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School Direct causing shortage of maths and science teachers, report claims

An overhaul of teacher training is fuelling a shortage of new maths and science teachers, a university group has warned.

In a new report, Universities UK raises concerns about the impact of the government's decision to give schools more say in the recruiting and training of staff. It says that if the pace of change continues, it could create problems in training enough teachers.

Since 2012/13, initial teacher training has undergone a radical shake-up, with an increasing number of training places going to the new School Direct programme, rather than universities.

Under School Direct, schools take the lead in taking on trainees. But this has led to "instability" for many universities, with the numbers of training places allocated directly to institutions falling by 23 per cent in three years, says Universities UK.

While School Direct has been more successful in recruiting trainee English and history teachers, it has been less successful for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, the report says.

"This has contributed to a shortfall in the number of trainee teachers recruited into several subject areas, such as mathematics and physics," it says.

"There are concerns, therefore, that, as the government pursues its ambition for a school-led system, the pace of change could create teacher supply issues in the future if university-delivered training becomes unsustainable."

Official figures show that School Direct managed to fill just two thirds of its allocated places in 2013/14, while universities filled over 90 per cent, the study found.

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it had been raising concerns for more than a year over teacher recruitment.

"While the system is working in places, a significant number of schools say they are having real issues recruiting suitable applicants," he added. "The shortfall is serious and although the report highlights STEM subjects, we know there is an issue across a wide range of subjects including English and maths.

"Although the previous system wasn't perfect, one advantage it did have was an overall plan to ensure that there were enough teachers coming through in every subject. The problem now is that there is no overall picture of recruitment and retention."

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "If politicians persist with this policy, university teacher training departments will be in grave danger, despite being the engine houses for the next generation of maths and physics teachers that our schools and economy so desperately need."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We recognise the importance of recruiting top quality candidates in subjects like maths, chemistry and physics. That is why we are delivering generous tax-free bursaries and prestigious scholarships worth up to £25,000 for these core subjects.

"School Direct is an increasingly popular teacher training route with the number of applications rising by more than a third year on year. Universities will continue to play an important role in teacher training, working closely with schools to shape and deliver training and continuous professional development."

For more on the teacher training crisis, read tomorrow's edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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