Applications to train as a teacher still far too low for comfort

Let’s start with the good news: there isn’t going to be a shortage of PE teachers in 2019. Last month also saw some applications and acceptances for graduate teacher training courses. But, that’s about the good news that I can find from the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances processed by mid-February 2018.

On the downside, a group of subjects are recording either new lows for February when compared with any cycle since the 2013/14 recruitment round or an equal joint low with the figure for February acceptances in the 2013/14 cycle that was the last really poor recruitment round. The list of subjects bumping along the bottom includes: Chemistry; IT; design & technology; mathematics; music; physics, religious education and art.

Applications for primary courses still remain a matter for serious concern, with just 26,430 applications compared with 39,240 in February 2016. Assuming around 2.5 applications per applicants that translates into less than 11,000 applicants for primary places. Acceptance rates amount to 7,320 for primary this February, compared with 10,910 at the same point two years ago in 2016. (Based upon place; conditionally placed and those holding an offer). The only spot of good news is that the number of offers being held is 1,020 this year for primary compared with 990 at this point in 2016. Nevertheless, with around 12,500 primary places to be filled by postgraduates, the current situation isn’t looking good.

Across the secondary courses, total applications of 27,910 are relatively in better shape than primary, since the fall from 2016 is only from 36,560 applications. As a result, applications for secondary courses continue to be above the total of applications for primary courses. However, there is little room for complacency as the following table relating to placed candidates and those holding offers in February and March of recent recruitment rounds for mathematics demonstrates.

Mathematics – the number of candidates accepted or holding offers in recent recruitment rounds

Recruitment round February March
2013/14 920 1140
2014/15 940 1110
2015/16 980 1290
2016/17 900 1160
2017/18 700

Source; UCAS monthly Statistics

In the 2011/12 recruitment cycle, before School Direct had been included in the UCAS process, applications totalled some 34,936 candidates at the February measuring point. This compares with 18,830 applicants domiciled in England recorded this February by UCAS; down from 24,700 in February 2017. Compared with recent years, applications are down from both men and women; all age-groups and from across the country. If there is a glimmer of hope, as noted earlier, it is in the fact that across both primary and secondary sectors the number of offers being held by applicants is above the level of February 2016, although not by any great number.

The DfE’s new TV campaign has now kicked in and, if targeted properly by the agency, this should help to attract some more applicants. However, between now and June, most final year undergraduates will be concentrating on their degrees and not filling in application forms. Hopefully, with the wider economy slowing, some older graduates might start to think teaching is once again a career to consider. This week’s bad news on the retail sector employment front could be good news for teaching, but I wonder how many store assistant are actually graduates?



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:



Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education



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.



New retreat from East of Suez

The Geography Key Stages 1-3 programmes of study published this week rightly starts with an appreciation of the local area. Although requiring all seven year olds to know the names of all seven continents and five oceans seems a bit like setting them up for participation in a pub quiz team or TV quiz game. Perhaps the BBC will revive ‘Top of the Form’. Personally, I would be happy if a child by the age of seven knew what the earth looked like, and that there were masses of land and lots of water. Drilling a seven year old to spell Antarctica doesn’t seem very useful in this day and age.

At Key Stage 2, the opening phrase seems telling; Pupils should extend their knowledge and understanding beyond the local area to include the United Kingdom and Europe, North and South America. So, having learnt of Asia and Oceania by name at Key Stage 1 they can be cheerfully ignored for the next four years with all examples taken from the Western Hemisphere. Hopefully it fits in with a study of the Maya and Aztec civilizations in history. By eleven, every child will no doubt know of Lake Titicaca and volcanoes such as Mauna Loa. They will also know about biomes. I confess that beat me, but fortunately there is a very good entry on Wikipedia including the main classifications. I think I will go with either the Walter or WWF classifications.

So, how will China, Japan, and the commonwealth countries of Africa, Asia and Oceania react to this geopolitical determinism that seemingly ignores them completely during the first six years of schooling in geography across England? Of course, teachers can draw in examples from beyond North & South America, but there seems little incentive to do so. At least Africa and Asia receive a mention at Key Stage 3. Oceania doesn’t seem to, so perhaps it’s not good news for the tourist industry of Australia, as pupils won’t be coming home full of the Barrier reef, the outback or the wonders of the west coast.

Fortunately, I trust teachers together with the powers of modern technology now available to schools and pupils to widen geographical horizons well beyond the narrow confines of these programmes of study. At Key Stage 3, I would have the interactive volcano and earthquake maps always available on my whiteboard or classroom computer. I would encourage pupils to tell me if they saw an interesting event and then the class could discuss it in real time.

The real debate is about what vocabulary of the subject children need to learn in order to help them progress? The capes and bays of Victorian schooling have been replaced by the continents and oceans, and capitals and countries, at a stage when children should be made excited about the subject. The challenge for the non-specialist primary teacher will be how to make geography exciting in this modern age, but still meet the programmes of study. But, if they are not assessed who will care anyway?