Some good news

The May data for applications through the UCAS system by graduates seeking to become a teacher was published earlier today. There is some qualified good news for the government, but it is heavily qualified. Overall, the gap between applicant numbers has narrowed since April by some 640 applicants. However, it still stands at 4,640 and the clock is ticking down towards the end of the recruitment round.

That’s the sum of the good news. Total offers of all types for secondary courses in England, and all these figures are for courses in England, total around 11,100 against a DfE number set through the Teacher Supply Model of just under 18,000 graduates required to enter training as a secondary teacher in 2015, after allowing for the small number of remaining undergraduate places. So, we are about 6,500 trainees short of what is required or just under 40%. As a result, the secondary share of the 9,000 applications currently awaiting interview or a decision by a provider, will need to come up trumps if the gap is to reduce much further.

Secondary subjects fall into three groups. There are the three subjects: Languages, History and Physical Education where the DfE number of trainees required will be met easily, and there will probably be too many trainees for all the vacancies in 2016. The second group of subjects are those where offers are better than at this point last year but are still likely to be insufficient to meet the DfE number as identified by the Teach Supply Model. These include subjects such as Physics, Mathematics, English, Design & Technology, Chemistry, Biology and Art. Finally, there are five subjects where the DfE number required to enter training almost certainly won’t be reached and the current position over the number of offers appears worse than at this stage last year. These subjects are: Religious Education, Music, Geography, IT/Computer Science and Business Studies.

So, unless far more applicants can be converted into trainees in the period between May and the start of courses in the autumn than was the case last year, the training shortfall in the secondary sector is heading into a third year of under-recruitment against need. This begs the question of what happens to those shortfalls in reality. Returners or overseas teachers are the obvious alternatives along with re-designing the timetable to reduce teaching time in shortage subjects or ask less well qualified teachers to step into the breach and hope that Ofsted doesn’t come calling.

Schools with unexpected vacancies for September and especially for January 2016 are going to find recruiting qualified teachers of some subjects a real challenge. As schools that register classroom teacher vacancies through TeachVac already know from the update they receive when registering a vacancy, the 2015 pool of Business Studies, Social Studies and Design & Technology trainees has effectively been exhausted already. Subjects such as English, Geography and IT/Computer Science are likely to have only small numbers of trainees currently still looking for teaching vacancies; many in specific locations.

The position in relation to primary recruitment for 2015 is more complicated, not least because of the larger number of undergraduate places. There are around a 1,000 fewer places being held by graduate applicants but, as the DfE original number required was exceeded by a substantial amount in the allocations, this may be more of a problem for course providers struggling to operate financially viable courses than for trainees when they come to seek work in 2016.

There is still time for these numbers to change with an influx of late applicants wanting to train as a teacher. That would be more good news. The potential bad news would be if some of those holding offers were also chasing other careers and decided not to take up their place. Next month the picture will be much clearer, whether or not it is rosier.


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