Has DfE policy already affected ITT outcomes?

The repercussions of the re-accreditation process for ITT are already reverberating around the teacher preparation world. The DfE may possibly be embarking on the most radical realignment of providers since the cull of institutions in the 1970s. As then, the end of a growth in pupil numbers meant the demand for new teachers will reduce going forward, especially if the traditional assumptions on the scale of demand remain true.

This is not the place to discuss both the effect of mass tutoring and the creation of teaching as a global profession on the demand for teachers by schools in England. Those issues have already been rehearsed previously on this blog.

This post looks at the monthly ITT data on applications published by the DfE yesterday, and containing data up to the 16th May. The headline news is that applications continue to be depressed. In some subjects they are well below the boost that the pandemic provided last year.

Even more alarming is the fact that in many secondary subjects ‘offers’ and recruited trainees for September are at their lowest May levels for more than a decade. For instance, physics has just 337 in the offer categories. However, a further 243 applications are under consideration. In computing the 244 offers is a record low for May, and there are only 219 applications awaiting a decision, and around two thirds of the total applications are shown as unsuccessful.

The ‘offer’ side of the equation seems lower than in past years for this point in the cycle. Have providers reacted to a combination of late targets – not announced until April, rather than at the start of the cycle – the uncertainty surrounding the re-accreditation process, and the return of Ofsted to be much more cautious about offers than in the past?

Take a subject such as music, where one would assume that a music degree and proficiency in at least one instrument were a likely ‘given’ for applicants. However, even here, 478 of the 773 applications are show as unsuccessful. Now, I assume this includes successful applicants that have opted for one provider and are no longer holding offers at other providers, but that would mean a maximum of 295 potential trainees.

Overall candidate numbers are down from 34,490 in May 2021 to 28,977 this May. That’s below the 30,610 of May 2020. As one might expect at this time of year, the decline in career changers has had more impact than the decline in this year’s graduates, although even the numbers of applicants under 23 that are mostly new graduates, are down on last year, although holding up well compared with 2020. How this group reacts once degrees are awarded will be very important for the outcome of this year’s recruitment round. Will they look to teaching as a safe haven in uncertain times or will they be lured by the tight labour market into ignoring teaching as an option?

The regional spread of candidates is worrying, with London seeing fewer than 5,000 candidates across both primary and secondary phases compared with around 5,500 even in 2020, and 6,800 in May last year. Even in the North East, candidate numbers are fewer than 1,100 compared with 1,500 in 2020 and 1,450 last May.  Apart from the teaching apprenticeship route, all other routes into teaching are suffering downturns.

Unless the economy collapses over the next couple of months, this year’s ITT targets will be widely missed, except in history and physical education. Even in these subjects the over-recruitment may well be less than in recent times, meaning an even tighter a labour market for September 2023 and January 2024, unless there is an influx or returners to make up the shortfall.

What remains certain is that without enough teachers the aims of the recent White Paper cannot be met. Perhaps that’s why teachers receive scant mention in the new Schools Bill currently before parliament.

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