RECORD numbers of men are applying to train as primary teachers, figures released this week reveal. The Graduate Teacher Training Registry shows that at the end of last month, 2,798 men had applied for places on postgraduate courses, up 736 on the same time last year.
Applications from men already exceed the 2,780, total for last year, with another six months of the 2003 recruitment period to go. Around 1,080 men started primary training last September.
But latest figures from the Department for Education and Skills show men still account for only 16 per cent of staff in England's 17,985 primary schools.
Getting more men into primary schools is a key government target and the Teacher Training Agency aims to increase recruitment by a fifth each year.
The registry figures provide good news for some secondary subjects, particularly the shortage subject of maths, where training applications are up a fifth.
There were also increases in English (15 per cent), information technology (68 per cent) and PE (18 per cent).
But, with the exception of maths, these are not areas where there have been problems finding trainees in the past, according to recruitment expert John Howson. "The continued decline in applications in music, modern foreign languages and chemistry, all subject areas that failed to hit their targets last year, is very worrying," he said.
Meanwhile, teachers' employers say claims that the profession is facing a recruitment crisis are overblown.
According to their survey of teacher resignations and recruitment, fewer than one in 20 teachers who resigned in 2001 left for jobs outside education, That contrasts with the findings of a Mori poll of 70,000 teachers for England's General Teacher Council, published last month, which suggested one in three expect to leave the profession in the next five years.
However, the employers' survey confirms concerns about young teachers.
Around one in five of those aged 25 to 29 handed in their notice in 2001.
Overall, resignations of full and part-time teachers increased but recruitment was higher.
STATISTICS FOR 2001
* More full-time teachers in England and Wales (13.3 per cent) changed jobs or retired than the previous year.
* 68,741 teachers resigned. Just over half moved to other schools while 4.4 per cent of full-time teachers who resigned found jobs outside education.
* 70,855 teachers were recruited. Most came from other schools, or were newly-qualified.
* Aside from retirements, turnover was highest among 25 to 29-year-olds (22 per cent in secondary and 18 per cent in primary).