A major initial teacher training provider is reporting that applications this year are at their highest for more than half a century.
The University of Sussex says latest figures show a 25 per cent increase in teacher training applications and a 38 per cent increase in course place acceptances compared to the same time last year.
The Brighton based provider said: "Academics at the university’s school of education and social work believe this year’s application numbers are the highest in the more than half a century that the university has been training teachers.
"Recruitment numbers have been particularly strong for primary and the creative secondary subjects including music, drama and media in addition to English, modern foreign languages, the sciences and psychology."
However application numbers have been significantly lower in some of the subjects where the Department for Education has removed bursary funding for trainees including design technology, business atudies, geography and religious education with the university still recruiting for these cohorts.
Jo Tregenza, senior lecturer in the university's school of education, suggested she thought the pressure teachers were put under during the pandemic might have put some people off the profession.
"I am slightly surprised by the size of the increase in our applicants this year when you consider the challenges that teachers have faced in the past year balancing face-to-face and online teaching, the way they have been expected to put their lives at risk like few other occupations and considering the pressure and criticism they have been under from some sections of the media," she said.
But she added that economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic may have played a role in the increase: "Historically what we find is that when there is a crisis in the country, people turn to teaching.
"This pattern is largely due to applicants feeling that teaching is a safer option particularly when other businesses are failing.
"We do also get quite a few applicants seeking a career change after deciding that their current job is maybe too precarious in the current economic climate. Others are taking stock of their lives as a result of the pandemic and having always wanted to teach are taking the opportunity now to make that change.”
A ‘Covid boost’ to teacher training applications, which has allowed the government to meet its recruitment targets for the first time in eight years, has been observed since last summer
Another teacher training institution, the UCL Institute of Education in London, reports an uplift in applications for PGCE across the board – with the only exception of modern foreign languages.