Batten down the hatches

The DfE has finally provided the August data on ITT applications. Flagged for the 22nd August publication, the data are now in the public domain. As expected, they make grim reading for anyone at all interested in teacher supply.

At this stage of the year there are two numbers that matter; the absolute number offered a place on a postgraduate ITT course, and how that number relates to the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model (TSM) and its calculation of how many teachers are needed to be trained each year.

First the good news, there are more offers in design and technology than in August last year; nearly 100 more. However, nowhere near enough to meet the probable TSM number, based upon past levels.

Now the bad news. Several subjects are at their lowest level for offers for any year since before the 2013/14 recruitment round. These include:


Religious Education







None of these subjects will recruit enough trainees to meet the likely TSM number.

Physical Education



Will probably recruit enough trainees to meet targets, as should the primary sector, where there are around 12,000 offers. Much depends upon the numbers made offers that fail to turn up when courses commence.

In total, around 24,000 candidates have been recruited, and have either fulfilled all requirements or have ‘conditions pending’. The 13,850 of the 24,000 in the latter category are a worry. There should not be that many at this stage in the cycle. Perhaps course administrators haven’t updated the records during July and August. But it cannot be because candidates are awaiting degree results, so presumably it is either DBS checks or some other administrative issue.

24,000 is still an impressive number, and it should hammer home to Ministers in the new government how important teaching is as a career. With approaching a decade of under-recruitment to training, parts of the school system are now facing serious issues with staffing.

So, how serious is the present situation? In August 2021 there were 46,830 applicants to courses. This August, the number is 38,062. New graduate numbers have dropped from around 14% of the total to 13%, but the decline is greater in percentage terms than the nine per cent overall decline. Teaching is becoming more reliant upon career changers once again.

There have been 5,000 fewer female applicants this year compared with August 2021, and 2,500 fewer men, although the level of applications from men is still higher than it was 30 years ago when applicant numbers struggled to reach the 10,000 level.

While there has been a slight increase in applications for the PG Teaching apprenticeship route into teaching, some other routes are below last year. HE is down from 55,000 to less than 53,000 but SCITT are only marginally down from 15,000 to just over 14,600. The School Direct Salaried route has attracted less than 6,000 applications, compared with some 9,000 last year. With just 760 offers, this route is no longer of any more than passing interest in supplying new teachers to the profession.

If there is another spark of good news it is that applications to courses in London at 27,460 this August are only marginally below the 27,600 recorded last August. Might this be where a significant number of career changers are seeking to enter teaching. Should more ITT places be allocated to the providers with courses in the capital?

This is the last set of data because courses commence in September, and whoever is Secretary of State in September would be well advised to seek an early briefing from the newly appointed SRO for the ITT Reform Project as to how he will ensure sufficient high-quality teachers for all our state-funded schools. The current recruitment campaign isn’t working, and relying upon a recession to make teaching more attractive as a career is akin to crossing your fingers and hoping.

Then end of this cycle of recruitment marks my 35th year of studying trends in teacher recruitment, ever since I was appointed to the leadership team at Oxford Brookes then newly formed School of Education.

The next number that really matters will be the ITT Census, to be published late in the autumn, when the whole reality of the 2023 recruitment round will become apparent to schools.

My advice to schools, don’t wait until then, start planning now for a challenging recruitment round in 2023, whether for January or September appointments.

Muck up or conspiracy?

In August 2013, when this blog was in its infancy, I incurred the wrath of the DfE by suggesting that there was going to be a teacher supply crisis.

As reported by this blog on 14th August 2013 “A DfE spokesperson, helpfully anonymous, is quoted by the Daily Mail today as saying of my delving into the current teacher training position that there was no teacher shortage, adding: ‘This is scaremongering and based on incomplete evidence.’”

Regular readers know whose view of the situation was correct.

Why am I reprising this quote for nine years ago? Well, normally around the middle of the month the DfE, following the time-honoured tradition set by first the GTTR and then UCAS, publishes the monthly update on applications and offer to postgraduate ITT.

The DfE duly created the data on the 25th of July this year, but at least as far as my browser is concerned, the data didn’t appear on their web site. June’s data remained the latest in the public domain as I write this blog.  Monthly statistics on initial teacher training (ITT) recruitment – GOV.UK ( hopefully, by the time you read this the July data will be fully in the public domain. (The DfE updated their website with the July data sometime the same day that this post was published – thank you DfE.)

Now comes the key question: is this lack of transparency due to a processing fault within the DfE or is it due to not wanting the data widely known? Truly, the data on ‘offers’ so far this year is shocking.

Looking back at the period between the 2012/13 round of application for postgraduate ITT courses, and the 2021/22 round, it is clear that the total of ‘Recruited’ plus ‘Conditions Pending’ plus ‘Deferrals’ plus ‘Received and Offer’ are disastrously low in many secondary subjects this year. Leaving aside, Modern Foreign Languages, where the methodology is different this year, we see

Art, history, geography, chemistry and business studies no longer recording new records or offers and, in most cases, recording insufficient numbers to meet the expected Teacher Supply Model number. Only in history and art will there be sufficient numbers, and even in history the over-recruitment is likely to be less than in the past couple of years.

However, it is in

Religious Education






Where the numbers of ‘offers’ look most worrying.

Jack Worth of NfER predicted earlier this year that fewer than 20% of the physics places might be filled this year in a presentation to the APPG on the Teaching Profession. His prediction now looks like it might well come about. All of the subjects in this list are hitting new lows for ‘offers’ since that 2012/13 recruitment round. The implications for recruitment of teachers, assuming the schools have the funds to recruit in 2023, look bleak.

Design and technology remain one of the few relatively better performing subjects, with more offers than last year. But, sadly, not enough to meet the required target.

With less than two months to go before courses start, and some providers closed down for the summer, there is unlikely to be a significant upturn in these numbers.

The DfE might well want to ask about conversion levels between application and offers and whether more risk might be taken with some marginal applications. The DfE will also need to ensure that they don’t de-accredit successful providers, as there is no guarantee potential applicants would choose another provider.

I do wonder whether the two contenders for Prime Minister will have anything to say about this issue, and whether anyone will even ask them?

Fewer than 400 physics teachers join state schools in 2021

If you train too many teachers in some subjects, then then a higher percentage won’t find jobs. That’s the message for government from the latest ITT completer profiles.  Initial teacher training performance profiles, Academic Year 2020/21 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (

Final year postgraduate trainee outcomes by subject for the 2020/21 academic year

SubjectTotal traineesPercentage awarded QTSPercentage yet to completePercentage not awarded QTSPercentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state-funded school
Design & Technology66691%6%3%82%
Business Studies38187%7%6%75%
Religious Education65188%7%6%75%
Modern Foreign Languages1,65091%5%4%72%
Art & Design91990%7%3%69%
Physical Education1,59095%3%2%64%
Source DfE

Of those awarded QTS, and not shown teaching in a state-funded school, this does not always mean that they have abandoned teaching as a profession, as they may still be in teaching either in a Sixth Form or FE college or in the private sector, either in England or elsewhere in the world.

However, it seems highly unlikely that 576 PE teachers are doing so, while just 108 design and technology teachers took the same route. However, it does seem possible and indeed likely that almost half the 69 Classics teachers trained at the public expense are teaching outside the state-funded sector. Apart from computing and classics, all the subjects in from Primary to the foot of the table are subjects where recruitment into training might have been close to or exceeded the DfE training number presumption from the Teacher Supply Model.  

Training teachers for the private sector may be a cheap price to pay if it relieves the State of the need to fund the education of pupils whose parents are prepared to pay for their education. Although there are other arguments against private education.

However, if the trainees that moved into the private school sector are either used to teach pupils from overseas or even more, now teaching is a global profession, they move to a school overseas to teach that is a net loss to the Exchequer. This is a point Mr Sunak might like to ponder following his reference to selective schools in the debate with Conservative Party members last evening.

Private schools may also account for the reason why physics had only 73% of the 500 or so potential completers working in state-funded schools. That’s less than 400 new teachers of physics for the state-school sector in 2020/21.

End ITT deserts

Whatever else the re-accreditation process being undertaken by the DfE across the ITT sector achieves, it must end the ITT deserts so that schools across England can rely upon a flow of new entrants into teaching across the whole gamut of secondary curriculum subjects and the differential needs of the primary sector. Attention should also be paid to the needs of the special school sector and pupils with SEND in mainstream schools. The lack of a genuine plan for the training of teachers for pupils with special needs is a scandal than needs highlighting.

However, the needs of the secondary school sector are just as pressing. TeachVac, as well as the DfE and even the tes have built up extensive databases of teacher vacancies that should inform the discussions about where provision needs to be located.

Ever since the cull of providers in the late 1970s and early 1980s there has been a policy of rewarding quality of provision regardless of where that provision was located. The thinking presumably was that ‘trainees will move to the jobs’, so location of the preparation is less important than quality of the preparation. There may also have been a thought that providers of training could partner with schools in localities where there was no training provider.

With the coming of school-based training and employment-based routes, there might also have been an assumption that schools finding recruitment challenging could enter the market and train their own teachers. This produced a confused approach that tried to marry up a top-down model of place allocations based on quality with a ‘bottom-up’ approach on need for teachers that led to a disorganised picture.

In 2013, Chris Waterman joined me in producing a book of maps showing the locations of the various providers, and the routes into teaching that they offered. I have always been surprised that the DfE website on teaching as a career doesn’t offer such a map alongside its rudimentary search facility that only indicates whether a provider has places for a specific course in a manner unhelpful to applicants. The DfE did better in 2013 with its original School Direct application process.

The re-accreditation process provides an opportunity to look in detail at the national picture based upon actual needs for teachers that has been lost since the decision in the 1960s to take teacher preparation away from the employing local authorities and faith communities and transfer preparation into higher education. Wise though that move was in many respects, once the DfE started to let a thousand flowers bloom in the teacher preparation market this ended any national coherence around the provision in relation to the needs of schools.

The situation has become worse in areas where state schools are competing with private schools for the same pool of teachers and trainees. Turning a blind eye to that fact doesn’t help state schools, especially when there is a shortage of new entrants into the profession.

Whatever else the re-accreditation process achieves, if it doesn’t take into account the needs of schools across the whole of England for a reliable flow of new entrants across all subjects and phases it will have failed in what should be one if its major purposes.

More bad news on ITT

Yesterday, The DfE published the ITT applications and acceptances data for the period up to the 20th June thus year. In this post I look at the acceptances for June 2020 compared with those in June 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck. By 2019, there was already concern about the decline in interest in teaching as a career. The pandemic to some extent reversed that trend and provided teaching with a recruitment boost. But, was it a false dawn?

The following table compares the June 2019 UCAS data on ‘offer’ with that from the DfE data issued yesterday.

Subjects2018/192021/22Difference in offers
Religious Education400304-96
Design and technology450355-95
Business studies15019747
Art and design41046858
Physical education12901469179
Sources: UCAS and DfE

On this basis, as I warned in my previous post, 2023 will be another challenging labour market for schools. Only in the same three subjects where there is least concern in 2022: history, art and physical education, is there likely to be anywhere near sufficient supply of new entrants unless there is a sudden rush over the next two months that frankly looks unlikely at this point in time.

The science number is based on an aggregation of totals from the three sciences and doesn’t represent whole new category of potential trainees. The most significant declines in the number of offers since 2019 are English, geography and computing. However, at these levels most subjects won’t reach their Teacher Supply Model number unless there is a significant input from other sources such as Teach First. I am not sure how likely that will be as they don’t publish their data in the same way to the general public whatever they share with the DfE. There are currently more ‘offers’ in mathematics than there are in English and at this level, English departments may struggle with recruitment in 2023.

Overall, there have been 32,609 applicants by 20th June. This compares with 37,790 applicants domiciled in England that had applied through UCAS by June 21st 2021. There are 2,229 ‘recruited’ applicants in 2022, when there were ,5830 ‘placed’ according to the UCAS data in June 2021. The conditional placed or conditions pending groups are 18,363 this year compared with 23,620 in June 2021. Many of these will be awaiting degree results, and this number will reduce next month just as the ‘recruited’ number’ will show an increase. Interestingly, the number that have declined an offer this year is shown as 760 compared with 370 in June last year. Another straw in the wind of how challenging recruitment has become.  However, withdrawn applications are down from 1,520 to just 1,002.

There must be a concern that applications – as opposed to applicants – in the South East provider region are down from 14,390 to 10,795. This is the region with the largest proportion of vacancies each year, and where the private sector vies most strongly with state schools of all types for teachers. An analysis of acceptances by subject by provider region would help schools identify the seriousness of this decline, and whether it is in both the primary and secondary sectors?

Applications overall are down for both sectors, with primary down from 48,520 last June to 39,712 this June, and secondary down from 61,480 to 48,047, a very worrying reduction. School Direct salaried continues to be replaced by the PG apprenticeship route that has had 3,864 applications this year compared to 5,315 for the School Direct Salaried route. However, similar numbers have been placed on both routes, at around 500 trainees on each route.

With some schools ceasing recruitment as term comes towards its end, it will be up to higher education to recruit most of the additional applicants over the summer. Will those providers threatened with not being re-accredited show the same appetite to recruit as they would if their future was secure in teacher education? The DfE must surely how so as every extra trainee is a welcome bonus for schools in 2023 struggling to recruit teachers.

Blame it on Easter

When design and technology is the only key subject recording more offers to would-be graduates wanting to train as a teacher in April 2022 than at the same point in the 2021 recruitment into training round, you know something unusual is happening.

Being charitable, one might ascribe the lack of offers to candidates to a combination of the timing of Easter this year and the imminent announcement when the data were collected of the 2022 ITT Training targets by the DfE. Apart from design and technology every secondary subject that I have been tracking since the 2013/14 round is recording lower offer numbers than in April 2021.

Of course, ‘offers’ defined as those in the ‘recruited’, ‘conditions pending’, ’deferred from a previous cycle’ and ‘received an offer’ don’t tell the whole story. Trends in applications are also a key barometer as they aren’t influenced so much by targets although Easter does affect when candidates apply, as does the forthcoming examination season for finalists that might not yet have applied to train as a teacher.

Applications to train as a primary teacher reached 31,925 by mid-April this year. The table shows how that number compares with recent years.


Source TeachVac from UCAS and DfE data

So, applications are in-line with pre-pandemic lows for April. As the data on courses with vacancies has revealed, (see my blog post on that topic) this is not enough to fill courses across the country and the government cannot take the primary sector for granted.

Overall applications to the secondary sector courses are a worry and the government should take notice.

Applications for Secondary CoursesMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust

 Source TeachVac from UCAS and DfE data

Only in 2018 and 2019 were applications lower at this point in the cycle. Hopefully, the data for May will show closer to the 90,000 number that is required to provide sufficient choice in many subjects.

Overall, some 37% of applications – note applications not applicants – have resulted in some sort of ‘offer’. According to Table 10.1 in the DfE data the percentage for design and technology is over 40%, but even that percentage won’t be high enough to ensure the target in the Teacher Supply Model is met.

 I don’t know why the DfE hasn’t issued the normal mid-month update containing this data, but it is available on their web site at Initial teacher training application statistics for courses starting in the 2022 to 2023 academic year – Apply for teacher training – GOV.UK (

Ministers and their Aides may well want to reflect upon this data and its implications. Keeping fingers crossed that graduate unemployment might be on the rise and teaching looks like a safe bet in any economic downturn is one possible strategy, but at present it still looks like a gamble with the education of the nation’s children that has too risky odds. The data for May will be awaited with real interest.

Good news about Psychology

Two thirds of ITT courses offering psychology via the DfE website no longer have vacancies. Nearly half the courses training teachers in Latin, and four out of ten of the physical education courses also no longer have vacancies, as of 4th May. That’s the good news.

At the other end of the scale, between 90-92% of the science courses still have at least one vacancy, with little difference between courses for biology, chemistry or physics teachers despite some generous incentives to teach the subjects. Most of the remaining courses have more than three quarters of courses still recruiting, including courses for primary school teachers.

This data is interesting because it reveals recruitment issues are widespread across England and not just confined to a few regions. If the latter was the case, then it would be likely that courses in some regions would be showing ‘no vacancies’ by now. Generally, that doesn’t appear to be the case except in psychology and the small number of other subjects were above average numbers of courses have no vacancies.

The next big challenge comes in June, when new graduates have to decide their future. Will the worsening economic outlook cause a recruitment bounce such as was seen in 2020 during the height of the first wave of the covid pandemic? Perhaps we will have to wait until 2023 before the labour market for graduates tightens sufficiently for graduates to turn to teaching.

Can we start to suggest that the longest period of teacher shortages might be drawing to an end with a spectacular array of unfilled places in 2022.

However, to really solve the teacher supply crisis, at least at recruitment into training of postgraduates, the profession has to look attractive to graduates, and the recent hike to more than 12% on loan repayments may well act as a deterrent. The outcome of this year’s STRB review of pay and conditions will also be crucial, as will be the willingness of the government to accept the Report.

The one good note for the government is the reduction in the size of the primary school population and thus, a likely requirement for fewer teachers in the next few years. This will especially be the case if the hard Funding Formula causes small schools to close in any numbers, making for more efficient class sizes.

Pupil numbers in the secondary sector will also level out, if not decline, in a few years’ time and that will also potentially take the pressure of training numbers for the secondary sector. However, if teachers continue to switch to tutoring or teaching overseas, then any decline in the need for teachers from a reduction in pupil numbers will be offset by a growing demand for other reasons.  

In the meantime, persuading new graduates to select teacher training might be where the government can best spend its marketing budget over the next couple of months.

Urgent Summit on Teacher Supply needed

45,000 teacher vacancies were advertised so far in 2022. There were only 65,000 vacancies advertised during the whole of 2021, so demand in 2022 is much higher than in recent years. The pool of teachers to fill these vacancies has largely been exhausted, and secondary schools seeking teachers of most subjects, apart for PE, history, drama and art, will struggle to find candidates to appoint during the remainder of 2022 regardless of wherever the school is located in England.

The data, correct up to Friday 29th April was collected by TeachVac, the National Vacancy Service for all teachers. The situation in terms of teacher supply at the end of April is worse than in any of the eight years that TeachVac has been collecting data on teacher vacancies.  

Schools can recruit teachers from various sources, including those on initial teacher training courses where they are not already committed to a school (Teach First and School Direct Salaried trainees are employed by specific schools); teachers moving schools and the broad group classified as ‘returners’ to teaching. This last group includes that previously economically inactive, usually as a result of a career break to care for young children or elderly relatives, plus those switching from other sectors of education including further education or returning from a period teaching overseas.

In extremis, where schools cannot find any candidates from these routes, a school may employ an ‘unqualified teacher’. This year that may include Ukrainian teachers displaced by the war as well as anyone else willing to take a teaching post. This was the route that I entered teaching in 1971. Generally, such teachers need considerable support in the early stages of their careers.

Normally, the labour market for teachers is a ‘free market’ with vacancies advertised and anyone free to apply. Can such a situation be allowed to continue? The DfE should convene a summit of interested parties to discuss the consequences of the present lack of supply of teachers facing schools across England looking to recruit a teacher in a wide range of subjects.

On the agenda should be, the effect of a lack of supply on the levelling up agenda; the costs of trying to recruit teachers; how best to use the remaining supply of PE, history, art, drama and primary sector trained teachers to make maximum use of scare resources, and how to handle any influx of ‘unqualified’ teachers.

The data for geography teacher vacancies, not normally seen as a shortage subject, reveals the seriousness of the current position for schools still seeking to fill a vacancy for September 2022 or faced with an unexpected vacancy in the autumn for January 2023.

jobs 2015jobs 2016jobs 2017jobs 2018jobs 2019jobs 2020jobs 2021jobs 2022
Source: TeachVac

With recruitment into training for courses starting in September 2022, already under pressure the issue of teacher supply is not just one for this year. Unless teaching is made a more attractive career and steps are taken to ensure maximum effective use of the teachers available then some children’s education will be compromised and their future career choices put in jeopardy.

Keeping science teachers in schools

This is an interesting article written with the support of The Gatsby Foundation on the effect of special retention payments on keeping mathematics and science teachers in state schools Paying early career science teachers 5% more keeps significant numbers in the classroom | Education | Gatsby Personally, I wish researchers would not talk about teachers leaving the profession when they mean no longer working in stated funded schools. These teachers might be working in private schools, the further education sector or Sixth Form Colleges whose employees are not captured in the annual Teacher Workforce Survey.

My other concern with this interesting piece of research is the regional bias to the data. As a result of using specific payments rather than the generic use of retention payments, most of the areas surveyed are in either Yorkshire and The Humber region or in the North East of England. The latter region offers teachers few opportunities for transfer between schools due to the limited number of vacancies each year compared with other regions according to TeachVac data www.teachvac.couk .

The fact of reduced numbers of vacancies on offer might mask a group of teachers staying in state schools, but moving to a different school. In Constable et al (1999) a research report for the University of Northumbria on the supply of teachers of physics, the ability to teach ‘A’ level physics early in a teaching career was an important motivation for teachers, as was the opportunity to teach mathematics rather than the other sciences for physicists when not timetabled to teach physics.

In a part of the country, such as the North East, with relatively little other graduate opportunities, especially compared to say the London region where not only are they many private school vacancies but also a buoyant graduate market, it would have been interesting to review the cohort in this Gatsby funded research with say a similar cohort of Teach First trainees to review any differences in the economic benefits between classroom based salary supported training and post-training retention incentives.

Of course, keeping teachers in schools is only part of the battle. Such policies help the schools where these teachers work but do nothing for other schools suffering as a result of the overall shortage of teachers in say, physics. Do subject enhancement courses that attract more recruits have a better economic return or could perhaps retaining other science teachers or even mathematics teachers to teach physics be more cost-effective than offering higher salaries to those that have chosen to teacher physics. Understanding, as Constable et al tried to do, what motivates physics teachers either to stay or to leave ibn more general terms might help devise new policies to overcome teacher shortages.

Tracking expertise might also be helped if Qualified Teacher Status was tied to specific subjects and only temporary accreditation to teach a subject was granted to those without the appropriate training and subject knowledge.  This might help keep better track of where shortages are to be found.

Forget the White paper: the crisis is now

There must be a lot of nervous secondary school headteachers at the start of this Easter break. Over the past two weeks TeachVac has recorded 7,800 new vacancies for teachers. These vacancies have been posted by schools across England, but especially by schools in the South East Region. Nationally, the total is a record for any two-week period during the past eight years that TeachVac has been collecting data on vacancies from state and private schools across England.

I can confidently predict that not all these vacancies will be filled, and that some will be filled by teachers with ‘less than ideal’ subject knowledge. So bad is the situation nationally that one major international recruitment agency is offering a rereferral bonus of £250, presumably to attract new teachers to its books to help fill vacancies. With the size of TeachVac’s list of candidates that are matched each day with vacancies that puts an interesting valuation on the company.

Seriously though, TeachVac has an index that compares recorded vacancies with the reported number of trainees from the DfE’s census. This system has used a consistent methodology for eight years and is now also showing signs of how much stress the system is under. Not for twenty years, during what was the severe recruitment challenge around the millennium, have secondary schools, especially in parts of the south of England, but not exclusively in that area of the country, faced recruitment challenges on the present scale.

As readers of previous posts will know, the intake into training for September 2022 isn’t looking healthy either at present as was confirmed in the chat during the recent APPG webinar on the White Paper.

With fewer partners of EU citizens probably coming to work here as teachers while their partners used to work elsewhere in the economy, and the international school scene not yet affected by the geo-politics of the moment, it is probably correct to talk of an emerging crisis now reaching most parts of the curriculum outside of schools recruiting primary school teachers and physical education, history and art teachers in secondary schools.

The predictions about any crisis and its depth compared to previous years will be confirmed if there are a large number of re-advertisements in early May, especially if they come with added incentives such as TLRs and Recruitment and Retention bonuses as schools seek to ensure timetables are fully staffed for September 2022.

One casualty of the present situation may well be the levelling up agenda in a market-based labour market. All else being equal, where would a teacher choose to work, a school that is challenging or one that is less demanding?  Last spring, I wrote a blog about the challenges schools in the West Midlands with high levels of free school meals faced in recruiting teachers when compared with other schools in the same area. TeachVac is again collecting this data for schools across England.  However, with this level of vacancies we won’t have the funds to analyse the data this year.