Graduates rejecting teaching

August 28, 1998

A recruitment crisis is looming in teacher training, hitting both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, it emerged this week.

Experts predict the biggest drop for a decade in places filled on Post Graduate Certificate in Education courses, while around 80 per cent of Bachelor of Education courses have joined clearing. The take-up in PGCE programmes is reported to be around 13 per cent down on last year.

Latest figures from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry reveal big drops in shortage subjects for secondary PGCE, with only information technology and classics making significant ground on last year.

Physics is worst hit, with a 36 per cent fall in applications, followed by chemistry and German, down 23 per cent, and mathematics, down 22 per cent. Other subjects which in the past have had less trouble attracting applicants, including geography and art, are also facing recruitment problems.

Even some of the most prestigious teacher training institutions have been affected. Durham University still has a quarter of its secondary PGCE places left to fill.

Richard Gott, professor of education at Durham, said it was the first time that more popular subjects like geography had been hit by a teacher training recruitment slump. He said that on the evidence so far, the Teacher Training Agency's advertising recruitment campaign had not worked.

Goldsmiths College reported that it was still trying to fill PGCE places, particularly in maths, the sciences and languages. Meanwhile, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said applications for BEd courses were 15 per cent down.

Tony Higgins, UCAS chief executive, said teacher training was suffering alongside other "caring" subjects such as nursing and social services, while more "hard-nosed" courses like business studies and marketing were filling up.

"Students appear to be aware that they may be graduating with bigger debts and therefore need to take subjects preparing them for the better paid professions," he said.

It was likely that a growing number of would-be teachers would shun the four-year BEd in favour of a three-year general degree followed by a fee-free PGCE, he added.

John Howson, education consultant, said the situation would have been worse without the TTA recruitment campaign.

A spokesman for the TTA said: "Although we must be concerned about the current figures, we set out a recruitment strategy for five years. We knew this would be something that would take quite a while to turn around."

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