Sep 11 2013
England could be heading for a "serious" shortage of teachers, especially in subjects such as maths and physics, experts have warned.
Thousands fewer people than expected were recruited to join teacher training schemes this autumn, according to government figures published this week.
At a hearing of the Commons Education Select Committee, one education expert suggested that if the numbers are down again next year, the country could be in a "bad place".
New Department for Education (DfE) statistics show that there were 38,900 places allocated for teacher training this year between traditional routes, such as postgraduate university training programmes and the government's new School Direct initiative, which sees would-be teachers trained by schools.
Around 32,950 people in total were accepted on to courses - leaving a shortfall of almost 6,000 unfilled places. Charlotte Leslie, Tory MP for Bristol North West asked the panel if there was any, or a serious risk of, a future teacher shortage.
Professor Chris Husbands, director of the Institute of Education, University of London told the cross-party group of MPs: "I think that we already have a serious problem. Ten out of 13 secondary subject lines are failing to meet the allocations this year."
He added: "The shortfall in maths and physics is, I think a very serious problem. Biology has failed to recruit to its allocation and that has not happened for several years. I think this is serious. As a system, it can take a one-year hit, if we're here in the same place next year, we're in a bad place."
The figures show that 57% of physics places were filled for this year, along with 78% of those for maths. Other subjects with a shortfall included modern and ancient languages (90%), biology and general science (94%), computer science (63%), geography (93%), music (88%), business studies (84%), RE (76%) and social studies (34%).
In total, there were 9,580 places allocated to the two School Direct programmes with 6,360 people accepted, and 29,320 allocated to undergraduate and postgraduate training courses, with 26,590 people accepted.
Schools Minister David Laws told the committee that the government had over-allocated places this year, in part to ensure that good candidates in shortage subjects such as maths and physics were not turned away.