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Profession to get PR puff

A public relations company has been given a Pounds 100,000-a-month contract to promote teaching as a profession on behalf of the Government's new Teacher Training Agency.

Hill and Knowlton will take charge of publicity efforts to attract "high calibre entrants" at a time when the latest figures show an alarming decline in the number of students wanting to train in the shortage areas of secondary maths, science, modern languages and music.

Statistics from John Howson at Oxford Brookes University show that while applications for primary courses have risen, secondary mathematics will have only 130 applicants for every 100 places - raising doubts about the quality of successful candidates. Last week the TTA said that it has been negotiating with major companies to encourage skilled workers to move into teaching. Some firms are believed ready to include teacher training in redundancy packages.

There will be no television advertising and nothing on the scale of the high-profile Saatchi and Saatchi campaign which, with its motto "teaching brings out the best in you", was intended to counter the acute shortages of the early 1990s.

TTA officials are said to believe that mass advertising is ill-focused as well as prohibitively expensive. Instead, they are concentrating on simply attracting able candidates.

The agency is commissioning research into the public image of teaching and into what motivates the career choices of good candidates. It then hopes to develop campaigns targeted at shortage areas, high-quality recruits and under- represented groups.

The future of the Government bursaries, offering extra financial assistance to trainees in shortage areas, is unclear. An announcement is expected shortly from the Department for Education and Employment.

Anthea Millett, chief executive of the TTA, said the agency is anxious to recruit more men: "Teaching in primary schools has always been strongly dominated by women. But the position is now worse. There are signs of it becoming worse in secondary too."

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