Good news or not?

The latest data on applications through UCAS to train as teachers contains both good and disturbing news. The good news is that around 10% more offers have bene made than at this point last year to applicants wishing to train as secondary school teachers. The more disturbing news is that the majority of these offers are in just three subject areas; languages, physical education and history. These are likely, on the basis of the current position, to be the only three subjects that will meet the government Teacher Supply Model figure for estimated recruitment needed into training. All other principle subjects are now likely to fall short of their Teacher Supply Model number, although some subjects will hopefully do better than last year.

Part of the problem is that the required number has increased in some subjects, making the likelihood of it being reached less than if it had remained at the 2014 level.
Perhaps more worrying for the government is that the decline in applications this year covers both School Direct and University courses and is reflected across all geographical regions and among all age-groups, with significant declines among the young age-groups of applicants. There are, for instance, around 1,500 fewer new young graduates applying to become a teacher than at this stage last year. Indeed, although gaps between the total number of applicants this year and last year has been reducing month on month, it still stands at just under 4,000 or a 10% reduction on this point last year.

Perhaps even more alarming than the secondary numbers is the fact that the number of offers for primary training only amount to just over 12,000. This is around 1,000 less than at the same point last year and nearly 2,000 fewer than the 14,000 places allocated. If the allocated number is anything close to the actual requirement for September 2016 then there will need to be a recruitment drive over the new two months to fill the empty places. It is one thing to under-recruit in the secondary subjects but quite another to create a situation where primary courses also don’t meet their targets.

These numbers must give pause for thought over the distribution of places between universities and schools. The fact that probably less than two thirds of the School Direct Salaried places allocated for 2015 may be filled by the end of the cycle across both primary and secondary sectors must be of some concern.

By next month the conditional offers that make up the bulk of the offer totals will largely have been translated into full places as degree results and other issues are resolved and the picture will be clearer, at least in the secondary sector. For primary, there will remain the uncertainty of the undergraduate cycles and the outcome of the ‘A’ level examinations. Whether the clearing system will be able to handle places in ITT with the issues over the pre-entry skills tests required will be worth watching.

This autumn may well be a time to reflect about the balance between the teacher preparation system desired by government and what is achievable on the ground. As regular readers will know, I would start by abolishing the £9,000 tuition fee for graduates. Compared with the complex bursary system a no fee policy is easy to sell and easy for applicants to understand.

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