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Major teacher shortages forecast for the UK and Europe

23/02/2012 Joanna
Teachers across Europe could soon find themselves taking part in international exchange programmes designed to improve their skills and make the profession more attractive to graduates.

The proposals are part of the European Commission's (EC) Erasmus for All idea, which was put forward after a recent study by the Commission found that Europe is facing a potential crisis if it does not bolster its teaching ranks.

According to the study, several major countries in the region including the UK, Germany and Italy could soon be on the brink of a major shortage of teachers. The Netherlands, Austria and Belgium were also identified in the study.

The study claims that unless they dramatically increase the number of trainee teachers coming through, there will be a significant shortfall in those qualified to fill the required number of teaching jobs.

Published earlier this month, the 'Key Data on Education in Europe 2012' report highlights the disparity between the number of people studying to become teachers and the number approaching retirement age, with stark results.

Across Europe, the number of graduates who are training to become teachers is falling despite those close to retirement staying constant.

This report comes in the wake a study by European research agency Eurostat last year, which found that out of all EU member states in 2009, the UK had the largest pupil-to-teacher ratio in primary schools.

Primary school teachers in the UK are outnumbered by pupils 19.9 to one, the highest of any country in the EU and well above the average of 14.5.

Women also dominate the UK's primary schools, with 80.8 per cent of primary teachers female, though this figure is below the European-wide average of 86.0.

Discussing the most recent study, Androulla Vassiliou, commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, said: "This report is an invaluable resource for policy-makers and provides important guidance for future decisions.

"The professional development of teachers is a key factor in ensuring high quality education for our students.

"That's why Erasmus for All - the Commission's proposed new programme for education, training and youth - aims to strengthen the professional development of teaching staff while at the same time modernising education systems."

Under the programme around one million teachers would be given the opportunity to travel abroad to teach, in much the same way that the Erasmus exchange programme enables university students to spend a year studying at an institution elsewhere in Europe.

In England, the Department for Education has announced a raft of measures to address the teacher shortages and improve the quality and skills of the country's educators, while similarly trying to make teaching as attractive to graduates as possible.

In the UK, only two per cent of the top graduates opt to train as teachers compared to ten per cent in Finland and five per cent in South Korea - both of which are recognised as having world-leading education systems.

Furthermore, government figures show that in 2010 the number of science graduates recruited to physics and chemistry teacher training courses fell 340 below the number needed.

Education minister Michael Gove believes that if the UK is to have one of the best education systems in the world then it needs to have the best teachers.

A range of measures to attract graduates are now in place, though figures are not yet available to determine how successful they are proving.

Bursaries of up to £20,000 are available to graduates with first class degrees, and improving the standard of initial teacher training courses is also included in the measures.

Similarly, in December the first round of successful applicants to the government's £2 million National Scholarship Fund were unveiled, with 671 qualified special education needs and priority subject teachers receiving grants of as much as £3,500 to fund further academic study and improve their skill set.

Commenting on the government's measures to increase the numbers and improve the quality of teachers in England, schools minister Nick Gibb said: "Nothing is more important for raising standards in our schools than ensuring that we have more great teachers."

"These scholarships, alongside our other reforms to improve teacher recruitment and training, will elevate the status of the teaching profession."

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801300633-ADNFCR
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