PEOPLE with maths backgrounds could be offered up to pound;3,600 to boost their subject knowledge enough to enter teacher training.
The Teacher Training Agency wants to pilot paid courses of up to six months for career changers with maths-related degrees andor jobs. Courses would run over the summer holidays and be followed immediately by a "traditional" one-year postgraduate courses.
The cash, pound;150 a week, is equivalent to the pound;6,000 training bursary paid to PGCE students.
Teaching needs to recruit around 37 per cent of each year's maths graduates and latest figures show applications are up 16.7 per cent from 1,283 to 1,497. But some of the 1,940 maths places available this autumn are likely to be unfilled.
Applications to maths degrees are down 11.6 per cent and sixth formers are dropping maths A-level after disastrous results in last year's AS exams.
Universities now fear the TTA's "subject enhancement" schemes could end up poaching students from existing conversion courses rather than attracting new recruits.
There are around 51 two-year PGCE courses in maths and other shortage subjects, with around 850 places. Students get nothing in the first year but receive the pound;6,000 training bursary in the second.
Frank Eade, of Manchester Metropolitan University, said: "If they funded the first year of the two-year course, recruitment would shoot up."
Mary Doherty, the TTA's director of teacher supply and recruitment, said the course could open up "new pools for recruitment". She added: "Many graduate career changers from mathematical occupational backgrounds express an interest in teaching, but may lack the full subject knowledge to teach maths accurately and confidently to pupils aged 11-18."
Applications for teacher training in England across all subjects are up 10.6 per cent on last year, though this is a fall from last month's figure of 17 per cent.
The figure in Wales is higher (17.6 per cent), but secondary applications there are up only 2.2 per cent. There are nearly 6 per cent more training places (32,000) to be filled this September in England alone.
Meanwhile, demand for on-the- job training remains high, with most of the graduate teacher programme places for this autumn already taken. The TTA received bids for 5,700 places, but is funding only 3,200 in 20023. Most places come with a grant towards trainees' salaries of up to pound;13,000.
Headteachers have used GTP to plug gaps in staffing, but the quality of training was criticised earlier this year by inspectors. Management of most places has now been devolved to 80 "designated recommending bodies" - universities, education authorities, schools and partnerships.