Initial teacher training in Wales is set for a radical shake-up that could bring a 50 per cent cut in student numbers, writes Tony Tysome.
A report commissioned by the Welsh Assembly published last week says that Wales is producing significantly more teachers than it needs, something it can no longer afford to do with a devolved education budget.
Last year, there were only enough vacancies in Welsh primary schools to take in 28 per cent of newly qualified teachers, while in secondary schools available posts accommodated 55 per cent of teacher training graduates.
The report, from Oxford University education professor John Furlong, calls for a 50 per cent reduction in the number of primary initial teacher training places in Wales over the next five years and a 25 per cent cut in secondary places over the same period.
It also recommends a total reorganisation of courses and provision. The seven institutions responsible for most teacher training in Wales should, the report says, be required to pool resources to create three new training schools in the north, south west and south east of the country.
The schools will offer a range of teacher training including foundation degrees, PGCEs, continuing professional development and research - an area that the report identifies as worryingly weak.
BA education degrees should be phased out so teacher training in Wales becomes entirely postgraduate, the report says. But it acknowledges that there is "strong evidence" that PGCE-only departments would not be economically viable. "Unless resources can be protected, there is a real danger that cuts in ITT numbers would significantly destabilise the sector," it says.
To counterbalance the impact of axeing the BA in education, the report recommends the creation of a new non-ITT "pre-professional" degree, designed to lead to a range of postgraduate careers in education, such as youth work and counselling, as well as teaching.
The report elicited a cautious response from Welsh higher education leaders.
A spokesperson for Higher Education Wales said: "In considering Furlong's proposals, HEW will have at the forefront of its thinking the need to secure the long-term health of teacher supply and support in Wales."