Dramatic drop in numbers wanting to teach science and technology subjects

Admissions data shows shortage subjects are being hit by a fall in teacher training applications, with design and technology down by more than a third and computer studies and ICT down by more than a fifth

Helen Ward

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The number of people applying to train as teachers in September has dropped since last year – with dramatic falls in core subjects that are already suffering staff shortages.

The latest statistics from admissions service Ucas show that by mid-January 22,650 people had applied to start teacher training in September 2017, compared with 24,190 at the same time last year – a drop of 6 per cent.

Among the worst-hit subjects are:

  • Design and technology. Applications have fallen by 34 per cent. There are 400 applications currently in the system compared with 610 at this time last year:
  • Chemistry. This year 830 applications have been made for teacher training, compared with 1,100 at the same time last year – down 25 per cent;
  • Computer studies, ICT or IT. There are 460 applications for teaching training in these areas compared with 580 in January 2016 – a drop of 21 per cent.

The numbers of people wanting to train as teachers in physics, biology and maths have also fallen – by 15 per cent, 13 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

The statistics come after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) warned this morning that the shortage of computer science teachers is now severe enough to merit it being included on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list. If agreed, this will make it easier for schools to recruit such staff from outside the European Economic Area.

Teaching as a 'shortage occupation'

Maths and physics teachers are also recommended to remain as shortage occupations, and the committee suggested that Mandarin teachers and general science teachers should be included, but chemistry teachers should be removed.

The Association of School and College Leaders said that it was disappointed that the Home Office committee had not recognised that there was a shortage of teachers across the profession.

"School leaders are reporting severe difficulties in recruiting staff in many subjects," Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the ASCL, said.

The way that universities and schools recruit trainees was changed this year, after widespread concern about the “free-for-all” system in place in 2015-16.

This year, the National College for Teaching and Leadership has allocated all places in drama, history, PE and primary, and has allocated some places in art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music.

But recruitment in business studies, computing, design and technology, geography, maths, modern foreign languages and classics, physics and religious education remains uncapped – meaning the drop in applications in these subjects is unlikely to be due to a change in the system.

John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said the situation was “very worrying”.

“ICT is a disaster area already,” the teacher recruitment expert said. “I am seriously worried about ICT, and delighted that the MAC recommend it is included on the shortage occupation list.

“The changes could be partly due to an improving economy, partly because a number of EU nationals are not prepared to undertake teacher training without knowing if they are going to be able to stay here and a growing realisation from students who have experienced £9,000 [undergrduate] tuition fees that they will have to pay £9,250 more [in teacher training tuition fees] and have no guarantee of a job at the end of it.”

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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