Revealed: Hardest subjects to qualify as a teacher in

More than one in 10 trainee teachers in physics, chemistry and maths fail to achieve qualified teacher status

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Around one in six people who train to teach physics do not achieve qualified teacher status, the latest government statistics reveal.

The Department for Education data shows that just 85 per cent of final-year postgraduate students in 2017-18 achieved QTS in physics – a lower percentage than in any other subject.

The other subjects where more than one in 10 candidates did not become qualified teachers were computing (87 per cent), chemistry (88 per cent) and maths (89 per cent).


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The average proportion achieving QTS across all subjects was 91 per cent.

The figure for physics was an improvement on 2016-17, when just 83 per cent of students achieved QTS.

However, the number training to teach physics on postgraduate courses dropped from 820 in 2016-17 to 702 in the most recent figures. 

Despite an overall increase in the numbers studying on postgraduate teacher-training courses, the figures show a decline in those training to work in the science subjects.

Trainee teachers falling short of QTS

In chemistry the number applying declined from 1,000 to 901 and in biology the figure dropped from 1,325 to 1,056.

Those training to teach physical education were the most likely to achieve QTS in 2017-18.

The DfE tables show that 97 per cent of students achieved QTS in PE, 96 per cent achieved it in the classics and 95 per cent achieved it in design and technology.

However, the number training to teach design and technology has been highlighted as a concern.

Professor John Howson, an expert on the teacher labour market, said that the number training to teach the subject had fallen from 1,159 in 2009-10 to 420 in 2017-18.

In a blogpost, he added: “This is not enough to provide for future middle leaders in the subject, let alone to staff the subject effectively. This is something else for the new team in Sanctuary Buildings [home of the Department for Education] to discuss.”

Earlier this month, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman described design and technology as being in long-term decline.

The overall number of postgraduate students achieving QTS was 25,490, up from 24,764 the previous year.

However, the number of undergraduates gaining QTS fell by nearly 300 to 4,733.

The figures also show that 53 per cent of postgraduate trainee teachers went down a school-led route and 47 per cent went through a higher education institution route. This compared with 55 per cent going through a school-led route in 2016-17.

Postgraduate trainees achieving QTS by subject – 2017-18


Physical education                   97% (1,117)

Classics                                    96% (57) 

Design and technology                95% (303)

Modern foreign languages       94% (1,388)

History                                       94% (1,178) 

Drama                                        94%  (250) 

English                                       93%, (2,150)

Geography                                93% (1,208)

Art and design                             93%  (418)

Religious education                  91% (415) 

Biology                                       90% (1,056)

Business studies                       90%  (164)

Maths                                          89% (2,476) 

Chemistry                                   88%  (901)

Computing                                  87% (439)

Physics                                        85% (702) 


The above table shows the percentage and then the number of trainees achieving QTS in each subject in 2017-18. Source: DfE

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