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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 12:44 GMT
Teacher training applications rise
teacher in classroom
More graduates are applying to train as teachers
The number of graduates applying for teacher training courses in England and Wales has risen 19%, compared with figures compiled for the same period last year.

As the government faces the prospect of industrial action over a shortage of teachers, this month's figures show 23,699 people had applied for teacher training by 2 March 2001, in contrast to 19,981 the previous year.

Rise in graduate applications
Technology up 80%
Chemistry up 49%
Science up 27%
English up 19%
Maths up 14%
Languages up 7%

Source: GTTR
Secondary school applications - usually significantly lower than those for primary training places - were almost equal, at 18% and 20% respectively.

Particularly pleasing for the government were the increases in applications for the shortage subjects: maths, science and modern languages.

Fast track popularity

And more than 1,500 people had applied for the new Fast Track route, designed to accelerate those with the necessary drive and ability into senior roles in schools.

Those recruited onto the scheme, starting in September, will receive a 5,000 bursary and a laptop computer on top of the 6,000 training salary.

But the figures - compiled monthly by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR) - did not solve the current teacher crisis, unions warned.

John Dunford
SHA's John Dunford says teacher shortages are still a problem
And last year's figures for secondary training applications were well below the government's targets.

Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said the statistics proved better pay and incentives to train were encouraging more people to apply to join the profession.

"Given that we are in a period of good economic growth, this rise in applications is particularly encouraging, and shows that teaching is finally getting the respect it deserves," Mr Blunkett said.

But he acknowledged these applications would not lead to teachers in the classroom until autumn next year.

"There is still a great deal to be done to recruit more of the very best people to teach our country's children, including tackling the problems currently experiences by schools in areas of the country where historic shortages are biting hardest," he said.

'Unprecedented interest'

Chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, Ralph Tabberer, said: "It's good to see such an unprecedented interest in joining the teaching profession."

Nigel de Gruchy
The NASUWT's Nigel de Gruchy: Cut workload, indiscipline and bureaucracy
"Since September, more than 64,000 people have registered with the teaching information line, and with the TTA's customer care programme, our aim is to convert more eligible people into applicants, and increase the number and quality of recruits to initial teacher training."

General secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said he hoped the figures were the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

But he drew attention to research published by the union and The Times Educational Supplement last week which suggested there were up to 10,000 vacancies for teachers in secondary schools in England and Wales.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said statistical boasts did not put teachers in front of children.

"When the election comes the question that the public will ask - after four years - is the government taking an early bath on its education, education, education commitment?"

'Bureaucracy and indiscipline'

General secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), Nigel de Gruchy, said he would have been disappointed if there had not been a dramatic increase in applications.

"Training salaries have risen from zero to as much as 13,000 a year," he said.

"But David Blunkett still hasn't tackled the two other points on the triangle of trouble, which are workload and bureaucracy and pupil indiscipline."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said an increase in applications did not mean an increase in the number of young people training to be teachers.

"Young people apply for many courses. Then they choose," he said.

Industrial action

Meanwhile, industrial action - approved by members of the NUT and NASUWT in greater London and Doncaster last week - will begin on Monday 12 March.

The delay was down to a legal requirement on the union to give employers notice of the action, spokeswoman for the NUT said.

The decision to work to contract means teachers will no longer take on extra lessons to cover for long-term vacancies.

"This action will only bite in those schools where there's a problem with shortages," the spokeswoman said.

"It will also vary from week to week - if a teacher is knocked over by a bus and is in hospital for six months, then clearly that would make an impact," she added.

Ballots of members of the NUT in other parts of the country were continuing.

The results were expected to be known on the 9, 13 and 20 March.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Education
Teacher applications 'up by 10%'
13 Jan 01 | Correspondents
Truth about teacher shortages
08 Jan 01 | Education
Four-day week fears 'exaggerated'
19 Dec 00 | Education
What deters would-be teachers
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