More news on teacher supply

Shortfalls in graduate recruitment to teacher training courses have been reported today. Figures released this morning by the GTTR arm of UCAS when compared against government allocations for teacher training released in August show a likely undershoot in almost all subjects. The worst subjects, where the shortfall may well be around 50%. are Computer Science and Design & Technology both subjects largely shunned by the schools participating in the government’s alternative School Direct Scheme for training teachers. Even in key subjects, such as Mathematics, the shortfall is likely to be in the order of 20%. In Physics it is potentially around 30%.

If the new government School Direct Scheme has also experienced challenges in recruitment we could be looking at the worst outcome for teacher supply for more than a decade. It is time for the DfE to publish the data on acceptances through the School Direct Scheme so the Select Committee can have the full picture when it meets on Wednesday.’

These figures do not include any ‘no shows’ when courses start because candidates are holding places on more than one route or as a result of those who fail the pre-entry literacy and numeracy tests.   The actual figures may be even worse when the DfE takes its census in November.

The UCAS data can be found at:

SUBJECT Shortfall against target






































The DfE allocations for 2013 can be found in DfE Statistical Bulletin 32.2103 issued on 13th August in Table 2b of underlying data.


More from the land of the White Rabbit

Yesterday The Guardian newspaper published some figures about recruitment to teacher training for this September. I am not sure whether this was based upon a leak or data provided by the DfE BUT given solely to The Guardian newspaper as I have not been able to locate the figures anywhere on the DfE web site. Either way the numbers, as they appeared in the newspaper, are a challenge to interpret.

Take the total shown as accepted for Physics, the subject of a recent post on this blog. According to The Guardian some 560 people have been accepted to study as Physics teachers. This it is claimed fills 57% of the target of 990 places. Eagle eyed readers will already be wondering about the use of the term target as the DfE has recently been using the alternative word ‘allocation’ to account for the number of training places available. Anyway, leaving that matter aside, according to the Statistical Bulletin published by the DfE on the 13th August, there were 1,143 Physics places issued to providers. That’s 153 more than the number quoted in The Guardian. So is the real number 560 of 1,143? This would be 49% filled, not 57% as quoted in the paper. Either way it is a big fall from the 925 Physics and Physics with Mathematics entrants recorded in the ITT census last November.

There are similar issues with the numbers quoted in other subjects. Mathematics is cited as having 1,910 accepted candidates for 2,460 places when the DfE Statistical Bulletin showed 3,054 places or 2,929 if undergraduate numbers are excluded. Last November, 2,635 trainees were recruited, so we have apparently lost 700 possible Mathematics teachers in one year; that’s about one for every five schools.

The claim that 90% of secondary places have been filled is dubious in the extreme. I am very curious that Chemistry apparently has a bumper crop of applicants as that is not what I am hearing. Even in primary, where there should be no issue in filling places, word is reaching me of anxiety in some quarters about the outcome of the pre-entry tests. It is to be hoped that the Select Committee will be able to sort the numbers issue out on Wednesday when they quiz the Minister. But, the definitive point of reference will be the ITT Census in November. By then we will also know how enthusiastic schools are about taking up all the places in School Direct for 2014.

Crisis, what crisis?

Normally I have a great deal of time for Fiona Millar and her comments about education. However, her column in today’s Guardian (4th September) did raise my hackles somewhat. It all stems from a Local Government Association spokesperson’s remarks yesterday about a ‘crisis’ in school places for primary schools. Now that’s just the sort of story editors have had pencilled in as part of their forward planning for September, and the need for a ‘start of term’ education story, as Fiona knows very well. The LGA spokesperson talked not of a ‘crisis’ this September, and thousands of children still looking for a school place, which seemingly there isn’t, but of one two years down the road in 2015. Now it just so happens that 2015 is an election year, as Fiona Millar is quick to point out, but any September shortfall that year might not be apparent until after a spring election, so where’s the political mileage in that unless you run the story now. The Daily Mail, an unlikely companion for Fiona Millar, but presumably happy to back a Tory Councillor, has also run the story for the past two days with a shocking account that raises the spectre children on a three day week.

There are two years to solve this problem, so it’s possibly a bit early for screaming headlines, especially as councils across the country have been planning for this, as the Cabinet member for Coventry made clear in a BBC local radio discussion I had with him yesterday morning. I suspect the whole thing is an attempt to secure more funding from central government because, again as Fiona points out, councils will find it a challenge to fund the new provision needed from their own resources, especially when faced with the significant drop in overall funding for local government as a whole that we are well aware of by now.

Where I do agree with Fiona is that what used to be an relatively easy planning exercise for most local councils has become more challenging with the addition of free schools, academies – in their various Labour and Tory guises – and UTCs and studio schools plus the ups and downs of the housing market. But London councils have had to manage complex arrangements with cross-boundary transfer for many years. So Fiona, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to say ‘something has gone badly wrong’. It might go wrong in the future, but there is time to prevent that happening. And, by the way, if the Labour government had listened to the London Councils in 2007 it would probably have stopped its policy of building replacement secondary schools and spent the cash on primary school places. However, when the present government moved to do just that, it was faced with a judicial review.

Along with Fiona, I also think the government has to decide who is running our schools, and have written about that issue before. And, as regular readers will know, at present I am more worried about a teacher supply crisis next year than a theoretical school place shortfall in 2015. But, time is running out, especially if you need to build a new school.

Physics crisis looms?

Yesterday the GTTR revealed that only 757 people had applied to train as Physics teachers across England, Wales and Scotland through the GTTR Scheme by the 26th August. Last year, at the same time, the number was 995, or some 24% more than this year. Given the well documented problems with School Direct, or at least well-documented on this blog, the number of new Physics teachers likely to exit training next year may well be substantially fewer than at any point since the sciences were split into separate component subjects some years ago.

Assuming a 75% conversion from application to acceptance, based upon past history from GTTR Annual Reports, that would mean around 550 Physics trainees across the UK against an allocation of just over 600 places in England alone. As there are 495 places available through School Direct in the recent DfE Statistical Bulletin, and early in August School Direct still had more than 350 of these places shown as available, we may be looking at a shortfall of at least a quarter and possibly a third in the number of trainees against the allocation in England alone. Of course, the DfE may have over-allocated this year on the assumption that the first year of School Direct would be challenging as the Scheme coped with handling nearly 10,000 places out of the close on 40,000 total training places available across England.

What might the government have done differently? The main issue probably centres on the Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses. In recent years, as the range of degree subjects has expanded in higher education, candidates for teaching have frequently come forward with some but not sufficient subject knowledge. The Enhancement courses provided a valuable route to increase a candidate’s subject knowledge to a point where they could be accepted for training. Whether the DfE thought that there was a reservoir of suitably knowledgeable candidates waiting to train through School Direct or just wanted the cash for other purposes the scheme has been allowed to wither on the vine: it should be re-started with immediate effect.

Should the government have increased the bursary? There is a danger in doing so that trainees take a dip in earning when entering the profession if the bursary is too high compared with the starting salary for new teachers working outside of London. However, abandoning national pay scales may well see starting salaries increase next summer in ‘shortage’ subjects as schools compete in the market for scarce resources.

How will the government react next year if those schools that failed to recruit through School Direct go looking for a new Physics teacher? Should such schools have equal parity in the market with schools that didn’t participate in School Direct? Should the DfE introduce some form of rationing, as the former Ministry of Education did for teachers emerging from training in the immediate post-war years through the annual Circular Number One?

How are we going to create a world-class education system without sufficient teachers? And, if you think there is a problem in Physics try looking at Design & Technology and Religious Education, neither of which are subjects where Schools have shown much interest in becoming involved in the training process.

Headlines ignore the real story on English and maths

Between the summer of 1963 and January 1966 I took my GCE English five times, eventually passing two Boards at the same time in January 1966 at the sixth attempt. As a result I read today’s story about the need to continue English and maths beyond the age of sixteen with more than a passing interest.

The headlines seem to suggest that those who don’t pass at sixteen drop both subjects. Now I am sure that is true in some cases, but it certainly isn’t for all. The DfE has good evidence of what is happening, and shared it with us in March 2013 as part of Statistical Bulletin 13/2013.

These results may come as a surprise to those reading the BBC and other headlines that seem to suggest everyone who doesn’t pass immediately drops any further study of these subjects. That clearly isn’t the case. Although in 2012 there was a small drop, for the first time in some years, in the percentage achieving both English and maths post-sixteen, it was still around one in six of those without a Level 2 at sixteen, and higher for those young people without special educational needs. As the Bulletin writer observed: ‘The gap in attainment at age 19 between young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and those with no SEN continued to widen at each of Level 2, Level 2 with English and maths, and Level 3.’

The failure rate also seemed to be higher in the FE and apprenticeship sectors than in schools; with academies posting a small improvement, although it may not be statistically significant. Perhaps this ought to have been a BiS story rather than a DfE one. One might also ask how well those 16-18 year olds in the care of the Ministry of Justice have fared in improving their literacy and numeracy levels: but that’s another story entirely.

One of the most interesting stories lies in the ethnicity figures. The Bulletin writer states that: ‘The change in the relative performance of the Black summary ethnic group between 16 and 19 at Level 2 is notable. In the [age] 19 in 2012 cohort, attainment of Level 2 in the Black group was 4.6 percentage points lower than the average for all known ethnic groups at age 16, but by age 19 it was 3.1 percentage points above the average.’ Maybe some young people come to recognise the value of education later than others. The challenge now is to work with this group to persuade them of the value of schooling before sixteen.

So, overall, there is still more to be done to achieve better outcomes in the key basic subjects of English and maths for all pupils, but for some this is already a good news story rather than story of a failure of our schools.

Perhaps the real story, and it has become mangled somewhere between the idea and its execution, is those who pass English and maths at Level 2 by sixteen but then drop the subjects for ever. Should we be providing a means for them to continue to enhance their knowledge and understanding, or is GCSE enough? I think not.

The transfer window and teachers’ pay

The football transfer window closes tomorrow. This is not something that directly affects schools, but it does raise two questions in my mind. Firstly, could all this money be better used tackling (sorry for the pun) youth unemployment. It does seem somewhat obscene that a football club in Spain may well pay a world record fee for a player while youth unemployment in that country is devastating a whole generation. UK clubs have spent lavishly this summer and, although our unemployment rate isn’t as high as in Spain, I do wonder whether that cash could have been better employed in other ways. The rich are happy to indulge in buying and selling football players and indeed whole clubs while leaving many young graduates with nothing more to do than stay at home and watch an endless succession of matches from around the word. If you read the history of Liverpool and Everton football clubs you will find the suggestions that they grew out of church teams. Now the church is no longer the force it once was in society, but if we could find a way into diverting some of the transfer cash into job creation schemes it might surely do a bit more good for society. How about a transfer tax for youth job creation?

The second question is closer to home. Will the ending of the teachers’ national pay scales, like the ending of fixed wages in football all those years ago, have any effect on teachers’ pay? Perhaps the Secretary of State hopes it will depress wages, but, as I have suggested before, it might just have the opposite effect.

Even now there could well be the educational equivalent of player’s agents plotting how they will get a group of mathematics teachers together in a hotel early in 2014, and sign them up. The agent would then approach schools asking if they wanted a mathematics teacher, and how much they would pay for them. They could point out that advertising a job, and going through the recruitment and selection procedure, is both risky and expensive, and this is a cheaper option at say 5% of salaries. Perhaps Universities might see it as a way of attracting trainees to their courses, and away from School Direct by saying, ‘don’t be tied down too soon to one school’. ‘We will offer you a wider range of training and negotiate the best salary for you at the end of your training.’ It would be interesting to see how Teach First would react to such an outcome. Even those, such as history teachers, whose skills are traditionally not in short-supply might benefit from a bit of group action on pay.

The first step is discovering how supply and demand across the country might affect opportunities. Anyone interested the answer to that question might start by looking at the Report I did for the Pearson think tank almost exactly a year ago. For the position since then, you would have to contact me directly.