Recruitment system comes under fire

The Commons select committee on education and employment has questioned the reliability of the Government's system for ensuring that there are enough teachers to meet future demand.

In their report on the professional status and recruitment of teachers, published on Wednesday, the committee members cast doubt on the efficiency of the way the Department for Education and Employment works out its recruitment targets, and imply that the department is too secretive about the way it comes up with them.

This is the second time in a month that the Committee has criticised the DFEE - on March 13 its report on nursery vouchers was leaked to the press. The committee is chaired by a Tory (Sir Malcolm Thornton) and is Tory-dominated.

"We find it disturbing", members say, "that witnesses in our inquiry were sceptical as to how up-to-date and accurate the DFEE's data were, and that witnesses did not feel that they had sufficient information about the assumptions behind the staffing model and the variables taken into account by the DFEE.

"We recommend that the DFEE open up to public scrutiny and debate the process by which its teacher-training targets are reached." The department should ensure its staffing model is adapted to reflect expected changes, such as rises in pupil numbers, says the report, which also says that the TTA should be given a bigger role in advising the DFEE on recruitment, and that TTA advice to the Government should be made public.

In November last year, there was an outcry when the Government slashed its targets for teacher recruitment by 17,800 between now and the end of the century, arguing that fewer teachers would be needed when early retirement routes were blocked. The TTA then distanced itself from the Government by releasing figures, several weeks earlier than usual, predicting acute shortages in key subjects.

The committee reports that its evidence confirms that there is a recruitment crisis looming.

The members also say that teacher morale is too low, and that "it is incumbent on all of those who have the ear of the media, including politicians and the various Government agencies" to present a fair and balanced picture. "Teachers who see themselves as unappreciated are naturally less likely to recommend their profession to others." This could be interpreted as criticism of the chief inspector, Chris Woodhead, who has consistently taken an abrasive approach to poor teaching, but the negative reports in the press also come under fire.

The committee backs the establishment of a General Teaching Council, as expected, and recommends that the TTA carries out research into the A-level scores of recruits and their later effectiveness, and into the attitudes of employer schools towards different types of teacher.

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