Staff shortage 'is not a crisis'

20th October 2000 at 01:00
Baroness Blackstone says that teacher-recruitment problems are confined to a few regions. Sarah Cassidy reports

TALK of a teacher recruitment crisis is "exaggerated", education minister Baroness Blackstone told the House of Lords.

During a debate on Tuesday about the shortage, she said: "I think it is a little exaggerated to describe the overall national picture as a crisis."

But she added that the Government accepts that some of the nation's regions, such as London, had severe shortages, particularly in certain subjects in secondary schools.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Sharp of Guildford had asked how the Government planned to tackle the crisis when secondary class sizes were rising, classes were being taught by non-specialists and training colleges were short of 1,500 students to meet their targets for this year.

Baroness Blackstone replied that new funding plans were already beginning to have an effect and said that applications were up in maths, science and technology.

However, she failed to mention that acceptances are down and that maths and technology courses look unlikely to be filled.

Last week The TES revealed that nearly 4 per cent fewer students are being accepted onto maths coures and 13 per cent for physics compared to last year and although technology acceptances are up by 16 per cent the target is unlikely to be met.

Baroness Blackstone also said that more teachers were in maintained schools than at any time for a decade and more than 99 per cent of posts are filled.

But as Baroness Sharp pointed out, any increase in teacher numbers has been mainly in primary schools.

Baroness Blackstone said new funding is helping to maintain recruitment - including pound;70 million for training salaries, pound;4m for London recruitment and

an emphasis on encouraging trained teachers to return to the profession.

Baroness Blatch, Conservative education spokeswoman in the House of Lords, said that she was concerned that the minister did not mention the number of schools now operating a four-day week, saying that this was "depriving children of 20 per cent of their education".

Baroness Blackstone replied that only two schools were teaching a four-day week and added: "This compares quite favourably with the very large number of schools in the 1980s, especially in London, that were teaching a one and two-day week, with some pupils being kept out of school for several weeks in a row."

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