Credit crunch's silver lining

The credit crunch is likely to be behind a last-minute surge in graduates applying to train to teach in shortage subjects, although overall numbers are still down on last year.

In February, experts were predicting a disastrous year for teacher training, with applications for secondary PGCEs in physics, chemistry, maths all down on last year.

But the latest figures show an upturn in applications for courses in these subjects, as the economic climate worsens.

International banks have all announced job losses and a career in the city for highly numerate graduates is becoming less reliable.

The most marked last minute rush has been in physics. Applications were down 30 per cent in February but only 18.4 per cent by this August.

Maths, which was 15 per cent down early this year, is now only 3.2 per cent behind this time last year.

Non-shortage subjects, too, seem to have been affected by the phenomenon. For instance, business studies was 28 per cent down in February and is now only 7 per cent behind.

Despite the improvement, analysts estimate the Government will not fill its targets for many key subjects, although overall goals for primary and secondary will be met.

Professor John Howson, of analysts Education Data Surveys, said it was good news for recruiters that graduates were turning to teaching, but there was no guarantee that they would graduate from their PGCE courses.

Figures from the Training and Development Agency for Schools showed that nearly 19 per cent of maths and 16 per cent of science PGCE students did not go on to get qualified teacher status in 2006-07.

Professor Howson said: "Things were not looking so good for many key shortage subjects, but I think now that graduates who were holding out for jobs in the commercial sector are realising there are fewer opportunities and are turning to teaching as a safer option."

Hilary Leevers, assistant director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said she was relieved the situation had improved. "This could be a silver lining in the recession for maths and science, but we absolutely must not depend on an economic downturn to get new recruits into the profession," she said.

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