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30% of RE lessons taught by inexperienced teachers

Fri 10 Jun 2016
By Antony Bushfield

A "significant proportion" of religious education lessons in England are now taken by teachers with no more than A-levels in the subject, MPs have said in a damning assessment of the Government's failure to train sufficient school staff.

The Public Accounts Committee accused the Department for Education of showing "no sense of leadership and urgency" to fill glaring gaps in training places despite missing targets for four years in a row.

Officials were ignoring "significant local variation", relying on "experimental, unevaluated and still evolving" policies and confusing would-be teachers with complex routes into teaching, it reported.

The National Audit Office found that included 44% of computer science lessons, 43% of Spanish classes, 30% for religious education, 28% for physics and 25% for German.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the public spending watchdog, said it was "alarmed" by a recent survey that found 73% of school and college heads are making teachers give lessons in subjects they've not been trained in.

Ms Hillier demanded action to end a "disconnect between real-world problems and a government department whose haphazard approach to teacher training risks putting pupils' futures in jeopardy".

She continued: "Young people's futures should not be limited because of a shortage of subject-qualified teachers.

"The Department must develop sustainable policies that fully consider the recruitment difficulties facing schools, the shortage of applicants for training places and the educational needs of pupils.

"Training teachers is too important to get wrong but the Government has taken too little responsibility for getting it right.

"The Department for Education has repeatedly missed its target to fill training places. At the same time, it has remained woefully aloof from concerns raised by frontline staff and freely available evidence.

"It is a basic point but one worth spelling out for the Government's benefit: variations in the supply and quality of teachers at local level can significantly affect pupils' educational attainment and life prospects."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb rejected the report's finding saying that despite some "local challenges" more people were entering the profession than leaving, with 13,100 more teachers than there were when the Conservatives came to office in 2010.

"We simply do not recognise this picture of teacher training and are disappointed that this report fails to recognise the significant work already done, and the vision set out in the white paper, to increase the number of people entering the classroom," he said.

"All of this is thanks to an aggressive and concerted approach to teacher recruitment including high profile media campaigns, new routes into teaching and generous bursaries."

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