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Practice places at a premium as trainee numbers soar

A drive to find more schools willing to offer teaching practice places to student teachers has been launched. An 4,000 extra teacher training places are needed for next year.

Already 95 per cent of secondary schools and 75 per cent of primaries take trainees, but a surge in the number of recruits to the profession means more schools are required to participate in Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programmes. Schools already taking students on training placements will also be asked to accept more trainees to meet the increased demand.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I see no reason why schools should not be able to provide the teaching practice places required, However, the 64,000-dollar question is: given the pressures on school budgets, will students who have completed their training be able to find jobs? Enormous numbers of schools are under pressure and are facing deficit budgets." Almost 3,000 extra students will be able to begin courses next year as the number of places rises to 34,675 - the highest for more than a decade.

There will be 15,200 primary places, 1,200 (or 9 per cent) more than this year, with 460 earmarked for primary language specialists. The number of secondary places also rises by 9 per cent, from 1,685 to 19,475.

Around 2,300 of the places are on flexible or distance-learning courses, which enable people to combine their training with their other careers or circumstances.

Every student needs to take part in teaching practice in at least two schools to achieve qualified teacher status. The number of weeks on practice varies from 18 to 32 weeks, depending on the type of course undertaken.

Employment-based routes into teaching, including the graduate teacher programme, are also being expanded by more than 1,000.

The graduate programme, which enables people aged 24 or over to train in school while earning a salary, will rise from 3,400 places this year to 4,750 next year, and expand to at least 6,000 places by 200506.

The Teacher Training Agency is leading a national partnership project to support schools entering or expanding teacher training with grants and school-based tutor support.

The project has three goals: to increase ITT capacity in schools, to continue to raise the quality of teacher training, and to promote to school communities the benefits of being involved in ITT.

The TTA recently awarded grants of more than pound;1.7 million to 85 projects proposed by schools, training providers and LEAs which promote the benefits of working together in ITT. The agency's director of teacher training support, Chris Dee, said: "Across the country there are hundreds of fine examples of schools showing real commitment to teacher training, working closely with training providers and gaining benefits for themselves.

"However, it is essential that we explore new ways of expanding schools' involvement even further if we are to train the teachers we need and help every pupil fulfil their potential."

Univeristies and colleges receiving the most additional places include: Middlesex (112), St Mary's College, Twickenham (131), Derby (106), East London (165), Greenwich (101), and Wolverhampton (121).

Of the 33,848 places allocated, 25,873 are postgraduate, and 7,975 undergraduate. Around 600 remain to be allocated. The number of PE places rises from 1,200 to 1,500 to support the National PE and School Sport Strategy. The TTA is holding 400 places in reserve, 300 for the new secondary vocational subjects.

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