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Trainee decline 'not fast enough'

Trainee teacher numbers are in steady decline in Wales amid falling school rolls and a lack of jobs.

Last year, 7 per cent fewer completed initial teacher training (ITT) courses than in 2005-6. But the drop in first-year enrolments still exceeds Assembly government targets for fewer new teachers. In 2006-7, the number of trainees starting on ITT courses dropped from 2,410 to 2,316.

Drastic cutbacks in numbers were 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 (NQTs) in Wales varied from 28 per cent to 41 per cent. Just over half of secondary school NQTs were finding jobs.

Teachers' unions insist falling rolls, or limited jobs, should not be an excuse for cutting back on new entrants to the profession, especially with new initiatives such as the play-led foundation phase for under-sevens, 14-19 learning pathways and the Welsh Baccalaureate.

However, there is recognition that there are not enough new posts available for trainees.

Rex Phillips, regional organiser for the NASUWT, said: "There's no point training teachers if there aren't going to be jobs when they come through."

Gary Brace, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales, believes there has long been too many teachers in Wales.

"With 20 people applying for every primary place, there's plenty of resource available to deliver the foundation phase," he said.

"Where there aren't early years specialists, the need could be met through professional development and re-training.

"As for the Welsh Bac, we don't see why the number of teachers in the system should affect it, though training them is another issue."

Last year, 77 per cent of trainees were living in Wales. Their numbers dropped by 5 per cent, while enrolment from outside Wales fell by 6 per cent on the previous year.

Professor Furlong suggested the Assembly government should develop a "free-standing module" for outsiders planning to teach in Wales. He said it should also aim to halve the 2005 number of primary ITT places by 2010, and cut secondary numbers by 25 per cent.

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