More bursaries please

20th November 1998 at 00:00
Teacher-training bursaries are back in favour only two years after the Government scrapped them. However, only maths and science have been targeted.

Surprisingly, information technology and other shortage subjects have been ignored. Everyone agrees about the difficulties recruiting maths students to teaching. There is not, however, any serious problem with recruiting biologists. It is physicists and to a lesser extent chemists, that schools cannot recruit. As the DFEE is only interested in "science" teachers, training-course providers have no incentive to reserve places for physicists or chemists, and will take students on the basis of who applies first. This could make matters worse.

Maths and science are not the only subjects covered by the Teacher Training Agency's shortage subject support scheme. Indeed, recruitment to technology teacher-training courses is as difficult as that for maths and science. In 199798 just under 1,300, or a third of technology initial teacher-training places were vacant compared with only 15 per cent of science places. If the national curriculum remains in place, even more technology teachers will be needed.

By next autumn technology (which by the DFEE's definition includes design and technology, engineering, computer studies, business studies and home economics) will need to recruit more trainees than either maths or science if the shortfall in qualified teachers is to be reduced.

By the autumn of 2003, according to some DFEE projections, technology could account for nearly one in five of all secondary teacher-training places. Why were technology and the other subjects defined by the TTA as suffering "shortages" not included in the latest recruitment measures? Even if design and technology were made optional subject at key stage 4 there is still a need for trainees expert in either IT or business studies.

Overall, the recent measures risk being seen as too little too late. They do not address the fundamental question of whether trainee teachers should be seen as students or employees. If the latter, then they should all be entitled to a salary just like trainee police officers, probation officers and civil servants.

John Howson

John Howson is a fellow of Oxford Brookes University and runs an education research company. E-mail:

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