Teacher training crisis

25th September 2009 at 01:00
Intakes to primary courses will bear brunt of education cuts in worst squeeze since 1999

Teacher education was left reeling this week as the Scottish Government prepared to slash an unprecedented pound;9 million from spending on the training of teachers.

Full details have not yet been revealed, but The TESS understands that primary students will bear the brunt next session with a 70 per cent reduction in the one-year postgraduate course and a 40 per cent cut in the four-year BEd. The numbers entering the one-year secondary postgraduate course will fall by 12 per cent.

One education dean told his staff it was "difficult to know how we will sustain capacity". But Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, has pledged to work closely with the TEIs and local authorities "to preserve capacity so we can ensure they will still be able to train the teachers we need in future years."

The crisis is a consequence of the draft budget proposals for 2010-11 announced by Finance Secretary John Swinney last week, which are still subject to political haggling and parliamentary approval. They reflect the severest squeeze on Government spending since devolution, as the economic crisis takes hold and the Treasury clamps down.

The move to cut back on teacher training is not being presented as a saving, however, but as "a temporary slowdown to allow new teachers to find employment." The embarrassing headlines over unemployed and under- employed probationers have finally forced the Government's hand.

The TEIs, based in the universities, will not get details from the Scottish Funding Council of how the clawback will affect them individually until the Government's budget is finalised by MSPs early next year.

Ms Hyslop said: "The current climate means local authorities are not replacing retiring teachers at the levels previously expected. We need to temper supply to redress this imbalance; to do nothing would be irresponsible.

"Teaching jobs do become available month after month as people retire, but currently it is at a slower pace than pre-recession and this measure will help new teachers looking for jobs."

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, commented: "The reduction in the training budget for new teachers shows that the Scottish Government is apparently agreeing that local authorities cannot make sufficient jobs available, despite previous assurances.

"Scotland needs more teachers, not fewer, and this announcement will inevitably lead to fewer teachers in our classrooms and larger class sizes for pupils."

This is the second time in a matter of months that the Government has been forced to stem the flow of students to teacher education. The TESS disclosed in April that intakes to postgraduate courses were being slashed by 18 per cent for the current session, following the unexpected fall of 975 teachers revealed in the September 2008 school census.

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