Qualified relief for the government

So far this week I have spoken at two events on the subject of teacher supply and recruitment into training. The first was in Manchester, to the North West group of suppliers of teacher preparation programmes, the second, today, was at a conference in London. As a result, I am a little late in analysing the UCAS data that came out earlier today. Tomorrow, I am off to talk to a group of NASUWT members for my third engagement of the week on the topic.

The data that emerged from UCAS today has to be compared with the really dreadful figures for February last year, at least in terms of offers made. Thus, it is not surprising that offers are generally above the level of February 2015, except it appears in computing where there has been a slight dip. Nevertheless, despite the improvements, mathematics and physics look set to miss their Teacher Supply Model target for 2016 unless there is a very sharp pickup in recruitment in the remainder of the cycle. This is despite the relatively generous bursaries on offer. If these bursaries are not working, it is a real challenge to see how the government can increase them further without distorting starting salaries in a manner that might lead to questions about equal pay for jobs of equal worth.

More interesting is the difference in offers made so far this year between SCITTs, where 30% of applications are shown as placed or had an offer made, and 21% with offers on the School Direct Salaried route, where 79% are shown as ‘other’ including presumably those turned down. Of course, we don’t know whether some of those refused a place on a salaried course may have been offered a place on another type of course.

In England, there are about 1,500 more applicants than at the same point in February last year. Just over 100 of these are men, with the remainder of the increase being women. In subjects where recruitment controls have been imposed this may further affect the imbalance in the profession between men and women. Interestingly, there were 160 fewer men between the ages of 23 and 24 that have applied this year compared with the same point last year. This was compensated for by 240 more men over the age of 39 that had applied this year. The number of new young graduate males was almost the same as at this point last year. Among the women, there was the same drop in the 23 and 24 age group, albeit a smaller decline that from men. There were increases in all other age groups. UCAS doesn’t provide data either on ethnicity or on the split between primary and secondary.

By the time the March data appears the picture should be starting to become clearer for the likely outcome of the whole recruitment round, although the large number of conditional offers still means that even in subjects where recruitment controls have been imposed there could be a falling away of those holding offers.

Generally, at both events I have attended this week, the issue of recruitment controls has not received a good press or even a sympathetic understanding. I hope that the authorities will review the situation in time for a more resilient system to be introduced next year that will encourage providers to plan for the longer-term once again. With rising pupil rolls we cannot risk an unstable teacher preparation system.



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