The Government has slashed its targets for recruiting new teachers over the next three years, arguing that those prevented from taking early retirement under recent proposals will make up the difference.
The Teacher Training Agency's budget has been cut by Pounds 13 million over the same period, although it has gained an extra Pounds 9m for this year.
The Department for Education and Employment's targets, announced at the same time as details of the budget for teacher training, now indicate a 6 per cent reduction in recruitment of primary teachers between now and 2000, compared with the 26 per cent increase suggested earlier.
For secondary recruitment, the target is now an increase of just 2 per cent, compared with an earlier estimate of nearly 30 per cent, though there are separate targets for shortage subjects such as technology.
Teachers' professional associations are outraged at the announcement. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, called it "absolutely crazy . . . these proposals will cause an outburst of anger in the profession. The Government has itself admitted that we need to change the age profile of the profession. This is the Treasury getting its pound of flesh by the back door."
John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, was equally appalled: "This takes us back to the drawing board on recruitment; it will block promotions and damage incentives for younger teachers."
The Government claims that the proposed restrictions on early retirement will keep experienced teachers in the classroom. The unions have warned that forcing reluctant staff to stay in harness would endanger standards.
Consultation on these points ends in January, and the Government hopes to shift the costs of early retirement to employers by April 1, providing immediate savings for the Treasury of around Pounds 100m.
In the Budget statement, the TTA's grant for recurrent and capital expenditure is planned at Pounds 209 million for 1997-98, Pounds 205m for 98-99 and Pounds 197m for 99-2000. The grant includes the cost of developing the new national curriculum for teacher training and continuing work on the new qualifications framework for serving teachers.
Anthea Millett, chief executive of the TTA, said: "The TTA's strategy for teacher supply and recruitment remains on course . . . it is not affected by the reductions in the DFEE's intake targets." In one sense the revised targets make it easier for the TTA to be be discriminating about recruits, but in a letter which has been sent to all universities and other training providers, Ms Millett admits that the new primary target will "have serious implications for many providers of primary ITT".
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "They're erecting a Berlin Wall to keep teachers in, and we all know what happened to that. "
Meanwhile, the Office for Standards in Education has received an increase in its grant of Pounds 15 million this year and a further Pounds 5m next year.