Trainee numbers hit ten year low

2nd April 2010 at 01:00
Teaching council says downward trend suits jobs climate, but union claims insecure prospects turn off potential recruits

The number of aspiring teachers enrolling on initial teacher training (ITT) courses in Wales is at its lowest level for a decade, new figures have revealed.

Assembly government statistics show that 2,035 students enrolled on ITT courses last year, 3 per cent fewer than in 200708 and the lowest number in 10 years.

The downward trend was welcomed by the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW), which said too many teachers are being trained for too few jobs.

But teaching union NASUWT said it showed that teaching is no longer a secure profession and that redundancies were putting people off becoming teachers.

The Assembly government last year reduced intake targets for ITT courses, and although enrolments on both primary and secondary courses decreased, there were still too many students enrolling on primary courses - 980 against a target of 900.

Welsh-based students made up 80 per cent of the new intake, while enrolments from outside Wales fell by 18 per cent; 3 per cent more students completed ITT than in the previous year.

Hayden Llewellyn, deputy chief executive of the GTCW, said: "While the continued downward trend in enrolments is welcomed, figures continue to show there are too many trained teachers in the system who cannot secure work, particularly those who are primary trained.

"Unless there is a better balance between supply and demand, some new teachers are simply being trained for unemployment and resources are being wasted that could be used to enhance the skills of existing teachers."

The GTCW is also calling for a guaranteed induction year so that ITT graduates can develop their skills and widen the pool of teaching talent available in Wales.

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of the NASUWT, said: "It doesn't surprise me that people are thinking twice about going into teaching now, given the increasing number of teacher redundancies across Wales. Teaching used to be a secure job, but that security is being eroded every year."

Drastic cutbacks in ITT numbers were first recommended in 2006 by Professor John Furlong, an education expert from Oxford University.

In a controversial report, he said that in the previous four years employment of newly qualified primary teachers in Wales varied from 28 per cent to 41 per cent.

In 2009, the proportion of primary-qualified NQTs working in primary schools was 28 per cent, down from 34 per cent in 2008.

Professor Furlong said the Assembly government should aim to halve the 2005 number of primary ITT places by 2010 and cut secondary numbers by 25 per cent.

Although the government has continued to reduce primary ITT targets - to 775 in 200910 and to 755 in 201011 - the 50 per cent cut will not be put into effect.

A spokeswoman said: "This is due to factors that include demographic changes, which are starting to result in increased pupil numbers."

Most new ITT students enrolled on PGCE courses (69 per cent), the same as in the previous year, and slightly more than five years ago (66 per cent). The other 31 per cent enrolled on degree courses leading to qualified teacher status.

In total, 3,295 students were enrolled on ITT courses at Welsh higher education institutions last year.

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