Why did we train too many staff?

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Graham Holley, of the Teacher Training Agency, claimed ("No shortage of primary jobs", TES, August 26) that The TES told only half the story about the problems newly-qualified primary teachers face finding teaching posts.

His response is disingenuous, to say the least.

First, he claimed that the present situation is due to the success of recruitment and retention incentives. As the number of trainees recruited is determined each year by the Department for Education and Skills, and the TTA is ruthless in penalising training providers who over-recruit, this seems a somewhat curious claim that is difficult to sustain.

There are various theories as to why the DfES increased primary training numbers when school rolls were falling; it may be planners thought that the workload agreement would produce more jobs than materialised.

Whatever the reasons, it is the over-supply of training places in the past few years that has created the growing backlog of primary-trained teachers who cannot find teaching posts, and whose expensive training is now being wasted.

Second, Mr Holley cited a DfES figure of 740 vacancies for primary teachers in January this year. This is a total that covers all grades; there were only 480 vacancies for classroom teachers suitable for NQTs, and even this figure included promoted posts.

Nevertheless, this is the lowest figure for classroom teacher vacancies since 1996, and the lowest overall vacancy figure, using Mr Holley's own measure, since 1994. Next January, I expect the vacancy figure to be the lowest for more than 20 years.

It is not, therefore, surprising that the number of graduates applying to train as a primary teacher is down this year, for courses starting in the autumn.

John Howson 70 Rewley Road Oxford

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