Ministers under fire over unqualified staff

MINISTERS this week heralded a 20-year high in the number of teachers in English schools, and a reduction in unfilled posts.

But critics accused them of complacency, in the face of continuing recruitment difficulties and figures showing a three-fold increase in the number of unqualified instructors in classrooms.

The latest Government statistics confirm provisional data released in April showing a 9,400 increase in the teaching force to a record 410,200 full-time equivalent posts, excluding supply teachers, between January 2001 and 2002.

However, the number of qualified, full-time teachers rose by only 1,400. The biggest increase was in the number of unqualified instructors working in classrooms, which doubled from 4,300 to 8,100. When Labour came to power in 1997, the figure stood at only 2,500.

The number of people working towards qualified teacher status via on the job training (mainly the Graduate Teacher Programme) was also up, from 1,300 to 3,300.

David Miliband, school standards minister, said: "Finding and keeping good teachers remains a problem in certain areas but we have made great gains since 1997 and we are still making progress.

"The statistics speak for themselves. We have 9,400 more teachers this year than last, and we are attracting more to the profession every year."

But Graham Brady, his Tory shadow, said teacher vacancies under Labour had doubled, from 2,020 in 1997 to 4,480 this year.

"The reality is that teacher vacancies have doubled under Labour. Qualified, full-time teachers are being driven out of the profession by violence in the classroom and the endless stream of Government initiatives. Schools are now increasingly reliant on temporary staff."

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