Recruitment in priority subjects still way down

24th April 1998 at 01:00
University students are still not applying to train as secondary teachers in enough numbers to fill vacancies in the Government's priority subjects, according to figures updated this month.

Since the alarming drop of 36 per cent in applications last December more students have applied for the 700 places available on the one-year postgraduate secondary teaching courses. But numbers are still considerably down across virtually all subjects.

Some 1,860 students are applying, compared to last April's figure of 2,230. This is a fall of 17 per cent. Janet Wright of the Teacher Education Admissions Clearing House (Teach) admitted shortages in target areas.

The Government has listed English, mathematics, modern languages, physics, music, computing, religious education and technology as recruitment priorities. Ms Wright said there is less concern in the big subject departments. But the smaller numbers in the smaller departments are causing concern.

Figures for computing have almost halved. Only 43 students want to train, in contrast to 80 at the same stage last year. And only 25 want to become technology teachers, against 37 last year.

In other key areas English is down by 30, maths by 40, languages by 50, physics by 17 and religious education by 20.

Business education is following the pattern of computing with only 80 applicants against 142 last year. Only six people want to train as Gaelic specialists - a particular interest of Brian Wilson, the education minister.

On a brighter note, applications for home economics courses are up six to 37. And music is almost holding up, with only six fewer applicants.

Ivor Sutherland, registrar of the General Teaching Council, warned in February of the "beginning of a crack in our employment situation" which may signal a shortage in secondary teaching.

He said the issue was deeper than just the introduction of tuition fees and the ending of grants. The upturn in the economy and image of secondary teaching were additional factors, Mr Sutherland suspected.

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