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 (explore-education-statistics.service.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.

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.

Pick a teacher by computer

There’s a story on the BBC news site today about AI being used by some companies in their staff recruitment process. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55932977 Well, that’s nothing new. Maybe that it is just that the technology has become jazzier and snazzier that it used to be.

Way back in the 1980s, I recall a US company telling me it could select who would be a good primary school teacher on the basis of a few questions answered over the telephone. They told me it worked for selecting ice-hockey players, so would work for primary school teachers.

In the mid-1990s, during my brief period as a government adviser, I headed off another challenge to abolish interviews for all aspiring teachers, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Success was due to being joined in support by a prominent HMI of the day. Together we made the case for interviews, even though it was both time-consuming and costly.

I would not want the DfE to suggest the automated route for teacher selection be used by the new Institute of Teaching its role in both initial teacher training preparation and professional development. Imagine being judged as to whether you could be funded for a professional development course on the basis of playing a computer game.

Well, I suppose, if you think about the concept, it not all that different to how some schools and local authorities still select pupils for secondary schools at age eleven. Interestingly, we haven’t heard much about deprivation and the pandemic on the selection of pupils at age eleven, especially in the Home Counties that still cling in some areas to the Victorian notion that pupils’ life chances can be determined at age eleven.

Of course, when there are a lot of job applications, as during a recession, there is a tendency to use tactics to save time in the recruitment process. In the early days of postcodes, I recall two headteachers behaving differently. One rejected every application with a postcode as being pedantic: the other rejected everyone without such a code as not being thorough. Candidates had no idea which approach was going to see them through the next stage.

Still, the increase in applications for teaching posts, reported recently by NfER, is something this blog predicted at the start of the pandemic. Interestingly, vacancies for teachers so far in February are higher than they were in January, but the total for the year is still down on last year.

Judging by the vacancies on the DfE site, support staff vacancies are down even more than those for teachers. I suppose there is less need for classroom assistants and cover supervisors while pupils largely remain at home. Senior posts, such as those for finance officers and business managers are still cluttering up what is badged as a teacher vacancy site.

Despite persuading a few morel local authorities to link their job boars to the DfE site, it still carries far fewer vacancies than TeachVac www.teachac.co.uk and is of no use to teachers that want a post in an independent school.

Teacher Education and Professional Development

Teacher Education and Professional Development

By John Howson

This first appeared in 2014 as a chapter in 21st century Education: A Social Liberal Approach

Edited by Helen Flynn and published by the social Liberal Forum

In view of the DfE’s announcement yesterday about an Institute of Teaching I thought it was worth dusting it down and reminding myself what I wrote all those years ago.


Qualified Teacher Status should be restricted in the subjects and phases where teachers are allowed to practice.

Teacher Training, and especially training for primary teachers, needs a radical overhaul. All teachers should be expected to study to a Masters level.

A College of Teachers should be established to allow a professional voice for teachers.

All teachers should have access to funds for professional development, and the College of Teachers should help devise suitable programmes to meet the needs of all teachers.

Keep in touch and re-training opportunities for those taking time out of the classroom should be established to help those wishing to return after a career break to do so without any loss of expertise or seniority.

Teacher should be a reserved occupational title only allowed to be used by those with current Qualified Teacher Status.


Liberal Democrats won’t achieve anything in education without the help of those who work in our schools. There are two key challenges facing schools during the next parliament that no government can duck: coping with the largest increase in the primary school population since the 1970s, and ensuring that the first increase in the learning leaving age for more than 40 years brings positive benefits to students, communities and the wider economy.

How we deal with these demands whilst ensuring a more representative and less divisive schooling system will reflect our ability as a Party to translate our values into actions. Nowhere will this be clearer than in the fields of teacher education and professional development. In this section I propose new arrangements for initial teacher preparation programmes; a discussion about arrangements for the transfer from trainee to employment; and a programme of staff development that recognises the need for self-renewal and development throughout the working life of a teacher.

Teacher Education

It is worth recalling that schooling alone, even without the further and higher education sectors, is a large-scale enterprise in England. Currently about 40,000 people are on different types of courses to become a teacher: about 6,000 are undergraduates, and the remainder graduates. Overall, these trainees represent more than a third of the current size of the British land army before its recent downsizing. Overall, there are probably around half a million teachers working in state and private schools across England in any one year. Most make teaching their career for life, if they last beyond their first five years in the profession, and, despite the frequent talk of ‘many careers in a lifetime’, most start teaching as their first career.

Government policy for the teaching profession was set by the coalition in the 2010 White Paper, ‘The Importance of Teaching’. It is not clear what, if any input Liberal Democrats played in this White Paper that followed hard on the heels of the 2010 Academies Act, but it marked a determination to shift training away from higher education and into schools. A detailed analysis suggests that the model proposed was very secondary school centred, with little thought for the needs of teachers seeking to train for the primary school sector. The House of Commons Select Committee on Education in reviewing teacher education said that Partnership between schools and universities is likely to provide the highest-quality initial teacher education, the content of which will involve significant school experience but include theoretical and research elements as well as in the best systems internationally and in much provision here. That view seems to have cut little ice with the coalition government.

Too often ignored in this debate are the training needs of those seeking to enter the teaching profession. Teacher preparation programmes will only be fit for purpose if they successfully turn those who start such courses into successful teachers. Starting with the needs of trainees rather than schools or higher education should be the key to a successful training programme.

To be a successful teacher requires a range of different qualities but, at least in the secondary sector, there ought to be a minimum level of subject knowledge equivalent to two years of an honours degree. Anyone without this basic level of knowledge should be offered Subject knowledge Enhancement courses to allow them to acquire sufficient knowledge. Even those with the requite degree may still lack expertise in areas of the school curriculum in their subject and ways should be found to allow them to continue to acquire such additional knowledge. This programme would allow for Qualified Teacher Status to be restricted to specific subjects and phases rather than continue to be generic as at present where a teacher with QTS can teach anything to anyone at any level of schooling. The fact that more than 20% of those teaching some Mathematics in our schools do not have a qualification above ‘A’ level in the subject may explain why many children neither enjoy the subject nor do well in it.

Qualified Teacher Status should be restricted in the subjects and phases where teachers are allowed to practice.

However, it is in preparing teachers for the primary sector that most attention needs to be paid. The present post-graduate course attempts to cram the equivalent of a quart into a pint pot. Many curriculum areas receive scant attention, and there is no guarantee that the time in school will effectively dovetail in developing the time spent on the programmes outside the classroom. It is time for a thorough overhaul of how primary teachers are prepared. In the first instance, the undergraduate training route should be replaced by a wider first degree programme that would prepare graduates to work in a wider range of services including youth and social work as well as teaching. The specific training to be a teacher would be entirely postgraduate. Such a new degree would prevent undue early specialisation among those entering university straight from school.  It would also avoid the bizarre situation created by the coalition whereby graduates wanting to become a teacher are subject to a minimum degree standard, but no such standard is imposed on undergraduates. As with the secondary sector, where there are already virtually no undergraduate teacher preparation courses, graduates of the new courses would not be licensed to teach at any level in the primary school, but would be certified to teach at a particular Key Stage.

Overall, graduate training would be on a two year model leading to a Masters degree with the possibility of appropriate credit against the subject components of secondary subject training for those with appropriate honours degrees.

Teacher Training, and especially training for primary teachers, needs a radical overhaul. All teachers should be expected to study to a Masters level.

The partnership model for teacher preparation that developed during the 1990s has generally served the profession well, with Ofsted recognising that teachers are better prepared than in the past. However, if we are going to maintain national standards for teaching, it is imperative that there is a body that can offer support and guidance in this area and oversee standards independent of government. The unfortunate abolition of the General Teaching Council in England was a short-sighted and politically inspired move. The creation of a new College of Teachers with oversight of the profession and responsibility for determining standards of entry to the profession is an urgent requirement. Such a body should be independent of, but accountable to, government. It should have a strong research ethos and assist in bringing together the best practice in teacher preparation from around the world as well as working to develop such practice in this country. Not only could the College provide professional status for teachers but it would also provide a centre for determining effective career development in a manner that the present National College has seemed unable to do effectively outside of its original remit of leadership development.

Professional Development

A College of Teachers should be established to allow a professional voice for teachers.

A lack of coherent professional development has been one of the key shortcomings of the present management of the teaching profession. Although the pressures created by the addition of extra pupils will make it difficult to fund a comprehensive programme of professional development during the next decade there should be funding for a number of hours of personal development each year. The present five days allocated for school-funded training should be used for development related to the needs of the school, and should be linked to the use of accredited trainers. Teachers in their first year of employment should be mentored and provided with a reduced timetable, as at present. In addition, provision should be made for the professional development of those either not currently employed but seeking work as a teacher or employed on temporary contracts. These groups should be offered five days paid training a year including travelling expenses.

In addition to the five in-school training days, teachers as professionals should be expected to undertake other forms of professional development. The College of Teachers should be responsible for research and development of the best practice in on-line learning building upon the experience gained with the TeachersTV experiment and current developments within both the higher education and the private sector. For teachers with more than five years’ experience, the State should be prepared to fund part-time Masters’ degrees in pedagogy. In addition, funding should be available for middle leadership training to meet the needs of schools.

All teachers should recognise the changes that technology has wrought on society over the past four decades and that methods of learning for all are not immune to such developments. Whether it is the infant with the ‘tablet’ they already think they know how to use when they arrive at school or the sixth former studying an open access course at Harvard alongside their ‘A’ levels, the notion of the role of the teacher is already being challenged. Elsewhere in this book the view of teachers as ‘facilitators’ of learning, partially, but not entirely, a secondary inspired notion, must cause everyone to reflect about how teachers are prepared for the learning environment, and the need for those teachers already in the profession to constantly challenge their thinking about teaching and learning.  We need a profession that is supported to be open and questioning about how to educate the next generation as well as constantly reflecting upon their practice in the classroom.

All teachers should have access to funds for professional development, and the College of Teachers should help devise suitable programmes to meet the needs of all teachers.

Children with special educational needs should have access to the very best learning that the teaching profession can offer. All too often at present that is not the case, and such schools often have higher vacancy rates and less well-qualified staff than schools in general. A funded programme of training for teachers that want to work with such pupils should be widely available, and managed on a regional basis. This programme would include provision of SENCO training and oversight of the provision of Educational Psychologists. It would also cover training for support for those working in Virtual Schools and learning centres.

After a number of years of teaching some classroom teachers wish to specialise in other areas such as guidance, both pastoral and career orientated, or in the wider role of a counsellor. Others teachers may wish to pass their knowledge on to the next generation of teachers as advisory teachers, advisers, or helping with the preparation of the next generation of teachers. Career opportunities are haphazard, and training for such positions unclear. The government should work with the College of Teachers to develop a career route for this important group of future leaders of the profession. Teachers can certainly play a more important part in the assessment of their pupils. The College of Teachers could work to create chartered assessors with the responsibility for more internal assessment and less dependence of the marking of outside markers whose judgements are constantly being challenged. If a new lecturer at a university can mark the critical paper in a the degree examinations of a final year student we ought to be able to trust a competent and trained teacher to achieve the same degree of integrity and objectiveness with their pupil’s work. Moderation would remain necessary, but the qualification of a chartered teacher assessor should be one that every classroom teacher should aspire to achieve. As a by-product it might reduce the cost of external examinations or even do away with the need for such an expensive system at sixteen now that the education participation age has been raised to Eighteen.

In a profession where two thirds of the teachers are female and half the profession is below the age of thirty-five, it is likely that a significant number of teachers will, at any point in time, either be on maternity leave or taking a career break. This group represent a valuable resource for our schools. However, their professional development is often neglected during their time away from teaching. It would seem a sensible investment to offer both ‘keep in touch’ arrangements, and the opportunity for formal professional development during any sustained period away from the classroom. One result of this might be that QTS, which is currently held for life once granted except in very limited circumstances, would only be retained on participation in approved professional development. Once relinquished QTS would only be regained following a period of certified re-training offered by a training provider.

Keep in touch and re-training opportunities for those taking time out of the classroom should be established to help those wishing to return after a career break to do so without any loss of expertise or seniority.

One major problem with the present system of training and employment is that apart from those training through School Direct Salaried scheme, and on Teach First, teachers are not guaranteed a job after qualification. This lack of a guarantee of work might not have been of concern when the State funded teacher preparation courses, but now that those not guaranteed jobs are required to fund their training through the payment of tuition fees of up to £9,000, and in some cases receive no bursary support, this may prove to be a disincentive to train as a teacher, especially in a buoyant economy. It is time to look at alternative arrangements that allow either a salary for all during training, as in many other graduate training programmes, or the repayment of fees for those who remain in teaching for more than a set period of time. While the latter option might seem the more appealing to the Treasury, it could well fall foul of equal opportunities legislation. The saving from not needing to train more teachers than required might well make the funding of a salaried scheme affordable, especially if the undergraduate route was abolished at the same time. Any shortfall in training numbers can be filled through returners and those entering teaching with overseas qualifications or from another sector such as further education.

There are many other workers employed in schools these days. Their need for training and professional development should not be overlooked. Indeed, although many possess professional and administrative skills in their own right, it is important for them to understand the context within which they work. Whether as ‘learning assistants’; clerical or administrative staff; or in other roles; they should be offered the opportunity for regular professional development. Indeed, some, especially learning assistants, may wish to eventually progress to become qualified teachers. The opportunity to progress in this manner should be an essential part of a professional development framework.

The challenge for any government is to provide a coherent framework for those seeking to enter the profession as well as for serving teachers within a rapidly changing environment of the governance of education. I reject the view that teachers can be recruited with the need for no training at all. Indeed, the term ‘teacher’ should become a protected professional term, and only be allowed for those with Qualified Teacher Status. There are plenty of other terms such as instructor, tutor, lecturer, mentor and even preceptor that can be used to help parents and pupils distinguish the status of those responsible for the education process. The choice for schools and their promoters would then be whether to remain independent or to accept the standards of teacher preparation required for funding set down by the State. It may well be that some of the present ‘free schools’ funded by the State might not accept the need for training. Particular issues arise where the schools, such as those following the Montessori methods wish to receive state funding. With QTS more narrowly defined than at present, it should be possible to create certification that allows for such possibilities.

In a society where schooling by the State is not mandatory but the default option a significant private sector has continued to flourish for a variety of reasons: indeed, it now represent a significant generator of foreign income for the country as well as often being a socially divisive factor in society, although the ability of parents of children at state funded schools to but private tuition shows that it is as much a matter of the gap between the richest and poorest in society as it is the structure of the school system. Nevertheless, private schools often recruit teachers trained at the public expense, just as consultants in the Health Service undertaking private work use knowledge gained from training and experience funded by the State. The move to schools working with trainees and then employing them at the end of their training as exemplified by Teach First and School Direct might help to reduce the direct cost to Society of training teachers for the private sector, but is unlikely ever to eradicate the practice. What is critical is to ensure that there are sufficient teachers to satisfy the overall demand as, when there has been a shortage, the private sector has the ability to buy the teachers it needs in a manner that publicly funded schools do not.   

Teacher should be a reserved occupational title only allowed to be used by those with current Qualified Teacher Status.

It is acknowledged that an educated society brings social, cultural, and economic benefits to a country. As a result, the development of the workforce in schools, and especially of the teachers, is something that cannot be ignored by a government. Like any good employer of a business with multiple worksites, standards of training need to be created across the system both to ensure good practice and to allow for the interchange of staff between different locations, not least when, for whatever reason, a workplace unexpectedly experiences difficulties. This does not require the government to conduct the training. At present, a partnership between schools and higher education offers the most effective solution for national coverage, especially while the framework for the governance of schooling is so disjoined, particularly in the vital primary sector of schooling. However, the SCITT model has shown that leadership of the partnership can work with either partner in control. What is important is awareness that training programmes should be tailored to the needs of those undertaking them with a view to a qualification that meets the needs of the schools and promotes the desire for continued professional development.

Not all those who seek to become teachers may be suitable. But, for those who do, we need to offer high quality training, effective transfer into employment, and the opportunity for professional development that will help create and sustain a world-class education system.

DfE announcement on a Saturday!

The decision to announce both a new Institute of Teaching and the recommencement of the review of the ITT market, following a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, wasn’t something I expected to read this afternoon.

DfE announcements on a Saturday afternoon are rarer than hen’s teeth. So rushed seems the announcement on the recommencement of the ITT Review that it is unclear whether the statement that ‘The review is expected to report in summer 2020.’ Should have read summer 2021?

Anyway the announcement of,

A new Institute of Teaching is set to be established in England to provide teachers and school leaders with prestigious training and development throughout their career.

… with the Institute being the first of its kind in the world.’

DfE https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-institute-of-teaching-set-to-be-established

May raise some eyebrows and questions about hyperbole in places as far apart as Singapore and Ontario.

This idea for this new Institute doesn’t seem yet to have the structure of the Area Training Organisations that existed across the country in the post-war period or even of the short-lived regional structure for leadership training in the days before GRIST and its derivatives.

Indeed, what of the wonderful National College created under the Blair government only to be axed by the Conservatives?  Admittedly that started with senior leadership and then expanded into other areas? Has it been air-brushed out of history?

To claim that the new Institute ‘will revolutionise teacher training and make England the best place in the world to train and become a great teacher’ will raise the question in many minds of what have the Tories been doing for the past ten years of trying to create a school-led training system. Is this an acknowledgement of failure?

There is no way that I believe the present system of ITT, or ITE depending on your point of view, is anything but high quality, but there is room for innovation, not least around technology and learning, as I have written in a recent blog.

The numbers quoted in the announcement also seem suspect. There are around 40,000 trainees teachers each year, so 1,000 represents about three per cent of the total. A higher percentage, of course, if targets for recruitment are not met. 2,000 early career teachers is an even smaller percentage and no figures are provided for the essential development of middle leaders where a national programme has been sadly lacking.

Where will the existing Teaching Schools fit into this new order, and how will geographical gaps be filled? Who will have oversight, and will there be a National Director of Training and Development with the ear of the Secretary of State?

A cynic might say this was an attempt to end a run of bad news for the DfE and its Ministers, and an attempt to regain the initiative. If so, I hope what emerges really does help develop the teaching profession.

Perhaps the Secretary of State can start by changing the rules about employing unqualified people as teachers. There is, after all, no point in an Institute focusing on initial teacher programmes if academies are free to employ anyone as a teacher.

A better announcement would have been that the term ‘teacher’ had become a reserved occupation term only allowed to be used by those with QTS.