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High-flying graduates still bypass the blackboard

The number of teacher trainees with a 2:1 or first-class degree is failing to keep pace with the output of universities as a whole, according to figures out this week.

A new analysis shows that the percentage of secondary PGCE trainees with the top two degree classifications has risen eight points in the past decade, to 54 per cent. But graduates overall do better: 59.7 per cent gained top degrees during the same period. For primary trainees the situation was a little better but, at 58 per cent, they were nearly two points behind.

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, who conducted the analysis, said it showed that teaching was still not attractive to top graduates.

PGCE courses in shortage subjects, such as maths, science, ICT and modern languages, continue to attract the lowest proportion of top graduates because, Professor Smithers says, so many other job options are available to them.

"It's an illusion that teachers have better degrees than 10 years ago," he says, "because the overall number of good degrees awarded is going up at a similar rate."

He said it highlighted the need for schemes such as Teach First, which are aimed at graduate high-flyers. But the numbers on such schemes are still small, and nearly half give up within two years.

James Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said it was good to aspire to top degrees in the profession, but it was not all that mattered. Plans to make teaching a masters-level profession had the potential to attract more ambitious graduates into the job, he said.

Professor Smithers highlighted a slight rise in the overall drop-out rate for secondary trainees: it was 14.3 per cent in 2005-06 and 15 per cent in 2006-07.

Shortage subjects such as modern languages, religious education, ICT and maths all saw rises in drop-out rates, but numbers not completing science PGCEs remained the same.

Citizenship trainees were most likely to drop out, with one in five failing to gain qualified status.

The figures were based on the annual teacher training performance profiles, which give detailed information on the quality and performance of training providers.

- For further details, go to the 'Good Teacher Training Guide' at

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