Applications to teach fall in spite of inducements

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The Independent Online

The crisis in recruiting new teachers is deepening despite golden hellos of up to £5,000 and a high-profile government advertising campaign.

The crisis in recruiting new teachers is deepening despite golden hellos of up to £5,000 and a high-profile government advertising campaign.

New figures reveal that applications to secondary postgraduate teacher training courses have fallen in every sizeable subject except PE. Overall recruitment figures are down by 14 per cent compared with data produced at the same time last year.

Some secondary school heads say privately that they are now so desperate to find good teachers that they headhunt them from other schools - and poach them.

The new figures will alarm ministers who hoped that financial inducements would stem the slump in applications, which have halved in recent years. The golden hellos, primarily for maths and science graduates, worked initially. Last year, maths applications were up by 24 per cent, those for biology by 16 per cent and for chemistry by 13 per cent.

This year's figures, however, show that applications for maths are down by 23 per cent, biology by 12 per cent, chemistry by 22 per cent and physics by 10 per cent. Only 78 people in total have applied for physics.

Ministers have introduced golden hellos for modern languages this year. Applications for French are still down by 7 per cent. Last year they were down by three times that figure. Just three more people have applied for German courses. Even applications for English are down by 19 per cent; and in history, traditionally a strong recruitment area for teaching, they are down by 14 per cent.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, who presented the figures at his association's annual conference in Harrogate, said: "I am really, really worried. It is more than a headache, it's a nightmare. We encouraged the Government to extend the golden hellos but it is clear that they are not doing the trick. There are much wider issues here. There is still a negative message coming out of the teaching profession.

"I don't have any doubt that it is the nature of the job rather than pay which is the prime factor. The degree of government prescription isn't attractive to people who want to go into a job and use their intelligence."

He told the conference: "It will be difficult for secondary schools as a whole to recruit the brightest and best but how much more difficult will it be for those schools which are already struggling to attract any applicants?"

Margaret Griffin, the association's president, said: "Teachers feel no one values and appreciates them. Young people in schools are seeing the jobs that teachers have to do and their teachers are not encouraging them to go into the profession."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said that application statistics at this time of year did not necessarily indicate the number of applications that would be made by September. This time last year applications for secondary postgraduate courses were also down on the previous year but the final applications were up.

"The golden hellos have been a success," the spokeswoman said. "They reversed a trend of declining recruitment in science and maths and increased recruitment to secondary postgraduate training by 4 per cent in science and 19 per cent in maths. We made it clear when we introduced them that they were a short-term measure."