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Scientists have better options

THE latest figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry show that applications for science post-graduate certificate in education courses are down by about 20 per cent on average across all the sciences, compared with last year.

The training salary may have reduced the shortfall but it has not eliminated it. Most of the applicants I interview either do not know about it or are unclear about the details.

What is certain is that it has not raised the standard of applicant. Before its introduction, the rejection rate in my institution was 50 per cent and this has continued since. Applications from biologists still far outnumber those from chemists and physicists.

Money alone will not remedy recruitment shortages. But the training salary needs to be twice as much if it is to encourage science graduates to train as teachers.

It is also obvious that the collection of statistics is still poor and hides many of the problems. The Department for Education and Employment cannot provide information about the specialisms of science teachers at different levels in secondary schools.

How much physics at key stage 3 is taught by biologists? How much physics or chemistry is being taught by those with an inadequate qualification? The de-partment does not collect regional data, despite the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology identifying this problem in 1996.

It may be that we will have to see a catastrophic failure in science before serious action is taken but it is my hope that publicising the issue will lead to some new thinking from the DFEE and the Teacher Training Agency.

John Oversby

School of Education

University of Reading

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