Apocalypse Soon?

Recently BBC Television has been running a series about films and their music. One of the trailers was from Apocalypse Now and showed the choppers scything through the sky on their way to attack Viet Cong positions to the accompaniment of the music of Richard Wagner. Interestingly, according to his wife, the current Secretary of State for Education is a big Wagner fan. However, it is, perhaps, a coincidence that the Wagnerian sense of the end of the world that is so often conveyed by the use of the term Gotterdammerung might just now be applied to what seems to be happening in the world of teacher training.

In my last post on the topic of teacher supply I promised not to write about this issue again until the time of the ITT census in November and, in terms of reviewing the 2013 round, I hope to stick to that resolution. However, the world moves on apace, and the next four weeks will be of vital importance for the future shape of teacher training in England. Bids for 2014 control numbers, as targets are now called, will be collated from a “snapshot” taken by the NCSL on the 11th October. It is rumoured that the outcome will be presented to Ministers on the 14th October. Certainly, schools requesting School Direct places had to have notified the NCSL of initial requests by the 23rd September. Other providers, although they weren’t given a deadline in the recently published methodology document, would have been well advised to have made bids by now, even though final re-worked targets won’t be available until early in 2014, and changes by anyone allocated any sort of place can be made right up until the start of August 2014.

Although the NCTL announced that allocations would be published in November; it is difficult to see how, if the Select Committee hold another evidence session with the Minister in late October, the figures won’t, at least at the headline level, be in the public domain by then.

The key issue is whether the “control numbers” represent a realistic expectation of the number of training places needed in each phase, and secondary subject. In Physics and Mathematics, where there is to be no restriction on recruitment, this is not a factor, but anything could happen.

If schools bid for more than the 9,500 School Direct places of 2013 in the 2014 round (minus the 1,640 Mathematics and Physics places that are uncapped making 7,860 bids within the secondary control envelope), and that envelope is not increased, then that leaves less than 4,000 places for other providers including higher education. As SCITTs and other non-higher education providers accounted for around 900 “control envelope” secondary places in 2013 (excluding Mathematics and Physics), and might be expected to bid for more for 2014, that could leave as few as 3,000 places available for higher education across all subjects within the envelope. If the “control envelope” doesn’t increase at the same rate as bids from schools for School Direct then even the 3,000 places might be generous.

After allowing for the guarantee to ‘outstanding’ providers from the Secretary of State that he issued in June, it is difficult to see how the denominational promise is going to be satisfied in secondary and if it is, whether there will be any places left for providers not judged ‘outstanding’. Apocalypse Soon could then become Apocalypse Now and an apt description of what could well happen to teacher education in higher education over the period between now and Christmas.

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