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Wait and see on staff numbers

Predicting teacher numbers has never been an exact or satisfactory science, even in normal times. Add to that the complexities introduced by the teachers' agreement to cut class contact time in primary schools and the Executive's pledge to reduce pupil numbers in P1 and in S1-S2 English and maths classes and the certainties diminish further.

The Opposition parties have been making much hay with the Executive's difficulties in all of this, which may be premature. Increasing the number of teacher education places is not the only way of skinning the cat: other measures include overseas recruitment, mature entrants and persuading former teachers to return. Improving access to training, as we reported last week, is another; wider access should not be just for students.

Recruiting and retaining teachers will always be a challenge, however, and we must guard against complacency. The signs are positive for the future primary workforce, less so for the secondary sector.

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