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Education Wales: The situation is not healthy; RECRUITMENT: We need to have a clear direction for the future.

Byline: DR CARL PETERS

WHILE Wales's manufacturing industry suffers, another of our best products is giving cause for concern.

Recent reports in The Western Mail reflect concerns in Welsh teacher-training institutions over plans by Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning Jane Davidson for a ``managed reduction'' in the number of primary-teacher training places available.

This move is based on a mathematical model that officials have produced which shows Wales does not need any more primary teachers than it trains at present and indeed could do with fewer coming off the production line.

The General Teaching Council for Wales will report in November on a survey of recruitment and retention in primary schools. This should provide an interesting and perhaps quite different perspective on the matter.

There is some logic in producing only as many teachers as we need, but one teacher for every post? This provides little in the way of competition and real concerns were expressed in a GTCW survey earlier this year showing that for some secondary subjects such as mathematics, physics or Welsh there was sometimes only a single applicant for a post.

This is not a healthy situation if we are seeking to drive up standards in our schools.

The recruitment picture can be confusing, particularly when messages from England are blended with those emanating from the National Assembly or the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the body which allocates the training places to higher edu-cation institutions. For example, in parts of England the acute shortage of primary teachers has led to a plethora of alternative routes into teaching, with flexible and distance learning PGCE courses, increasing numbers of people qualifying to teach via graduate or registered-teacher programmes and the rise in Scitts, School Centred Initial Teacher Training Schemes. Not surprisingly, Welsh ITT providers are inundated with misinformed, confused or angry applicants quoting reports of teacher shortages. For example, in Wales there is competition for places on primary ITT courses, comparatively little flexibility in most ITT provision and Scitt activity is limited.

Looking at the most recent statistical data coming from the GTTR, the body handling applications for PGCE courses, the figures are revealing. Applications for primary PGCE courses in Wales are up by nearly 37pc this year, double that in England, but remember there are no additional places to fill.

Secondary applicants are up by only 0.5pc compared with 8.9pc in England. Examination of secondary subject data shows that some subjects are seeing an increase in applications (most notably information and communications technology, art, PE and English). Others show a decline (biology, chemistry, modern foreign languages, design and technology and geography). For a number of years recruitment for mathematics, science, design and technology, English, modern foreign languages and Welsh has been problematic and remains so.

To reverse the increase in the number of unqualified teachers in our schools we need to have a clear direction for the future including an agreed vision of what the classroom of the future will look like.

Ministers have talked of a rich mixture of adults working in the classroom. Some teachers and professional bodies have read this to mean the replacement of teachers by classroom assistants and other paraprofessionals. The role of ITT in Welsh higher education must be supported as a key player in the provision of a dedicated and effective teaching force for Wales and the rest of the UK.

Welsh education will continue to evolve in a divergent way to England, taking the best policies and adding a distinctive Welsh dimension to meet the needs of Wales. This will require teachers who are trained in a different way, but the differences must not be so restrictive that they prevent migration of teachers to or from England or other areas of the UK.

Point

TO make sense of the factors affecting secondary school recruitment you need to take a holistic view. No single policy measure will work - with the exception perhaps of a large increase in salaries.

Teaching is a challenging and rewarding profession. A survey conducted by the TTA showed that teaching was the preferred career change to enhance lifestyle, finances and relationships.

The spin is perhaps supported by facts. Salaries for newly qualified teachers are competitive and there is a clear career structure. Many changing career seek the security of the job - the demise of the dot.com industry may be the saviour of ICT teacher provision.

Teachers have skills that are common across many jobs and career changers often find that their skills are appropriate and useful.

Point

A HOST of other initiatives and activities have been attempted to bolster the recruitment in shortage areas in Wales.

An interesting development of some years' ago, which is still going stro standing, is the Teacher Training Recruitment Forum. Arguably unique in the UK, it comprises representatives from Welsh ITT providers, the Careers Ser-vice, HEFCW, the Teacher Training Agency and the National Assembly.

Joint marketing of ITT provision in Wales is undertaken at a range of events across the UK and in Eire. The next main event will be a `Drop in on Teaching' at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on October 30, from 10.30am-8pm where interested people can meetITT providers and the TTA and seek advice on financial support. Worrying trends may work against all these initiatives. The decline in numbers of students taking A-level work in maths will mean that inevitably there will be a chronic shortage of qualified mathematics teachers for the foreseeable future unless radical steps are taken.

Dr Carl Peters is Head of the School of Education at the University of Wales College, Newport

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DR CARL PETERS: `There is some logic in producing only as many teachers as we need, but one teacher for every post?'
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Title Annotation:Features
Comment:Education Wales: The situation is not healthy; RECRUITMENT: We need to have a clear direction for the future.(Features)
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Aug 16, 2002
Words:959
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