TODAY'S newly-qualified teachers are the best-trained ever, inspectors have found, but many training courses have difficulty recruiting enough students.
The Office for Standards in Education reported today that the quality of initial training for both primary and secondary teachers had improved substantially over the past five years.
However, the education watchdog found that many school-centred initial teacher-training (SCITT) courses had significant weaknesses. It also found that up to two-thirds of secondary courses had failed to meet targets for attracting students.
Chief schools' inspector David Bell said: "In spite of encouraging recent improvements, many courses, especially mathematics, science and modern foreign languages, still failed to recruit sufficient teachers and in the future this is likely to remain a challenge."
Inspectors visited all 97 secondary and 85 primary teacher-training providers in England between 1998 and 2002 and reported that training was good or very good in more than 80 per cent of their courses - often because of increased involvement of schools.
The inspectors said that the national literacy and numeracy strategies had helped to improve trainees' skills teaching English and mathematics in primary schools. The proportion of primary courses where students' subject knowledge of English was good or very good increased from half to fourth-fifths during the four years of inspections.
In contrast, the introduction of new AS and A2 exams under Curriculum 2000 had led to a decline in trainees' abilities to teach pupils post-16. One in five secondary trainees had difficulties understanding the new exams'
requirements and training providers reported that it was more difficult getting students first-hand experience of teaching sixth-formers.
Other findings included:
* Disruptive behaviour by pupils hampered the work of trainees in a significant minority of schools and training in behaviour management was often weak.
* The proportion of trainees judged to be good or very good has risen from eight out of 10 to nine out of 10.
* Around one in six secondary teacher trainees failed to complete their courses.
* Training providers have found it increasingly difficult to maintain partnerships with schools, particularly in areas suffering from staffing shortages.
* The four main areas of teacher training that require improvement are pupil assessment, curriculum continuity between primary and secondary schools and use of information and communications technology and teaching assistants.
SCITT courses, where teachers are based in a school, performed less well than those at higher education institutions, with few courses where training or trainees' standards were very good and more which had significant weaknesses.
"Quality and Standards in Primary Initial teacher training" and "Quality and Standards in Secondary Initial Teacher Training", are at www.ofsted.gov.uk
IN AT THE DEEP END
ELLIE Ingrouille feared the birth of Mia, her daughter, 21 months ago meant she would have to abandon her dreams of becoming a primary teacher.
She ruled out applying for a university-based training course because it would take her too far from her home in Milton Keynes.
However, after making a few telephone calls, she found she could do a School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course at Two Mile Ash middle, just a few minutes from her house.
The 33-year-old is now coming to the end of her year-long course, which she believes has given her far more understanding of the realities of teaching.
"We are not sitting in lectures all the time and reading from books. We are learning from experience," she said.
Within days of starting at Two Mile Ash last year, Mrs Ingrouille was teaching under the supervision of her tutor.
She now has her first job lined up at Riverside primary school in Newport Pagnell.
"It is in at the deep end with this type of training, but you learn to swim very quickly," she said.