Coalition ‘sleepwalking’ into teaching crisis

Applications to secondary teacher-training courses have collapsed, prompting fears of a recruitment crisis in the profession within five years.

January 28, 2011

New statistics obtained by the Times Educational Supplement, the sister paper of Times Higher Education, reveal a year-on-year drop of nearly 10 per cent in the number of students applying to become secondary teachers. Some subjects are experiencing a fall of nearly 40 per cent.

Experts have warned that widespread fear of public sector job cuts and uncertainty over the future of teacher training are behind the drastic decline in applications.

Numbers hoping to do secondary courses are down by 9.3 per cent overall, according to the latest Graduate Teacher Training Registry statistics.

Figures for individual subjects are confidential, but it is understood that applications to mathematics courses are down by 14 per cent, while science shows an 18 per cent drop.

Design and technology applications have fallen by 38 per cent, business studies by 26 per cent and music by per cent.

John Howson, managing director of Education Data Surveys, estimated that there will be between 2,600 and 3,000 applications for maths courses this year, down from 3,684 last year. He predicted there will be a shortfall of teachers by September 2013 or 2014, with London hit particularly hard because of competition from other sources of employment.

“Applications before the new year are from those really committed to teaching,” he told the TES. “Those who apply after that are much harder to capture, so we won’t get back those potential teachers…The government is sleepwalking into a crisis.”

Applications for teaching training in maths, physics and modern foreign languages at King’s College London are down this year.

Simon Gibbons, director of secondary PGCE programmes at King’s, said: “There is a perception from students that they won’t find modern foreign language jobs, although that might change because of the English Baccalaureate.

“People are uncertain about working in the public sector; they are questioning if it is a secure profession.”

Andy Jones, dean of the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, said the drop in secondary applicants was also caused by uncertainty over teacher-training places. The number was due to be announced in September, but a decision has yet to be made by the government.

James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, said: “There is much uncertainty in teacher training at the moment, and that is combined with concerns about how many jobs will be available in the public sector. This means it is the worst time possible for the government to delay announcements about funding and allocations to universities.”

kerra.maddern@tsleducation.com

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