Although the NCTL only published outline figures today for the 2014/15 ITT allocations to allow schools and universities time to confirm that they will be taking up the places offered to them, the direction of travel is clear. Once again there has been over-allocation against need as modelled by the statisticians. The over-allocation is in the order of 18% compared with 13% in 2013/14, and is probably largely in the secondary phase. This over-allocations has allowed 16,200 places to be allocated to universities, although once the likely 9-10,000 primary places have been factored in, the secondary total is likely to be around 6-7,000 places, compared with 9,300 last year. Hence the decimation of courses not rated ‘outstanding’ in some subjects and in some parts of the country. Had the over-allocation not taken place, it seems likely that secondary provision in higher education would have all but disappeared if the real target was around in the 14,000-15,000 range of required places for the secondary sector. We won’t know for sure until the detailed allocations are published sometime in the future. However schools are already advertising their School Direct places on web sites three weeks before the admissions system goes live.
The next issue is whether the guarantee to ‘outstanding’ providers will be repeated in 2014 for the 2015 allocations. If not, and School Direct recruits to target, then higher education will disappear from direct provision in most secondary subjects. Universities will, of course, be free to work with schools as partners in School Direct, and the NCTL notes that 10,800 of the School Direct places are delivered in association with universities. Overall, universities have a hand in the delivery of 82% of the provisional allocations, either directly or in association with schools. However, that percentage is undoubtedly lower for the secondary sector.
What is clear is that the divide between secondary and primary phase training is now sharper than at any time in the past 50 years. It seems likely that universities with large primary numbers, especially undergraduate numbers, can continue to cope with a mixture of smaller secondary allocations and association with schools through provision of School Direct training. Those universities with no primary provision plus secondary courses with fewer than 150 places must be at a genuine risk of exiting teacher preparation as their programme will probably not be financially viable.
The long-term challenge for the government is to ensure a stable and high quality secondary teacher preparation programme that will be able to deliver the number of trainees needed when the secondary school population rises sharply towards the end of this decade, and on into the first half of the 2020s. The immediate challenge is to ensure the new and untried admission system works effectively, and that as many trainees as are needed are recruited in the 2013/14 round. That will be no small challenge.