Don't let training go to waste

Economic recession is apparently good for teacher recruitment. But who would want to forfeit a good job in the private sector to enter "the worthy profession" considering such stiff competition in the Welsh teaching market?

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the Assembly government is wasting pound;7.5 million on training too many teachers - money that should be pumped into pupils' education during such hard times. The government has attacked the validity of their research, but no one can argue with hard facts.

The latest school census returns show hundreds of candidates are applying for some posts in English-medium schools last year, particularly at primary level. At secondary, there are some subjects in which competition is also high. PE, geography, art and biology posts attracted huge numbers of applications in 2007.

Scotland is experiencing a similar trend, with newly qualified teachers disillusioned after they fail to clinch that dream job.

The one consolation is that fluent Welsh speakers are on to a winner in Wales. Candidates have a one in four chance of securing a job in a Welsh- medium school, based on last year's figures. For others, it means supply teaching with fewer employment rights or a move elsewhere. Some will change career altogether and not use their training at all. What a waste.

Professor John Furlong caused controversy when he recommended a drastic reduction in numbers on initial teacher training courses in 2006.

Jane Hutt, Wales's education minister, says the plans have their backing, and cuts are being made annually. But there will inevitably be job losses under Professor Furlong's recommendations. Sudden cuts could be viewed as politically insensitive and possibly unwise.

There are mixed views among Welsh teachers about whether new initiatives, such as the foundation phase for under-7s, should be staffed with so many teaching assistants rather than fully qualified teachers. Support staff numbers, and the jobs available to them, are flourishing in Wales's schools as teacher numbers fall.

It seems the government is wise to strike a balance between lowering trainee numbers and being diplomatic. Anything else would only serve to antagonise.

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