Recession fuels rise in trainees as graduates seek safe careers

20th February 2009 at 00:00
Business studies is among subjects to see big rise in applicants, but there might not be enough jobs out there

Graduates worried about their job prospects during the economic recession are abandoning plans to work in the banking or the leisure industries and turning to teaching as a "safe" career option.

New research shows that the predicted "stratospheric" rise in applications for training courses has not so far happened, but several subjects, including maths, business studies and home economics, have had many more applicants.

Analysis by Education Data Surveys (EDS), which is owned by TSL Education Ltd, examined statistics from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry for those people who are signed up to start courses this September.

At the beginning of 2008, applications for primary and secondary courses were the lowest for several years. Numbers have risen by only around 3,000 in 2009 - up from 28,665 in February last year to 31,736 this month. The 16,000 primary applicaants means there are still only about two for every place available in this specialism.

However, there has been a 102.8 per cent rise in applications for design and technology courses, 68.8 per cent in home economics and 64 per cent in business studies.

But there has also been drops: 11.3 per cent for citizenship, 4.4 per cent for IT, 2.5 per cent for general science and almost 8 per cent for middle school training.

Despite the boom in applications some subjects there has so far not been an increase in jobs for them when they qualify - in January there were just 81 business studies jobs advertised compared with a predicted 1,000 students studying the subject at PGCE or equivalent level. There were only 48 home economics and 198 design and technology jobs advertised compared to 1,242 trainees looking to start courses in those subjects.

Professor John Howson, from EDS, said he was surprised by the small rise in applications.

"In the present economic circumstances, it is totally to be expected that applications from graduates for teacher training courses would rise sharply. But, so far, the rise is not stratospheric, and there are different outcomes for different subjects," he said.

"Among the largest gainers are the subjects most closely allied to parts of the so-called real economy."

Other subjects with significant gains are biology (55 per cent), physics (36 per cent) and maths (25 per cent), but applications for them had fallen significantly in 2008.

Professor Howson's research suggests there are unlikely to be enough applicants to fill maths initial teacher training courses: only 89 per cent of places will be filled - a rise from 2007, but lower than in 2005 or 2006.

"With the cutback in training places for 2009 in many subjects that has been the result of falling school rolls in the secondary sector, we expect even subjects such as music to be able to fill all their places this year, if recruitment holds up until the summer," Professor Howson said.

"Only in mathematics, modern foreign languages, design and technology and IT do we have concerns that there may not yet be enough applicants to ensure all places are filled, even with the lower targets.

"Perhaps the biggest surprise is the relatively small increase in applications for primary courses. Maybe the market hasn't yet started to understand that rolls are rising in the primary sector, and this may be a good source of employment in the coming years."

Extra competition for training or jobs had to be and advantage to the profession, he added. "We should be moving into a golden age for schools, filling roles from teacher training because of the high quality of new entrants which should have an impact on standards," he said.

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