Here we go again

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
You reported (TESS, March 16) the concerns of the Secondary Headteachers' Association about looming teacher shortages. Unless action is taken soon, we will see again what we never expected to have repeated from the sixties and early seventies - classes on part-time education and candidates for, say, Standard grades not receiving the attention of specialist teachers.

Even before the McCrone settlement is implemented, with its massive extension of in-service training taking teachers away from the classroom, we are confronted by problems. Vacancies in many secondary schools are hard to fill, and univer-sity students are reluctant to consider a teaching career. Colleges of education have always found it harder to recruit when the economy was booming, and the prospect of paying a "graduate tax" is bound further to deter students when, even with the McCrone increases, teaching does not offer the same salary prospects as many other careers.

One sriking fact, however, is that the primary sector is not suffering the same degree of problem. True, some headships may be hard to fill - a reflection of the burdens of the job nowadays. But there are still many good students wanting to start a primary training course. Does that suggest that the rigid barriers separating the primary and secondary qualifications should be at least lowered? Do we need a 10-14 qualification allowing teachers to handle either the upper primary or the lower secondary?

With the emphasis rightly on methods of teaching and learning - the result of a better understanding of how we all learn - does every teacher of a 13-year-old need to possess an honours qualification in the subject concerned?

The Education Minister is apparently interested in an overhaul of initial teacher education. I hope we get a bold response to the growing problem of teacher shortages.

Alastair Morrison Comiston Road, Edinburgh

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