The first figures for applications to teacher preparation courses starting in September 2015 were released by UCAS earlier today. As far as providers in England are concerned, applications overall are down from 71,980 to 60,890 a drop of around 11,000. Assuming every applicant makes the maximum possible of three applications, this would be a drop of more than 3,500 applicants compared with the same point last year. In fact the drop in applicants domiciled in England is actually 4,540 compared with last year. This suggests not all applicants use their full number of possible applications; presumably some are location specific and can only apply to providers in particular areas. The decline in applicants is reflected across the country and in percentage terms is greatest for higher education courses, where applications are down from 43,000 to 32,000 between January last year and January this year. This is despite the application process opening earlier than last year and running more smoothly, so that the number of applicants placed is running about a month ahead of last year in most subjects. However, some of the fall in higher education applications will have been due to reduced government allocations, especially in the popular subjects.
The decline in School Direct is not as marked as for higher education, but with more places allocated to that route any reduction in numbers must be a worry. Applications to SCITTS are actually above where they were last year, but again that reflects greater provision and a significant number of new SCITTs having joined the system.
Any drop of this magnitude must be of concern even at the start of the recruitment round, especially as it reflects a decline in applications from all age groups, with both new graduates and career changers seemingly not applying in such large numbers as in the past.
The January numbers reflect the size of the cohort that knew they wanted to enter teaching and applied in the early stage of the recruitment round. An analysis of more than 20 years of applications to teacher preparation courses by graduates suggests to me that in those years when the economy is doing well it has proved almost impossible to reverse any early decline in applications without significant inducements to train. The exception was the year that the bursary was introduced in the March when applications rose subsequently.
The figures issued today explain why I started the campaign for the government to once again pay the fees of graduates entering training by whatever route. Unless the government either agree to pay the fees or offer some other solution then I fear that we are headed not just for the seven per cent shortfall of last autumn’s training numbers but possibly a shortfall of 10% of even more this year.
The government may point out that offers are up on January last year, but that is only because the system is operating a month ahead of last year.
A failure to recruit trainees in 2015 will mean an even greater job crisis in 2016. With more pupils in schools by then that must not be allowed to happen.