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New engine for teacher recruitment

A further education college and a teacher education institution have teamed up in what they believe is a "win-win" initiative to ease shortages of engineers and teachers in the north-east of Scotland.

Banff and Buchan College and Aberdeen University's education faculty will provide would-be teachers with a BSc in technology with education, based on a two-year higher national diploma in mechatronics at the college followed by another two years in teacher training at the university.

The course has been approved by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Cathy Macaslan, head of the school of education at the university, said she hoped this first for Aberdeen in developing new approaches to teacher education could be a model for other innovative developments, particularly in the light of further indications from the Scottish Executive yesterday (Thursday) about how it is to find another 3,000 teachers by 2007.

"We are particularly keen to use the wealth of talent and experience in the local area and to find new solutions to particular teacher shortages," Ms Macaslan said.

The college will target those considering a career change out of the energy industries, farming or fishing. "Individuals such as these can make a significant contribution and the course provides them with the underpinning knowledge and qualification to follow a worthwhile career in teaching," Robert Sinclair, the college's principal, says.

The initiative was partly sparked by students who wanted to study engineering but were not well equipped to do so because technology education was limited by teacher shortages. At the same time, employers were complaining of a lack of engineering skills.

"We now hope to supply teachers who can develop the right skills in young people and therefore allow the college to address the skill needs of the north-east economy," Mr Sinclair said.

Other colleges are moving along similar lines. Lauder in Fife is doing pre-apprentice training with cash backing from the private sector, while Angus is working on a pound;500,000 programme with Age Concern to enhance the employability of the over-50s.

This new focus on older recruits comes a week after figures from south of the border showed that more than half of all those joining the profession are aged 25 or over. In Ireland, dramatic rises of up to 20 per cent have been reported in the number of mature applicants to teacher training.

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