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Unions 2000 Monday, 13 March, 2000, 00:27 GMT
'Three-day week' threat for schools
teacher writing on blackboard in front of class
Schools struggle to recruit teachers in some subjects
By Alison Stenlake

While the government is seeking a longer school day, a head teachers' leader says that a staff shortage could mean a cut to a three-day week.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA), says that if nothing is done to solve the problem of attracting and retaining teachers, in five years' time some children will only be able attend school part-time.

If things carry on as they are ... there won't be enough teachers for all pupils to be able to go to school full-time

John Dunford
The prediction comes as the Education Secretary David Blunkett is set to call for an extension of the school week, arguing that an extra three hours a week will help raise standards in secondary schools.

But Mr Dunford warns that without more teachers, the school week is set to shorten and that the pupils most likely to lose out would be those in inner cities, where it is currently proving most difficult to recruit teachers.

"If things carry on as they are, and the government haven't done something radical about it, there won't be enough teachers for all pupils to be able to go to school full-time," he said.

This runs directly against the plans to be presented by the education secretary, who wants to make greater use of school facilities and to push closer towards a nine to five school day.
John Dunford
John Dunford: "Radical changes are needed"
Mr Dunford's claim follows the release of the latest graduate secondary teacher training recruitment figures, which show the numbers of people enrolling on training courses has fallen since last year.

The Graduate Teacher Training Register figures, revealed by Mr Dunford at SHA's annual conference in Harrogate, indicate that the cash bonuses offered to recruit extra teachers in shortage subjects are not attracting enough applicants.

Last year's increase in recruitment for maths and science, which the government attributed to the 5,000 "golden hellos", has been reversed.

And the extension of the scheme to graduates training to teach modern languages has only slowed the decline of trainees signing up for courses starting in the autumn.

Falling figures

A year ago, figures showed recruitment for secondary training courses was slightly down on the same time in 1998.
David Blunkett
David Blunkett will present plans for longer school hours later this week
This year, the number of graduates signed up for courses so far is already nearly 14% lower than last year - 8,474 compared with 9,846.

Last April, figures showed there had been a 24% increase in maths recruitment on the same time in the previous year. Applications were up 16% for biology, 13% for chemistry, and 4% for physics.

But so far this year, the numbers applying for maths courses are down by 23%. Biology is down by nearly 12%, chemistry down by more than 22%, and physics down by more than 10%.

Last April, before "golden hellos" were extended to teachers training in modern languages, applications for secondary teacher training courses in French were down 21% on 1998.

Despite the cash incentives, applications for French courses this year are down by nearly 7.5% on last year. The number of trainees signing up for German courses has only increased by 2%.
Sir Michael Bichard
Sir Michael Bichard: The crisis is "exaggerated"
The only subject showing a significant increase in applications this year is physical education, where figures have gone up by just more than 4%.

Speaking to delegates at the conference, Sir Michael Bichard, permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), said the teacher recruitment crisis was exaggerated.

He said the department did believe that the "golden hellos" were working, in particular in maths and science, but he said "we do agree that they are short-term palliatives, not long-term solutions".

'It's a nightmare'

A DfEE spokesman added that applications in the spring for courses starting in the autumn did not reflect the true picture.

"This time last year, applications were also down on the previous year. But final applications were 4% higher. There is clear evidence of a trend in recent years of people leaving it later to apply for places."

But head teachers attending the conference told a different story, with some saying that recruiting teachers for subjects such as technology was "impossible".

And Mr Dunford called the latest figures "disastrous". "It's more than a headache, it's a nightmare," he said.

"The most radical thing that needs to be done is changing the public image of the teaching profession.

"That will not come about with the continued denigration of the work of schools and teachers. We need a change of atmosphere."

Improved pay and working conditions, policies on school exclusions and less "centralised prescription" of what and how teachers should teach were also essential to turn the crisis around, he said.

'Quality over-looked'

Ann Mullins, head teacher of Highbury Fields School in Islington, north London, said that without the availability of Australian supply teachers in the capital, where there was the additional problem of high living costs driving teachers away, some schools would have "collapsed".

She said the level of experience teachers needed in order to apply for the new performance-related pay threshold, in order to gain a 2,000 pay rise and access to a higher pay scale, should be lowered, to encourage potential recruits and new teachers.

See also:

29 Feb 00 | UK Education
12 Dec 99 | UK Education
20 Sep 99 | UK Education
17 Sep 99 | UK Education
13 Sep 99 | UK Education
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