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New bait for high-flying fish

Two incentive schemes are luring skilled graduates in shortage subjects into the classroom. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Successful bankers, engineers and language graduates are being lured into teacher training with pound;150-a-week cash incentives.

The Teacher Training Agency is offering six-month "'enhancement" courses to professionals who have a degree in maths, science or modern languages and are willing to give up high salaries and perks in return for a career in the classroom.

A second recruitment scheme has also been set up in a bid to entice former teachers back into the profession.

Those who have been away from the classroom for more than seven years are being offered one-off bursaries of pound;1,500 to persuade them to return.

Nine providers, including some education authorities, are offering the financial incentives as well as childcare allowances to former teachers who complete the intensive returners courses.

The TTA said that more than 100 people have already signed up for the training programmes, and in some cases had taken salary cuts of up to pound;20,000 a year to switch careers.

The attempt to recruit more new teachers with experience and expertise in other fields and to attract former practitioners back into the job comes after a recent report which identified a shortage of some 3,800 maths teachers.

The enhancement courses are designed to help prospective teachers to develop confidence in their subject so that they can teach it effectively.

There are 40 places available on each course, but the number is expected to rise to 200 places on each by 2006-07.

Mary Doherty, director of teacher supply and recruitment at the TTA, said:

"The demands of the school workforce are such that almost 40,000 need to train to teach each year.

"In the face of strong competition for graduates in maths, science and languages, we need to cast our net wider.

"These courses offer an opportunity for able and committed people to develop their subject knowledge so they can progress to initial teacher training."

School standards minister David Miliband said: "I welcome initiatives which help to build a large and skilled profession."

The intensive returners courses are being piloted by nine providers across the country, including Croydon education authority, Suffolk county council and Wilmslow high school in Cheshire.

Providers will be expected to prepare between eight and 15 returners for work in the classroom, and preference will be given to those who are committed to begin work in schools within six months of finishing the courses.

Recruits will undertake a training programme of between 140 and 165 hours which will include tutorial sessions and seminars and a minimum four-week placement in a school.

The courses include a personal assessment which covers the trainee's career history, areas of strength and expertise, potential for further development, and analysis of the skills gained in other non-teaching jobs.

Returners will also be offered support to find suitable full-time teaching jobs.

Louisa Woodley, an education cabinet member for Croydon, said: "Teachers choose to take a career break for many reasons, and it is important that we do all we can to encourage and support them when they want to come back to teaching."

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