Teacher-training numbers plummet for shortage subjects

5th January 2017 at 16:17
Applications to teach physics and design and technology have decreased significantly since 2015, new data reveals. And the numbers of undergraduates wanting to teach is also falling

Applications to train to teach in shortage subjects such as design and technology and physics have dropped significantly since last year, new data reveals.

Applications across all subject areas have decreased by 4.1 per cent – and particularly among undergraduates – according to figures published by the universities admissions service Ucas.

But the numbers have dropped more sharply for some shortage subjects. For example, there were 430 applications from would-be physics teachers in 2016, including those who wanted to teach only physics, and those who wanted to teach it in combination with another subject. This represented a drop of 23 per cent on 2015, when there were 560 applications from people wanting to become physics teachers

There were 490 applications from would-be design and technology teachers in 2016. This compared with 700 applications in 2015, meaning that interest in becoming a D&T teacher had declined by 30 per cent.

'Not where you expect to see difficulties'

But the number of applicants to some non-shortage subjects has also dropped. There were 1,120 fewer applications for English-teaching posts in 2016 than there were in 2015.

Teacher recruitment expert John Howson said this was a worrying trend. “English is not the sort of subject where you expect to see difficulties recruiting,” he said.

However, there has been a very small increase in the number of applicants wanting to teach maths – another shortage subject.

In 2016, 4,070 people wanted to teach maths, either on its own or in combination with another subject. The previous year, 4,050 people had applied to become maths teachers, meaning that there has been an increase of 0.5 per cent.

'Shunning teaching'

The numbers of undergraduates interested in training to teach has also decreased, since the government introduced a £9,000 fee for trainees.

There were 2,700 applicants from would-be teachers in 2016. This is a decrease of 12 per cent since last year, when there were 3,070 22-year-old applicants.

And the number of 21-year-old applicants has dropped from 3,840 in 2015 to 3,370 in 2016 – also a fall of 12 per cent.

Professor Howson said that the drop in graduates was particularly sharp in those subjects where trainees are now required to pay £9,000 in fees.

“If we’re seeing young undergraduates shunning teaching in subjects where there aren’t bursaries, then that isn’t helpful,” he said.

“I’d be concerned if this trend continues into February. Traditionally, from February onwards, you don’t see many more young applicants, because they’re busy doing their finals.”

The drop in the number of applicants is particularly steep in London. "That's worrying," Professor Howson said. "If that trend isn't reversed – given that we know schools in London are growing rapidly – it's going to cause some potential problems."

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