Small fall in applicant numbers for graduate teacher preparation courses

Preliminary figures for applicants to postgraduate teacher preparation courses handled through UCAS show a fall in applicants domiciled in England of around 1,000 when compared with September 2015 figures. As a result, the number placed decreased from 21,710 in September 2015 to 21,150 this September. However, the number conditionally placed increased to 4,980 compared with 4,740 in 2015. Overall, this meant the decline was just over 300 in total compared with last year.

As this blog has reported already this year, the main reduction in applicants is among the 22-25 year olds, with part of the decline in applicants from these age groups being masked by an increase in career changers over the age of 30 having applied.

Overall, it looks as if the percentage accepted rose slightly from 62% of applicants to 63% this year. There was a further, albeit small, decline in the number of men applying, from 15,900 in 2015 to 15,570 this year.

London remains the most popular place to become a teacher, despite the additional costs associated with living in the city, with 27,530 applications for courses in London. However, this was down from 29,530 in 2015, whereas applications increased in the North East, East Midlands and in Wales.

Although there were more applicants placed on secondary courses in 2016 compared with 2015, up from 14,600 to 15,750 (including those conditionally placed and holding offers) the number placed on primary courses has fallen by over 1,000 from 12,970 to 11,510. This must be a matter for concern as it may well lead to shortages of new entrants in some areas for primary main scale vacancies in September 2017.

There seems to have been little change in numbers on the the School Direct Salaried route, at around 3,300, possibly because of small fall in applications for this route despite the general increase in applications from older graduates.

As far as individual secondary subjects are concerned, this has been a better year for applications in many subjects than 2015, although the increase has not be universal. The actual outcome won’t be known until the ITT census in November, but on the basis of this UCAS data it appears that the following might be the outcome in relation to the government’s Teacher Supply Model number (minus the Teach First allocation, where applications are not handled by UCAS).

Art & Design – acceptances above 2015, but not likely to be enough to meet the TSM number.

Biology – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number

Business Studies – acceptances above 2015, close to TSM, but the TSM isn’t large enough to meet demand from schools for these teachers.

Chemistry – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number.

IT/computing – acceptances below last year and not enough to meet TSM.

Design & Technology – the position is unclear from the UCAS data but TSM may not be met.

English – acceptances similar to last year and should meet TSM number.

Geography – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number.

History – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number.

Mathematics – acceptances above last year, but probably still not enough to meet the TSM number.

Music – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number.

Physics – acceptances above 2015, but probably still not enough to meet the TSM number.

Physical Education – acceptances below last year due to the effects of the recruitment controls, but should be enough to meet TSM.

Religious Education – acceptances below last year and not enough to meet TSM.

Languages – difficult to determine exact position from the UCAS data, but should easily meet TSM number on the basis of acceptances.

On the basis of the above, we can already express concern about the supply of business studies, design and technology and physics teachers for 2017. Schools needing to look for a teacher of English that aren’t either linked to Teach First or with a School Direct salaried trainee may be potentially facing problems, especially in those areas where there is keen competition for teachers between the private and state sectors.

The government may be able to anticipate the ITT census with a degree of relief this year, assuming that a sufficiently large number of those still shown as conditionally placed actually turned up when courses started. If they didn’t, for whatever reasons, then this relatively optimistic assessment will have proved meaningless.

Teacher Recruitment – The text of a talk to senior leaders in Birmingham

Earlier today I talked to a workshop for senior school leaders in Birmingham. I have posted the substance of my talk below for anyone interested, whether from Birmingham or elsewhere.

Is there a crisis in teacher recruitment? When I was growing up in the 1950s there was a radio programme called the Brains Trust where one panellist often started his remarks with ‘it all depends upon what you mean by ..’. I guess that is a good starting point here. It all depends upon what you mean by a recruitment crisis.

Since every child must have a teacher for every lesson on the timetable and we don’t send large numbers away untaught, the government is right to say, ‘crisis, what crisis’ in absolute terms. But, dig a little deeper and the certainty of that statement looks a little less secure.

How can we measure the possibility of a crisis?

There are two key indicators;

  • The intake into teacher preparation courses compared with determined need
  • The percentage of pupils or lessons taught by appropriately qualified teachers.

Another indicator, developed by TeachVac, is to consider whether different types of school have different recruitment experiences? Interestingly, the DfE has recently started to look at the evidence on this point in relation to retention and they recently published their first paper looking at the results from the School Workforce Census over the past 5 years.

But, let’s start at the beginning.

The DfE decides on training numbers using the Teacher Supply Model. After years of secrecy, this is now published each year, although not many people seem to make use of it. From the Model’s output the NCTL/DfE allocate places to providers on Teach First, the 2 School Direct routes, on SCITTs and to higher education and other providers.

Each November, the DfE publishes the ITT census that reveals the numbers on preparation courses and hence the likely number of new teachers that will enter the labour market the following year because the vast majority of those training to become teachers in secondary schools are on one-year programmes – Teach First is the main exception and until last year was outwith the TSM calculations.

Thus, intending teachers fall into 2 key groups; firstly, those on programmes where they enter the classroom almost straight away – Teach First and SD salaried – and where many will presumably stay at the school where they are working after completing training, assuming that they stay in teaching.

The remainder of trainees are what might be called the ‘free pool’ of possible new entrants since their preparation course doesn’t tie them in any way to a particular school, although some will be offered a teaching post in the schools where they are placed during their course.

This distinction is important because in some subjects, English is a good example, the difference between the ‘free pool’ and the trainee total number can now be quite significant. The total trainee number in the 2015 census for English was 2,283 trainees, but the free pool – after allowing for non-completers – was just under 1,400 trainees; a difference of around 900. This is a substantial number potentially not available to all schools. After all, schools with trainees outside the ‘free pool’ can also fish in that pool if they need to, but it may be harder for schools that rely on the ’free pool’ to tempt other trainees away to their school from the other routes.

In this way the re-orientation of the teacher preparation market may be having consequences the government has yet to fully understand. We will be discussing the possible apprenticeship model later: but where those numbers come from will affect the size of the ‘free pool’; quite dramatically so if they reduce new entrants in Year 1 of the other routes in some subjects.

So, let’s go back to the beginning again. Is there a recruitment into training crisis?

We can classify secondary subjects into three groups

Those where the national answer is No; PE, history, Art and languages, plus probably the biological sciences are in this group

Those where the answer is YES: design & technology, business studies, physics

Finally, those where there are problems in some years: effectively all other subjects. Based on the 2015 numbers, RE, IT, geography and English fall into that group. Next year, we expect geography and possibly English to be much better placed based on our analysis of applications to train in 2016/17, but it won’t be until the census is published in November that we can be certain of our predictions.

Nevertheless, there will be recruitment issues in 2017 in design & technology, business studies, physics: of that fact we can be pretty sure even now. For some subjects, this will be the 5th year the TSM figure hasn’t been reached.

There isn’t time here to go into how the TSM figure is calculated and why, for instance, in English it under-estimated need for a couple of years and has consistently over-estimated training need in PE in recent years.

So, a quick word about demand. TeachVac receives data about job vacancies from over 3,500 secondary schools every day. It’s a free service to schools, teachers and trainees and schools that directly enter vacancies receive our latest update about the current size of the trainee market.

Because we monitor real vacancies linked to real schools we can drill down to regional data on a daily basis. I can tell you that the West Midlands was 5th in the regional list for vacancies per school.

In Birmingham, between January and the end of August this year, TeachVac has recorded a 30% increase in vacancies compared with the same period in 2015, up from 351 to 456 with all subjects except IT, business studies and art recording either an increase or no change. Although there isn’t time to go into the details, maths and the sciences were the top two recruiting subjects. When I looked last evening, it was still 29% ahead of last year by28th September.

As you would expect, March to May is the peak recruitment season. But it is worth recalling that January 2017 vacancies will need to recruit from the same pool as September vacancies since there are few new trainees entering the market outside of the September starting point. By now most trainees that want a teaching post have found one and schools need to rely more heavily for January on movers, returners and re-entrants to fill basic grade vacancies where there aren’t enough new entrants. The DfE currently suggest between 50-55% of main scale vacancies across a recruitment cycle go to new entrants to teaching in state schools.

Looking at Birmingham schools, using TeachVac data, we could detect a sight tendency for schools with more pupils on Free School Meals as a percentage of the school roll to advertise more vacancies, but we need to do some more work on this issue over a longer-time period and at present we don’t have the funds to do so.

I mentioned at the start a second indicator of the percentage of qualified teachers in each subject. Nationally, these figures are going in the wrong direction, but as QTS allows anyone to teach anything to anyone at any level we don’t know what this actually tells us about the recruitment problem.

To conclude, there is a recruitment issue, it is not universal, but will become worse as pupil numbers increase over the next decade unless the government recruits sufficient teachers into the profession. This is a challenge it has never been able to meet when the wider economy is doing well, especially with the demand for graduates increasing. More graduate level jobs means more pressure on teaching as a career and the recruitment messages have to be better and more sophisticated.

In 1997, I recall launching the TTA’s internet café exhibition stand at a career’s fair in Birmingham putting teaching at the forefront of new technology. If you look at TV advertising today which can you recall of the 2016 campaigns, the Royal Navy, I was born in … but made in the Royal Navy, or the latest train as a teacher campaign?

The fact that there are fewer Royal Navy personnel in total than the number of trainees we need to see enter teacher preparation courses every year for at least the next decade makes you think.

Thank you for listening.

Application apathy?

I have a lot of time for Stewart McCoy, the operations director of Randstad Education, the global recruiter that is a player in the UK education recruitment market. As a result, I read Randstad’s latest survey and report with interest. Entitled, The Invisible Barrier: it raises some important issues.

The most important concern is the plethora of different application forms teachers can face when applying for jobs in different schools. It is possible for each and every academy to have a different form and certainly for different MATs and local authorities to use subtly different forms for applicants.

Of course, this is nothing new, when I first started teaching many local authorities still had space on the form for national service details and every form was different. Not very helpful to new entrants, but for many serving teachers changing jobs their service record was part of their employment history.

With the proper concerns these days about child welfare and the need for more rigorous vetting of applicants for posts working with children and young people it is understandable that application forms have become more complex and demanding of a person’s life history and less standardised. Randstad’s survey found 90% of the teachers that they surveyed wanted a ‘simple, universal application process’ and that the present system was off-putting and persuaded teachers to apply for fewer jobs at any one time.

Of course, there may also be other explanations of why teachers only apply for one job at a time. In some subjects, where demand outstrips supply, why make multiple applications if you might succeed with your first. After all, if you don’t, there will certainly be other jobs to apply for. Then there is also the effect of trainee and teacher workloads during the key March to March recruitment season for permanent vacancies. This problem does indeed point towards the need to simplify the application process with, at the very least, a common form for essential details. For every specific vacancy an applicant is always wise to tailor the free text part of the form to sell their unique characteristics that make them suitable for the school to hire to fill the advertised vacancy.

Of course, agencies can operate rather like the local authority ‘pool’ arrangements that used to be so common for primary school classroom teacher vacancies, where the overall suitability is measured through the initial application process and it is left to the interview stage for the real ‘sell’ by the candidate either selected by the school from the ‘pool’ or put forward as suitable by an agency. This avoids the need for tailoring the free text to the job being applied for, but can leave schools guessing about suitability of some candidates.

Incidentally, I was interested that Randstad conducted their survey in March, but have not published it until now. Their comment that September and October are two of the busiest months for teacher recruitment is an interesting one. There is always a small surge in vacancies in September, but Teachvac’s ( evidence is that October is often a quieter month for permanent vacancies. Perhaps, this is the month that Randstad see their supply teacher work pick up as schools start to face their first staffing issues of the new school year.

The Randstad Report does contain some interesting issues for the DfE as they no doubt ponder the future of any possible national recruitment portal and the lessons they have learnt about the application process from the work to date on the National Teaching Service.




More or less

A longer version of this blog post appeared first in the September/October edition of ‘Leader’, the ASCL magazine for school leaders.

Deciding how many new teachers to train each year is a tough job. Train too many and the Treasury wants to know why public money has been wasted; train too few and some schools won’t be able to recruit all the staff that they need. Officials also have to undertake the task several years ahead of time.

This summer, the government has been assessing how many teachers to train in the academic year 2017-18. These trainees will mostly enter the labour market in September 2018 with a small number needed for January 2019 vacancies.

Civil servants started this year’s exercise knowing that the school population was on the increase. They also knew more teachers were leaving the profession in recent years as the wider economy recovered from recession and also that public sector pay remained heavily regulated, especially with regard to annual increases.

Referendum effect

What they didn’t know was the outcome of the referendum on Europe and its possible consequences for the economy and on population movement, both inward and outward. As a result, even if the places allocated by the government are fully taken up by prospective trainees when trainee recruitment opens later in the autumn, the numbers may well still be wrong. Such is, too often, the fate of planners.

Because the teacher supply model essentially uses data that can be up to several years old, its outcomes ought to be subject to review by a group of knowledgeable individuals, including people from ASCL, who can question any obvious anomalies arising from the planning process. For the past two recruitment rounds, based on evidence collected through TeachVac, our free-to-schools vacancy matching service, we have queried the shortage of business studies places for trainees as well as the over-supply of training places for teachers of physical education trainees compared with recorded demand from schools across the country.

In both cases, the modelling process is correct, uses authentic and reliable data, but produces the wrong answer. Of course, you can still have the right answer, as in physics and design and technology, but not recruit enough trainees. That isn’t the fault of the planners, but of another group of civil servants.

While planners might not have been able to foresee the result of the referendum, they can model the effects of the introduction of any national funding formula on the demand for teachers. However, to do so might indicate, ahead of any consultation, the thinking of government. This relationship between policy change and future consequences on the ground goes a long way to explain why, for so many years, the teacher supply model wasn’t shared with anyone outside of government.

Unexpected vacancies?

Putting aside all of this background, schools and head teachers really want to know where they are if faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2017. After all, there are no more trainees entering the labour market until next summer and the recent School Teachers’ Review Body report identified new entrants as taking 55% of main scale vacancies, up from 50% a few years ago.

At TeachVac, we track the number of trainees, as recorded by the government’s annual ITT census against recorded vacancies. We discount those trainees on Teach First, now included in the census, and those on the School Direct salaried route as these two groups are likely to be employed either in the school where they train or another local school if they prove to be suitable entrants into the profession. We also take off a percentage for those unlikely to complete their teacher preparation programme, for whatever reason. Schools that use TeachVac to register vacancies receive an update on the current position in the subject where they have a vacancy when they post that job on TeachVac.

The original article then discusses the position in the summer of 2016 as reported using TeachVac data- That section of the article has been omitted here as it is now out of date.

The picture for 2017

Finally, a brief first look at the recruitment situation for 2017. At the time of writing, recruitment to courses is still in progress. However, based on past experiences, we believe that there will be insufficient trainees in subjects such as physics, design and technology, maths, business studies and IT entering training, unless there is a last minute rush.

A survey of School Direct salaried courses shown as having vacancies on the UCAS web site at the end of July revealed more than 600 listed vacancies, although some may have been duplicates advertised under more than one heading. Nevertheless, there were only two vacancies in the North East, compared with more than 100 in London schools. This reinforces concerns for the labour market in London.

Although schools may have found the 2016 recruitment round easier in some aspects than the 2015 recruitment round turned out to be, the staffing challenge facing schools is not yet over and much uncertainty surrounds the 2017 recruitment round that starts in January.

TeachVac will continue to monitor the situation and offer schools a free platform to place vacancies at no cost to themselves, teachers or trainees.

Note: now offers a service to schools facing an ofsted inspection and offers a tailored report on the local job market for secondary schools


Preparation for school teachers is good or outstanding

Ofsted’s latest assessment of the provision of preparation courses for teachers of children of compulsory school age has rated the providers inspected as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. Only one primary ITT course, in its final stages of operation, was rated less well on an initial inspect, but had improved when re-inspected later in the year.

Of the primary courses inspected, 45% were rated as ‘outstanding’ and 55% as ‘good’. Secondary courses were rated, 33% outstanding and 67% ‘good. Joint primary/secondary courses were 53% ‘outstanding’ and 47% ‘good’. In view of the challenges some secondary courses face with recruiting trainees, and the consequent issues over funding, this must be regarded as a very satisfactory outcome for the sector.

The data only covers HEIs, SCITTS and for the first time, Teach First. This report doesn’t cover trainees not in a partnership. However, the message for Ministers is that courses preparing primary school teachers are performing well and those preparing secondary teachers are god with some outstanding provision. With the low numbers now on so many secondary courses, this finding is not surprising as it is challenging to create an outstanding provision on limited resources. To that extent, a base number of places larger than allocated to many providers would probably push up the number of outstanding outcomes. Nevertheless, five HEIs, 3 SCITTs and 3 Teach First regions inspected did manage to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating for their secondary provision. The remainder were rates as ‘good’. The overall classification doesn’t identify the classification for individual secondary subjects so, without drilling down into the inspection reports, it is impossible to discover whether certain subjects were more likely to receive ‘outstanding’ ratings than others and, thus, whether the mix of provision affected the outcome for some of the secondary provision.

I am sure that Teach First will be very pleased with the mostly ‘outstanding’ gradings they received this year. However, as a programme it has to demonstrate not only high quality preparation but also rates of retention that do not require additional trainees to be hired to meet a greater than average loss to the profession in the years after obtaining QTS.

The outcomes for the Early Years and FE provision inspected in the past year by Ofsted were more mixed. Apart from one FE provider there was little evidence of ‘outstanding’ provision in these two sectors and some providers were of concern when first inspected, although no inadequate provision was seen in these inspections.

To move any more of the training away from HEIs or SCITTs into other forms of provision really does now need evidence that the provision is not just as good, but is also superior in outcomes to that which it replaces. The limited nature of some HEI and SCITT provision that now remains means that to locate more places away from these providers into schools must only be on the back of evidence that the provision will not be materially affected by any reduction in places available.

Witney’s voters can decide the fate of grammar schools

The Education Policy Institute, of which David Laws is the Executive director, have lent their expertise to the debate about grammar schools with a new report about grammar schools and social mobility.

The EPI Report’s executive summary starts with the following:

International evidence (PISA 2012) shows that academic selection in school systems is associated negatively with equity; and students in highly stratified systems tend to be less motivated than those in less stratified systems. This international evidence suggests that schools which select students on academic performance tend to show better school average performance, even accounting for the socio-economic status and demographic background of students and schools, on average, across OECD countries. However, a school system’s performance overall is not better if it has a greater proportion of academically selective schools. And in systems with more academic selection, the impact of socio-economic status on student performance is greater.

The Report backs up what you have already read on this blog since the government started down the road of turning the education clock back to sometime in the late nineteenth Century. Hopefully, the consultation period between now and December will provide the government with time for reflection.

The good voters of Witney can help that process by trouncing the Conservative candidate in the by-election, making it clear, as the Oxfordshire’s county councillors did when discussing the issue last week that they don’t want a return to a selective secondary school system.

Nick Gibb, the junior DfE Minister, as might be expected, when speaking recently at the Academy Ambassador’s Trust event extolled the growth of selective schools saying; ‘Your trust may consider establishing a new selective free school or you may look to expand using the routes that are already available.’ He didn’t say what happens to the other children educated by the Trust. He also ignored the importance of vocational qualifications whilst lauding the EBacc.

The DfE’s lack of understanding about system-wide planning, for which presumably Mr Gibb has responsibility, is alarming in this time of growing pupil numbers across much of the country. The lack of co-ordination between the Free School programme and the remaining place planning function retained by local authorities is unhelpful, to put it at its mildest. Local authorities will be blamed when there are not enough school places for parents to obtain their first choice of school. In the end this will mean councillors losing their seats as parents express their annoyance through the ballot box. No doubt if this happens to any significant degree in the county council elections next May there will be repercussions for Mrs May and her education team at the DfE.

However, should the voters of Witney decide to send the Conservatives a message next month, they can do worse than wrap it in a bottle marked education and schools. The north of the constituency was especially upset about the changes to free home to school transport and the restrictions on choice of school they imposed, so those parents will have found Mr Gibb’s mention of parental choice ironic. Perhaps the DfE still isn’t aware that parents outside London don’t enjoy the same free home to school travel TfL them offers in London.

Issues around collecting vacancy data

Today was the day that submissions had to have been sent to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in connection with their partial review of shortage subjects in education. In preparing the TeachVac submission we confronted several methodological issues.

In the first instance, there is the issue of collecting continuous data versus collecting data at a single point in time. TeachVac collects new data every weekday, whereas the DfE collects vacancies only in terms of the number of vacancies recorded at the date of the School Workforce Census in November. So long as there is data for several years that method provides information about trends at that point in time, but cannot say anything about what happens during the rest of the year. The DfE can also calculate turnover and that is also important as additional evidence, but not as compelling as it might seem at first sight. Turnover records outcomes and not desires, so if a school advertises for a teacher of physics, but appoints a biologist because no physicist applies, the data has recorded the turnover, but not the fact that it wasn’t an ideal match with the original requirement of the school.

Some other organisations that collect data on teacher vacancies appear to reply upon vacancies advertised on job boards. Even if job boards are studied regularly, the fact that many vacancies aren’t linked to a particular school makes identifying a reliable total more of a challenge. Is this maths vacancy advertised today for a teacher in London the same as the one advertised yesterday or was that filled and another London schools has requested a teacher? Indeed, could there be several vacancies for maths teachers in London hidden behind a single advertisement? This is more doubtful, because presumably job boards want to show they handle a large number of vacancies for many different schools. Hopefully, there are no occurrences of ‘ghost’ vacancies advertised on job boards just to attract applicants to the site.

As TeachVac is now collecting additional data on several man scale vacancies, it is also able to more successfully handle the issue of identifying multiple vacancies advertised at the same time in the same subject. This is quite common in new schools advertising for staff for the first time, and not unusual in subjects such as English and mathematics during the height of the recruitment season during April.

There still remains the issue of re-advertisements that bedevils all those that study vacancies. The only perfect solution is to ensure a vacancy is attached to a unique identification number that follows it until the post is filled. Until then, there must be an element of extrapolation in any statistics that analyse the job market. There is a similar issue with repeat advertisements, especially in print media, but this is essentially the same problem discussed above with jobs that appear on digital job board. TeachVac has a mechanism for coping with this issue as part of its AI routines.

The MAC will no doubt be wise to these issues when it considers the submissions it has received. It will also have to consider why in the past business studies and design and technology weren’t considered as shortage subjects. Finally, there is the issue, advanced by some in the maths world that schools are supressing vacancies because they don’t want to alarm parents.  To measure that you need to look at the DfE’s analysis of teacher numbers and the highest level of qualifications of those teaching a subject and how those have changed over time.

TeachVac has now extended its AI to start collect vacancies beyond teaching and it is discovering some of the issues recorded here makes data collection in that sector possibly even more of a challenge.