Will teacher supply worsen in 2019?

The problem with reports like the one published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) yesterday is that they don’t help policy makers very much. Headlines of a teacher shortage are nothing new and looking at the position in 2016 doesn’t tell anyone what is happening now and will happen in the 2019 labour market. As I said in yesterday’s blog post, knowing where the hot spots are is a useful piece of extra knowledge, but is that really what the leading think tank on education sees as the best use of its resources?

I promised in my blog about the UCAS data, also published yesterday, to look at trends in August offer numbers. The following table looks at key subjects for this August and the previous two years, as well as the change between 2016 and 2018.

Subject 2016 offers Number of Placed and conditional firm 2017 Number of Placed and conditional firm 2018 Difference 2018 on 2016
ART & DESIGN 635 505 460 -175
BIOLOGY 1305 965 920 -385
BUSINESS STUDIES 205 165 150 -55
CHEMISTRY 965 855 830 -135
CLASSICS 50 55 70 20
COMPUTING 520 520 590 70
DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY 465 315 460 -5
DRAMA 375 350 300 -75
ENGLISH 1825 1855 1890 65
GEOGRAPHY 875 1175 1150 275
HISTORY 920 1135 1070 150
MATHEMATICS 2395 2335 2380 -15
MFL 4470 4530 3850 -620
MUSIC 360 310 280 -80
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 1225 1195 1120 -105
PHYSICS 830 690 680 -150
17890 17385 16580 -1310

Source: UCAS monthly reports, August 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Despite the upward trend in pupil numbers, the trend in the number of offers has been downwards over the past two years. This suggests an even greater ‘crisis’ for schools in the 2019 labour market across some subjects, although the science numbers must be treated with  degree of discretion until the census appears in November due to a change in the method of recording offers by UCAS this year for applications. I doubt that Teach First will be riding to the rescue this year, although we must wait until November to find out their recruitment figures.

We don’t need more geography and history teachers, or last not as many more as have been recruited over the past two years. These offers don’t relate to the Teacher Supply model estimates of numbers needed, but many subjects will again fall short of that number. We will analyses the shortfall when the census appears. For a look at recent years, it is worth consulting the School Teachers’ Review Body’s latest report issued in July or you could look back through the posts on this blog. However, it is also worth remembering that EPI only looked at new entrants and didn’t fully factor in what might be happening with returner numbers, something NfER have been considering in their studies.

Might it be time to revive the posts of regional recruitment managers, used by the Labour government nearly 20 years ago during a previous recruitment crisis? Alternatively, do we need to make the most of the resources available by moving away from a free market? If it is acceptable for academy trusts to move teachers between schools should it not be acceptable to do so on a more national scale?



Free Schools now account for around 1% of all schools

The DfE has just published updated lists of existing and proposed Free Schools. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/free-schools-successful-applications-and-open-schools-2014 There are 296 schools in the two lists. Of these, 112, or some 38%, are located within one of the London boroughs. Once the Home Counties regions of the East of England and the South East are added to the London figure the percentage increases to 62% of the national total. By contrast, there are just seven schools in the North East and 12 in the East Midlands. Birmingham, with 13 schools, is the local authority where the largest numbers of schools are located, although Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Tower Hamlets, three much smaller authorities than Birmingham: each have seven schools located or to be located with their borough.

The majority of the schools, some 232, are mainstream schools, but there are 49 either SEN or alternative provision schools, with 15 schools (sic) listed as 16-19 establishments – 7 of these are in London. Traditional primary (109) and secondary (93) schools dominate the age groupings. However, there are some 43 all-through schools, a number of which are in the special school sector. Personally, I am not yet a fan of such schools in the mainstream sectors where grouping all primary schools that feed a secondary school seems a more enlightened proposition than giving some pupils the opportunity to be part of the school for the whole of their careers while adding others later. Avoiding newcomers being seen as second class citizens seems like a wasteful and unnecessary use of resources. But, no doubt there is some research that shows such schools perform well for all pupils.

Free schools are still contentious with some groups, so it is interesting to see that 7 of the schools are ARK schools, already a large provider of academies in London, and 10 are under the Harris umbrella that has extended north of the river with its free schools, including into Tottenham, the most deprived part of Haringey. There are also three Oasis schools, and a number with E-Act in their name featured in the list.  The DfE don’t provide a faith analysis of the schools, but a number are clearly linked to faith groups of both the Christian denominations and other faiths.

This DfE report also doesn’t say anything about the size of the schools, both on opening and in terms of their future maximum numbers. There is no doubt the primary schools will help, especially in and around London, in providing places to cope with the boom in pupil numbers. The presence of some secondary schools in areas of falling rolls or adequate provisions seems rather more wasteful of scare resources. Once the Studio Schools and UTCs are added to this list, the shape of schooling will have changed more between 2010 and 2015 than at any time for a generation. Now might finally be the time to question the continued presence of selective secondary schools? How diverse a school system do we actually want and need? And is diversity and choice being put before the provision of a good school for all pupils?


Since I wrote this piece last night Channel 4 News have carried a report of another school that has failed its Ofsted inspection. Unlike other free schools that have failed, where the promoters were new to education or offering a type of education not previously recognised within the state funded system, this is a school run by a group with extensive mainstream school experience, albeit overseas. Perhaps, this goes to show that running schools in England isn’t as easy as some might have thought and that some local authorities of all political persuasions should have been given more credit for their work.

More news on teacher supply

Shortfalls in graduate recruitment to teacher training courses have been reported today. Figures released this morning by the GTTR arm of UCAS when compared against government allocations for teacher training released in August show a likely undershoot in almost all subjects. The worst subjects, where the shortfall may well be around 50%. are Computer Science and Design & Technology both subjects largely shunned by the schools participating in the government’s alternative School Direct Scheme for training teachers. Even in key subjects, such as Mathematics, the shortfall is likely to be in the order of 20%. In Physics it is potentially around 30%.

If the new government School Direct Scheme has also experienced challenges in recruitment we could be looking at the worst outcome for teacher supply for more than a decade. It is time for the DfE to publish the data on acceptances through the School Direct Scheme so the Select Committee can have the full picture when it meets on Wednesday.’

These figures do not include any ‘no shows’ when courses start because candidates are holding places on more than one route or as a result of those who fail the pre-entry literacy and numeracy tests.   The actual figures may be even worse when the DfE takes its census in November.

The UCAS data can be found at:


SUBJECT Shortfall against target






































The DfE allocations for 2013 can be found in DfE Statistical Bulletin 32.2103 issued on 13th August in Table 2b of underlying data.

Crisis, what crisis?

Normally I have a great deal of time for Fiona Millar and her comments about education. However, her column in today’s Guardian (4th September) did raise my hackles somewhat. It all stems from a Local Government Association spokesperson’s remarks yesterday about a ‘crisis’ in school places for primary schools. Now that’s just the sort of story editors have had pencilled in as part of their forward planning for September, and the need for a ‘start of term’ education story, as Fiona knows very well. The LGA spokesperson talked not of a ‘crisis’ this September, and thousands of children still looking for a school place, which seemingly there isn’t, but of one two years down the road in 2015. Now it just so happens that 2015 is an election year, as Fiona Millar is quick to point out, but any September shortfall that year might not be apparent until after a spring election, so where’s the political mileage in that unless you run the story now. The Daily Mail, an unlikely companion for Fiona Millar, but presumably happy to back a Tory Councillor, has also run the story for the past two days with a shocking account that raises the spectre children on a three day week.

There are two years to solve this problem, so it’s possibly a bit early for screaming headlines, especially as councils across the country have been planning for this, as the Cabinet member for Coventry made clear in a BBC local radio discussion I had with him yesterday morning. I suspect the whole thing is an attempt to secure more funding from central government because, again as Fiona points out, councils will find it a challenge to fund the new provision needed from their own resources, especially when faced with the significant drop in overall funding for local government as a whole that we are well aware of by now.

Where I do agree with Fiona is that what used to be an relatively easy planning exercise for most local councils has become more challenging with the addition of free schools, academies – in their various Labour and Tory guises – and UTCs and studio schools plus the ups and downs of the housing market. But London councils have had to manage complex arrangements with cross-boundary transfer for many years. So Fiona, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to say ‘something has gone badly wrong’. It might go wrong in the future, but there is time to prevent that happening. And, by the way, if the Labour government had listened to the London Councils in 2007 it would probably have stopped its policy of building replacement secondary schools and spent the cash on primary school places. However, when the present government moved to do just that, it was faced with a judicial review.

Along with Fiona, I also think the government has to decide who is running our schools, and have written about that issue before. And, as regular readers will know, at present I am more worried about a teacher supply crisis next year than a theoretical school place shortfall in 2015. But, time is running out, especially if you need to build a new school.

Physics crisis looms?

Yesterday the GTTR revealed that only 757 people had applied to train as Physics teachers across England, Wales and Scotland through the GTTR Scheme by the 26th August. Last year, at the same time, the number was 995, or some 24% more than this year. Given the well documented problems with School Direct, or at least well-documented on this blog, the number of new Physics teachers likely to exit training next year may well be substantially fewer than at any point since the sciences were split into separate component subjects some years ago.

Assuming a 75% conversion from application to acceptance, based upon past history from GTTR Annual Reports, that would mean around 550 Physics trainees across the UK against an allocation of just over 600 places in England alone. As there are 495 places available through School Direct in the recent DfE Statistical Bulletin, and early in August School Direct still had more than 350 of these places shown as available, we may be looking at a shortfall of at least a quarter and possibly a third in the number of trainees against the allocation in England alone. Of course, the DfE may have over-allocated this year on the assumption that the first year of School Direct would be challenging as the Scheme coped with handling nearly 10,000 places out of the close on 40,000 total training places available across England.

What might the government have done differently? The main issue probably centres on the Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses. In recent years, as the range of degree subjects has expanded in higher education, candidates for teaching have frequently come forward with some but not sufficient subject knowledge. The Enhancement courses provided a valuable route to increase a candidate’s subject knowledge to a point where they could be accepted for training. Whether the DfE thought that there was a reservoir of suitably knowledgeable candidates waiting to train through School Direct or just wanted the cash for other purposes the scheme has been allowed to wither on the vine: it should be re-started with immediate effect.

Should the government have increased the bursary? There is a danger in doing so that trainees take a dip in earning when entering the profession if the bursary is too high compared with the starting salary for new teachers working outside of London. However, abandoning national pay scales may well see starting salaries increase next summer in ‘shortage’ subjects as schools compete in the market for scarce resources.

How will the government react next year if those schools that failed to recruit through School Direct go looking for a new Physics teacher? Should such schools have equal parity in the market with schools that didn’t participate in School Direct? Should the DfE introduce some form of rationing, as the former Ministry of Education did for teachers emerging from training in the immediate post-war years through the annual Circular Number One?

How are we going to create a world-class education system without sufficient teachers? And, if you think there is a problem in Physics try looking at Design & Technology and Religious Education, neither of which are subjects where Schools have shown much interest in becoming involved in the training process.

Headlines ignore the real story on English and maths

Between the summer of 1963 and January 1966 I took my GCE English five times, eventually passing two Boards at the same time in January 1966 at the sixth attempt. As a result I read today’s story about the need to continue English and maths beyond the age of sixteen with more than a passing interest.

The headlines seem to suggest that those who don’t pass at sixteen drop both subjects. Now I am sure that is true in some cases, but it certainly isn’t for all. The DfE has good evidence of what is happening, and shared it with us in March 2013 as part of Statistical Bulletin 13/2013.


These results may come as a surprise to those reading the BBC and other headlines that seem to suggest everyone who doesn’t pass immediately drops any further study of these subjects. That clearly isn’t the case. Although in 2012 there was a small drop, for the first time in some years, in the percentage achieving both English and maths post-sixteen, it was still around one in six of those without a Level 2 at sixteen, and higher for those young people without special educational needs. As the Bulletin writer observed: ‘The gap in attainment at age 19 between young people with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and those with no SEN continued to widen at each of Level 2, Level 2 with English and maths, and Level 3.’

The failure rate also seemed to be higher in the FE and apprenticeship sectors than in schools; with academies posting a small improvement, although it may not be statistically significant. Perhaps this ought to have been a BiS story rather than a DfE one. One might also ask how well those 16-18 year olds in the care of the Ministry of Justice have fared in improving their literacy and numeracy levels: but that’s another story entirely.

One of the most interesting stories lies in the ethnicity figures. The Bulletin writer states that: ‘The change in the relative performance of the Black summary ethnic group between 16 and 19 at Level 2 is notable. In the [age] 19 in 2012 cohort, attainment of Level 2 in the Black group was 4.6 percentage points lower than the average for all known ethnic groups at age 16, but by age 19 it was 3.1 percentage points above the average.’ Maybe some young people come to recognise the value of education later than others. The challenge now is to work with this group to persuade them of the value of schooling before sixteen.

So, overall, there is still more to be done to achieve better outcomes in the key basic subjects of English and maths for all pupils, but for some this is already a good news story rather than story of a failure of our schools.

Perhaps the real story, and it has become mangled somewhere between the idea and its execution, is those who pass English and maths at Level 2 by sixteen but then drop the subjects for ever. Should we be providing a means for them to continue to enhance their knowledge and understanding, or is GCSE enough? I think not.