They say that there is nothing like a bit of publicity to help the marketing along. Recruitment to teaching preparation courses hasn’t been short of that this autumn. First, there was the furore, anxiety, concern – insert your own choice of word – over the salary quoted in the television advert. Although the salary isn’t the main concern for many would-be teachers there are no doubt some that do need to be reminded that it isn’t a reason to ignore a career in teaching, even if the squeeze on public sector pay does make it a less attractive reason that a few years ago. This is despite what the DfE says about the still attractive pension arrangements for teachers.
The second area where there has been some publicity has been over the issue of recruitment controls. On October the 27th, when the allocations were announced, this blog pointed out that far too many places had been allocated to PE providers and that “PE and history course providers on the other hand seem almost certain to be subject to recruitment controls, at least in some parts of the country.” And so, despite the government denial of early November, it has come to pass. And to that list must be added English and primary phase courses for postgraduates.
Now, the oxygen of publicity may have brought new applicants or it may just have inspired potential applicants to hurry up with their application and, no doubt, to bombard their referee with a request to fill in the reference forthwith. Indeed, I wonder if a dilatory tutor and their institution might find at least a grievance, if not something more serious, filed against them if a student missed the opportunity of being considered for a place on a course because the reference was delayed without due reason.
I think some universities may have been slow to take on board the implications of recruitment controls as laid out by the NCTL in their original explanation and may now be facing the consequences. My anxiety, despite what some DfE and NCTL officials may think, was never with the universities, but for applicants.
As the government is the purchaser of teacher preparation courses, they have the right to determine what method they use to purchase places. After all, it is QTS they are purchasing and to that universities offer their own establishment based qualification. For applicants, it is more of a challenge, especially if they don’t know from one day to the next whether a course will be even able to interview them.
This state of affairs could have been prevented by creating a closing date by which all applicants that had applied would have been considered and any recruitment controls applied at that stage. That would have prevented a first come first served approach that neither encourages quality in selection nor accepts that some applicants may have legitimate reasons for applying later in the recruitment round.
Still, we must not forget that beyond the subjects with recruitment controls there are a whole host of other subjects where recruitment remains a challenge. How much of a challenge would be easier to assess if the daily UCAS figures had a number for the total of applicants disaggregated from their number of applications. It is important to know whether recruitment controls are affecting the number of choices applicants make at the start of the process.