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Call for primary training curb

Recruitment expert Professor John Howson says 10 per cent fewer places should be offered in future. Graeme Paton reports

The number of new primary trainees should fall by as much as 10 per cent as hundreds of newly qualified teachers say they have been left without jobs, a leading recruitment analyst has warned.

Professor John Howson of Education Data Surveys said the reduction was needed to prevent any further increase in the number of unemployed primary teachers.

Last year, 15,101 people started primary courses, but one-third dropped out, failed the course or could not find a permanent post.

Spending on teacher training has almost doubled in five years, coinciding with a sharp rise in students opting to enter teaching.

The Government's grant to the Teacher Training Agency increased from pound;305 million in 2000-01 to pound;551m last year, according to the quango's annual report.

More than 41,000 entered teacher training in September 2004, the highest number since 1975, to counter shortages in certain secondary subjects and meet the challenge of an ageing school workforce.

But the increase has led to accusations of a surplus of trainees in some parts of the country, leaving hundreds of NQTs without a permanent job.

Last month, a report by Buckingham university found that 681 primary trainees who gained qualified teacher status last summer were still looking for a job six months later, with shortages most acute in the North and South-west of England.

Professor Howson said he expected primary training numbers to fall in September 2006 to counter a growing backlog of teachers looking for their first job.

"Training targets are devised by the Department for Education and Skills, not the TTA," he said. "The TTA is merely the wholesaler, but it is clear that there has been a serious over-supply of new primary teachers over a number of years.

"Primary numbers should drop next year by between 6 and 10 per cent. This pattern may well be repeated among secondary places, depending how the Government balances falling school rolls with an increasing retirement rate."

The DfES said it had already recommended a 3 per cent fall in the number of primary trainees starting courses next month, compared to September 2004.

There should be a further 2.5 per cent drop in September 2006, but it is still way short of Professor Howson's recommendation.

One primary NQT, who completed a course in Kent last summer and is now looking for work in West Sussex, said: "The job situation here has been described as 'dead man's shoes' due to the lack of movement. I have applied for more than 30 jobs, to be told each time that 70-plus applicants have already applied. As much as I love teaching, this has all left a very bitter taste in my mouth and a massive hole in my bank balance."

The TTA report also showed that 2,700 new higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs), seen as essential to the workload agreement which gives teachers half a day a week out of the classroom to mark and prepare work, were trained by March this year.

The move is part of the agency's new remit to oversee the development of non-teaching staff, as well as supervising teachers' in-service training.

The new role, which is expected to bring further increases in its budget in future, will be marked by a change of name next month, when the TTA will be re-branded the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

Accounts also showed that Ralph Tabberer, the TTA's chief executive, earned pound;146,000 last year, up by pound;11,000 on 2003-04. Other staff salaries increased by pound;1m overall in 12 months.

* graeme.paton@tes.co.uk

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