A thank you to Schools of Education

Michael Gove didn’t like Schools of Education in Universities. He effectively set out to reduce their leading role in teacher education and especially their role in training new teachers. He wasn’t alone in that regard among Conservative Secretaries of State for Education. Mr Gove took the decision to create the two School Direct routes – fee based and salaried – to replace the former Graduate Teacher Training Route (GTTP) that had been operating for just over a decade as a replacement for earlier schemes designed to help alleviate teacher shortages; he also decided to allow Teach First to expand.

I recall a meeting in Whitehall with David Laws, when he was Minister of State during the coalition, where I explained that the policy then in operation would have effectively destroyed many higher education secondary teacher preparation courses, especially where they were not under-pinned by a large primary cohort, because they would simply not have been economic to run.

Had all the requests from schools that year for arts and humanities places been accepted, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been considerable changes in the landscape of university provision across England and possibly course and even department closures. Fortunately, increasing secondary pupil numbers and a degree of common sense, plus I suspect a degree of lobbying by others more influential than myself, meant that the doomsday scenario for higher education didn’t come to pass.

So what has happened over the past four years in terms of the percentages of applications via the different routes? The month of May is a good time to consider this question as, although universities and most SCITTs remain open all year for applications, some schools tend to close their books with the end of their summer term. As a result, the data for the end of the year may be skewed in favour of higher education providers. I was also asked the question by a course provider in response to yesterday’s post ‘a sigh of relief’.

So here are the percentages for applications in May over the past four years, as derived from the UCAS monthly data reports.

Primary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 45 48 47
SCITT 8 9 9 10
SDFEE 24 27 25 25
SDSAL 17 19 18 18
Secondary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 47 50 52
SCITT 8 10 11 12
SDFEE 29 31 29 28
SDSAL 12 12 9 7

Source; UCAS Monthly data reports on ITT – percentage of applications

The key point to note is the different position of higher education in the two sectors. In the primary sector, schools have been adding market share in terms of applications every year since 2015, although the School Direct Fee route seems to have stalled this year. Some of the change may be due to the reduction of new women graduates looking to train as a primary teacher, as the decline in their numbers may have dis-proportionally affected higher education providers. It is worth noting that in May 2015 there were just over 49,000 applications for primary courses, compared with just 38,100 in May 2018.

In the secondary sector, as numbers applying have reduced, so higher education has started to regain market share, reaching 52% in May 2018. The big decline is in School Direct Salaried – down from 12% of applications to seven per cent in 2018. Had SCITTs not taken up part of the decline, higher education might now have an even larger market share of the just under 47,000 applications this year. This compares to more than 53,000 applications to secondary courses in May 2015.

Without higher education and its willingness to train teachers and to fight for the right to do so, our schools  might now be in an even worse situation than they find themselves in when trying to recruit new teachers.

it is a salutatory lesson to politicians such as myself that we need to look not only at the immediate consequences of our actions, but also ensure resilience for the longer-term. That isn’t an argument for never changing anything, but for being aware of the consequences of our actions. A new system would have emerged from any collapse of existing higher education providers, but would it have been worth the pain and turmoil?




4 thoughts on “A thank you to Schools of Education

  1. Thanks for this. Is there similar data on actual choices rather than applications or is it too early to comment on that yet? Best Wishes Jan

    Sent from my iPad

    • Jan,

      More difficult to quantify but once the TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk work on vacancies starts reducing I will see what can be done. any trainees or teachers you know interested in a teaching post or just what is happening locally should sign up to TeachVac -it is free to both schools and teachers.


  2. John,
    Many thanks, as ever, for your helpful summary and thoughtful questions.
    The extent to which school direct programmes are school led/ developed or university programmes in all but name will always be tricky to determine and to an extent masks some of the detail about who is actually leading and accountable for the recruitment, training and accreditation of trainees.
    In terms of policy decisions the question of regional coverage and capacity continues to be problematic and that is an area where the DFE could profitably give some attention.
    And a final point about the decline in applicants for secondary salaried programmes; I think a significant reason here is that in the past couple of years the increase in bursaries for non-salaried programmes has meant that in many subjects it makes as much financial sense for an individual to a non-salaried programme as a salaried one. And as for apprenticeships – we’ll await more information about how they’re playing out.

    • Patrick,

      Thanks for your perceptive comments. A bit of joined up policy making at the DfE would be welcome – bursary v salary as a route for instance. I assume you get pension contributions with the latter but not the former although you do receive a bursary tax free.

      TeachVac wwww.teachvac.co.uk invites those living in areas where the DfE is trialing their vacancy service to also sign up for TeachVac’s free service and let us know how the two compare. TeachVac is also free to schools – including the independent sector.

      John Howson

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