Unions cast doubt on teacher training figures

4 Oct 01
Teaching unions have dismissed statistics published on October 3 showing a 16% increase in the number of people applying to train as teachers.

05 October 2001

Figures released by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry show that 42,536 people have applied for places on postgraduate teacher training courses starting this month, up from 36,673 last year. But the unions lost no time in pointing out that increased applications did not necessarily mean more teachers at the chalkface.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, told Public Finance that only improvements in working conditions would attract sufficient numbers into the profession.

'Even an extra 6,000 applicants do not go to cover the estimated 30,000 teachers needed to fill current and projected vacancies,' de Gruchy said. 'To keep these new recruits the government must tackle concerns over pay and conditions and offer teachers a 35-hour working week.'

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, echoed that call. 'Some 12.3% of students don't complete their courses and around 30% don't enter teaching.

'The government constantly lauds the application figures but they are no guide to anything.'

The statistics showed substantial increases in applications for teacher training in several shortage subjects. Mathematics applications are up by 6.9%, chemistry is up by 8%, physics by 3.5% and biology by 2.1%. English applications have risen by 5.8%, history by an impressive 17.1% and geography by 10.7%.

The biggest increases were for business studies, up by 48.4%, and information technology, close behind on 46%. Applications for primary teacher training courses increased by 17.4%, from 13,818 to 16,228.

But it was bad news for modern languages. Applications to train as French teachers were down by 12.2%, and German fell by 23%.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said the statistics were good news. 'We welcome any increase of this sort but of course we recognise that we have a significant challenge to get enough teachers, and we will continue to work hard to increase this further.'


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