Heads warn of maths teacher shortage

14th May 1999 at 01:00
HEADS are warning of a crisis in maths teaching after vacancies advertised since Easter outstripped the number of new teachers expected this year.

In just five weeks, 1,041 secondary maths jobs at all grades were advertised in The TES. Jobs on the common pay scale alone - the posts with no responsibility points, which newly-qualified teachers could apply for - totalled 684 in the weeks from April 9 to May 7. This week's adverts will take the figures even higher.

The Teacher Training Agency expects 1,120 maths trainees to complete courses this summer with just over 1,000 gaining qualified teacher status - and on past figures up to a quarter of them will not go on to teach.

With every appointment likely to create a vacancy elsewhere, or deplete the pool of new teachers, the number of appointments at all grades is a major concern for heads.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, warned many children would begin the new school year being taught maths by inadequately-qualified temporary appointees.

"The adverts in The TES are an excellent indicator of the crisis in supply of qualified maths teachers," he said. "This is the strongest possible further evidence of the difficulties schools are facing, and it is the schools in the most disadvantaged areas that are having the most difficulty in recruiting."

The end of half-term is the deadline for teachers to give notice to quit at the end of the school year. Mr Dunford said: "I really fear for schools which lose a maths teacher on the last Friday of half-term. After then they will only be able to take newly-qualified teachers and most of them will have been snapped up."

Recruitment analyst John Howson warned: "With the numbers coming out of maths courses this year at the lowest for more than a decade, anybody advertising from now onwards will have to fight very hard to get a postgraduate certificate in education student.

"If we don't fill all the jobs this year - and I'm pretty sure we didn't fill them all last year - there is a knock-on effect. The problem gets bigger and bigger."

Schools unable to appoint may be able to turn to the graduate employment programme, the on-the-job training scheme. The Government has told the Teacher Training Agency to recruit an extra 300 maths trainees this way next year.

The TTA has appointed supply agency Timeplan to match maths and science trainees with schools after problems finding schools to take on the more than 10,000 would-be teachers who have enquired about the route.

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