False alarm on postgraduate numbers

David Henderson

THERE is no acute shortage of postgraduate trainee teachers, contrary to weekend press reports of embarrassing recruitment difficulties.

Universities are more or less on target for one-year courses in primary and secondary which began this week, even in priority subjects such as mathematics and modern languages, according to the Scottish Executive. It is also unlikely universities will face Scottish Higher Education Funding Council financial penalities for providing too few or too many places.

The true figures show a growing interest in teaching following the post-McCrone settlement. By Monday the intake for priority subjects was 646 against a target of 626. Trainers, however, underline the need for further efforts to attract students, a point not lost on the Executive.

Strathclyde University's Jordanhill campus, the largest training base in Scotland, was set a funding council target of 436 students and has enrolled 466, 255 within the priority subjects. At least 60 per cent of places in secondary must be within priority areas.

Iain Smith, dean of education, said Strathclyde was just six places short in the priority subjects and would continue to recruit. Some students were still on waiting lists. "We have not made numbers in maths but we have done relatively well in English and modern languages," Mr Smith said.

Initial over-provision allows for some students dropping out. The funding council, however, will not haul back funding of pound;5,000 per student if institutions are either 1.5 per cent under or no more than 3 per cent over targets. Even then, the council would decide each case on its merits. Strathclyde's numbers are within those margins.

Mr Smith said Strathclyde's secondary target was up this year by 30. "In almost all subjects we have had larger numbers of applications than last year. We have been selecting from a bigger pool," he said.

In primary, numbers on the one-year course are up from 100 to 183. Many more were turned away. Recruitment to primary is the key target area for the post-McCrone staffing agreement.

Targets have also been met at Paisley University's school of education in Ayr. This week, 63 students started secondary courses against a target of 61, with 41 in priority subjects. Ian Smith, head of school, said there were almost three applications for every subject on the priority list.

The strongest areas were in mathematics and computing and the weakest was religious education. "We are comfortably over the 60 per cent target," Mr Smith said.

In primary, the school has had no difficulty doubling the intake to 68.

At Edinburgh University, the second largest trainer, Frank Adams, associate dean of the education faculty, said 194 secondary students started this week against a target of 189. Some 106 are in priority subjects, just eight short of the 60 per cent target and narrowly outside the margin. "We have difficulties in traditional areas like maths, physics, music and RE but other priority areas are doing better than we hoped," Mr Adams said.

The Executive says all 707 places on the one-year primary courses have gone and the target of 1,044 in secondary has been more than met.

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David Henderson

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