Teacher training in universities and colleges is facing a financial crisis which could prove "unmanageable", education heads warned this week.
Intake targets and funding allocations were sent by the Teacher Training Agency to individual institutions last week. They will mean reductions of up to 34 per cent in student numbers and budget cuts of up to 30 per cent for some teacher training departments, according to a survey conducted by the Standing Conference of Principals.
Overall there is a real-terms cut of around 11 per cent in funding for teacher training. Eight colleges will lose more than a sixth of their TTA grant and one college will lose 30 per cent. SCOP heads are seeking an urgent meeting with the agency to clear up confusion over the funding methodology and to call for a safety net for those institutions hit by the biggest cuts.
John Cater, chief executive of Edge Hill University College, Lancashire, and chairman of SCOP's teaching education sub-group, said the cuts were likely to have a particularly dramatic effect on colleges, where teacher training represents around 30 per cent of provision.
"For some institutions teacher training is actually the majority of their work. In those cases the kind of cutbacks we are looking at could be unmanageable," he said.
Many institutions are facing financial penalties for either over or under-recruiting. This year's School Teachers' Review Body report reveals that universities and colleges overshot the primary teacher training recruitment target for 1995/96 of 13,350 by more than 1,500, while in secondary teacher training they underhsot targets and the gap between numbers and targets grew in some shortage subject areas.
SCOP's concerns were echoed by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, which represents teacher training departments in universities. Mary Russell, UCET secretary, said the outcome of the TTA's consultation on proposals for a new funding methodology for 1997/98, which could include a funding-by-results element, were awaited with "trepidation" in the light of this year's cuts. The TTA's conclusions, expected in April, would be "make or break time" for teacher training in higher education, she predicted.
"It is one of the reasons why education is one of the areas which is being looked at closely by universities which are thinking about which areas might have to go because of the overall budget cuts," she said.
A spokesman for the TTA said discussions were being held with institutions where concerns over the allocations had been raised.