Top priority in style

7th August 1998 at 01:00
THE GOVERNMENT might have awarded itself top marks in its first annual report, but its self-assessment on education fails to address the crisis in teacher recruitment.

The glossy report on the progress made in all Government departments describes education as the "number one priority". Having invested Pounds 1.1 billion extra for schools in the current year to raise standards and Pounds 1.5bn in this parliament to repair and build classrooms and schools, education, it says, can only improve.

Education specialists say the Government's self-examination falls short, however. The report lacks any commitment on how to stem the haemorrhage of teachers leaving the profession.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: "What this report omits to highlight is that under Labour, the proportion of GDP spent on education has decreased, that there is a massive crisis in teacher recruitment and that class sizes are going up."

According to John Howson, a recruitment analyst, the report is more "style than substance". He said: "We know that the number of teachers entering the profession is down on last year, and this is a failure that the Government does not want to recognise."

And while Labour has pledged to cut class sizes to 30 or under for the under-sevens, the Conservatives were quick to condemn the fact that class sizes are bigger than in the 1970s. "If this was a proper school report, we would say 'could do better'. After all, every pupil would like to write their own report," said a Conservative spokesman.

Neither does the report take into account the true state of university applications. It baldly reports that "the applications for school-leavers to attend universities are up - as are places", which the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) would acknowledge.

But it does not add that as a proportion of that age group, the figures are down on last year, or that the number of 21 to 24-year-olds applying is down by 11.5 per cent.

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