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Overseas students rescue languages

One in three new teaching bursaries goes to candidates from abroad, reports Bibi Berki

More than 30 per cent of students training to teach languages in England come from abroad, new research reveals.

Without them, schools would have been short of nearly half the new modern language teachers they needed. As it was, the shortfall was 19 per cent.

The research, by the University of the West of England in Bristol, comes as the Government launches a pound;5,000 "golden hello" incentive to entice more people into modern language teaching.

The overseas students will be eligible for the pay-out as well as UK trainees. From September any applicant accepted on to a postgraduate certificate in education languages course will be given pound;1,250 at the start of the course and pound;1,250 at the end. The remaining pound;2,500 is awarded when they are employed by a state school to teach languages.

Last year "golden hellos" were offered to new teachers in maths and science which are also suffering a recruitment crisis. The Government says the scheme has resulted in a 34 per cent rise in maths PGCE applicants with science increasing by 23 per cent.

So far this year 1,967 people have applied for the PGCE modern languages course, compared to nearly 2,570 at the same time in 1994.

The foreign trainees were attracted to teach in England for a variety of reasons. Some French students, questioned by researchers from the university's faculty of education, cited the difficulty of passing France's equivalent of the PGCE exam. German applicants said jobs were in short supply at home.

The researchers, who surveyed 393, mainly French, students, also discovered that many liked their pastoral role as form tutor, which they would not have had at home.

Alison Taylor, who co-wrote the report with Joan Whitehead, said there was still a desperate need both for home-grown and overseas language students. She said overseas students who had already worked in UK schools as foreign language assistants were particularly valuable.

According to Ms Taylor, 89 per cent of the foreign native speakers questioned completed their course and 87 per cent planned to seek teaching posts in the UK.

The work was sponsored by the Teacher Training Agency which was keen to improve the way it targets funding for overseas language students.

Jane Benham, head of teacher supply and recruitment, said that home-grown recruitment was suffering because of the demand for language graduates in Europe, while the number of UK language undergraduates was dropping.

The overseas teacher trainees could ultimately help reverse the trend of a decline in the number of people taking language degrees, she said.

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