Maths cash proves good solution;Briefing;Hot data

THIS autumn there is some good news on teacher-training numbers. The Government and the Teacher Training Agency will be pleased to see increases in applications in several shortage subjects.

The biggest increases, albeit from last year's low numbers, are in maths and sciences. These are the subjects where Department for Education and Employment intervention last November resulted in the re-introduction of cash payments to applicants. These payments supplement the TTA's own support scheme, operated by course providers.

Other subjects where applications are higher than last year include information technology, music and geography. Music has done especially well this year with applications up by nearly 20 per cent. Geography is back to the application levels of 1996, after recruiting poorly last year.

Some subjects are still attracting fewer applications than last year. Foreign language PGCE courses, where the Prime Minister has announced that additional support will be available for students starting in 2000, are some 5 per cent below application levels for this time last year, and the worst for at least six years. Other subjects where applications are still behind last year's include English, history and art.

Apart from art, these subjects still attract enough students to ensure that all places will be filled, fortunately. But one might question a recruitment strategy that places a premium only on certain subjects.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Email

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