World-class staff need top salaries

27th July 2007 at 01:00
If it were possible to train English graduates to teach maths, many problems facing schools might be resolved. Unfortunately, persuading graduates with good degrees to become teachers is only half the battle. The problem, which governments and training institutions have grappled with for decades, is how to get enough high-quality graduates to take up teaching in the right subjects.

This Government has tried hard to tackle the underlying problems. Less than a decade ago, teaching was seen as a career of last resort for many teachers often urged their offspring not to touch it with a barge-pole, a sure sign of a profession that felt undervalued and underpaid.

Those days are gone. The Training and Development Agency for Schools reports that the quality of incoming graduates has never been higher. This has surely been helped by rising investment in buildings, resources and support staff all of which have boosted working conditions and morale. In short, there has never been a better time to become a teacher.

Yet, as our front-page story reveals, we still struggle to attract talented graduates in shortage subjects, and many who do take up PGCE courses fail to stay the distance. It is surely no accident that the subjects that are hardest to recruit for modern languages, maths, science and ICT are the ones most in demand in industry. It is also worrying that some of the worst teaching qualifications are in vocational subjects when we badly need the new 14-19 diplomas to succeed (see Robert Hill, right).

Gordon Brown's ambition to make our schools "world class" within a decade will require us to recruit and retain the best graduates to teaching. To achieve that, teachers' pay will need to improve in comparison with that of other professionals.

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