Religious bias of student loans

I WAS most encouraged to read the Teacher Training Agency's August 7 press release about the Government's decision to repay student loans for teachers in shortage subjects.

This pilot scheme is expected to benefit up to 12,000 teachers and is being welcomed by the TTA. This will be a real incentive to many graduates considering teaching, particularly those facing financial hardship. There is no doubt that the incentives provided by the Government previously, which include a pound;4,000 "golden hello" for those in shortage subjects, have proved effective. The waiving of the student loan will further consolidate this.

However, I have been concerned for some time that the list of shortage subjects to which this initiative is addressed does not include religious education. The figures provided by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry shows that maths has 17 per cent more applicants this year than last. English has 17 per cent, physics 20 per cent.

RE recruitment to postgraduate certificate in education courses, however, has been in a critical position for the past two years. At times this year, there have been 20 per cent fewer applicants applying than last year and even now there are 11 per cent fewer candidates accepted for courses.

If the loan-waiving scheme is an incentive to those in shortage subjects, it might prove to be a disincentive for graduates considering RE teaching.

RE is the subject with the most critical teacher shortage yet it is not recognised as an official shortage subject. RE will continue to be burdened with a recruitment crisis unless it too receives the incentives the other shortage subjects receive.

Dick Powell RETRI development officer Culham College Institute 60, East Saint Helen Street Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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