Let's work together for our new recruits;Letter

17th April 1998 at 01:00
So once again higher education is to blame and the Teaching Training Agency has done a wonderful job (Anthea Millett, April 3)!

We too run wonderfully successful recruitment campaigns if we judge them on the number of telephone calls we receive enquiring about becoming a teacher. Unfortunately most of these fail to translate into a successful application because we, no doubt like the TTA, are then asked questions such as: Will I get a grant? Answer, maybe but not enough to live on.

Why do I have to pay to train as a teacher when I can be paid to train for other jobs (and I am not interested in an employment-based route)? No answer to this one.

What will my starting salary be? Answer, not too bad but not able to compete with the pound;20,000 plus car offered to one of our successful but subsequently withdrawn mathematics applicants this year (and this is not untypical for high quality candidates).

Will I get a job? Probably, but maybe not if you are a mature student because schools cannot afford you (see TEs, March 13). If all the schools which needed teachers could actually afford to employ them, there would be a massive teacher shortage right now.

Do I have to pay tuition fees? Answer, not as a PGCE student but such is the confusion that some LEAs are still telling our successful applicants that they will have to pay pound;1,000. Of course if you want to be a primary teacher and get a really thorough training over four years, you will have to pay, and in all four years.

What will my working hours be? In excess of 50 for a week, according to recent reports, and much more immediately before an inspection, when you can forget about a half-term break.

However much we try to accentuate the positive when asked these questions, prospective teachers are not fools, and the better qualified and the more capable they are the less they are likely to be attracted as long as we fail to address some of these fundamental issues.

It is in the interest of every HEI provider to make every effort to fill their places - their survival probably depends on it, but do remember, Anthea, that one of the side-effects of your laudable efforts to concentrate on quality in teaching has been to discourage providers to take risks with those who might be brilliant but could equally be disastrous.

So please could we work together on this issue, Anthea? You at the agency have invested a great deal of time and money on this one, as we have. Neither of us has solved it - much of the problem is not of your or our making but it does you no credit either to fail to accept your share of the responsibility or to seek to pass it on to us.

ANNE WILLIAMS

The University of Birmingham

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