'Crisis' looms as economic recovery threatens inner-city teacher supply

21st May 2010 at 01:00
Experts fear targets in maths and science will be missed as graduates are tempted to more lucrative professions

Secondaries in urban areas are facing a return to the drastic shortages in teacher supply that blighted them before the recession, according to new statistics.

And experts are warning that targets in the shortage subjects of maths and science are likely to be missed next year.

New figures obtained by The TES from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry show that interest in becoming a teacher has tailed off dramatically across the board since the beginning of the year, a development put down to the improved economic circumstances.

Training colleges believe that maths and science graduates are now being lured into banking and financial services, a sector which is heavily recruiting for the first time since the credit crunch in 2008.

The consequences of this trend will hit schools in inner-city London hardest, where the teacher training colleges feel the heat of competition with the recruiting power of the big City institutions.

At King's College London people have applied for shortage subjects and then pulled out after getting more lucrative jobs.

Jeremy Burke, responsible for secondary PGCE courses at the university, said: "The idea that the recession would create a huge tsunami of applications is wrong, it has been underwhelming.

"We had a lot of interest expressed early on in this current academic year, but it's tailed off. Shortage subjects are still not full.

In addition, the new numbers call into question the coalition Government's policy of recruiting more top graduates into the classroom.

Last year numbers applying for maths courses rose by 51 per cent, while this year the increase is only 8 per cent.

The new figures show that there has been a dramatic slowing since Christmas in interest from maths graduates. In March the increase year on year was 22.5 per cent, in April it was 12.5 per cent and so far in May it has been just 8.3 per cent.

John Howson, managing director of school labour market research firm Education Data Surveys, said the stats represented a "looming crisis".

At the Institute of Education, people have applied for training places and then not turned up.

"This shows we should not count our chickens before they hatch," said deputy director Dylan Wiliam.

"But I do think the recession has meant we have a better quality of applicant, even if we will always be making up the deficit of all the people we need to train."

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, has called on the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) to now think again about the recent decision to reduce training bursaries from this September.

A spokeswoman for the TDA said: "There is no evidence that applications for training places are declining. On the contrary, overall applications are now up significantly year on year. So far this year there have been 50,401 applications, an increase of 6,675 over last year. Applications for maths are up by 388, and science by 391."

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