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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 09:18 GMT
Blunkett: Schools close to meltdown

David Blunkett: "many more teachers are still needed"
A crisis in teacher recruitment brought schools close to breaking point earlier this year, the Education Secretary David Blunkett admitted.

Had we not acted... I think we would have been very close to meltdown

David Blunkett
Recognising there was still a shortfall in key subjects such as maths and physics, Mr Blunkett said the country was "not out of the woods yet".

"Had we not acted... I think we would have been very close to meltdown", he told BBC One's On the Record programme.

New initiatives designed to attract and retain teachers were "beginning to show some fruit", Mr Blunkett said.

But in spite of the 6,000 training salary for graduate teachers and another 4,000 bonus award for shortage areas, he added, many more teachers were needed.

Figures released earlier this month showed 28,000 people started initial teacher training courses or the graduate teacher programme in the autumn - an increase of 8% on the previous year.

The increase was 5% for secondary teachers - but this was 13% short of the government's target.

Exclusions 'dowry'

Mr Blunkett also admitted he had been "wrong" over the level of pressure put on schools not to expel unruly pupils, and had responded by changing the guidance.

The government was planing to provide a "dowry", where expelled children "carry extra cash with them into the schools that are prepared to take them", he said.

I have been telling him [David Blunkett] for the past two years that there is a recruitment crisis

Theresa May
"We believe that we got the pressure wrong. I am very happy and always will be to admit when I got something wrong."

Head teachers had got to the point where they felt they could not exclude a child who was causing disruption, he said.

"We still want to reduce that massive increase in exclusion and permanent truancy that bedevils our streets, our prisons, our drug population. This is an issue that affects all of us."

'Too late'

But the shadow education secretary, Theresa May, said David Blunkett's comments were "too little too late".

"I have been telling him for the past two years that there is a recruitment crisis," she said.

"He claims the government is solving it, but his arrogance will ring hollow with schools which are only surviving by employing supply teachers and overseas applicants to fill vacancies."

Labour's targets for school exclusions must be abolished, she said, as they were "tying the hands of teachers and forcing schools to keep disruptive or violent pupils".

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Education
More teachers but shortages remain
30 Oct 00 | Education
New drive for more teachers
26 Oct 00 | Education
Tories attack teacher shortages
07 Apr 00 | Education
Teacher shortage 'growing'
04 Aug 00 | Education
Cash offer to recruit teachers
21 Sep 00 | Education
Blunkett rejects teacher 'crisis'
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