Wannabes baffled by rejection

30th March 2001 at 01:00
Why are local authorities conducting global trawls for teachers while shunning willing recruits at home? Susannah Kirkman investigates

While local authorities scour the world for teachers and the Government bribes trainees with golden hellos, many candidates are barred from the classroom.

Frank Piekarczyk, who has an honours degree in English and a PhD in American studies, cannot gain a place on the graduate training programme as a teacher of secondary English. It is a shortage subject but he has been turned away because he does not have at least a C grade at GCSE maths.

Mr Piekarczyk, who lives in Stoke on Trent, says: "It's not as though, when you're teaching Macbeth, someone's going to ask you about trigonometry."

Maths is also a stumbling block for newly-qualified teachers who fail to pass the numeracy test. One young teacher from Charlesworth in Derbyshire wrote to The TES earlier this month to say that she had been tripped by this obstacle. She has an upper-second degree in English and a postgraduate certificate in education, plus experience in teaching English as a second language. However, she may have to quit teaching after failing the numeracy test for a third time.

"The time pressure makes me panic. I have always had problems with speed in maths," she says.

A Teacher Training Agency spokesman says that a basic level of competence in maths is essential for teachers so that they can work out the percentages, for instance. But the young Derbyshire teacher has a C in GCSE maths and does not find percentages difficult.

Would-be teachers with modular degrees, pass degrees and higher national diplomas are also being turned down for graduate teacher training. The TTA says applicants must show "good subject knowledge" in their specialist area, although the Government has written to training providers asking them not to reject candidates because they lack a degree in the subject they plan to teach.

The TT says that those with honours degrees are bound to get priority on the graduate training programme, which will offer a salary of pound;13,000 from September.

Sue Brown has an honours degree in theology from Southampton University and a Canadian BEd, equivalent to a PGCE, but she can't find a teaching job or a place on the graduate training programme.

"It is hard to accept that my Canadian BEd is more lowly than a PGCE," says Mrs Brown who lives in Cobham, Surrey.

The UK has a reciprocal arrangement to accept the qualifications of teachers from European Union countries, but Commonwealth states are excluded. Commonwealth teachers seeking permanent jobs in England and Wales must do a PGCE or qualify through the graduate training programme.

Older, more experienced teachers are also excluded. Sixty-five-year-old Brian Gray from Barnsley, who has worked as a supply teacher for the past eight years, has just been told by Barnsley Council that he is too old to teach, even though Kirklees is happy to employ him. Meanwhile, Barnsley plans to send headteachers abroad to recruit new teachers.

"Has the world gone mad, or is it just Barnsley?" he asks.

FACTFILE

* Many applicants for primary postgraduate certificate in education places will be disappointed this year. So far, there have been 13,794 applications for 6,483 places. The Teacher Training Agency says that the pound;6,000 training salaries on offer have increased competition.

* Some providers of the graduate training programme will allow applicants without GCSE maths to qualify by taking an alternative maths test. A list of these providers is available from the TTA. www.canteach.gov.uk * The TTA Teaching Information Line provides individual advice on teacher training routes - 0845 6000 991.

* It is up to local authorities to decide when teachers must retire. It is possible to continue paying contributions into the Teachers' Pension Scheme until you are 70.


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