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Student teacher numbers soar again

Student teacher numbers have risen to another record high, figures from the Teacher Training Agency show.

More than 41,000 people are expected to start training this academic year, although key subjects have still been left with hundreds of unfilled places.

Last year's total of 40,624 had set a new record, while the number in mainstream training at universities and colleges alone was the highest since 1975.

Ralph Tabberer, the TTA's chief executive, said the figures proved that the agency's campaigns, including controversial advertisements featuring headless bodies, had helped to make teaching seem an attractive career.

He said: "We are getting a lot more career-changers: teaching has become the second career of choice. There are more than 13,000 people aged over 30. That is a huge achievement.

"We have certainly managed to look into the way people are thinking about the development of their career. Many people are dissatisfied with their ability to fulfil themselves in the jobs they first chose."

There were now even concerns that supply was outstripping demand and training places may be cut by about 1,000 next year.

He said: "We are asking, can there be too many? In primary, there are some pockets of the country where teachers haven't been able to get jobs, although there are other areas where we still need to attract people."

Despite the high numbers, 5 per cent of places remained unfilled as the autumn term began.

Student teachers shunned some key subjects, with modern languages the worst affected, as numbers fell by 10 per cent.

Just 79 per cent of available language places were filled, although the TTA expects more people to start employment-based training during the year.

Mr Tabberer said the fall should be put in the context of a steady increase over the past five years, but promised to implement plans to boost recruitment.

Next year, the TTA will expand six-month courses to retrain people who might otherwise not qualify to teach in problem subjects.

Mr Tabberer said he expects the programmes to add hundreds to those applying to teach foreign languages, wiping out this year's decline. The programmes will also be used for maths and sciences.

Terry Lamb from the University of Sheffield, a former president of the Association for Language Learning, said: "It is hard to see the way forward with fewer people studying languages at school because they are optional now."

Recruitment of maths teachers rose by 3 per cent, while science suffered a fall of 1 per cent. But both subjects had hundreds of unfilled places.

"Every human resources department, if you talk to BT or Shell, will talk about the difficulty of getting mathematicians and scientists. We have got to get more," Mr Tabberer said.

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