Government and NUT dispute teacher numbers

Government claims that it has succeeded in recruited 10,000 more teachers - ahead of the 2006 target date - have been rubbished by the National Teachers Union (NUT).

Schools Minister David Miliband said today that the number of teachers has risen by nearly 25,000 since 1997, and there are more qualified teachers in schools than at any other time since January 1984.

Mr Miliband also said that government figures on teacher numbers reveal: the number of teacher vacancies fell by a quarter between January 2002 and January 2003; more than 122,000 teaching assistants are now supporting teachers in schools - twice as many as in 1997; and the number of supply teachers working in schools has fallen by 2,600 since January 2002.

School Standards Minister David Miliband said: "Today's figures are the latest result of the government's sustained investment in education since 1997.

"Workforce reform is already taking place in many schools, and as promised there are more teachers and more support staff - not one at the expense of the other."

However, the NUT's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said the figures were a "distortion" of the truth.

"[The figures] must be viewed with a very large pinch of salt. Independent analysis has found recently that of the government's claimed 20,000 increase since 1997 over 8,500 are in fact unqualified staff," he said.

Mr McAvoy claimed that just under 3,000 of the 4,300 increase were either unqualified teachers or overseas teachers – some of whom had qualifications which have yet to be recognised in this country.

"I am deeply concerned by the implication that the government has reached the limit of its ambition for increases in teacher numbers. Schools will not be celebrating if that is the case," he said.

Mr McAvoy added that the drop in supply teachers was not a cause for celebration as they do a "good job in difficult circumstances".

"Their unique work needs proper backup and support not the threat of redundancy," he concluded.


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