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Common sense reveals all on staff shortage

I enjoyed the irony of the article about the Teacher Training Agency and its efforts to broaden the appeal of teaching at a time when recruitment problems threaten renewed staff shortages (my italics) (TES, February 17). This appeared in the same week that this Government, which presumably set up the TTA quango, has again shown its commitment to education by failing to fund the modest teacher pay rise.

I am a physics graduate with a masters degree and many years' experience in the computer and electronics industries, but with little common sense, who has been trying for the past few years to move into teaching. You might think I am just what the Government is looking for; after all, it is still paying a bursary of Pounds 1,000 to trainee physics teachers because physics is a so-called "shortage" subject.

In 1991, my LEA advised me to try direct entry via the licensed teacher scheme. Although I found at least one school willing to take me as a licensed teacher, this was only possible if no qualified teachers applied for the post (not very likely, even in 1991).

In February 1993 I accepted a post as a lecturer in further education, where no teaching qualification is required. I was assured that the one-year contract (Silver Book conditions) would become permanent and a new career seemed possible. By the following February the new broom of independence from LEA control had swept through the college and my contract was not renewed. I still taught about the same number of hours - 20 hours per week, but on a casual basis, and had to sign on as unemployed during vacations.

I decided this was not the career I had hoped for and signed up for a one-year PGCE course at Southampton in September 1994, funded by a very modest grant plus the Pounds 1,000 bursary. (Incidentally, my course is nearly half-completed but there is still no sign of the Pounds 1,000. Someone told me, and I believe them, that Gillian Shephard will visit us in May and distribute the cheques personally.) So in the week that the TTA wrings its hands about the teacher shortages and proposes to expand the licensed teacher scheme, I turn to the jobs pages and scan the few jobs in the science section. Apart from the repeated ads from the previous week, there is nothing for me in my county or the adjoining one. This is a pattern repeated week by week, and I'm already reluctantly beginning to consider looking outside the profession for employment, as are many of my colleagues on the course.

So, it appears that the reason for the shortage of teachers is that there are no jobs for them because the Government won't pay for them. The obvious solution is to try to recruit and train more teachers from industry. Although I'm not too bright, even to me, this seems more like Alice in Wonderland than common sense.

When Gillian Shephard hands me my cheque for Pounds 1,000, I must ask her to explain it all to me.

RICHARD BAILEY Copse Lane Waterlooville Hampshire.

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