Good, but with some worrying features

The February data relating to applications for teaching preparation courses looks, on the surface, like good news for the government. Applications rose between January and February, from just over 81,000 to more than 102,000; an increase of about 20%. Not bad in a month. There was a similar percentage increase in the number of applicants, from just less than 30,000 to 36,600, suggesting that many applicants used all three of their possible choices.

Across the UK, acceptances increased from over 7,000 to more than 17,000, although the bulk of these are conditional offers – presumably awaiting the outcome of the skills tests. More worrying is the 12% of applications withdrawn although some may affect only one application since the number of applicants withdrawing from the scheme is only 390, or barely 1%. More worrying might be the 5,100 applicants where no offer was made. This is 14% of applicants. A further 25% of applicants are waiting an offer from a provider, and there are more than 5,000 interviews pending.

Applications are broadly in line with the share of places on the different routes, with HE receiving 58%, down from a 60% share in January, and School Direct 37% up from 36%. SCITT have attracted 5% of applications. (HE has 56% of places, SCITTs 7%, and School Direct 37%). So, what matters is that acceptances in future are in line with applications on all three routes. As there is considerable over-allocation of places in many secondary subjects, there is still the possibility of over-recruitment in some popular subjects, or subjects where the bursary proves especially popular. However, it is too early to tell exactly what is going on in relation to acceptances by subject, not least because the figures are not presented in a very helpful manner.

As might be expected at this time of year, applications grew at a faster rate from the older age groups of career switchers, with the 29+ groups showing the largest percentage increases in applicants, and the under-21s the smallest percentage increase; presumably as they focused on the final examinations rather than worried about course applications.

By next month there should be a much clearer picture about acceptances, since many of the 25,000 or so applicants to courses in England noted in January should have been processed by then. At that point, and certainly by the May 1st data, it should be possible to see what is happening across the different subjects sufficiently clearly to make some predictions. Hopefully, it will be good news for the government, and eventually for schools looking to employ these would-be teachers in September 2015.


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