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Would-be teacher numbers plummet

Scarcity of jobs blamed as TESS survey reveals fall in applications for training places

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Scarcity of jobs blamed as TESS survey reveals fall in applications for training places

The number of aspiring teachers has dropped - but those who apply seem increasingly well qualified.

A TESS survey of Scottish universities, covering the years 2007-10, found a general drop in applications for teacher training courses, in several cases by around half or more.

Universities have cited the scarcity of teaching jobs and fewer places as reasons, but older and more experienced people are less likely to have been put off entering the classroom.

A spokesman for the University of the West of Scotland said negative publicity about job prospects had led to sharp drops in applications for the four-year B.Ed (down from 1,073 applications in 2007-08 to 590 for 2010-11) and the primary postgraduate diploma (down from 746 to 272 in the same period).

But he said the number of applicants with "qualifications well in excess of the published requirements" had risen, especially for the B.Ed, and surmised they were willing to take a chance on the job market improving by the time they graduated.

Strathclyde University has anecdotal evidence that the number of applicants with qualifications above the required level is rising, while the head of Stirling University's Institute of Education, Richard Edwards, remarked on the "improved calibre" of applicants.

Aberdeen University has detected the same trend, but stressed there had been an increase in well-qualified applicants "across the board". Glasgow University is also seeing a larger number of highly-qualified applicants.

The drop in applications is steep in many cases, with a shrinking number of places another likely cause: applications for Dundee University's primary postgraduate diploma fell from 618 in 2007-08 (when there were 142 places) to 330 for 2010-11 (with only 40 places), while UWS's primary postgraduate diploma has only 34 places this year, against 125 in 2007- 08.

Edinburgh University, again for the period 2007-10, has had the lowest number of applications for its primary and secondary courses, in both the four-year and one-year programmes - even for the secondary B.Ed, which has the same number of places as in 2007-08.

Glasgow University had 1,786 applications for its primary B.Ed for 2007- 08, but only 1,176 for 2010-11, in a period when the number of places on the course has dipped only slightly (from 141 to 134).

The decrease in Glasgow applications may be due to the better exam grades demanded of school-leavers for undergraduate courses than in the past, although entry requirements for a number of other teaching courses across Scotland have remained unchanged since 2007.

Numbers are steady for certain courses, and some have had a rise in applications. While Aberdeen has had the lowest number of applications for its B.Ed and primary postgraduate diploma in the years 2007-10, applications for the secondary postgraduate diploma are at their highest in that period.

Stirling University bucks the trend entirely, with an across-the-board rise in applications, possibly because would-be teachers feel less as if they are staking all on one profession: Stirling undergraduates can drop education after a year, and those who continue will gain a bachelor of arts or science qualification alongside an education diploma.

Henry Hepburn and Emma Seith

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