Top-up fees likely to spell renewed teacher shortfall

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Charging graduates up to pound;3,000 for teacher-training courses will lead to huge shortages in the classroom, leading academics have said. Fears that recruitment levels will suffer were raised this week as the Government continued to delay an announcement into whether trainee teachers would be exempt from paying the full top-up fee.

At the moment the state pays pound;1,200 for students to complete the one-year postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), the most common route into teaching.

Teacher-training institutions have long complained that the cash is not enough to cover costs, and research last year revealed courses were underfunded by up to a quarter. Recruitment analyst John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes university, said economic pressures were so acute that the majority of training providers were likely to levy the full pound;3,000 fee when it is introduced in September 2006. Kim Howells, the higher education minister, confirmed last week that trainee teachers would continue to receive Pounds 1,200 towards fees but refused to rule out the possibility of them paying the remaining pound;1,800.

He said he was awaiting the outcome of a government review before making further announcements. But academics say any move towards charging trainee teachers would seriously affect recruitment.

Professor Howson said: "After three years university, graduates will not want to take on further debt. There is a great risk that we will soon return to the teacher shortages we had before the last election."

More than 34,000 people started teacher training last year, a 30-year high.

But vacancies are likely to grow. Forecasters warn that the proportion of teachers taking retirement will outstrip the number of graduates entering the classroom.

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham university said: "The Government has to look at national need. We always need to recruit teachers and charging them to train will be a huge turn-off. It does not make sense."

Universities have also criticised delays in making an announcement over possibly exempting trainee teachers from top-up fees.

James Rogers, executive director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said: "Arrangements are being made for the 2006-7 academic year. Clarification on top-up fees must be made as soon as possible."

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