Staff shortages in secondary maths and science are worrying ministers, says Clare Dean. Ministers are planning to introduce on-the-job teacher training for graduates next year in an attempt to woo people into a profession facing desperate staff shortages.
Recruitment problems in secondary maths, science and technology, where applications for post-graduate training are well below targets, have forced a rethink on how teachers are trained. From April the Government wants to allow anyone, of any age, to train in schools provided they have a degree or equivalent qualification and the "necessary personal qualities".
Proposals announced last week by Eric Forth, the education and employment minister, envisage year-long training courses for most candidates, but in some cases they could qualify in a term. Exactly who the scheme is aimed at - mature students or the good science and maths graduates already working in industry - is uncertain.
"Some people might assume this kind of new route would tend to attract more mature people, but I am not sure that is the right assumption to make," said Mr Forth.
The programme is a response to a slump in the number of graduates willing to train as teachers - particulary at secondary level - at a time when pupil numbers are soaring.
This month the Teacher Training Agency said one-off payments of up to Pounds 5,000 should be offered to graduates with good science and maths degrees to tempt them into the profession.
Anthea Millett, its chief executive, has urged the School Teachers Review Body to change the pay system to make it easier to reward excellence and to make the profession more attractive by setting out a clear career structure.
She told heads and governors at the Association of Grant-Maintained and Aided Schools conference in London last week that they had to take responsibility for training the next generation of teachers. "Other professions do it ... and you will not find that maths teacher, that physicist you need unless you help. "
She said that at the moment only "desperate" heads and governors took on teacher training themselves. "They swallow hard and then agree to do it.
"Too many governing bodies and heads - particularly primaries - say if those students come in, the children will suffer."
In November and December the TTA will be running a series of conferences for heads and governors to discuss how training routes for teachers should be developed. The agency is also devising a new strategy on teacher training which will go to its board at the end of this month and then be made public.
Details of how the graduate programme will work - such as how soon candidates will be expected to perform in a classroom and whether the Government is prepared to give schools extra money to do the job - are unclear.
Civil servants said training would be tailored to the needs of individuals and based on an assessment of their initial knowledge and skills.
But Mr Forth said training would not necessarily be conducted in partnership with higher education. Employment agencies, independent training organisations, local authorities and schools approved by the TTA would be able to devise and deliver training as well as recommend the award of Qualified Teacher Status.
Candidates who have worked overseas or in the independent sector may only have to train for one term; graduates with no professional training or relevant experience will be required to do a year.