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Good Catholics are at a premium

ROMAN CATHOLIC schools will need a disproportionately large injection of new blood if the distinct ethos of denominational schools is to survive, particularly in primaries.

The number of "approved" teachers needs to rise by almost a third in both primary and secondary sectors over the next few years to offset changes at the other end of the profession.

Catholic schools, especially in the east, are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit faith teachers. Some secondaries are a little over 50 per cent staffed with Catholics. In the traditional heartlands of the west of Scotland, secondaries are 80-90 per cent staffed with Cath-olics, according to the Catholic Education Commission.

A Scottish Executive planning report for 2003-2004 admits it is difficult to estimate how many new teachers should be recruited to training courses.

However, it suggests 1,390 Catholic-approved primary teachers will be needed over the next seven years with recruitment rising from around 150 teachers to 200 a year by 2006.

In the secondary sector, numbers will rise from around 140 to 185 a year over the next seven years. The final figure will be close to 1,175 new teachers.

Hirek Kwiatkowski, head of the education faculty at Glasgow University, which trains most Catholic teachers, said he was "comfortable" with the figures until the "short-term turbulence" caused by the post-McCrone agreement works its way through the system.

"We have not a had a problem with recruiting Catholic teachers. Whether people are able to find places in Catholic schools is another issue," Dr Kwiatkowski said.

Michael McGrath, chairman of the Catholic Education Commission and head of Our Lady's High, Cumbernauld, said that the sector would have to continue to monitor shortages closely.

"The fewer Catholic teachers there are, the harder it is to maintain the ethos. We need a sufficient supply to viable Catholic schools and it is particularly important in the primary sector where there is one teacher with the class," Mr McGrath said.

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