Language trainee figures start to flag

14th September 2007 at 01:00

Has making the subjects non-compulsory at GCSE lessened their appeal in the eyes of potential teachers?

APPLICATIONS FOR PGCE courses in modern foreign languages have fallen dramatically this year.

According to the latest figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry, applications from potential French, German and Spanish teachers were down between 16 and 19 per cent. For other languages, applications were down around 10 per cent.

Barring last minute applications, just 478 trainees will embark on the secondary French PGCE this year. This compares with 1,700 for English PGCEs. Others are expected to train via schemes such as the Graduate Teacher Programme.

Recruitment analysts have suggested that the drop in pupils taking languages since they were made optional at key stage 4 has made graduates lose interest in teaching them.

Other problem subjects include geography and business studies, which both saw a drop of 22 per cent in applications.

Information Technology suffered the greatest dip, with a 24 per cent drop despite enticements offered because of its shortage subject status.

Physics, chemistry and combined science applications were all down, but the number accepted on to courses was up slightly on last year.

Music, also classed as a shortage subject, eight out of 10 female applicants were accepted, while only one in six men got through selection.

More than 43,700 people applied to teach this year, compared with more than 47,000 last year. But acceptances were relatively stable.

In primary, competition remained stiff and just 8,000 out of 19,000 applicants were accepted. Men had a much higher chance of getting on the course, with almost half 1,440 out of 2752 male applicants making the grade.

Professor John Howson, an education recruitment consultant who regularly analyses the application figures, said that while it was true that training places were being cut due to falling rolls, the drop in applications was far greater than it should be in some subjects.

"We do not know whether it is because more languages graduates are being accepted on to primary PGCEs, or whether the fall in numbers taking languages examinations has resulted in a lack of interest in teaching at secondary level. But it is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed," he said.

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