Chickens coming home to roost

Actually, the fact that there aren’t the chickens to come home to roost is the real story. Looking back at the numbers of those registered on the DfE’s ITT Census of graduate training courses to become teachers collected last autumn goes a long way to explain the present challenges in the recruitment market for September 2020 currently faced by schools. The annual recruitment season reaches its peak over the next few weeks.

Schools can recruit classroom teachers from one of four sources; newly minted teachers from one of several routes; teachers switching posts; returners from outside the school sector or returning to employment and in extremis, unqualified staff that can be trained on the job. Some routes, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route put teachers in the classroom and probably don’t provide candidates to help fill advertised vacancies to the same degree as higher education and SCITT courses. Nevertheless, the numbers on these courses were included in the ITT Census. However TeachVac excludes those not likely to be seeking a post in the recruitment market when calculating the size of the likely remaining pool of trainees.

There are also regional differences, but trying to add those in makes the picture even more complicated.

As the table below complied by TeachVac reveals, at the end of April 2019, subjects that failed to recruit sufficient trainees to meet the DfE’s suggested number needed that was derived from the Teacher Supply Model are facing recruitment challenges.

Percentage of Target at census date % left end April
Business Studies 75 -134
Design & Technology 25 -89
Music 72 20
Mathematics 71 30
Computing 73 34
Religious Education 58 41
Science 93 45
English 110 48
Art & Design 73 48
Modern Languages 88 59
Geography 85 69
History 101 70
Physical Education 116 74

Business Studies only had 25% empty places, but demand has far exceeded the supply and the shortfall must come from the routes other than new entrants. So great has been the demand in both business studies and design and technology that TeachVac has logged more vacancies than trainees. Design and technology hasn’t been helped by the fact that only 25% of training places were filled last September. Within the subject it may be that schools seeking food technology teachers are  experiencing even greater problems with recruitment than the subject as a whole. Mathematics an English have been affected by the growth in the growth in the secondary school population that has pushed up demand for teachers in these subjects.

Demand in some of the government’s favoured Ebacc subjects such as languages, history and geography has been weaker than in some other subjects and, like PE, these are subjects where all training places were filled.

Finally, the situation I the sciences is complicated. There is a shortage of teachers of physics, but more biologists in training than the government thinks were needed. As a result, schools may find a teacher of science, but not with an idea set of qualifications.



Is business studies a shortage subject?

On the face of it, business studies isn’t a subject that can be classified as one of the really problem subjects for the government to have to deal with in 2019. The percentage of trainees recruited against the Teacher Supply Model has hovered around the 75-80% mark apart from in 2015/16 when it dropped into the mid-60s. The 80% mark isn’t especially low compared with some other subjects.

However, with Brexit looming in 2019, the government would do well to ensure there are sufficient teachers of the subject to help create future generations of both the managers and leaders of enterprises; not to mention entrepreneurs as well.

In 2018, the ITT census recorded 180 trainees in business studies. If the same rules were applied as in the previous post regarding the shortage of design and technology teachers, then that number is reduced finally from 180 to 128 trainees, after the removal of those on Teach First, School Direct salaried route and a five per cent figure for non-completion or not entering teaching in a school after the end of the course.

How does this figure of 128 possible new entrants to the teaching labour market in September 2019 and required for January 2020 vacancies match up against perceived need over recent years? TeachVac, the free to use job site for teachers and schools, now has data stretching back over more than four years.

Recorded vacancies for business studies teachers – these vacancies may include an element of another subject as well as business studies – were around the 750-850 mark in the three years from 2015-17. However, possibly due to even better recording by TeachVac in 2018, the number of vacancies recorded in 2018 was just over the 1,100 mark.

Interestingly, 29% of the recorded vacancies during 2018 were placed by schools located in the London area. If the schools in the South East region are added in, the percentage of the total vacancies recorded by these two regions reaches 53%. It would be helpful to know how this squares with the distribution of ITT places, especially as the London vacancy total must be reduced by the effects of the Teach First trainees. Without them, the vacancy total would, presumably, have been even greater.

Even if 2018 has been a rogue year, then even allowing for re-advertisements of 25% – surely a high percentage – in a total of 800 vacancies – that would mean some 600 teaching posts were advertised in an average year.

Applying a rule of thumb of 50% vacancies being taken by new entrants and the other 50% by returners and teachers moving schools, the requirement would be for 300 trainees or more than double the 128 that might enter the labour market. Even if re-advertisements comprised 50% of the total of advertisements, there would still not be enough trainees to satisfy the demand across the country and London and the South East would continue to face shortages.

Should the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations concerned with the health of our economy and the nurturing of enterprise be worried by these numbers? Probably, but it depends upon your view of what should be taught at school? One view is that all we need is EBacc: another that starting an understanding of business early in life can inspire future leaders.

Well, with these number of trainees, even allowing for late entrants, those switching from the further education sector and teachers from overseas, if allowed, then some schools are going to struggle to recruit a business studies teacher during 2019. As I wrote in the post on design and technology teachers; if you have a business studies teacher already, it will pay to look after them.

Take cooking off the curriculum?

Just before Christmas, and the biggest cooking event of the year in many households, is probably not the best time to sound an alert about design and technology as a subject, and the real problems many schools will face if they need to recruit a design and technology teacher for September 2019.

TeachVac, has recorded just over 1,600 advertisements for vacancies by schools seeking a design and technology teacher during 2018. I haven’t had time to analyses how many of these might be re-advertisements, when a school could not recruit at first or even subsequent adverts. However, I suspect that such re-advertisements count for a significant proportion of the total, especially later in the year when the pool of new entrants form training was probably exhausted.

Let’s assume a 25% re-advertisement rate. This would leave 1,200 posts to be filled. Assuming 50% are filled by new entrants to the profession, a figure close to that used by the DfE in the past, this would require 600 new entrants from training or perhaps 450 from training and 150 as late entrants or from other sources of teachers not already in the system, such as those from further education posts.

So, what does this mean for 2019? The bad news is that the ITT census for 2018 revealed only 285 trainees on postgraduate courses that started in September 2018. These courses will produce new entrants for the labour market in September 2019 and January 2020.

The even worse news is that if you remove those on Teach First and the School Direct Salaried routes from the overall total, as these will be in the classroom already and it is sensible to assume that most won’t be looking for a job in September 2019, the number of trainees is then reduced to 235.

Now allow for some not completing the course or not wanting to teach when they do finish, and the number available to the labour market is even lower. A cut of just five percent in the total available brings the number down to just 223. If the fallout during the year was higher, could the number fall below 200?  Such a low number would potentially be a disaster for the subject.

This is the number likely to be available to all schools, state-funded and independent that want a design and technology teacher with QTS.

Now within the overall total for design and technology are different areas of expertise. The Census reveals nothing about those with skills in the different aspects of the subject. If one area has suffered worse than the others, then there might be less than 50 trainees across the whole country in that aspect of the subject!

Fewer entrants now means fewer candidates for head of subject and department posts in a few years’ time. TeachVac has already noted the merger of some design and technology and art and design departments under a single head of department. Such a trend may well accelerate in the next few years. It might help the salary bill.

Schools with young teachers of design and technology already on their staff would do well to do everything possible to retain their services: finding a replacement just might not be possible.


Where teachers are prepared matters

The final post in my series looking at the ITT Census for 2018, published last Thursday, considers the relative fortunes of schools and higher education in recruiting trainees on to teacher preparation courses. When Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, the direction of travel was clear: away from higher education as the provider of courses and towards a school-led and based system. How well has that direction of travel survived some three Secretaries of State later?

In the 2018 census the increase in secondary trainees has been concentrated in the higher education and SCITT sectors.

Secondary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference % change
Higher Education 6965 7965 1000 14%
SCITT 1955 2435 480 25%
School Direct Fee 3780 4170 390 10%
School Direct Salaried 1080 905 -175 -16%
Teach First 915 760 -155 -17%
PG apprenticeship na 20    
Total 14695 16255 1560 11%

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

SCITTS continue to flourish, with an increase of a quarter in trainee numbers, whereas the other school-centred courses have not shared in the overall increase in trainee numbers to the same extent, with the most expensive salaried routes experiencing declines in trainee numbers. In the secondary sector, the postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has have only a minimal impact this year.

In the primary sector, where recruitment controls were more important, there has been far less change between this year and last year.

Primary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference
Higher Education 5660 5605 -55
SCITT 1390 1565 175
School Direct Fee 3350 3365 15
School Direct Salaried 1690 1830 140
Teach First 410 395 -15
PG apprenticeship na 70  
Total 12500 12830 330

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

In the primary sector, higher education seems to be still less favoured than the school-based routes; with both SCITTS and the School Direct Salaried routes recording more trainees than last year. The postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has more primary participants than secondary, but its first year has not made a significant contribution to the supply of new teachers.

Overall across both sectors, SCITTs are under-represented in the London area. This may partly be because London schools have the most School Direct Salaried and Teach First new entrants, accounting for more than one third of those on both routes. By contrast, the South West that participates in both programmes has relatively few numbers on either of these routes into teaching and nearly 60% of new entrants in the region are on higher education programmes.

Teach First seemed especially good at recruiting me to primary courses, achieving a three per cent higher outcome than other routes this year, but, by contrast, especially poor at recruiting me to secondary courses, achieving only a 31% outcome, compared with the 40% of trainees figure for high education courses.

Where higher education excels is in recruiting new graduates. Of course, the School Direct Salaried route is not open to new young graduates, but compared with the routes that take all-comers, higher education recruits the higher percentage of those under 25, accounting for 50% of the higher education intake this year: albeit down from 51% last year, a warning sign for the future. SCITTS only recruited 45% of their intake for the under 25s, perhaps signifying the importance of their more local recruitment focus, in many areas with a high percentage of career changers.

With the number of eighteen year olds dropping for the next few years, while the demand for new secondary teachers will be increasing, as the school population increases, nurturing the young new graduate market may well be important: that might mean a re-assessment of fees and other support for all trainees.

However, should the Bank of England’s predictions for 2019 and the years following any departure from the EU prove correct in terms of the economy, it is possible that teaching might once again seem like an attractive career in an unstable world: after all, there will always be children to educate.


Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.


Now for the bad news

In my previous post I highlighted how Ministers might be pleased with the overall figure in the ITT Census released this morning by the DfE. However, once the numbers are analysed in more detail, a picture of two worlds moving further apart beings to emerge.

First the good news: English, as a subject, passed its Teacher Supply Model figure and registered 110% recruitment against the ‘target’. Biology did even better, hitting 153% of target, and history managed 101%, virtually the same as last year. Physical Education, despite recruitment controls, registered 116% of target, slightly up on last year’s 113% figure. Computing also had a better year than last year, reaching 73% of target, the best level since 2014 for the subject. Geography recorded a figure of 85% of target, Classics and drama also recorded higher percentages again the TSM target.

Sadly, that’s where the good news stops. The remaining secondary subjects largely missed their TSM target by a greater percentage than last year. This means a more challenging recruitment round in 2019 for schools looking for teachers in the following subjects:

Mathematics census number down to 71% from 79% of the TSM figure

Modern Languages 88% from 93%

Physics 47% from 68%

Chemistry 79% from 83%

Design and Technology just 25% from 33%

– it would be interesting to see a breakdown across the different elements within this subject group

Religious Education 58% from 63%

Music 72% from 76%

Business Studies 75% from 80%


Apart from Physics, where the decline is of alarming proportions, in the other subjects the percentage decline is just part of a steady and continuing decline seen over the past two years. With demand for secondary teacher likely to be around the 30,000 mark across both state and private school in England, if 2019 is anything like 2018 has been then, many of these subjects will not be providing enough trainee to fill the vacancies likely to be on offer. Encouraging retention and managing returners, especially for those working overseas, will be key initiatives for the government if we are not to see some schools struggling to recruit appropriately qualified teachers. I am sure it won’t be the successful schools that face recruitment challenges; it also won’t be private schools free to charge what they like in order to pay attractive salaries to teachers in shortage subjects.

The government has done relatively well recruiting in EBacc subjects, although science is only doing well because of the surfeit of biologists, many of whom may find themselves teaching other sciences, at least at Key Stage 3.

However, the CBI and the IoD might look at these percentages in the other subjects with more concern, if not even alarm. Wealth generating subjects either need more support from government or a clear statement that they don’t matter. The same is true of the arts and the social sciences beyond just history and geography.

As chair of TeachVac, I will ensure that our site continues to monitor trends in the labour market for teachers throughout 2019 and reports on the pressures we see emerging.

Phew, what a relief!

The ITT Census published by the DfE today, along with the accompanying set of notes – what used to be called Statistical Bulletins or First Releases in former times- will come as a welcome relief to Ministers, at least a the headline level.

The total number of trainee teachers, including Teach First, preparing for life in secondary schools in 2019 was measured by the census as 16,280. This is an increase of 1,285 or around nine per cent higher than last year. In primary, where recruitment controls exist, there was an increase of only 70 extra trainees, from 12,905 last year to 12,975 this year.

These numbers will come as a great relief to everyone, because, with rising rolls in the secondary sector, there will be a significant demand for new teachers over the next few years unless leakage out of the profession can be reduced. With the growth in the demand for teachers from the international school market keeping teachers at home will remain a challenge.

I guess a combination of the better pay award, albeit only slightly better, plus the security of a teaching job post BREXIT may have contributed to the upturn in trainee numbers. However, once the headline numbers are disaggregated it is not all good news.

Still, let’s start with the good news. In 2019, schools won’t have any difficulty finding a biologist: trainee numbers are up by around 800 to over 1,800. The same is true in English, were trainee numbers have increased from just under 2,200 to more than 2,800. Tutors in both subjects could have headaches finding enough school placements for these students, but it is headache worth having. The other subjects where numbers are significant higher are geography, up from 1,225 to 1,300; computing up from 475 to 530 and Physical Education where 1,250 trainees are on course this year compared with 1,125 last year. For both PE and geography trainees, I would suggest an early registration with TeachVac since there will almost certainly be more trainees than jobs available for them in 2019.

Now for the less good news. Not all subjects have recruited more trainees. There are few trainees this year in mathematics (2,195 compared with 2,450 last year); Physics (575 compared with 720); Chemistry (835 compared with 875); and Religious Education (375 compared with 405). In Design & Technology last year’s enrolment of 305 has fallen to a new historic low or just 295. Apart from anything else, this will hasten the amalgamation of art and design departments with D&T departments in schools since the figure of 295 trainees is nowhere near enough to provide middle leaders in a few years’ time for D&T as a subject.

Underlying the data on the overall numbers is their distribution around the country and it already looks as if schools in London and the south East may face a challenging labour market in 2019, especially since state schools will be competing with the independent sector where funds often allow for higher salaries.

In another blog, I will examine how the number of trainees recruited compares with the DfE’s estimate of need for teachers, as measured by the Teacher Supply Model.

So, good news overall, but not for all.