Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Teacher recruitment figures disputed
The government says it is tackling recruitment problems
Teachers' unions and the government have drawn opposite conclusions from the latest figures on students applying for teacher training.
The fall in applications for undergraduate teaching courses - 22% at secondary and 11% at primary - has been cited by teachers' unions as evidence that there is still a serious recruitment problem.
But the government says the most important statistic is for postgraduate teacher training, which has shown a 4.5% increase in applications.
It also says that despite the fall in undergraduate applications, it still means that there are more than five applications per place.
"The drop in undergraduate B Ed courses shows the size of the hole approaching in teacher recruitment, which is outweighing the increase in numbers on postgraduate courses," said John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association.
The fall in applications showed the "long-term inadequacy of existing pay levels" for teachers, said Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
But despite Mr McAvoy's assertion that "this shows that the government's short-term bribes haven't worked with young people", the government says that its use of cash incentives has dramatically increased applications.
Prime Minister Tony Blair announced On Monday that the "golden hello" scheme, in which students entering teacher training in shortage subjects are given £5,000, will be extended to modern language teachers.
The offer of the cash incentive for students beginning teacher training for maths and science has seen applications rise by more than 35% for maths, 36% for physics and 26% for chemistry.
According to the government, the targeting of such shortage areas has seen the recruitment problem diminish.
"Over a thousand more graduates have applied for postgraduate teacher training this year compared to the same time last year," said the Education Minister, Baroness Blackstone.
"In particular the £5,000 "golden hello" programme for new maths and science teachers has had a dramatic effect on recruitment of teachers in those subjects."
"It is also clear that we should have no difficulty meeting our target for primary teacher training this year.
"Latest figures for undergraduate applications mean that institutions have more than five applications per place and do not take into account the increasing trend for teachers to train via a Postgraduate Certificate of Education."