THE Government's recruitment chief has acknowledged that a shortage of male teachers may be contributing to boys falling behind girls in exams.
Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, made the concession as new figures revealed that the proportion of men recruited for primary teacher training remains at rock-bottom levels.
In 1998-99, only 13 per cent of those entering primary training were male, which was no improvement on the previous year. In the secondary sector, the proportion actually fell, from 40 per cent in 1997-98 to 38 per cent.
The statistics were released after this year's A-level and GCSE results showed girls forging ahead of boys on nearly every measure.
Mr Tabberer told The TES: "The issue of boys' underperformance is a complex problem. But we are clear that we can contribute to the solution by increasing the number of men coming into primary teacher training."
Mr Tabberer said that in the last year, ministers and the TTA had made the recruitment of more male teachers a key priority, with the launch of training salaries, taster courses and support networks. These initiatives were yet to be reflected in the figures.
The latest performance profiles showed the number of recruits from ethnic minorities remained static at 6 per cent.
The proportion of postgraduates entering training with a 2:1 or better fell slightly from 48.7 to 48.5 per cent. There was also an eight percentage point increase in the number of maths trainees who found jobs within six months of qualifying.
From this week, potential applicants will have much more help in making sophisticated comparisons between the 110 training providers, as this year's performance profiles - which can be accessed through the TTA's website - have been upgraded.
Meanwhile, the Government has acknowledged the recruitment difficulties London schools are experiencing by allocating pound;4 million to double "on the job" traiing places in the capital.
Schools are so desperate for staff, they have been recruiting newly-qualified teachers almost irrespective of their quality, according to an unofficial analysis of the performance profiles.
Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, of Liverpool University, who carried out an assessment of 99 training providers, found that the quality of a course had little effect on a student's ability to find work.
Institutions in London dominated an alternative ranking provided by Professor Alistair Ross, of the University of North London, based on how training providers contribute to some of the Government's key recruitment priorities (see table below left).
Training providers are given points scores, with a maximum of 200 in each category, according to the quality of students' entry qualifications, the provider's performance in OFSTED inspections, and the proportion of students gaining employment in schools. Where a provider offers only primary or secondary, the score in the relevant category is doubled to give the total. The maximum possible score is 1,200.
Eleven providers listed in the TTA's performance profiles have been omitted from the rankings, either because they only offer a single course, or because OFSTED inspection information was not available for them.
Both of the unofficial tables can be viewed on the TES's website, www.tes.co.uk. The performance profiles are at www.teach-tta.gov.uk.
Top five trainers
Wandsworth Schools Consortium
North Bedfordshire Consortium
University of East Anglia
Bottom five trainers
Gloucestershire ITE Partnership
North London Consortium
Grand Union Partnership
Essex Primary School Training Group
Source: Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela
Robinson, Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Liverpool.