Recruits flood in, but not enough

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Despite a record number of trainees this year the targets for shortage subjects are still not being met, report Karen Thornton and Julie Henry.

THE number of people starting teacher training this academic year is at its highest for 12 years. An increase of more than 2,000 has taken the number of students to 31,261.

There are more trainees in all the secondary shortage subjects, but training providers have failed to hit targets for design and technology, religious education, music, science, maths and modern foreign languages.

And research from Leeds University points out that because the Teacher Training Agency's figures refer only to science trainees, the dearth of physicists and chemists in schools is masked by the large number of biologists.

This September, 904 biology, 443 chemistry and just 250 physics recruits were accepted on to training courses, according to the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, which does not include employment-based routes.

Maths still has ground to make up - recruitment for the subject has fallen 263 short of the 1,952 target. Languages and science courses each missed their targets by more than 200, while RE, music, and design and technology courses each had 110 or more places unfilled.

The news is better in English, which has over-recruited by 336. However, its success may lead to questions about its shortage-subject status, which entitles students to pound;4,000 "golden hellos" and repayment of student loans.

The TTA believes that it would be closer to its targets if students on work-based routes, such as the graduate teacher programme, were included. Employment-based routes account for one in 10 of all training places.

Ralph Tabberer, the TTA's chief executive, said the overall increase was a tremendous achievement. David Miliband, school standards minister, speaking at the TTA's annual meeting, said: "It is encouraging that our strategy to recruit, retain and reward more teachers has added real momentum to the drive to attract talented people into the profession."

The Leeds research by Jim Donnelly, funded by the Society for Educational Studies (SES), into science and maths undergraduates' attitudes to a teaching career, found physicists and mathematicians were the least interested. The most academically able were even less likely to consider teaching.

Many of the undergraduates saw teaching as a last resort. The prospect of unruly pupils, low salary, workload and government interference were the main deterrents mentioned by the first and third-year undergraduates from five universities.

The pool of students studying physics, chemistry and maths at degree level is shrinking. In 19992000 there were just over 2,000 physics graduates nationally. To meet the Government's teacher-training targets, about half of all students who graduate in maths would have to become teachers.

SES book awards, 28

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