 2:1 or better from their first degrees. In some shortage secondary subjects such as mathematics, the figure is as low as 33 per cent.

Officials are to talk with individual institutions about how they can raise the quality of their intake and make it more representative of the wider population - though it rules out setting individual targets.

Some have clearly been more successful at addressing the problems. Men made up almost a third of the intake at Nene College in Northampton. But at other universities - including high-quality providers like Homerton College in Cambridge - male entrants were well below 10 per cent.

The vast majority of ethnic- minority trainees are on a handful of courses in London, Bradford and the East Midlands. Surprisingly, more than a dozen providers, most of them with tiny intakes, had no ethnic-minority students at all - although some blamed errors in the tables. Kingston and Sussex Universities say they told the TTA the information was not available; their true intake is 8 per cent at Kingston, 6 per cent at Sussex. The TTA said proof copies of the tables had been sent to all institutions.

The TTA has already begun working with the Commission for Racial Equality to attract more ethnic-minority students into teaching, for example by siting more courses closer to their communities.

But they recognise the problem is tied to the other perennial in teacher training - recruitment. Some ethnic minorities do not believe teaching is a sufficiently high status profession.

Tables - pages 22-24

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