Applications for one-year postgraduate teaching courses in primary and + secondary are down an astonishing 36 per cent, David Henderson writes. But + leading education figures are pinning the blame on more than the confusion + around student finance.Figures show 3,419 students applied for places in 1996, + but only 2,174 had done so by December 12 last year. Ivor Sutherland, + registrar of the General Teaching Council, said: "It is the beginning of a + crack in our employment situation and it is a worrying sign. It may signal a + shortage in the secondary sector and we will have to be vigilant and keep an + eye on it. The trend began last year but this is quite a sea change."On the + secondary side, 700 places are available at teacher education institutions and + there have been 1,097 applicants, although the number may rise. At the same + time last year there were 1, 874 applicants.The collapse extends across + subjects. In modern languages, there are 99 applicants, against 165 last year.+ In business education, 41 students have applied, against 125 in 1996. Only 11+ students have submitted applications to become technical education teachers. + Thirty-one applied last year.The postgraduate primary course is also affected + but the reduced intake and high demand is causing recruitment planners less + concern. This year there are 1,077 applicants to date for 150 places, against + 1,545 in 1996.Mr Sutherland said the issue was deeper than the introduction of + tuition fees and the ending of grants. "It is the upturn in the economy. People+ like the big multinationals are starting to recruit graduates and there may be+ an image problem with the secondary sector by comparison with primary," he + suggested. Student teachers only have to pay tuition fees for three years out + of five. However, Professor Douglas Weir, dean of the education faculty at + Strathclyde University, has warned that the overall level of student debt will + act as a deterrent to teacher recruitment.