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'Golden hello' fails to hit the target

Recruitment drive sees poor take-up in shortage subjects. Ngaio Crequer reports

POOR take-up of the Government's much-vaunted "golden hellos" has triggered calls for a review of the system aimed at boosting recruitment.

In some local learning and skills council areas, not a single person applied for the pound;4,000 payments. Nationally, only 183 applications were successful - just over four for every local council.

Some executive directors have argued that in their efforts to target key shortage subjects, ministers were too restrictive and failed to reflect the needs of colleges.

Some 600 people were eligible for the payments, which cover entrants in eight shortage subjects: maths, science, ICT, engineering, construction, English, modern languages, and design and technology.

In some areas, there were no applications, including Suffolk, Essex, London North, London Central, Northumberland (which has only one college), and South Yorkshire. Other areas had just one or two applications. But some areas bucked the trend. In Greater Merseyside, 15 out of 27 bids were successful. Paul Holme, executive director, said the scheme made teaching in FE a realistic option for those with the right skills. In Devon and Cornwall, all 16 applications succeeded. West Yorkshire had eight successful applications out of 14. Surrey put in for 12 bids, 11 of which went through.

Alison Webster, director of Essex, said that timing was the problem. Colleges did not know their staffing requirements until they knew their budgets. London Central said it still had applications in the pipeline.

Mick Farley, executive director of Cumbria, said it was now time to review the scheme.

"The range of subjects is limited and they do not reflect our local needs," he said. "They don't pick up staff in health and care, sports and leisure, and basic skills."

Ivor Jones, employment policy director of the Association of Colleges, said the shortage subjects in the scheme were often inappropriate for the FE sector. He added that the scheme had not yet received enough publicity.

"There should be a national campaign to promote it," he said.

The Further Education National Training Organisation, which runs a helpline for prospective FE teachers, said it was "early days".

"We want to encourage the biggest possible take-up of golden hellos," said a spokesman. "I don't think there is a problem, though there may be problems in marketing and implementation."

The spokesman added that if applicants were being refused because they did not meet the criteria, then the DfES might need to revise the scheme.

This week, the LSC extended the scheme for three years and now aims to raise awareness of it. John Harwood, chief executive, said: "We want to help colleges to recruit and keep the teachers they need. The shortage subjects are important in raising the technical and communications skills levels our country needs so much.

"The golden hello is an important step in this direction and will prove a major incentive for graduates to go straight into teaching."

FENTO helpline: 020 7421 2362; www.fento.org

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