Despite bursaries and 'golden hellos' trainee teachers are still in short supply. Karen Thornton reports
THE battle to attract teachers looks set to continue, with the pound;6,000 student bursaries failing to significantly boost recruitment and older staff still leaving the profession in droves.
The number of students taking up secondary post-graduate training places has risen by only 3.8 per cent on last year, despite the bursaries and ministerial claims of a 50 per cent increase in applications.
The figures, according to John Howson, director of Education Data Surveys, hide big variations between subjects, with nearly 4 per cent fewer students being accepted on to maths courses and 13 per cent fewer for physics. Even traditionally popular subjects such as English are struggling to find recruits, with course acceptances down by 1.8 per cent.
Shortage subjects such as modern languages and technology, which come with pound;4,000 "golden hellos", have done better this year - last month technology recorded a 16 per cent increase. But they are still unlikely to hit government targets, according to Professor Howson.
He estimates acceptances will fall 1,500 short of this year's targets for secondary places, and is predicting only physical education, history and the sciences will hit the mark. Geography, maths, technology, religious education, and music all face problems.
In London, the teacher-training colleges are calling for student bursaries to take account of the capital's higher living costs. They say 90 per cent of their students go on to teach in the capital, the country's worst recruitment blackspot.
Barbara MacGilchrist, dean of nitial teacher education at London's Institute of Education, said it still needed 50 students to fill its 726 secondary places, despite receiving 11,000 enquiries.
The teaching unions say major improvements in pay and conditions are needed to retain and recruit staff, given these latest figures and the continuing haemorrhage of staff from an ageing workforce. The number of full-time teachers taking early retirement was up nearly 2,000 to 12,900 in 1998-99.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said: "Put together, these statistics paint a bleak picture. Nothing less than a radical review of both the pay and the conditions under which teachers work is urgently needed."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, predicted more schools would follow the example of Corby Community College in Northamptonshire, forced to run a four-day week as a result of staff shortages. The teachers' review body had to come up with a pay offer "significantly above" the going rate for the rest of the public sector, he said.
But an adviser to Education Secretary David Blunkett said teacher numbers had increased by 6,900 between 1998 and April 2000, as a result of extra government money.
Much has been targeted at primary schools, to ensure the Government's commitment on reducing infant class sizes is met. But secondaries, he said, have also benefited.
"There is this notion abroad that there's been a decline in the numbers of teachers in post. It's not borne out. It's certainly difficult to recruit in some areas, but more teachers are in post than at the last election," he said.