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Simon helps recruitment out of a crisis

The Channel 4 programme Teachers has been credited with boosting the number of trainee teachers to its highest level for more than 12 years. Senior figures at the Teacher Training Agency have listed the late-night drama among the reasons why student numbers have risen by more than 2,000.

Ralph Tabberer, the agency's chief executive, has been touring training colleges asking what drew new recruits in, and discovered that Simon, Susan and the other young and unruly staff from Summerdown school have had a positive effect.

Mary Doherty, director of teacher supply and recruitment for the agency, said: "It has been beneficial to have programmes focusing on teaching. It has made people revise their own experience of schools and look afresh."

The total signing up for courses funded by the agency is 31,261 - up 7 per cent on last year and the highest since 198990.

The figure includes 14,476 on primary education courses, up 10 per cent on last year, and 16,785 on secondary courses, up 5 per cent.

A further 4,350 places on employment-based teacher-training routes brings those aiming for qualified teacher status (QTS) on all government-supported courses to more than 35,000.

Ms Doherty said the increase in the number of mature students was significant. "Around a third of new teachers were aged 30 or over and half were over 25.

"People are exploring new careers but want to feel they are doing something worthwhile. It is a good opportunity to develop a whole host of transferable skills," she added.

Mr Tabberer said that the "Those who can, teach" campaign, the financial incentives and efforts of universities, colleges and schools had contributed towards the trainee increase. "Graduates are taking more time to find the career which suits them best." he said. "Employment-based routes, such as the graduate teacher programme, now account for around one in 10 of all training places, and they are making a real contribution in tackling those priority subjects."

There were 1,904 people taking up the graduate teacher programme during the autumn term - 1,220 in secondary subjects and 684 in primary.

More were due to start this term and next, bringing the total this year to more than 3,400.

There are more trainees in all secondary shortage subjects, but targets have been missed for design and technology, religious education, music, science, maths and modern foreign languages.

Research from Leeds University pointed out that the agency's figures refer only to science trainees. Overall, the dearth of physicists and chemists in schools was masked by the large number of biologists. Last September, 904 biology, 443 chemistry and just 250 physics recruits were accepted on to training courses, according to the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, which does not include employment-based routes.

Maths still has ground to make up - recruitment for the subject has fallen 263 short of the 1,952 target. Languages and science courses each missed their targets by more than 200, while RE, music, and design and technology courses each had 110 or more places unfilled.

One success subject was English, which recruited 336 students above target. But this may lead to questions about its shortage-subject status, which entitles students to pound;4,000 "golden hellos" and repayment of student loans.

Filming starts this month for the third series of Teachers to be broadcast in autumn 2003

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