TEACHER training applications have fallen by a third in the South West.

Statistics shared by education quango UCAS show applicant numbers in the region have fallen from 1,770 in December 2016 to just 1,130 in the same month last year.

A Swindon teaching union representative has called the fall an “indictment on government education policies”.

And a Wiltshire deputy headteacher responsible for a lauded teacher training scheme warned that application numbers were not “growing” as might be expected.

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy’s Steven Paddock said: “We have by hook and crook stayed even against the national picture, although we’ve certainly not been growing.”

The school, which oversee the North Wiltshire School Centred Initial Teacher Training Scheme (SCITT), have 29 students in this year’s cohort – with placements at more than 40 schools over the year. It is rated outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted.

Steven, who qualified as a teacher in 2007 after a business career, called the intensive teacher training “34 weeks of your life where you are going to go through every human emotion”.

In a bid to ease the stress, the North Wiltshire SCITT have introduced a longer Christmas break and are looking at mindfulness programmes for trainees.

Despite the pressure of the profession, Steven said it still had its rewards: “You can see students understand – not just their academic work but what it means to become functioning members of society. That to my mind beats other professions that I did before.”

However, Pete Smith, a retired teacher and secretary of the Swindon branch of the National Education Union, blames government policies for teacher shortfalls.

He said: “Years of pay freezes and pay caps mean that teacher pay has fallen both absolutely and in comparison with other graduate professions.

“Even government surveys have demonstrated the very long hours, deep into the evening, worked by teachers. This is made worse by the fact that much of this work has little to do with teaching and learning and is instead concerned with meeting the requirements of a dysfunctional accountability regime.

“Solving the crisis will take a U-turn in government education policies; proper funding for schools, proper pay for teachers, and it will take a Government that actually listens to teachers and educationalists.”

Responding to the UCAS statistics, the Department of Education warned against making comparisons between 2016 and 2017 figures – saying that applications opened a week later last year.

A spokeswoman said: “There are now a record number of teachers in our schools - 15,500 more than in 2010 - and the fact that more than 32,000 new trainee teachers have recently been recruited in a competitive labour market, with historic low unemployment rates and a growing economy, shows that the profession continues to be an attractive career.

“We want to do all we can to help schools with recruitment which is why we have a range of generous bursaries designed to recruit more teachers in important subjects such as maths and physics.”

They said the government was creating a new website allowing schools to publish teacher vacancies for free.