A sigh of relief

The UCAS data on postgraduate applications to train as a teacher as recorded for May appeared today. The combination of the arrival of offers affected by the Easter holidays plus the addition of almost an extra week of data compared with last year means the government can breathe a small sigh of relief. On the evidence of this data meltdown has been averted for 2018, except perhaps in music, religious education, design and technology and probably physics.

Overall applicant numbers have recovered to 29,890 in England, still down on last year, despite the extra days and some 10% down on May 2016 applicant numbers, but it could have been worse. The decline is still national in scope, with all regions recording lower applicant numbers than in 2016. The almost 3,000 fewer applicants than last year are also spread across the age groups, although the loss is probably greatest among early career changers in their mid to late 20s. This fact shows up in the further reduction in the number of ‘placed’ applicants compared with those with either ‘conditional firm’ places or ‘holding offers’. By domicile region of applicants, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 2,330 last year to 1,890 this May. In London, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 380 to just 300.  Of course, over the next few months the ‘placed’ number will increase as ‘conditionally placed’ applicants receive their degrees and complete any other requirements needed to move them into the ‘placed’ category.

All routes, apart from applications to secondary SCITTs, have been affected by the reduction in applications. Primary courses have lost more than 6,000 applicants compared with last year and numbers ‘placed’ only just exceed 1,000, with fewer than 10,000 applicants with ‘conditional places’ and a further 700 holding offers. In total, this is barely more than 11,000 potential trainees and marks the continued downward trend for the primary sector.

In the secondary sector, SCITTS have attracted just a couple of hundred more applications than this point last year, but that must be regarded as a success. Applications to School Direct Salaried courses have nearly halved over the past two years, although whether that is a drop in applicants or a decline in interest in this route on the part of schools isn’t clear from this data. At this rate there will be fewer than 1,000 secondary trainees with a salary come September (leaving aside those on Teach First).

Looking at some of the individual secondary subjects, music has just 200 possible applicants with offers of any type, compared with 260 in May 2017. Design and Technology is down to only ten ‘placed’ applicants compared with 30 in May 2017. Even in mathematics, numbers placed or holding offers is little more than 1,500; a new low for May in recent times.

Finishing on a good note, English is doing relatively well, with 1,640 offers, although that still isn’t enough to meet the Teacher Supply Number of just over 2,500 trainees.

Overall, perhaps the sigh of relief might only be a small one at the moment. Let’s hope for better times next month as new graduates that haven’t done anything about a job while studying start to decide how to spend their future.

 

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Probably none left?

Yesterday, Friday 16th March, Business Studies turned negative on TeachVac’s scale that compares vacancies for main scale teachers with trainee numbers. I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago predicating this would happen soon, and it has duly come to pass. Next to turn negative will be Design and Technology, probably sometime in April, if the present rate of progress is maintained and allowing for the Easter break.

Now, it is interesting to compare the date these subjects effectively ran out of trainees and turned negative in each of the past three years as well as this year.

Date where TeachVac recorded enough vacancies to provide a teaching post for all trainees in the relevant ITT Census

Year Business Studies Design & Technology
2015 15th April 20th May
2016 22nd April 30th September
2017 31st March 2nd June
2018 16th March Before end of April?

Source: TeachVac

Both subjects are likely to have seen enough teaching posts created by schools in England to absorb all trainees at a ratio of two recorded vacancies for every one trainee at an earlier point this year than in any of the previous three years. Of course, Business Studies may be propped up by some schools being prepared to recruit economists to teach Business Studies and TeachVac doesn’t publish data on the number of posts in economics, although the data is collected. However, the warning signs apparent when the DfE ITT census was announced of a failure to fill all training places available has come about.

The position in a portmanteau subject such as Design and Technology is more complex. The ITT Census does not breakdown the categories of specialism with the subject, so there may already have been more vacancies for say, teachers of textiles, than there are trainees, but still relatively more trainees in another aspect of the subject. TeachVac collects the data from advertisements about specific knowledge and skills required, but does not make it public. For anyone with a genuine reason to want the data, TeachVac is willing to discuss what might be made available. But, clearly even with timetables being adjusted downward in the subject, the failure to fill more than a third of training places was always going to have a severe impact upon schools looking to recruit design and technology teachers.

So, what are the effects of this situation? Well, it is likely to mean that some schools will find recruiting teachers in these subjects challenging. As the recruitment round heads towards its conclusion in November and December for January 2019 appointments, any school with an unexpected vacancy might well start by considering it won’t be just a matter of placing an advert and waiting for applications to arrive. The number of returners, for whatever reason, is always unpredictable, as is the wastage rate of teachers leaving the profession. Existing teachers may well see whether other schools are offering incentives for current teachers to move to them? Whether the new subscription model being operated by the TES makes this more likely is an interesting question. Free services such as TeachVac and the one currently being worked upon by the DfE might face the charge that by reducing recruitment costs they increase opportunities for churn among the teaching force. Such a situation is always possible under a market-based model of teacher recruitment, but is only replacing state planning of where teachers are to be sent with acceptance of the laws of supply and demand.

 

 

Déjà vu

The traffic light colours of Green, Amber and Red have become a popular method of distinguishing degrees of concern or providing a warning as we saw recently with the Met Office descriptions of the snow and ice events. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has always used such a system to warn of shortages in the labour market for classroom teachers in the secondary sector.

Today, TeachVac has just issued its first Red warning for a subject this year. It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the subject concerned is Business Studies. The DfE’s Teacher Supply model seems to consistently underestimate the need for such teachers by schools. Additionally, in 2017, the failure to fill 20% of the places on offer to trainees has only exacerbated the situation.

The Red warning means that in TeachVac’s estimation schools anywhere in England could from now onwards struggle to recruit a teacher of Business Studies. This challenge will extend right through to January 2019 and the start of the new recruitment round. With Business Studies applications for 2018 teacher preparation courses already only tracking the 2017 levels, 2019 isn’t looking any more hopeful at present.

At the same time as TeachVac issued a Red warning for Business Studies it is within days of issuing an Amber warning for English classroom teacher recruitment. Here again, with 10% of training places unfilled in 2017, TeachVac will shortly be warning that some schools could start to face challenges in recruitment. There are fewer trainees on school-based preparation courses for English this year. As a result, demand in terms of advertised vacancies may well be greater than in recent years, when some schools employed School Direct trainees without needing to advertise vacancies. TeachVac expects recruitment to be especially challenging in areas where the pupil numbers are on the increase, namely London and the Home Counties.

If this all feels horribly familiar to regular readers of this blog, then they are correct. On the 8th March 2017, budget day last year, I wrote almost exactly the same post about the 2017 situation. Those that haven’t read it might like to compare the two posts.

Already in 2018, TeachVac has already also issued an Amber warning for Design and Technology. This is partly because only a third of places on teacher preparation course in this subject were filled in 2017. This meant total trainee numbers, including forecasts at the time of the DfE’s census, only amounted to some 303 trainees this year. Such a number is less than one trainee per ten secondary schools, even assuming all trainees both complete the preparation year and then want to teach in a state funded secondary school. Within some of the subjects that make up the Design and Technology family, the situation may be even worse: TeachVac is monitoring the spread of expertise requested within adverts, something nobody else even attempts to do to the same degree.

However, in this recruitment round, we do not expect any significant issues recruiting teachers to fill primary school vacancies. But, as the previous post have indicated, 2019 might be more of a problem, unless applications pick up over the next few months.

 

 

Much as predicted in the spring

The final set of monthly UCAS data for the 2017 recruitment round was published earlier today. There are no shock horror revelations and the progress, or lack of it, of the recruitment round has been well charted throughout the year on this blog. It remains true that unless the economy takes a turn for the worse at some point between February and July in any year the likely outcome of the recruitment round can be predicted in many subjects by the early spring.

The outcome of the 2017 recruitment into training round looks like being worse than last year for the subjects tracked throughout the year, except in PE, history, geography and IT/computing. In English, the situation looks to be similar to this point last year. In Music and business studies the acceptance numbers are the lowest for the past four years. Even where acceptances are in the mid-range of the past four cycles they may well not be enough to meet the DfE and NCTL’s expressed level of need. This will affect the 2018 recruitment round for vacancies in September 2018 – see my previous post on ‘the eye of the storm.

What is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.  Either this reflects a lack of updating by some providers, possibly schools, or it reflect uncertainty over whether some trainees offered places were actually going to start the course? We will know the actual numbers when the DfE publishes the ITT Census, either at the end of November or in early December.

Numbers recruited to primary courses are well up on last year, by around 2,000 and that masks in some of the data a slightly larger fall in placed secondary candidates. The fall in ‘accepted’ secondary subject candidates is relatively small, at 440 candidates, and most of the reduction is in ‘conditionally placed offers, so it may be that actual recruited and numbers counted in the ITT census may not be too far adrift from last year. However, it must be remembered that if some subjects have recruited more than last year; geography is an obvious example, then those increases also serve to mask the size of falls in other subjects.

On the face of it, science and mathematics continued to hold their own compared with last year, with a continued growth in late recruitment over the summer. Indeed, these are the only subjects where there are still candidates shown as ‘holding offers’.

School Direct secondary has attracted fewer applications this year; as a result there have been fewer offers on both the salaried and fee routes. Salaried School Direct secondary numbers only total 1,100 placed compared with 1,440 last year. Most of the decline has been in the ‘placed’ category. At this stage it isn’t possible to tell how different subjects have been affected, but this trend will almost certainly have an impact on the 2018 labour market if these posts not filled by School Direct trainees need to be filled in 2018 from the overall trainee pool.

The letter for ASCL to the Treasury reported in today’s press revels something of how pressures on school funding may mean fewer vacancies next year, but with rising pupil numbers and fixed size classrooms, how badly funding cuts will affect teaching posts rather than all other costs only time will tell.

 

TeachVac issues end of term warning

Schools across England will find recruiting staff for unexpected vacancies in January 2018 challenging. This is the message from TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher vacancies across all schools in England that is already saving schools large sums of money in line with the DfE policy of reducing unnecessary expenditure by schools.

TeachVac is celebrating entering its fourth year of operation. At the end of the summer term of 2017, TeachVac have rated 7 of the 13 secondary subjects it tracks as in a critical state for recruitment. This means that TeachVac is warning schools of recruitment difficulties in these subjects that might occur anywhere in the country and not just in the traditional high risk areas for recruitment.

The high risk subjects are:

English

IT/Computing

Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education

Music

Geography

In the other six subjects tracked in detail by TeachVac, most schools will still find recruitment easier, although any specific demands such as subject knowledge in, for example, a specific period of history will always make recruitment more of a challenge. On the basis of current evidence, TeachVac expects schools will face the least problems in Physical Education and Art where, if anything, there is still some local over-supply against need in some parts of the country.

In Science overall, – but not in Physics and possible Chemistry – Mathematics; Modern Languages overall, but not in certain language combinations, and in History, supply should still be adequate to meet expected demand between now and January 2018.  Because most schools still advertise for teachers of languages and science and only specify within the advert the more detailed requirements it takes longer to analyse the data on vacancies in these subjects and that information is not yet fully available beyond the headline figures.

TeachVac can provide the data in a form useful to schools facing Ofsted inspection where recruitment may be an issue for the inspection team. For local authorities and others interested in the recruitment patterns over the past three years in specific locations and between different types of school such as academies and free schools, TeachVac now has a wealth of data available. TeachVac is also now looking in detail as senior staff appointments and especially leadership posts in the primary sector and the challenges some schools face in replacing a head teacher when they leave. The outcome of that research will form the basis of a further detailed report to follow the posts already written on the topic.

With recruitment to training for courses starting this September still below the level achieved last year, 2018 is also beginning to look as if it will be a challenging recruitment round, especially for schools not involved in training teachers either directly or through tie-ins with other training providers. This blog will update the situation regarding numbers offered places for September at the end of this month and again at the end of August.

 

 

Can UTCs survive?

Schools Week, the respected education newspaper, is reporting Michael Gove as saying that the UTC programme has failed.  http://schoolsweek.co.uk/michael-gove-utcs-have-failed/ This will be bad news for Lord Baker whose brainchild the idea was in the first place. UTCs were Lord Baker’s second attempt to kick-start a technology sector in schooling in England, after the limited success of his City Technology College programme initiated when he was Secretary of State for Education.

Mr Gove’s comment will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog. A thriving technology sector is probably a good idea for schooling in England, but to create a new type of school for some, but not all, pupils at age 14 was asking for trouble. To compound the recruitment problems facing these new schools by using the market model of either compete and succeed or fail and die was to demonstrate why Tory market economics finds it hard to work in education.

Incidentally, closure is a feature of market economics, as even Waitrose has apparently found out recently, with the announcement of the closure of five of its branches.

So, where does technology education go from here? The easy answer is to let the existing UTCs and their companion Studio Schools limp on, with some making a go of it where there is local support and others failing to recruit sufficient students to be financially viable. A better answer, and one that should be welcomed by the clutch of former accountants currently running the DfE, would be to call in the receivers and see how the assets can be best used for Schools England. Will the current Secretary of State have the courage to take this radical approach? We will see.

With the raising of the learning leaving age to eighteen, the break at fourteen for some pupils was always going to look out of line with the idea of a common curriculum up to the age of sixteen, even with those pupils that would benefit from a fresh start at fourteen. My guess is that the promoters of UTCs and Studio Schools didn’t plan effectively for the type of pupils other schools would encourage to switch in an era where cash rules and pupils come with a price upon their heads.

If UTCs are going to be a short-term feature of our education scene, could the Secretary of State please now pay attention to the fate of Design and Technology in all our schools? Post BREXIT we will need those with the skills and interest in the whole gamut of design and technology to help create our future wealth. Sadly, the subject has been ignored by the DfE for too long and the limp approach to the D&T teacher shortage adopted in the recent Migration Advisory Committee report didn’t receive the rebuke it deserved from the business community.

We need a thriving design and technology sector in our schools, please will someone now come up with a credible plan to help us achieve that aim?

 

Is Design & Technology dying by default?

Over the past few years Design & Technology has consistently failed to recruit into training the number of teachers identified as being needed to staff our schools. The DfE uses the Teacher Supply Model to calculate an annual training number. Recent figures showing the following pattern of recruitment are in the Table.

courses starting in Number Recruited TSM Number Shortfall
2016 423 1034 611
2015 526 1279 753
2014 450 1030 580
2013 391 870 479
2012 710 825 115
2011 1970 1880 -90
2010 2940 2560 -380
2009 3100 2700 -400
10510 12178 1668

The over-recruitment (minus number in final column) of the period 2009-2011, a period when the economy was deeply mired in recession, has been replaced by five years of failure to recruit to what have been much lower targets. Indeed, the total number of new trainees recruited between 2012 and 2016 are in total less than were recruited in either 2009 or 2010.

Now it can be assumed that with falling rolls in secondary schools and a reluctance to cut back on training numbers during the period of the Labour government, too many Design & Technology teachers were probably being trained in 2009 and 2010. That cannot be said to be the case today. Demand, as measured by TeachVac, has outstripped the supply of teachers of Design & Technology in both 2015 and 2016, more notably in 2015 when the numbers in training were lower than were looking for teaching posts in 2016. The fact that the number of trainees recruited in 2016, as measured by the ITT census, is the lowest recorded since 2013 doesn’t bode well for schools looking to recruit Design & Technology teachers for September 2017 and January 2018.

Of course, Design & Technology is a portmanteau subject which, as the footnote in the ITT census explains, ’includes food’. By this, I think they mean teachers of food technology, the former home economics that emerged from the historical domestic science term used for those that taught ‘cooking and needlecraft’ in schools. Sadly, it looks as if there is no record of either the demand for teachers of the different aspects of Design & Technology or of the numbers entering training with the different backgrounds and skill sets. Perhaps there are enough trainees in food technology, but not in resistant materials? Perhaps, the position is the other way around.

Since starting this blog post, it has been pointed out to me that the numbers in Table 1a of the ITT census don’t seem to add up. There are 169 trainees shown as in higher education; 66 on courses in SCITTs and 117 on School Direct Fee courses. The numbers on the School Direct salaried route and Teach First are each hidden behind an asterisk. This normally means too few to report, so we can assume not more than 20 across both routes. By my mathematics this makes between 352 and 372 trainees and not the 423 reported in the census. The other 71 might be on undergraduate courses, but that column isn’t shown by subject in the Table, only an overall total of 243 undergraduates across all subjects. Looking back at 2014 undergraduate numbers, an assuming a three year degree course, entrants were 32 to Design & Technology undergraduate courses in 2014. Thus if all remained, an unlikely outcome, the number entering the labour market in 2017 will be 352 postgraduates (minus any that don’t complete the course – let’s say 30), so 322 postgraduates plus 32 undergraduates to a maximum of 354, the lowest number for many years.

Such numbers, and the trend over recent years does leave one to wonder why trainees in Design & Technology with a 2:2 degree don’t receive a bursary whereas those in Biology (a subject that over-recruited this year) will receive £10,000 in 2017, and those that started courses this September with a 2:2 in biology received £15,000.

But, then the distribution of bursaries has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps it has something to do with the value of the EBacc in the curriculum compared with Design & Technology.