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Surplus staff hide real subject

Should we be concerned that our teacher education institutions have trained an apparent "surplus" of maths and English teachers this year (page 1)? No, says the Scottish Executive. Probably not, all things considered. Even if there are insufficient numbers of permanent posts for those teachers, there should be supply opportunities for the immediate future, given class size cuts in S1 and S2. Whichever party controls the next Scottish administration after the election in May is unlikely to deviate from the current focus on literacy and numeracy.

But the latest figures for recruitment of new teachers provide some interesting findings. At a time of growing public concern about diet, obesity, childhood fitness, and nutrition, it seems to be becoming harder to attract into teaching the very people who could make a difference in these areas. Home economics is certainly more than just cooking and sewing - although they in themselves are life skills sadly lacking in too many young people more attuned to a throw-away culture.

There appears to be a problem, however, in the articulation between Highers courses in home economics and entry to degree courses, and thereafter in moving on to PGCE courses. In music, concerns about the dumbing down of exam courses is becoming more acute and, with it, concerns about the quality and quantity of some of the music graduates who are entering teaching.

If A Curriculum for Excellence promises to give both health and the creative arts a place in the sun, what will it mean for courses in computing studies? Computing teachers were once like gold dust; now there may be a slight surplus, their subject is in decline. There is some evidence to suggest that universities would rather accept students with good Highers in physics or maths on to computing degree courses rather than those with a specific computing qualification. The curriculum review has come not before time, it would appear.

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