THE NEWS that postgraduate student teachers are to be given training salaries - worth at least pound;6,000 - - to support them through college is both welcome and long overdue. It means that, in future, recruits to the classroom will receive financial help on a par with what has long been available to graduate trainees entering other public-service professions such as nursing and the police.
There can be no doubt that the Government package is urgently needed. As John Howson reports (page 23), recruitment to secondary initial teacher training is down by a fifth compared with two years ago.
One reason for this is the buoyant state of the economy. Unemployment is at its lowest for 20 years and graduates with good degrees have never been in greater demand. Many, understandably, opt to work in the private sector rather than incur further debts by following a post-graduate certificate in education course that leads to a relatively lowly-paid teaching job.
With the average debt after three years of undergraduate study amounting to pound;6,000, students entering teaching from now on will be able to d so comparatively free of financial worries. Students with sought-after degrees in maths, science and languages will find themselves in particularly deep clover, earning pound;10,000 during their PGCE year.
However, as the new training salaries will apply only to PGCE students, the future of the BEd degree must surely now be in doubt. There is a real danger, too, that this year's applications for teacher training will be thrown into chaos if students signing up for BEd courses decide to switch to subject degree courses to avoid debt.
It is also evident that more still needs to be done to ensure that the good-quality graduates who are attracted to teaching do not drift off into other professions after a brief taste of classroom life. The current boom in house prices is forcing increasing numbers of young teachers out of London and other high-cost areas (page 11). Morale, thanks to excessive regulation and workloads, also remains dangerously low. But this week's announcement is undoubtedly a major step towards resolving the current recruitment crisis and a tonic for whole profession.