Teacher training has emerged as a hot election issue
A crisis is looming in teacher training recruitment, two new reports indicate.
Last week a report from the cross-party House of Commons Education and Employment Committee warned that "recruitment to training courses in some key subjects is significantly lower than is required to meet the needs of the teaching force".
This was quickly followed by research findings from Oxford Brookes University showing that recruitment could be upset by the additional financial burdens faced by trainee teachers.
The Commons committee report, "The Professional Status, Recruitment and Training of Teachers", cited Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures which showed that applications for autumn 1997 entry to Initial Teacher Training courses in higher education were down by 12.3 per cent on 1996, despite an overall increase in higher education applications.
If such trends persist, the report warned, "it is possible that in the longer run, the lower figures for recruitment may result in actual teacher shortages in some subject areas".
The committee highlighted the low "status and morale" of the teaching profession and recommended that the Department for Education and Employment give "careful consideration" to the "possibility of paying higher than ordinary salaries to teachers because they are employed to teach a shortage subject".
It also suggested that more be done to encourage older people to enter the profession.
The committee cited "successful" measures to improve recruitment adopted by the Teacher Training Agency, such as its strategic plan for recruitment and its priority subject recruitment scheme. It concluded that the establishment of a general teaching council would most effectively "improve the self-esteem of the teaching profession, and in time, improve its status and enhance its effectiveness".
But a research report from Oxford Brookes, "Training to be a Teacher - Counting the Cost", which was commissioned by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and released at its conference last week, warned that for some trainee teachers, the financial burdens are so tough that they are embarrassed about "their limited wardrobes" when they visit schools.
The survey of student hardship" lamented that the cost of investing in higher education in general was being transferred from the state to the student. But it pointed out that the "move to school-based training" and various other incorporated elements, "bring about an even heavier financial burden upon the students" training to be teachers.