This has been a busy week for statistics about teacher preparation courses in England. Along with the full details of allocations made for 2014, published last Friday afternoon with little or no notice, always an interesting sign when that happens, there has been the census of recruitment to 2013 courses that was published on Tuesday.
The headlines from 2014 allocations are that higher education is still massively involved in teacher preparation, either directly or through validating the offerings of schools places offered via the School Direct scheme. However, many universities find themselves with allocations that are not economic in terms of viable courses, and there may still be other higher education institutions that follow Bath and the OU and either exit teacher preparation completely or withdraw from particular subjects. As the DfE has ensured some 30% more secondary places than might have been allocated if the Teacher Supply Model was followed more closely the risk has been transferred to students should all places be filled. In reality, there will be a tussle between the School Direct route and higher education in many subjects as to which places will be filled if the government cannot attract enough potential applications into teaching.
This is where the evidence from the 2013 ITT Census becomes important. Taken in association with the figures from the previous two years it shows some reduction in places filled. But, this was partly due to the 13% over-allocation the government has now owned up to. However, that does not explain either the massive decline in applications to train as design and technology teachers or the further declines in computer science and physics trainees accepted on to courses. The lack of awareness on the part of ministers as to how important the study of design and technology in schools is to the British economy is extremely worrying. Whether this lack of concern is part of the class system that says since you cannot study the subject at Oxford or Cambridge it cannot be important, or comes from a ministerial team with limited experience manufacturing industry I cannot tell. However, I might have expected the RSA along with other bodies with an interest in the future of design to be alarmed by the figures. The same is true for computing. I doubt whether the government will easily fulfil its desire to improve the skills in programming across the nation unless something is done to overcome a lack of trainees.
On May 8th I posted on this blog my concerns about recruitment for 2013, and that helped spark a debate about both where we train teachers and how many to train. My prediction for 2014 is that the challenge to recruitment may well be even tougher than last year, and the failure of the head of the NCTL to address the issue of teacher supply in his speech yesterday at the Academies Show, at least in the version I have seen, was a missed opportunity. In almost every subject the School Direct scheme under-performed higher education in recruitment, apparently leading one Vice Chancellor to reflect that universities rose to the government’s rescue. I wouldn’t put it quite like that, but how schools handle the significant increase in places allocated to them needs close monitoring. After all, in 2013, School Direct barely recruited more trainees than the former employment-based programmes achieved at the height of their popularity. That’s a long way off the total domination of teacher preparation ministers were championing only a year ago. This will be an interesting twelve months.