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.
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?