Gove's desire for 'good' degrees sparks teacher shortage warning

17th September 2010 at 01:00

Schools risk losing 20 per cent of new maths teachers and a quarter of physicists if the Government decides to restrict training to those with "good" degrees, a leading academic has warned.

Plans from Education Secretary Michael Gove to only train those who have at least a 2:2 degree "do not add up", Professor Alan Smithers concludes in a report published today.

He warns of new teacher shortages if those with poorer degree results are barred from the profession. Shortage subjects, including maths and science, "would struggle even more", said Professor Smithers, of the Centre for Education, Employment and Research at Buckingham University.

In his annual Good Teacher Training Guide, Professor Smithers estimates that under the planned changes, 430 science graduates with third-class degrees would have been turned away from teaching training courses last year, including 26 per cent of the physics total.

A further 410 maths (21 per cent) and 131 modern languages (13 per cent) trainees would also have been refused places, the report finds. Overall, around 91 per cent of trainee teachers have at least a 2:2 degree.

Professor Smithers said: "Poor teachers are bad news, but is it better for physics to be taught by a well-qualified biologist than someone who has studied the subject at university even without much success? Michael Gove is putting the cart before the horse. Improving quality depends on attracting sufficient applicants to be able to choose those who can make subjects come alive."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "We would support the 2:2 policy as an aspiration, but maybe allow exceptions. You would not want to bar a mature candidate with a part-time, non-honours degree in maths if they could demonstrate they had something to offer. But as a goal it is right to improve entry qualifications."

Warwick University already only accepts graduates with a 2:2 or above on teacher training courses, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Ian Abbott, associate professor at the university's institute of education, said: "There have been issues around recruitment in certain subject areas for a long time. Raising the level of qualifications needed makes it even more difficult to attract people, but we need to maintain standards."

The research also finds that 61 per cent of entrants to undergraduate BEd teacher training courses have the equivalent of two A-levels - falling to 48 per cent of those who specialised in science and 53 per cent in maths.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Ministers are currently looking at different ways of improving the quality of teachers. There's plenty of evidence that the best graduates make the best teachers."

Teach first

Scheme 'does not plug gaps'

The prestigious Teach First scheme makes "little contribution" to improving the teaching of shortage subjects, according to research out today. Professor Alan Smithers said that only 29 recruits to the scheme in 200809 were to teach modern languages and that none was specifically hired to teach physics or chemistry.

His report also criticised the Government for suggesting that increasing the number of participants would have an impact on the number of disadvantaged pupils winning places at Oxbridge. Participants made up only 1 per cent of teacher trainees in 200809, he said.

25% - Percentage of new science teachers schools may lose if they only train candidates with 'good' degrees.

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