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November 06, 2006

Those Who Can Do....

And those who can't teach. Apparently those who can't grasp the most basic economics become teacher's union leaders.

In a report, the Lords science and technology committee urged "significantly higher" salaries for physics and chemistry teachers to tackle the shortage of bright graduates entering the field.

What could possibly be controversial about that? We have a shortage of properly qualified people in a certain area: largely because other people are ready to pay more money for that skill set. So in order to attract those we want we have to make a better offer (note that it isn't just money that makes up such a better offer).

Who could object? Right, the union:

However, an NUT spokesman took issue with the recommendations. "The real answer is to address low teachers' salaries generally."

Really? We have a similar shortage of teachers without such science qualifications?

November 6, 2006 in Economics | Permalink


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This argument about salary differentials in teaching to reflect subject and skill scarcities has been bubbling away for decades without any resolution in prospect.

In fact, schools have tended to - NB tend to, but unsystematically - find all sorts of ad hoc opportunities to award scale points to teachers with subjects or skills in which the schools have difficulty in attracting or retaining staff. That is certainly what tended to happen in the 1980s when schools felt impelled to attract teachers capable of installing and managing school computer networks and teaching computing but then computers and computing acquired much kudos in the collective mindset of yoof, at least in the mindset of male yoof, as well as our political masters. By comparison, not everyone shares the concerns about the significance of science and teaching science as separate subjects for GCSE (wrongly IMO), let alone A-Levels.

One outcome is the ascendancy of meeja studies over physics:

"Media, film and TV studies has overtaken physics in popularity as an A-level subject this summer. Those sitting physics exams dropped 2% to 28,119, while those choosing media subjects increased by 5.1% to 28,261. . . "

But then look at the current popularity charts in degree subjects at university:

"Welcome pop-pickers: stand by for the current Top 10 in the degree subject charts.

"Still at number one we have law, offering a sound financial return on your student fees.

"Close behind at number two is the up-and-coming design studies, offering creative excitement and vocational opportunities.

"In third place is psychology, helped along by its growing popularity at A-level and, perhaps, the success of TV series like Cracker. It is the new sociology. . . "

As suggested before - and well before the recent reflections of IPPR on British yoof - the hard evidence is that present yoof in Britain is distinctively different in its behaviour and attitudes to risk:

"THE death rate among young drivers has doubled in the past five years, prompting demands for greater restrictions on those who have recently passed their tests. The steady improvement in road safety across the general population is masking a sharp increase in the number of drivers aged under 20 having fatal crashes, despite a tougher driving test."

That seems fairly definitive to me.

Posted by: Bob B | Nov 6, 2006 10:39:32 AM

There is no shortage of teachers in arts subjects. In fact only a few subjects like physics chemistry and maths have any shortages. At primary level there is a large surplus.

Apart from the fact that they're hard, the principal reason for the falling numbers of science and engineering graduates has nothing to do with teaching. The fact is that careers in these areas offer scant rewards (which is also why most graduates abandon these areas shortly after graduation) poor employment prospects and job insecurity. The jobs in these areas are principally in internationally competitive areas of the economy, which have suffered as New Labour loads costs, taxes and a high exchange rate on our industry. So much easier to become a doctor, lawyer or accountant - they don't have to worry about international competition and have comfy closed shops.

Posted by: HJHJ | Nov 6, 2006 1:18:08 PM

" The jobs in these areas are principally in internationally competitive areas of the economy, which have suffered as New Labour loads costs, taxes and a high exchange rate on our industry."

Just as a matter of fact, that claim doesn't run credibly with this recent news:

"The UK received more inward investment than any other country last year, according to newly released internationally-compiled figures. The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said foreign direct investment into the UK hit a record $165bn (£91bn) in 2005."

Posted by: Bob B | Nov 6, 2006 7:35:14 PM

Bob B: on road deaths - there was an article in (I think) the ft a few weeks ago, suggesting that the decline "since the mid 90s" - as it so delicately phrased it - was spurious.

Posted by: dearieme | Nov 6, 2006 8:14:18 PM