Crisis looms: teacher training slump worsens

20th May 2011 at 01:00
Loss of bursaries could be to blame, say academics

English and Welsh schools are facing a teacher supply crisis after a major drop in the number of people hoping to enter the profession, universities have warned.

The latest statistics from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, obtained by The TES, show a 13 per cent decline in the numbers applying to train as secondary school teachers.

In January, when figures showed secondary applications were down by 9.3 per cent, experts warned that the Government was "sleepwalking into a crisis".

Academics say the decision to scrap bursaries earlier this year could be putting people off studying for a PGCE. Grants worth pound;4,000 to pound;6,000 for those training in religious studies, music, PE, art, business studies, citizenship, history, dance and drama have been axed.

Only those training in physics, chemistry, engineering and maths will get the full pound;9,000 bursary. Biology, general science and modern foreign language trainees will receive pound;6,000.

In England, the number of people applying to secondary courses has fallen from 27,065 in May 2010 to 23,651 in May 2011 - a decline of 12.6 per cent.

The number of primary applicants has risen from 22,517 to 23,164, up by 2.9 per cent. Overall, applications are down by 5.6 per cent.

In Wales, the number of people applying to train as teachers is down by 14.6 per cent.

The overall number of secondary training places has been cut by 13 per cent this year, but places for maths have remained steady and those for physics and chemistry have increased, prompting fears of a particularly severe shortage in these subjects.

In a recent meeting, members of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) board noted concern about the "substantial decrease in the number of enquiries and applications this year and the knock-on effect this was likely to have in future years".

A cost-cutting ban on most Government marketing has left the TDA unable to run its usual recruitment campaign. It was given permission by the Government to advertise to a limited degree, using "no costlow cost" marketing.

In the minutes of the meeting, board members said they were "unlikely to achieve unchanged recruitment increases" and "expressed concern at the potential reputational damage this may have for the agency and for the Department for Education".

James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said the downturn was "worrying".

"In recent years we have been buoyed by the recession, which has led more people to apply to teaching, so it's concerning that it looks like we will now have teacher supply problems," he said.

"It shows the Government is paying for the impact of cutting bursaries.

Andy Jones, dean of the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University and vice-chair of UCET, said: "The TDA marketing campaign started very late and that hasn't helped. It does seem bizarre that in this national context, in a time of austerity and recession, more people are not applying to teaching."

A TDA spokesman said: "The TDA's aim is to make sure we recruit the best applicants in line with the Government's target number of ITT (initial teacher training) places - not to generate the maximum number of applications.

"This year's target for secondary ITT is lower than last year. While applications are also lower, we are pleased that the proportion of applications per training place is higher."


Student teachers who threatened to leave the profession after learning they would miss out on bursaries will now get the funding.

People who signed up for subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) training, a precursor to the PGCE course, were to miss out on the pound;6,000 or pound;9,000 grants because they chose to study for an extra year.

Now education secretary Michael Gove has decided they will get bursaries for the 201112 academic year. Those training in design and technology and ICT will get pound;9,000 and trainee music and religious studies teachers will get pound;6,000. Bursaries have been axed for all others training in those subjects.

Trainees on SKE courses usually start a PGCE straight after finishing. Their qualification is effectively worthless if they do not go on to teacher training.

Original headline: Crisis looms as teacher training slump worsens

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