The number of graduates applying to teach IT in schools has received an unexpected boost over the past year, thanks in part to the bursting of the dotcom bubble.
The subject received a 70 per cent increase in applications across England, Wales and Scotland, by far the largest percentage increase of all subject areas in the past 12 months, according to figures published by the Graduate Teacher Training Registry.
A spokesman for the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) explained that financial incentives, including £4,000 golden hellos for science and maths graduates, and training bursaries, had contributed to the boost in applications.
"Clearly the economy has had something of an influence on the number of applications for IT, but it's not the only one," he said.
The Government this week announced a pilot scheme to write off student loans for newly qualified teachers in priority subjects including IT.
The scheme, which comes into force on 1 September, is expected to benefit up to 12,000 teachers across all the subject shortage areas in England and Wales in its first year.
But the TTA spokesman warned that the number of IT applications are still not huge compared with other subject areas: 1,355 applications for IT teaching have been received so far this year compared with 797 in 2001.
And, although promising, the increase is unlikely to offset the shortage of suitably qualified IT staff across schools in the country, as the Government increases its focus on the use of IT as an educational tool.
The figures have been welcomed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), which wants IT to become a core basic skill alongside literacy and numeracy by 2010.
A report on e-learning published last week by a DfES taskforce recommended that everyone should be given access to free courses to improve basic IT skills, although the focus should initially be on 16 to 18 year olds in full or part-time study.
John Eary, head of the NCC Skills Source Consultancy, described the figures as encouraging but warned that the Government would need to do more to address teachers' workload issues for the increase to be sustained in the long term.
"Education has suffered from people with IT skills getting more money in industry, but it will be interesting to see if these people are making a full career commitment and how many move out of teaching when the economy and the IT industry picks up," he said.
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