Fury over trainee cuts 'in the dark'

Minister dismisses funding council report and wields the axe

More than 120 trainee teacher places will be axed on Welsh courses in 2007-8 as the Assembly government responds to predictions of falling pupil rolls.

But salaries for teachers who learn on the job through the Graduate Teacher Programme will increase to pound;18,300, it has been announced.

The move to cut places on Initial Teacher Training (ITT) has sparked fury from opposition parties, who say the decision has been made "in the dark".

Their criticism comes after Jane Davidson, education, lifelong learning and skills minister, dismissed a Higher Education Funding Council for Wales report outlining proposals for a shake-up of teacher-training providers.

The report was commissioned by the Assembly government to move forward recommendations made last year by Professor John Furlong, of Oxford university, to lower trainee numbers.

But it has emerged that Ms Davidson sent it back to the drawing board because it was too vague and lacked detail.

Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru's education spokesperson , has called for the funding council's final report to be made public.

She said the cuts - equating to 86 primary and 40 secondary places - could exacerbate teacher shortages in some subjects and have a detrimental effect on the quality of teaching.

"There is nothing to say we are cutting in the right direction," she said.

In January 2006, Professor Furlong recommended that by 2010 there should be a 50 per cent drop in primary and a 25 per cent fall in secondary ITT places in Wales. But he stressed that reductions should be undertaken with care, ensuring shortage areas such as science, modern languages and maths were not affected.

Miss Davidson defended the cuts at an education and lifelong learning committee meeting last week: "The evidence base for the reductions is absolutely clear for the many qualified teachers who cannot get jobs and go through teacher induction."

In 2010, it is predicted there will be 575 primary and 990 secondary ITT trainees, compared with the 1,150 primary and 1,320 secondary trainees who qualified in 2004-5.

But the minister rejected Furlong's proposal that provision should be postgraduate only. Announcing the salary hike this week, Ms Davidson said alternative routes into teaching were welcomed by both trainees and schools.

"Employment-based training programmes suit mature, well-qualified people who can quickly take on teaching responsibilities and need to earn a living while they train," she said.

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