Huge rise in recruits but key subjects still short

10th April 2009 at 01:00
Teacher-training applicants up 20 per cent but maths, IT and science fail to meet targets

The government is still not meeting its recruitment targets in priority subjects such as maths, in spite of the recent rush of people eager to train as teachers.

Figures released by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry show that more than 38,500 people came forward to become teachers in the past year - up 20 per cent on 2008.

Maths is only getting 71 per cent of its required applicants, adding up to 1,913. And IT fares worse, with just over half of those needed applying. But there is hope that this year's targets will be hit because of the numbers applying for "safe" careers like teaching in the recession. The fact that unemployment is predicted to hit 3 million later this year is also expected to be a factor.

The Education Data Surveys' latest monthly report reveals the number of people wanting to teach has risen sharply since January - when the recession began.

The firm says the rise is the fastest since it began compiling reports on teacher training applications nine years ago.

Secondary course applications were up 29 per cent to 22,160 compared with April 2008, while those for primary courses rose 10 per cent to 19,293.

The news is a tonic for the other subjects deemed a recruitment priority. However, sciences, modern languages, design technology and music also fell short of their targets - although music managed to get 97 per cent of recruits. The remaining subject, religious education, was oversubscribed. By contrast, subjects where the shortage of teachers is less of a problem were all oversubscribed with the exception of geography.

The GTTR figures, which cover the 12 months from last April, before the recession, show the downturn is beginning to benefit teaching. The priority subjects all recorded double-digit rises in applicants. Industry experts said teaching should ensure it took advantage of the increased labour pool. Professor John Howson from EDS, a sister company of The TES, said: "Every opportunity must be taken in the present market to improve the quality of trainees by only taking on the best possible recruits."

He said maths would see the quantity of applications needed to make up the shortfall. This was the first time since the recession of the early 1990s that maths tutors had enough applicants to pick and choose, he added.

But the EDS data revealed some subjects such as physics were still not getting enough applicants to meet the Treasury's 2004-2014 strategy for the sciences - despite a 60 per cent increase in applications to train in the subject.

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