The UCAS data for applications to ITT courses starting next autumn were published this morning. The data provides details about both applicant numbers and the number of applications (up to a maximum of 3) that they have made. The snapshot is for the 20th November, a day earlier than the 21st November, when the 2016 data was logged. This may be significant, but as both were Mondays and the reference point was just after Midnight, the effect may be relatively slight.
As ever, some data are for the sector as a whole and other elements can be drilled down into, providing data about the different phases and even to subject levels. In England, secondary applications were 15,470 in November 2016 at the data collection point: this year, the figure is 9,150, a decline of 6,320 or around 40%. Coming on top of the data from the ITT census that counted the numbers on courses that started this autumn, this is a hint that the downward decline in numbers wanting to be secondary school teachers may well be continuing, at least at the start of the new recruitment round.
Although the phase of training applied for isn’t identified for the different age groups, there have been substantial falls in applicants numbers from those in the younger age groups; typically new graduates with high levels of debt. For those 21 or under, the number of early applicants has fallen from 2,590 to 1,700; for 22 year olds, from 1,910 to 1,190 and for 23 year olds, from 1,370 to just 690. Since these are traditionally among the age groups that often apply early, this must be of some concern. The decline in applications from women of 23 or younger, from 4,290 last year to just 2,650 this year must be a concern as women make up around 70% of trainee numbers. So far this year, fewer than 1,000 men in this age grouping of under-24 have applied to UCAS across both primary and secondary phases.
The decline in applications is mirrored by a similar decline in acceptances of those either fully or conditionally placed or holding an offer by the 20th November. In some subjects, such as business studies, there are no recorded applications in any of the three ‘offer’ categories. Even in History, a popular and over-subscribed subject last year, there are just 70 placed or holding offer compared with more than 200 at this point last year. With the open allocations policy there is an incentive for providers to offer as quickly as possible lest applicants are attracted to another provider.
All types of provider have been affected by this early decline in applications, with applications for secondary courses in higher education down from 7,640 to 4,660 and for secondary School Direct salaried route from 1,140 to 480.
Of course, this decline may reflect a change in the pattern of applications, but if it continues through December and into the New Year, the DfE will have to take some action or risk the most serious crisis in applications since the turn of the century. With the return of teacher recruitment in-house there is nowhere for Ministers to hide if the numbers don’t pick up.