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Grants are vital for recruitment

Your headline about drop-out rates amongst trainee teachers, ("Millions wasted on drop-out trainees", TES, August 4) has echos of the views expressed by Treasury mandarins in the mid-1990s, when they scrapped the recruitment incentives in use at the time. This was because they were no longer needed.

The subsequent decline in applications for teacher training, which lasted until the introduction of the training grant in 2000, is well-known to policy makers and journalists.

No money spent on training is ever wasted, except in the minds of headline-writers and others who don't accept that even those who don't finish the course will have learnt something. Why should teaching be regarded any differently to other areas of training, where it is understood that not everyone who starts will have aptitude to complete the course?

The fact that there is no London supplement to the grant for those doing postgraduate teaching certificates may partly explain the fact the three institutions cited as having the highest drop-out rates are in the capital; that, and the fact that the graduate job market is at its most competitive in London.

With students having to pay top-up fees from September, policy makers will need to convince trainee teachers in the future why, unlike their graduate friends in the army, the police and even the civil service, they don't qualify for a salary during their training.

However, one positive suggestion to cut drop-out rates might be for the Government to invest more at the recruitment stage.

Ministers will know whether or not the vast sums spent on those who applied for the now defunct Fast Track Scheme brought lower drop-out rates when compared with the limited resources higher education can spend on selecting trainees.

Prof John Howson

Education Data Surveys Ltd

70 Rewley Road

Oxford

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