The Government's bewildering array of incentives such as "golden hellos" and training salaries may have triggered a sharp rise in applications for teacher training but it could yet prove counter-productive, say classroom unions.
The pound;2,000 inducement to returning teachers announced in last week's Budget statement is just the latest in a clutch of similar measures. But John Bangs, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, is unimpressed. "These piecemeal initiatives make the people who have been left out deeply and justifiably resentful," he says. "There is no joined-up thinking behind these incentives."
Russell Cummings, who teaches English at Turnford School in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, is one of the recently-qualified teachers who has lost out. "Nothing is being done to retain dedicated mature entrants," he says. "I am not asking for special treatment - just fair treatment."
Mr Cummings - a late entrant to teaching with a first-class degree - is in his third year in service and will see his successors get much more than he ever did. He has not only missed out on training salaries, but a golden hello of pound;4,000, payable to trainee English teachers from September.
To add insult to injury, the higher pay he has won through early promotion means he now must start paying back the student loan he took out while training, at pound;135 per month. "I feel penalised for being good at my job," says the father-of-five. "Given the crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers, I am appalled to find myself treated this way."
Trainees in Wales also feel aggrieved. PGCE students there will get pound;6,000 salaries from September, a year later than in England. Last year, primary students got nothing, while most secondary students got less than their English peers (se box).
"It is ludicrous that people can be penalised for choosing to train in Wales," complains Rachel Knox, a PGCE student at the University of Wales in Bangor.
The Government has finally agreed to reconsider paying training salaries to another excluded group: fourth-year students on BEd courses in England. But the Welsh Assembly has yet to say if it will do the same.
Justice demands BEd students should also get golden hellos, argues the NUT's John Bangs. "It makes no sense for the Government to discriminate against people who have a qualification that has been recognised for decades."
WHERE YOU MISSED OUT...
All students doing postgraduate certificates in education in England are now eligible for a pound;6,000 training salary. This is non-taxable for full-timers and does not have to be paid back if the student drops out or decides not to teach.
Secondary PGCE students in maths, science, modern languages and technology also get a taxable pound;4,000 "golden hello" if they are still teaching 12 months after qualifying. This inducement will be paid to new English teachers from September.
In Wales, all primary and secondary PGCE students will qualify for a pound;6,000 salary from September. Until then, only students in secondary maths, modern languages, science, technology and Welsh will get pound;6,000 (and a pound;4,000 golden hello). Secondary students in other subjects have only received pound;4,000 plus another pound;2,000 if they complete induction.
Means-tested grants have also been available for trainees on secondary BEd and PGCE courses in some subjects in England since1998.
Salaries for fourth-year BEd students and "golden handcuffs" for teachers in shortage subjects are being considered. Some teachers could also have their student loans written off by the Government.
Able graduates who take the new elite "fast-track" training route will get an extra pound;5,000 from September.