Education: GTCW Survey Welcomed - but Positions Can Change; Neither the Unions nor the GTCW Described the Recent Results of a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Survey as a Crisis but the Media Have Built It into One by Being Very Selective in the Parts They Chose to Highlight

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Byline: JANE DAVIDSON Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning

I VERY much welcome the GTCW's survey into teacher recruitment and retention which has produced a more in-depth analysis of the sector in Wales.

But with any survey it is only current at the time it was conducted and the position can change. It is the pattern of change which also needs to be monitored.

The survey is a good test of what is happening across the board and confirms what we have been saying for some time that there are no recruitment problems in the primary sector, where there is a healthy demand for all classroom vacancies, nor for the majority of subjects in the secondary sector.

In fact, the latest figures (January 2002) showed an increase of 360 full-time qualified teachers employed in maintained schools in Wales over the previous year. The proportion of vacant posts is falling - and we have a vacancy rate (0.4pc) that is lower than any part of England - where the average is 1.4pc.

Pupil teacher ratios are also reducing and again our position is considerably better than in England - particularly in primary schools.

It is not true that many of those who do enter the profession do not stay long - the figures state quite clearly that teachers either leave within their first five years or after more than 30 years, with the overriding reason being early retirement.

It is not unexpected that, in a physically and mentally demanding job like teaching, a number choose to do so. In fact the report says this survey provides no clear evidence to indicate that teacher retention is a widespread problem in Wales.

I am introducing new arrangements for supporting newly qualified teachers in their first years in teaching. This will ensure that the best practice in supporting and developing new teachers - that many schools currently follow - becomes common across Wales. I expect this will have a significant impact on the losses from the profession in the first five years - which represents a waste of our investment in training and can lead to a sense of failure in those who leave so soon.

The survey also shows that 92% of teachers are teaching with a degree in a subject or a closely related subject which dispels the claim that ``many'' teachers are not qualified to teach their subject.

The survey does not show that in the secondary sector one in ten posts remain unfilled - it took a snapshot of a particular time in terms of responses to recruitment advertisements.

The report goes on to say that for the posts advertised headteachers were generally able to fill the post in various ways through supply teachers or cover or in other ways and they there-fore cannot be regarded as ``vacancies.''

The report also states that headteachers acknowledge that there continues to be a significant number of teachers of high quality who enter and work within the profession in Wales.

It is time to say that secondary schools are finding recruitment more difficult than before and they have to work harder to fill posts. …