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Recruiters face their toughest challenge yet

The Government wants to attract 17,700 people to secondary teaching this year, reports Karen Thornton.

UNIVERSITIES and schools will have to find more than 2,000 extra people interested in secondary teacher training next year, if Government targets are to be hit.

Despite a record-breaking 16,666 starting secondary postgraduate and BEd courses this term, 1,051 funded places were still left empty. The Teacher Training Agency has another 984 places to fill for 2003-04. This means recruiters will have to find 2,035 more students than they did last year, or a total of 17,701.

Recruitment will be particularly difficult in shortage subjects. The TTA admits it has yet to allocate the extra 301 maths, 309 science and 20 languages places.

And there are extra spaces on other routes too, including 1,350 on the work-based graduate teacher programme, and 1,200 more for primary trainees.

Ralph Tabberer, TTA's chief executive, admitted filling every place would be the sector's biggest challenge: "At the same time, the enquiries we are receiving demonstrate huge demand from people who are attracted to the rewards of teaching and interested in joining the profession. This is a terrific opportunity to accommodate them."

The agency is also piloting pound;5,000-a-year "university studentships" for 150 of the best science students. Graduates who have studied some maths, physics, or chemistry during their degrees and then gone into employment, will be lured into teaching with payments of pound;150 a week on six-month courses to boost their subject knowledge to the levels required for teaching. People with one modern language would also be paid for studying to teach a second up to key stage 3.

However, trainers say the biggest barrier to filling places is finding enough good school placements for trainees.

Professor Richard Tufnell, dean of Middlesex University's school of education, which has been told to find an extra 112 students, said finding five more students each in maths and languages would be harder than finding 20 candidates for a new physical education course. "In London, with its own particular issues of teacher retention, you can work with a school for a number of years and then suddenly the staffing changes and it won't take trainees," he said.

"We are cautiously optimistic but we realise it's going to be quite a challenge."

The targets

* 5,500 more intial training places over three years.

* number of school-based training places to rise from 3,400 to 6,000 by 200405.

* 700 more places on returners' courses.

* Places on courses for overseas teachers, to rise from 600 to 1,000 by 20056.

* Extra pound;68m for teacher recruitment over three years.

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