UNIVERSITY and college teacher-training departments face a loss of 2000 places for secondary-school teachers in September, it was announced on Monday.
The overall 14-per-cent cut rises to 30 per cent for religious-education specialists, with an allocation of 460 RE places for 2011/12, compared with 675 for this year. All 14 of the Cathedral Group church-based higher education institutions are teacher-educators. They are the main providers of RE specialists.
Fewer secondary teachers are needed because there are fewer pupils in the secondary age-group, the Government says. There is to be a slight rise in places for the primary sector, where school rolls are rising. At the same time, training bursaries, worth £6000, for subject specialists, are to be abolished, except for science, mathematics, and some languages. “Golden hellos” of £5000, paid to teachers who remain in teaching at the end of their induction year, will also be stopped.
Underlying these decisions appears to be the calculation that the supply of teachers, once seriously inadequate, now outstrips demand, and jobs are harder to find for newly qualified teachers. One in four teachers who qualified in 2009 was still without a job six months later.
The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, suggests a deeper, long-term agenda, however, in a letter sent on Monday to Graham Holley, the chief executive of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which allocates places to various providers.
Mr Gove wrote: “It is my expectation that you will distribute these places across providers with a continuing focus on quality and, in line with the White Paper, an increasing emphasis on school-led training.” He also reminded providers of the need to recruit the more highly qualified graduates.
Mr Gove made no mention in his letter of the many undergraduate courses for primary-school teachers, an omission that, taken together with the reduction in RE places, will alarm members of the Cathedral Group. The number of places they will be able to offer overall will become clear next week when the TDA is expected to announce its allocations.
The Government’s decisions have been widely criticised. Professor John Howson, an expert in teacher supply, predicted that the cuts could lead to a teacher shortage in 2014, when secondary rolls would begin to rise again, a view also held by the director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, James Noble-Rogers. Mr Noble-Rogers said that some high-quality courses, including RE courses, might no longer be viable. Removal of bursaries would deter high-quality candidates.
The Revd Dr John Gay, director of the Culham Institute, a research and development centre for RE, said that the cut in RE places was the third recent blow to the subject. “Now that RE has been omitted from the baccalaureate and left out of the curriculum review, it will further undermine the teaching of RE. It would be ironic indeed if, after a period of development under Labour, the actions of a Conservative-led government should lead to RE’s withering on the vine.”