Minister left unmoved by tales of woe

19th January 2001 at 00:00
"If you go to the data looking for bad news, you would really struggle to find it," Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, told his annual meeting this week.

Perhaps he should have popped down to Westmister Hall, at the House of Commons, where Essex MPs could have given him chapter and verse.

John Whittingdale, Conservative MP for Maldon and East Chelmsford, William Hague's private parliamentary secretary, who educates his children privately outside the county, described a situation of unimaginable chaos. Staff, he said, were teaching subjects in which they were totally unqualified, others were hired from across the world on the strength of a brief telephone call and schools were pitted against each other as they struggled to poach each other's staff.

There is a Colchester teacher who "was teaching German to pupils although she does not spak German. She is now being offered a post as head of science at another school, despite being a history teacher with one O-level in biology".

Another head was hiring on the basis of written applications after finding that any delay meant losing the candidates to other schools.

Estelle Morris, education minister, was unmoved. The situation was already improving, thanks to Labour, teaching was now a "better profession with better esteem, recognition, pay and chances for promotion".

Yes, yes, the Teacher Training Agency may have failed to meet its own recruitment targets last year. But thanks to new figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry showing applications for secondary teacher training were actually up 4 per cent at December 15, rather than down 14.6 per cent as earlier reported, and primary 13 per cent up - everybody could go home happy.

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