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Lecturers say competition means top-quality recruits

Competition for teacher training places is getting tougher as the recession and rising unemployment make the classroom a popular place to work, experts say.

But while many applicants will be disappointed, lecturers believe this will lead to the deployment of more talented teachers in the long term, particularly in the shortage subjects of maths and science.

Postgraduate applications for teacher training in Wales for next academic year are up 8 per cent compared with the same period last year. But since the 2006 review of provision, places have fallen dramatically because more teachers were being trained than necessary.

The cuts followed a report to the Assembly government by the Oxford academic John Furlong, who called for a drastic reduction in trainees by 2010 to address falling pupil rolls. Primary training courses at the University of Wales, Newport, and Glyndwr University, in Wrexham, have already closed. From next year, colleges will have to collaborate to form three national centres to train primary and secondary teachers.

Dr Dylan Jones, head of Trinity University College's school of teacher training, is upbeat about the rising interest: "It does look as if it will give us greater scope to select the potential trainees we think are best suited to it," he said.

Figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, which processes applications for postgraduate teacher training, show a particularly high rise in demand for secondary training. This mirrors the increase in England, where applications are up 15 per cent on the same period last year. In Scotland, applications are down in all sectors.

Last week, it was reported that the Training and Development Agency for Schools in England had found many professionals were considering becoming teachers.

Professor Janet Pritchard, head of Bangor University's school of education and lifelong learning, said: "We are short of new graduates with qualifications in shortage subjects. It is likely we will see more people applying now that many are losing their jobs."

But she does not believe this will lead to teachers without a vocation: "It's our job to make sure the decision to go into teaching is not a knee-jerk reaction. We almost have to give career advice in interviews."

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