One of Britain's top teacher education centres is considering abandoning training because it is no longer cost-effective. This would deal a blow to the government's drive to ease the teacher recruitment crisis.
Geoff Whitty, director of London University's Institute of Education, told The THES this week that the institute was conducting a "fundamental review of all its activities" for the next five years, which would include examining whether it was cost-effective to train new teachers. It trains about 1,000 PGCE students a year, second only to Manchester Metropolitan University.
It is understood that the institute has warned ministers privately that initial teacher training (ITT) is seriously underfunded, with too much money going to schools for their part in the process, and not enough towards lecturers' salaries in London.
Professor Whitty stressed that no decisions had been made yet. He said:
"The institute regularly reviews its portfolio. It is completing a fundamental review of all its activities, which has involved the Department for Education and Skills, the Teacher Training Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Various recommendations about future strategy will be put to the governing council later this year."
The institute celebrates its centenary this year. ITT is a flagship but, with £3.6 million funding, it makes up only 10 per cent of the institute's activities. The institute will get £5.2 million of public money for research next year.
The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers is worried that universities have to pay an increasing charge to schools for mentoring and assessing students. Typically, they pass on 15 to 20 per cent of their funding from the TTA.
Many universities subsidise teacher training from other areas but, as a single-faculty institution, the IoE is not able to do so.
An acute shortage of qualified lecturers is also causing serious problems especially in London.
Mike Newby, dean of the faculty of education at the University of Plymouth and a former chair of the UCET, said: "Universities have always looked to recruit distinguished teachers in schools to deliver teacher-training courses, but there is a growing chasm between salaries. The top salary in a new university for a principal lecturer is £39,000, compared with £46,000 for a top-level advanced-skills teacher."
A spokesman for the Teacher Training Agency said: "We are aware that the IoE has been undertaking a strategic review across its range of activities. It is usual practice for organisations to undertake these reviews from time to time and to involve us.
"We are also conducting a study into the constraints on the sector, at a time when we are attracting more inquiries than ever about teaching as a career and expanding the market. We are collecting evidence from a range of suppliers, of which the IoE is one."