Falling rolls prompt further cut in trainee numbers

Student teacher numbers have been cut for the second year because of falling pupil rolls.

The Department for Education and Skills confirmed numbers will drop by 1,500 from September this year to 32,800. The same number was cut in 2005.

Officials said the reduction was in response to falling pupil numbers. It follows fears that many newly-trained teachers in certain parts of the country have been left without jobs.

The number of primary school teacher trainees taking the most popular route into the profession - the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) - will fall by 500 to 15,300. A further 1,000 places are being cut from secondary courses, leaving 17,500 in September. In 2007 there will be more cuts, with a further 500 primary and 1,000 secondary places removed.

On-the-job training, including the graduate teacher programme (GTP), will suffer smaller cuts, from 7,892 to 7,782 in September this year.

However, the Government has announced that places for shortage secondary school subjects will not suffer the same cuts, reflecting the continuing concern over a lack of specialist staff in some schools.

Maths and science trainee numbers will be frozen until at least September 2007, said the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which administers teacher training quotas.

Graham Holley, executive director of the TDA, said: "More emphasis will be placed on filling regional needs.

"Although pupil numbers are dropping fast, we acknowledge the continuing demand for maths and science teachers."

The decision to reduce student teacher numbers was criticised by some academics who believe that it represents a missed opportunity to reduce class sizes. James Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "There is a danger that if this trend continues it will put some good quality teacher training courses at risk of closure.

"The DfES is missing a real opportunity here to improve the teacher-pupil ratio.

"It also seems to be failing to take into account the demographic time-bomb.

"More than a third of our teachers are aged over 50 and we need to be planning for their retirement."

John Howson, recruitment analyst and Liberal Democrats' education adviser, said: "The Government would have to put up taxes to reduce class sizes and that will not happen. The Treasury will police spending, and the money saved on things like teacher training will be transferred from the schools budget to things like further education and universities."

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