PGDE primary places on the rise

1st February 2013 at 00:00
Numbers could increase by up to 400 for the next academic year

The number of places on PGDE courses for primary teachers is expected to rise by 350-400 in the autumn, TESS can reveal.

Teacher education institutions are on standby to receive confirmation of the increase from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in mid-February.

But it is understood that the Teacher Workforce Planning Advisory Group has recommended to the Scottish government that it should fund an increase in the number of PGDE primary places.

Universities are working on the assumption that this advice will be followed and that the SFC will send out an official letter confirming it.

This would mark the second increase in teacher-training numbers in two years, following swingeing cuts to the intake.

PGDE secondary teacher numbers are not expected to change; nor are numbers for the undergraduate BEd or new BA joint education programmes.

Various factors are thought to be behind the decision to boost PGDE primary figures, including rises in the birthrate and inward migration leading to higher pupil rolls in primary. High numbers of teachers are also reaching retirement.

Last year, an additional 200 PGDE primary places were made available, bringing the total to 605. This year's expected increase would bring it to around 1,000. The PGDE secondary course quota rose by 100 last year to 920.

In 2009-10, PGDE course intakes were reduced by 300 in primary and 200 in secondary to "help redress the imbalance between teacher supply and demand", according to SFC guidance published last year. Further reductions were made in 2010-11.

Over the past two years, however, probationer employment opportunities have improved, according to surveys by TESS and the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and fewer teachers have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

"Both the Scottish government and the Scottish Funding Council are being careful to avoid the rapid and wide oscillations that took place in the first 10 years of the millennium, when we saw a doubling and then redoubling of the numbers in PGDE, and then a similar step down when the glut worked its way through," said Professor Donald Christie, head of the school of education at the University of Strathclyde.

Education secretary Michael Russell first raised the prospect of more teachers being trained to counteract supply shortages when he addressed the AHDS conference in November 2011.

He admitted to primary headteachers and deputes that Scotland had gone through a "boom and bust" scenario when it came to teacher workforce planning.

The cut in pay to short-term supply teachers, part of the 2011 national teachers' agreement, has been blamed in large part for the shortages.

The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers is currently examining the results of a survey it commissioned on supply difficulties.

"It's probably fair to say that the problems experienced in the system with supply teacher availability are not uniform across all councils in Scotland," a Cosla spokesman said.

"The issue of teacher supply is complex and multi-faceted and all sides involved in examining this agree that there is no one easy solution."

The EIS Glasgow local association has claimed that supply shortages are jeopardising the continuity of learning and teaching, causing increased workload and stress levels, and risk having an impact on attainment and exam preparation.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: "We share the concerns of the EIS about the shortage of supply teachers. This is a national issue and Glasgow has been affected equally with other local authorities."

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said he believed the cut in pay for short-term supply had left retired teachers particularly aggrieved and their reluctance to work for half the rate was at the heart of the problem.


  • One class has been taught by 29 teachers this session, owing to subject shortage.
  • One school was short of three biology teachers.
  • One authority offered to pay supply teachers two days for one day's work.
  • Additional support for learning network support teams are being asked to provide emergency supply cover in one authority.
    • Photo credit: Alamy

      Original headline: Places on PGDE primary courses are set to rise

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