Training axe falls on shortage subjects

5th June 1998 at 01:00
A London university has abandoned eight training courses as recruitment problems worsen. Nicolas Barnard reports

A LONDON university is to axe teacher-training courses in some of the subjects worst-hit by the national recruitment crisis - prompting warnings that other institutions could follow suit.

Greenwich University will drop eight secondary courses from September, losing 167 places - one-fifth of its initial teacher training allocation - and leaving 61 students who have already been accepted to search for alternatives.

Greenwich blames poor uptake for courses and problems finding suitable placements in schools. Twelve full-time and part-time staff will go, but compulsory redundancies have been avoided.

Recruitment analyst John Howson said it could signal "the start of the long-threatened pull-out by vice-chancellors" who are faced with funding cuts and falling recruitment. Courses with small rolls were most vulnerable, he said.

And Mary Russell, secretary to the University Council for the Education of Teachers, warned: "If you want these courses there when recruitment picks up, they have to be carried through. If you cut the funding it gets to the point where the institution cannot afford to continue the course and kills it off.

"We could have whole areas of the country without provision in particular subjects."

Greenwich says the cuts are part of a long-term plan to concentrate on primary training and three "areas of excellence" in secondary: PE, art, and design and technology.

But it is a blow to teacher recruitment in south London at a time when inner-city schools are finding it harder than ever to attract staff. Vacancies in the capital are running at twice the national average.

Greenwich traditionally attracts students from local communities, who then go back to teach in local schools. It also brings in members of ethnic minorities - an under-represented group in teaching which the Teacher Training Agency is trying to target, partly by siting courses closer to home.

The courses to go are English, maths, science, modern languages, history, RE, information technology and business with IT - all struggling to recruit nationally, according to projected figures issued last week by Mr Howson. The 167 places are equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the shortfall projected nationally.

National recruitment in secondary mathematics is expected to reach only 50 per cent of target, the sciences 64 per cent, information technology 63 per cent, and English 71 per cent. By contrast, PE is heavily over-subscribed and art is heading for a comparatively comfortable 87 per cent. But design and technology is the worst-hit, at only 35 per cent.

Inspectors last year deemed the quality of training "poor" in Greenwich's history, maths and English courses, although re-inspections are now taking place and they are expected to pass.

Mr Howson said: "It should be a warning sign that other institutions which get poor OFSTED reports might well take the same road."

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