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Students slow to apply for teacher training

Students slow to apply for teacher training

guardian.co.uk |by Rebecca Ratcliffe

  • Rebecca Ratcliffe
  • guardian.co.uk, Thursday 31 May 2012 08.46 EDT
teacher training

Figures from last year suggest entrance to teacher training courses is already increasingly competitive. Photograph: Anna Gordon

Fewer students are applying to become teachers since the government began to reduce bursaries for those with 2:2 degrees and turn away applicants with thirds.

Applications to teacher trainingcourses are down by 15% on last year, after the number of bursaries was also cut back for those applying to teach non-priority subjects.

But research shows more students want to join the profession. Over 80% of final-year students think teaching is a high-status career choice, according to research released today by the Teaching Agency, while a separate survey shows schools and universities are the second most popular type of employer

Professor John Howson, director of Data for Education which monitors teacher recruitment, says changes to entry criteria have caused a slump in applications.

“This is the first year since the government has effectively banned applications from those holding a third. At the same time, bursaries are dependent upon degree classification – in competitive subject areas those holding a 2.2 will not get a bursary.”

The basic skills test of literacy and numeracy to be sat by all trainee teachers from this year is to be made more rigorous, as part of government efforts to make the profession “brazenly elitist”.

Figures from last year suggest entrance to teacher training courses is already increasingly competitive. Entrants to Initial Teacher Training (ITT) held the highest number of 2:1s and first-class degrees on record, while the numbers of top-class graduates entering university-based training has also increased.

It is difficult to predict if the recruitment changes will create better teachers, says Howson. “On the one hand, you can argue that the better qualified graduates are, the better teachers they will be. But of course there are other characteristics which make great teachers, such as interpersonal skills and resilience.”

Dan Ashbury, who is studying for a PGCE in modern and foreign languages at Goldsmiths, University of London, says there are many different elements to teaching: “I spent time teaching English in Austria while I was on my year abroad and realised that it was what I wanted to do. But it isn’t any easy job – as a teacher you’re expected to do everything from providing care and support, to imparting knowledge and being an authoritative figure.”

The Department for Education revealed recruitment for five subject areas is below target in its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) earlier this month, though it did not specify which these were.

Alex McClimens, a spokesperson for the Teaching Agency, says it expects more people will apply towards the end of the year.“Inquiries about training to teach are up and we’re confident that this will translate into applications later in the year.”

For some subjects, more funding has been made available. Applications to teach modern foreign languages and physics have increasedfollowing the introduction of financial incentives, including tax-free bursaries of up to £20,000.

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