Concerning, but with some good features

The latest data for applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses in England was published earlier today. As expected, the rate of applications has slowed over the month from mid-February to mid-March when compared with the previous month. The increase in applications for Primary courses was around 12%, and for Secondary courses, 14%; with School Direct faring better than higher education courses, although the actual numbers were smaller than for higher education. As courses have begun to fill, future applications will be targeted on the remaining providers with places.

Regionally, applications for courses offered by providers in London have held up strongly, registering a 17% increase over last month compared with just a 10% increase for providers in the North East. The national average was a 13% increase. As might be expected at this time of year, applications from older career changers rose faster than from those applicants still at university. Indeed, there was only a 7% increase from those aged 21 or under compared with a 16% increase from those aged over 40. The percentage of older applicants presumably reflected the fact that many final year undergraduates are now concentring on their final assessment examinations, dissertations and coursework rather than making applications for teacher preparation courses.

Applications for Primary courses have now topped the 18,000 mark, similar to the level seen at this point last year for the GTTR Scheme. However, once the School Direct applications are taken into account (there was a separate application scheme for those places last year) then applications are probably still behind where they were at this point last year.

By these set of figures, around 10,300 of the 15,000 or so primary places have been the subject of an offer, although only 940 of these were unconditional offers. The majority of conditional offers will no doubt be subject to the passing of the Skills Tests. Assuming even a modest margin for unsuitable candidates, there will be the need for at least 20,000 applicants to fill all the places on offer. That is around another 4,000 applicants, or probably some 1,000 a month, so the rate of application would need to halve from the level of the past month before worry might turn to concern. Even so, 20,000 applicants require a 75% acceptance rate. Assuming the current 2,000 per month last for the next five months, the maximum time possible that would generate would be some 28,000 applicants. The conversion rate would then reduce down to a healthier figure in the 50-60% range.

Outcomes for secondary subjects remain challenging to determine from the data as published. However, it seems likely that at least some of the subjects that failed to fill all their places last year are heading in the same direction this year as well. Physics and design & technology are the two subjects where there must be the most concern, whereas history and physical education will again be over-subscribed; possibly significantly. In the middle are a range of subjects where the outcome on these figures is too difficult to tell. Some will recruit sufficient trainees; others might not.  Much will depend upon how the schools offering School Direct places respond to the applications they receive. By the next set of data in May the position will be much clearer, but there will be little time to take any action to deal with a shortfall.

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