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Minister on a tightrope

How frustrating it is to be in government. For the first time, teacher numbers are not going to fall in line with plummeting pupil rolls. Yet, instead of plaudits, ministers are getting it in the neck. It is difficult to reconcile the pessimism of secondary headteachers with the confidence of the Executive that it is playing the numbers game correctly - although both recognise that supply cover is tight. What may be tight for the goose, of course, may be a crisis for the gander.

The problem is one of timing. The Executive is committed to finding extra teachers by 2007 to support its commitment to cut class sizes in English and maths in the early years of secondary, to attract more teachers into the arts and PE, and to make a reality of the reduced class contact time for primary teachers. This may be commendable but ambitious at a time when supply is tight and existing vacancies are proving increasingly difficult to fill, no matter how small the proportion. The Education Minister cannot be faulted for effort and we hope it pays off. Meanwhile, he will have to continue walking his tightrope and hope it will be all right on the night.

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