Bumper year for trainee courses

Applications for postgraduate teacher-training courses have risen for the third successive year and are currently at their highest level since the mid-1990s. The number of graduates applying to be teachers is now nearly 5,000 more than it was two years ago.

This is an impressive rise, especially when added to the numbers starting training in schools this September on the Graduate Teacher Programme, and the Open University distance-learning course.

However, more than half of the increase in secondary applications can be traced back to just three subjects: English, PE and art and design, which have seldom suffered from teacher shortages. The surprise inclusion last year of English in the list of subjects where trainees are eligible for the "golden hello" supplement has no doubt helped boost applications.

The other two subjects to register impressive gains during the past year are technology and mathematics.

Interestingly, the maths figure reflects a significant increase in male applicants. There have been similar large increases in applications from men for places on information and communications technology, business studies, PE and physics courses, although fewer men than last year have applied for general science courses.

The number of women applying for English, ICT, PE and business studies has increased, but fewer women have applied this year for RE and some language courses.

In Wales, Scotland and the North-east most courses are full, even in some subjects where recruitment is difficult. But in London less than half of all courses were full last month.

Overall, the Government is still unlikely to meet its PGCE targets for subjects such as mathematics, languages, geography, music and RE. It will be a close call in science and technology and much will depend upon whether there is a late surge in applications.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys and a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Email: john.howson@klineone.net

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