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Practical aid to recruitment

The typical graduate teacher in 2002 will be young, white, non-Christian and the first person in her family to become a teacher.

This prediction is based on a survey of new students entering the four-year primary BEd course at De Montfort University last month. Ninety-eight per cent of the 114 students taking the primary course were female which confirms the declining trend in young men wanting to be primary teachers.

About one in six (16 per cent) was a mature student (ie over 25) and 69 per cent were aged 18-19. The majority (91 per cent) said they were English, with a further 4 per cent describing themselves as having dual ethnicity.

Only a third claimed a religious affiliation - 31 per cent classified themselves as Christian; 2 per cent were Muslim and 1 per cent Sikh. Two-thirds come from non-teaching families and only 41 per cent have at least one parent or a sibling who is a teacher.

The survey also revealed that 19 per cent of students had decided to become a teacher by the age of 10 and by 15 this had risen to 60 per cent. A further 22 per cent made the decision between the ages of 16 and 18.

For many students there was a multiplicity of factors encouraging them to become teachers. These included teachers themselves (40 per cent), being with children (23 per cent) and advice from family or friends (18 per cent). Only 4 per cent of students said that the careers service had had any influence on their decision.

My findings confirm Dr Mary Thornton's assertion (TES, August 28) that the way to entice young men - and perhaps those from ethnic minorities - into teaching is by enabling them to gain practical experience in the classroom, prior to entering university. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said work experience had been a major influence on their decision to enter teaching while 67 per cent said that the most important intrinsic reward that the job had to offer was the satisfaction of helping children to learn and develop.

Clearly it is through practical experience that young people gain the sense of value of being a teacher, and the joy of seeing others learn.

Paul Gardner is senior lecturer in primary education at De Montfort University, Bedford. E-mail pgardner@ dmu.ac.uk Tel. O1234-793O71.

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