Whether it is a result of improved marketing; the slowdown in the Chinese economy or the introduction of recruitment controls, offers made this year to graduate applicants for teacher training in England are above the levels seen at this point last year. Total applications – candidates may make up to three applications – are up from 85,500 to just over 88,000; an increase of around three percent. But, this is still well below the 102,000 applications recorded in March 2014.
However, the number of conditional offer for both primary and secondary courses are well up on last March, with only Computing as a subject having had a poor month. Most of the offers are conditional, only 880 of the 10,800 secondary offer as firm offers; the remainder still require applicants to either pass the skills test; gain a degree or possibly in a few cases do both. As a result, these numbers could alter. What is of more interest is whether the increase in applications will continue or whether it just represents a bringing forward of applications from those that might in the past have been slower in applying but because of the marketing and recruitment controls have been persuaded to apply earlier in the cycle: only time will tell.
What is also interesting is that applications from those aged 23 are still down on last year at the same time, and those from the 24 age group have remained almost static, whereas there are 600 more applicants from among those in the over 40 age group, more than the total increase from the 20-24 old age group combined. This might suggest that the increased fees faced by new graduates are having some effect on turning away younger students from teaching and taking on a greater degree of debt.
While the increase in applications from those in the older age-groups is welcome, it is important to know whether these applicants are more likely to be limited in their choice of location where they will be seeking a teaching job since vacancies are not evenly spread across the country. Fortunately, the increase in applications is spread across the country with London and the South East now accounting for around 29% of applicants compared with 28% this time last year.
If this increase in applications and offer continues, more subjects will meet their Teacher Supply Number including, hopefully, mathematics. However, Physics still seems likely to fall short along with Design & Technology. Such a shortfall will have implications for classroom teacher vacancies in 2017.
Nevertheless, the government will be feeling a lot more cheerful than this time last year which marked the low point in the present cycle. Hopefully, the loss of young graduates can be overcome.