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Maths crisis looms

'Golden hellos' lose their lustre and training scheme is scrapped. Warwick Mansell reports

ATTEMPTS to persuade more maths and science graduates to become teachers were in disarray this week with the shelving of one major initiative and problems over another.

The Teacher Training Agency has been forced to rethink a scheme to attract recruits through employment-based training, after a pilot project placed only 100 trainees in 11 months, despite a target of 600.

The MS600 scheme was unveiled 18 months ago in a bid to appeal to well qualified mature applicants, who could train while working in a school. In the light of the poor take-up, the agency has now asked universities and colleges to apply to make up the shortfall.

Employment agency TimePlan, which has run the pilot for the past year, is not having its contract renewed . The Department for Education and Employment will evaluate the pilot before deciding its next move.

A TTA spokeswoman admitted that "lessons had been learned" from the pilot, which had offered schools willing to take on a new teacher 2,000 and training support. Although 4,000 graduates enquired about the scheme, only 400 schools had come forward with vacancies.

The pokeswoman added: "This was only meant to be pilot scheme for one year. It was an innovative approach in a very competitive area, and it is right that we look at how we can build on the lessons we have learnt."

A DFEE spokesman said it had been encouraged by the number of applicants, and would now be consulting on the expansion of employment-based routes.

Meanwhile, applications for maths and science postgraduate certificate in education courses - which offer 5,000 "golden hellos" to trainees - have now slumped below the levels that first prompted the incentive's launch.

Latest figures indicate that 407 graduates have applied for maths PGCEs in the first 18 weeks of the recruiting year, compared to 485 before the incentives began two years ago - a fall of 16 per cent. In science, the drop is 14 per cent.

And the problem is not confined to maths and science: a similar incentive for modern-language trainees appears to have had minimal impact in this, its first, year. German applications are up 4 per cent on this time last year, but those in French are down 8 per cent.

The TTA says that it expects recruitment to pick up, as graduates have been leaving it later in the year to apply.

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