Last autumn some 620 students started training as secondary school religious education teachers, mostly on one-year PGCE courses. Although this number is 50 more than in the previous year, it is still the second lowest intake to training courses of the past five years.
As in the past few years, it was below the targets set by the Department for Education and Employment and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Assuming that no more than the usual 10 per cent drop out of training, this will leave around 560 possible new entrants to teaching. However, in the past few years probably no more than 75 per cent of potential new entrants have actually entered teaching straight away. Thus, in reality, this is likely to add up to some 420 newly qualified teachers looking for RE teaching posts in England ad Wales this year.
Coincidentally, this total is very close to the 416 RE teaching posts advertised in The TES during the first four weeks of March. Of these jobs some 385 posts were in the state sector and 31 in independent schools, including some vacancies for chaplains. Although not all these RE vacancies will be suitable for newly qualified teachers, they are likely to generate other vacancies that could be open to NQTs later in the year.
Consequently, since more RE teaching jobs are being advertised this year, full and quality recruitment for September 2001 is beginning to look a stark prospect. Unless schools can encourage returners or other subject teachers willing to update their skills or to retrain in RE, the teacher shortage that already exists can only worsen.