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No alternative in search for staff

Recent TES articles (including "Support staff by another name", April 15) about unqualified teachers highlight continuing shortages in key subjects such as maths and science - and the steps taken by schools to ensure that despite those shortages, suitable staff are available to take classes.

Little, if any headway, appears to have been made in attracting more maths and science graduates into teaching, despite expensive initiatives. The introduction of planning, preparation and assessment time from September can only make the problem more acute. It is undeniable that in a perfect education world, every class would be taught only by a qualified teacher with a relevant degree. But the Government's own statistics show that, since 1997, the number of overseas-trained teachers and instructors without qualified teacher status has risen by 450 per cent, from 1,520 to 6,850.

It is clear that for many schools there is no alternative to employing non-QTS staff for many roles. It is also clear that until more maths, science and technology graduates are persuaded to gain QTS, and just as importantly to remain in the teaching profession, there is no alternative to non-QTS staff in many schools.

This is a pragmatic approach, but an honest one. The current reluctance to admit that the education service has become increasingly dependent on non-QTS staff means that there is no clear structure for supporting and developing them.

Failure to acknowledge that there is no realistic alternative to recruiting non-QTS staff to teach in many subject areas, including maths, science and technology, means that there is also a failure to realise their potential.

Surely it is better that we harness suitably academically skilled and talented people in our schools, even if they do not hold a teaching qualification?

Bob Wicks

Executive chairman. Select Education plc. Regent Court. Laporte Way. Luton. Bedfordshire

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