APPLICATIONS for teacher training fell a third in the South West, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Apparently there were 1,130 applications last month, down from 1,770 the previous December.

I don’t know about you, but I’m utterly bewildered by this clear plunge in interest from young people.

Foolish laypeople like me tend to jump to conclusions about such matters, but as the points we make are so obvious, I’m sure the Department of Education has already thought of them and found them to be irrelevant.

Yes, that’ll be it. They’ll have done surveys among our brightest young people.

They’ll have asked, for example: “Hey kids, how do you feel about a job that’ll have you making not much more than minimum wage for at least the first few years, once you factor in all the marking and admin and stuff?”

The young people will clearly have replied: “That sounds great to me, Department of Education!

“Who wants to live in a boring old house or flat like everyone else anyway? We’re individuals! We’ll rent cupboards from slumlords!

“If we do decide to buy places of our own, we’ll just spend the first five or 10 or 20 years of our working lives scratching together the extortionate deposits for which the region is famous.

“By the time our friends - the ones who get other jobs - are preparing to downsize because their kids have all grown up and left, we’ll just about be ready to get mortgages on studio flats.

“And who needs to be able to buy food from a shop like some dull conformist when we can gather salad from hedgerows and go for atmospheric late night walks in search of roadkill?”

I’m sure the Department of Education has also asked those same young people how they feel about certain other aspects of the modern teacher’s life.

I’m equally sure the young people responded with immense enthusiasm.

“Fantastic!” they’ll have said: “Not only do I get to be paid a fraction of what I might expect to make in the private sector, but I also get to work much longer hours.

“As if that were not enough to entice me, I’ll be expected to meet ever-changing standards devised by officials in London, many of whom have either never worked in education or else spent five minutes in a classroom years ago and fled as fast as their legs could carry them.

“I’ll be expected to maintain those standards across all the classes I teach, whether the majority of their pupils are good kids eager to learn or feral thugs with all the empathy of paving slabs.

“If I dare to challenge bad behaviour, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll get a load of verbal abuse, a battering or both. As an added bonus, I might end up in a mocking online video or a one-sided national media story accompanied by a photo of my tormentor and his or her parents doing sad faces.

“Should I attempt to defend myself physically I can be fairly certain I’ll end up in court and my bosses will hang me out to dry - especially when the inevitable civil claim comes in.

“Well, that all sounds absolutely great - where do I sign up?”

I am certain that this is what has happened, otherwise the Department of Education would have changed teachers’ pay and conditions years ago.

There must be some other reason why our brightest young people - people with the potential to be excellent, inspirational teachers - are staying away from the profession in droves.

Let’s hope the mystery is solved before the shortage of teachers becomes even worse.

It’s time to be considerate to would-be thieves

THE latest data about thefts from cars shows an increase across Wiltshire from 1,680 in 2015 to 2,047 in 2016.

In addition to the usual advice offered to potential victims - don’t leave valuables in the vehicle, or at least not on display - it’s been suggested that we should leave a note advising criminals that there’s nothing worth nicking.

While this is a very sensible suggestion, how might such a note be most effectively worded?

I suggest something along the lines of: “Dear criminal, If you could see your way clear to not smashing your way into my vehicle in search of things to steal, I’d be very grateful.

“For one thing, only very few people dare leave their possessions unguarded these days, and I’m not one of them.

“For another, there’s a chance that you might end up facing prosecution for your wild goose chase. It’s a vanishingly small chance, I admit, but the possibility is there.

“This would be bad for you, as you would have to endure the inconvenience of getting out of bed, going to a court, listening to the excuses made on your behalf during the hearing and in various official reports, receiving your derisory sentence and going home again.

“Your smashing your way into my vehicle would also be bad for me. I would, for example, have to hang around reporting what had happened, get a crime number, contact my insurance company, decide between paying for repairs myself and paying increased premiums and so on.

“I might also lose a day’s salary, which would reduce my ability to pay my taxes and fund the system which sympathises with you and leaves me wondering why I bother.”