Since the start of the lockdown, 21,410 graduates have applied to teacher training programmes – a 65 per cent rise from the five-year average, new analysis by the Education Policy Institute shows.
If this trend were to continue throughout the year, it would result in an extra 11,000 applications, closing the teacher training recruitment gap entirely for the first time since 2012, the EPI concludes.
Its analysis attributes the rise in initial teacher training applications to fears of coronavirus causing an economic downturn, with graduates who would have otherwise pursued a different career finding themselves attracted to the job security and stable wages of a teaching job.
Coronavirus: Lockdown 'surge' in teacher training applications
The increase in teacher starting salaries recently announced by the government could have played a part, it is suggested.
Coronavirus: Increase in teacher training applications
The figures also show an improvement in diversity in the profession. For the first time, the proportion of ethnic minority teachers in English secondary schools is now representative of the population as a whole.
However, gender diversity has not improved. Figures show that 35.5 per cent of secondary teachers are male – down from 37.7 per cent in 2010. Just 14.1 per cent of teachers in primary schools are male – up from 12.7 per cent in 2010 but unchanged since 2016.
Commenting on the analysis, Joshua Fullard, author and senior researcher at the Education Policy Institute, said: “The pandemic has caused unparalleled disruption to every area of education. However, there appears to be a silver lining in the form of a big boost to the teaching profession in England. These trends are welcome, given the government has fallen short of its recruitment targets for a number of years."
However, if Covid-19 has driven more graduates towards teacher training degrees, it has also reduced teacher turnover, leading to many training providers struggling to find teaching placements for their applicants.
If this situation is not urgently rectified, the EPI warned, the government may fail to capitalise on the surge of new teachers.
Another reason for caution, the briefing explains, is that evidence from the US suggests that teachers drawn into the profession during a recession are more likely to quit when other opportunities become available.