Is the lack of a London allowance affecting teacher training numbers in London?

What is happening in London? The data released by UCAS yesterday on applications and applicants for graduate teacher training courses as at the middle of September – after most courses will have started – shows that the data for applicants with a domicile in London seem way out of line when compared with the data for applicants domiciled in other parts of England.

According to the UCAS data, only 39% of applicants domiciled in London have been placed on a course. This compares with a national average of 51%. By contrast, 16% of applicants with a London domicile were shown in the data as holding a conditional offer, compared with a national percentage of 11%. In the North East, the conditional offers were 8% of those applicants domiciled there; half the percentage in London.

Now it is perfectly possible that providers that recruited applicants domiciled in London were less good at informing UCAS that applicants had been converted from a conditional offer to a confirmed place. Indeed, I hope that is the case. The alternative and more worrying scenario is that the conditionally placed total represents candidates that weren’t going to take up the place offered to them earlier in the year and failed to meet all the conditions such as the pre-entry skills tests without informing the provider that they weren’t going to take up their place.  Were that to be the case, then there might only be around 3,500 trainees in London, outwith Teach First, on courses that started this autumn.

As that’s both primary and secondary trainees, the figure must be of concern. As schools in London have advertised a similar 3,500 vacancies for secondary school classroom teachers so far in the 2015 recruitment round  according to TeachVac (www.teachvac.co.uk), the number of secondary trainees would need to be more than half the trainee total to ensure sufficient entrants to the London labour market in 2016, if vacancies are at a similar level next year. With pupil numbers on the increase, it seems unlikely that vacancies will fall very much unless London schools’ budgets are restricted next year.

As we don’t know the spread of offers between subjects among London providers, it is impossible to tell whether certain subjects might be even more adversely affected by these figures. They certainly need further investigation. Now it may well be that the large-scale operation of Teach First across London is having an effect on the market for training places in the capital. As we know, from TV programmes, such as ‘Tough Young Teachers’, Teach First has its own approach to preparing teachers. However, unless it has the same retention rate as other programmes that presumably aim to train career teachers, any programme seen as a short-service approach to teaching as a career could affect training numbers when pupil numbers are on the increase.

Let’s assume a normal training programme places 75% of its teachers in post: say 75 out of 100. By the end of year 1, 20% leave, taking the number down to 60. If a further 15% leave at the end of year 2, that means 51 are still teaching. However, if the figures were 80% for the entry rate and 10% leaving at the end of each year, there would be 57 still remaining at the start of year 3. How does that compare with Teach First over a similar period from entry to summer school to start of year 3 of teaching?

Fortunately, as a result of a PQ in the House of Lords, we know that the 2014 cohort for Teach First was 1,387 at the start of the Summer Institute. By the end of year 1, some 1,272 gained QTS. However, the government dodged the part of the question from Lord Storey that asked how many entered teaching the following September. As not all of the 1,272 are in London, we cannot really complete the comparison except to say that if all Teach First were in London they would have needed to lose just under 600 trainees between year 1 and entering year 3 of teaching to match the hypothetical figures for other training provision.

The point of this discussion is that any route that retains fewer teachers over the first three to five years of teaching than the norm just adds to the recruitment problems. This is something that should be monitored to allow for the most cost-effective training provision that best meets the recruitment needs of schools in London, especially if there are fewer trainees entering in the first instance than there are places on offer.

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