Physicists feel pull of the classroom

The number of graduates applying to teach physics, chemistry and maths in England is rising, new figures suggest.

The Graduate Teacher Training Registry report shows that while applications to PGCE courses to teach physics remain low, they are up by a third on last year, from 138 to 181.

Daniel Sandford Smith, the education and schools manager at the Institute of Physics, said the figure was encouraging but a long way from the Government's target of recruiting 750 physics teachers every year.

Applications for mathematics are 7 per cent higher than last February, while those for chemistry are up 6 per cent, with 272 applications so far in England. Classics applications have also seen a slight rise.

However, many subjects have experienced significant slides. There have been a quarter fewer applicants to teach information technology, a fifth fewer for geography and 11 per cent fewer for business studies. Numbers applying for design and technology and music were also down, by 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Andy Mitchell, the assistant chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, said: "Recruitment into design and technology continues to be a challenge and we are very worried about it."

The situation for modern languages appears even worse, with applicants for Spanish dropping by a third to 95, and a 15 per cent fall for French.

Numbers for German are similar to last year, at 86.

The total number applying for primary and secondary PGCEs in England by this month, the half-way point for applications, almost matches last year's, at 29,573.

John Howson, the director of Education Data Surveys, said the figures gave some indications of trends but could only provide tentative predictions. He said ICT and business studies graduates might be delaying their applications because a strong economy meant more career choice.

Duncan Cullimore, the chief executive of the Economics and Business Education Association, said the economy was an issue but that other factors were significant.

"There are not nearly as many training places available this year," he said. "It's also becoming a lot more expensive to train."

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