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Trainees left high and dry

Jobs are proving hard to find for many newly-qualified Welsh primary teachers. Karen Thornton reports

More than two-thirds of Welsh primary teachers who qualified last year have still to complete induction, according to figures released this week.

John Andrews, the outgoing chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales, warned the country was "training teachers for unemployment", as he revealed that only 253 of 812 primary teachers who qualified in 2003 have so far completed induction.

The figures have reignited teacher union and Plaid Cymru calls for all newly-qualified teachers to be guaranteed a job for a year so that they can complete induction, as happens in Scotland.

Wales has a surplus of primary teachers and falling pupil numbers. But more than a third of all its teachers - and 60 per cent of heads - are aged 50 or over and due to retire in the next 10 years.

Some newly-qualified teachers never join the profession, and others find work in England. But the primary drop-out rate is much higher than for Welsh secondary trainees, where 64 per cent (487 of 758) have completed induction.

Teacher-training colleges claim most of their students are getting jobs, and that historically a significant proportion have always moved to England for work.

But Professor Andrews, the GTCW's first chairman, said: "These figures hide a lot of distress among people who have qualified and not found jobs."

Giving the GTCW's first annual Wales education lecture in Cardiff, he added: "Unless they are prepared to take supply posts or go to London or some of the larger English conurbations, we could be training them for unemployment as teachers. England as a whole no longer has a shortage of primary teachers."

He called for an urgent review of the numbers of students being recruited to primary teacher-training courses, saying the teacher supply model used by the Department for Education and Skills in London was not "appropriate to the needs of Wales".

But the National Assocation of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru has rejected calls for immediate cuts in primary recruits because of the large numbers of experienced teachers due to retire in the next 10 years.

Geraint Davies, NASUWT Cymru secretary, said: "The country has spent millions training these people and most are highly motivated and well qualified."

Gethin Lewis, secretary of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said:

"It's misleading to give the impression that we are able to provide 1,000 primary teachers coming out of colleges in Wales with posts - unless the Assembly provides more money for schools to be able to appoint them.

"We want a guarantee that these people will be able to complete their induction year. If not, they are lost to the profession."

Plaid Cymru's Janet Ryder, shadow education minister, said: "Our responsibility is to ensure the needs of Wales are met. These figures show a glaring mismatch between training and needs."

The Welsh Assembly government is due to announce details of a full review of initial teacher education shortly. An Assembly spokeswoman said many Wales-trained students find jobs in England and Ireland, or are not prepared to leave their local area to find work.

She added: "The review will look at the match between the output of ITT in Wales and the needs of Welsh schools. But providers currently train for an England and Wales market, and jobs in Wales are open to people trained in England and elsewhere."

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