Further reflections

The Daily Mail is apparently carrying a story today of a leaked DfE email revealing a fall in teacher numbers. This is seen as a revelation, even though Table 2a of the DfE’s analysis of the Teacher Workforce, published in June 2018, showed a fall in teacher numbers between the 2016 and 2017 census points. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2017

However, I suppose that when a staunchly Tory supporting newspaper starts printing bad news stories about the working of a Conservative government one must anticipate that either the end is nigh or that editorial control is weak over the Christmas and New Year period.

Had either the Daily Mail or any other media outlet wanted to pick a more up to the minute bad news story about teacher numbers, they could have done no better to use my previous post as the basis for a news item. Readers will recall that based on data released yesterday by UCAS, it appears that fewer graduates want to become primary school teachers than in the past.  The Daily Mail could have run a headline around ‘Who will teach Tiny Tim?’ about this fall in applications to train as a primary teacher.

Delving further into the UCAS data than I had time to do yesterday, it seems as if more career changers were queuing up to apply to train as a teacher in 2019, than were new young graduates. However, the 230 additional graduates in their 30s and 40s compared with December 2017 were not enough to offset the reduction of 400 in those from the 22-22 age group that have not applied this year. Hopefully, they are still weighing up their options.

For the first time in some years, fewer than 1,000 men from the 21-22 age group have applied for a place to train as a teacher on either a primary or secondary course starting in 2019. However, it is the continued relative lack of interest from young female graduates that should concern officials even more. This group in the past has been the bedrock of those applying in the early part of the recruitment round.

Rather than evaluating the overall success or otherwise of the marketing campaign, the DfE should urgently be investigating why this group, of whom there will be fewer emerging from universities over the next few years, are taking longer to think about teaching as a career. Last year, enough came around in the end to ensure all places for primary teachers were filled, but the warning signs are there and need investigation.

Perhaps the DfE has over-emphasised the need for secondary subject teachers and rather taken the primary sector for granted, apart from the need to ensure sufficient teachers with expertise in mathematics. The DfE doesn’t have a policy of ensuring sufficient subject knowledge across the curriculum to ensure that able pupils can be motivated and intellectually stretched either within the primary school or in other ways.

Perhaps it is time to reconstruct those local CDP offering managed by teams of staff than know their schools and teachers. Doing so in a cost effective manner might mean upsetting some MATs and even diocese, but can we afford anything other than the most cost effective system for such CPD?

 

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A decline is still a decline even if the rate of decline has slowed down

For most of the 25 years I have been tracking applications by graduates to enter teacher preparation courses, there has been no need to worry about the number of applicants seeking to train as a primary school teacher; the issue has always been finding enough trainees in a range of secondary subjects.

The latest data from UCAS on applications for postgraduate teacher training in the period up to just before Christmas 2018 showed that there were 10,820 applicants domiciled in England by mid-December 2018, compared with 17,420 at the December 2016 measuring point and 18,880 in 2015. Although the decline has slowed compared with previous years in 2018, it has not stopped, and makes even more of mockery of the statement quoted in the previous blog post from the LSE team’s evaluation of the DfE’s marketing campaign for teaching.

UCAS don’t provide information about the split between applicants looking at primary courses and those seeking secondary subjects. However, the nature of the decline can be determined by looking at the number of applications in the different sectors.

Applications for all secondary courses in England were stable at 16,100 in December 2018 compared with 16,070 in December 2017. However, primary, applications are down from 16,870 in 2017 to just 14,770 in December 2018. If everyone has made three applications that would be less than 5,000 applicants so far for primary courses.

Last year, the numbers required to fill all primary places were made up later in the cycle, and by the ITT census in November 103% of placed had been filled. But, gone, it seems, are the days when I needed to advocate a closing date to ensure anyone applying later than November would be considered for a place. With around primary 13,000 places to fill for autumn 2019, we need around a lot more applications if providers are going to have any choice in candidates they can offer a place to on their courses.

The good news is that applications are higher for most secondary subjects compared to December 2017. Art, history and physical education are the exceptions. The decline of nearly 1,000 in applications for physical education courses is noteworthy, as it is the first time such a decline in this subject has been seen in recent years.

Looking at applications by the region of provider, applications are down across most of England, with those applying for courses in London down from 2,570 in December 2016 to 1,540 in December 2018. The West Midlands is the only region not to record a fall. Applicant numbers there were the same in December 2018 as in the previous December.

In the primary sector, all types of provider have suffered from a decline in applications, with higher education reducing by more than 1,700 applications. By contrast in the secondary sector, School Direct Fee courses registered an increase in applications compared with last year, whereas other providers all recorded falls in applications. School Direct salaried applications in the secondary sector were around the 900 mark in December 2018. This might mean only 300 applicants, if each had made three applications. In reality, the number of applicants is likely to be higher, but is still probably around 10% down on last year’s figure for December.

December is still early in the annual recruitment cycle to panic, but unless there is a pickup early in 2019, schools faced with a growing secondary school population in September 2020 might find recruiting teachers in some subjects a real challenge. Let us hope that the same won’t be true for their colleagues leading primary schools.

Let’s call it good news

Let’s start the day with some good news. The first UCAS data on the 2018/19 round of applications for postgraduate teacher preparation courses was published this morning. The data shows that there are the same overall number of applicants as at the same point in November last year.  I think that is good news, although of course, this number really only measures the extent of pent up demand for teaching as a career among those waiting to apply when UCAS open the process. It won’t be until January or February that a fuller picture emerges about interest in teaching as a career.

Nevertheless, after around a quarter of a century of looking at the monthly data I think that there are some runes to be read in relation to these numbers. As ever, the overall total disguises a difference between the position for primary age courses and those for the different secondary subjects. As ever, at this level, there is only data on applications and not applicants, so it is necessary to assume most applicants make use of most or all of the full range of choices available to them. This might not be the case with early applicants aiming for specific institutions, but the data doesn’t allow for that degree of analysis.

Anyway, applications for primary courses are down, but applications for secondary courses are up. For primary there are just 9,180 applications compared with 9,750 at this point last year. For secondary, the numbers are 9,810 applications this year compared with 9,150 last year. From these small beginnings we can only hope for a better year ahead as more graduates see the advantages of teaching as a career in this uncertain world.

Interestingly, higher education has seen fewer applicants for primary compared with last November, but the School Direct (non Salaried route) numbers are very similar to last year. Applications for primary School Direct Salaried at 2,230 are actually around 300 higher than at this point last year.

In secondary, higher education courses have seen a small increase in applications: long gone are the days when this route would be replaced by school-based courses. However, although applications for SCITTs are flat, applications for both School Direct routes in the secondary sector are higher that at this point last year.

I am sure that some of the increases can be put down to an earlier start to the marketing campaign by the DfE. The power of such advertising should not be underestimated. Applications are up in almost all secondary subjects, with significant increases in STEM subjects; but it only the first month’s data. The only decline is in history, down from 800 to 740 applications. Maybe history graduates have started to wonder whether there is a glut of history teachers? Certainly, this blog has warned that compared with the number of vacancies for history and humanities teachers there may have been too many being trained over the past couple of years.

Hopefully, everyone, including government, recognises the importance of high education providers for a vibrant teacher preparation sector, alongside their partnership with schools. After all, it is the person undergoing the courses that matters the most.

 

Allocations for teacher preparation courses in 2019/20

The previous two posts on this blog have highlighted the fact that the DfE has recently published its annual datasets about teacher preparation in the coming years and specifically numbers for 2019/20, where recruitment is already underway. The DfE’s information can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020

Normally, the number of places allocated to each sector and the separate subjects in the secondary sector would be of great concern to those operating courses. However, with recruitment having been challenging over the past couple of years and no bar placed on numbers that can be recruited in most subjects, providers will be much more relaxed about these numbers. Whether schools should be is another matter.

Of greatest concern for the labour market in September 2020 will be the geographical distribution of recruitment into preparation courses. This is because there is considerable difference in retention rates across England. Teacher retention is high in the North and at its lowest in London and the Home Counties. That’s neither a new fact nor one that has suddenly been discovered. Old hands at this business have known it for many years and I well recall presenting the information to a House of Lords Committee investigating aspects of science teaching in the early years of this century.

The concern over differential retention rates has been at the heart of the debate about quality of course versus location of training providers that was important when recruitment was likely to be buoyant. Even so, training too many new teachers in the wrong parts of the country, and especially training those not flexible in where they can work, is at least as wasteful as the money spent on bursaries highlighted in The Times today and discussed in the previous post on this blog.

To reasons for the lower retention rates in and around London are probably the present of about 50% of the independent sector schools in England in this area, together with the fact that London represents the largest graduate labour market in the country. For almost all teachers there are other jobs they can apply for even if it means ditching their hard won expertise in teaching. After all, the transferable skill of managing the learning of young people and making many rapid decisions reinforced only by the strength of your personality is a set of skills many businesses are keen to pay good money to acquire in their staff.  This is a point government should not overlook when considering pay rates and teacher associations might want to press more ruthlessly while teachers are in short supply.

Anyway, back to the allocations for 2019/20 and the changes from the previous years. In the Teacher Supply Model outputs, Classics, Computing, Religious Education and Geography have seen drops in the number of places as have Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Food Technology and ‘Others’ although that is partly be down to a reallocation of Dance into PE for TSM purposes. These changes, plus the increases in other subjects, are reflected in Figure 1 of the DfE’s note on ITT allocations.  Of most concern is the increase from 1,600 to 2,241 in places for Modern Foreign Languages. This is to meet the expected increase in pupils studying a language at KS4 in line with the government’s aspirations of a 75% take-up by 2024.

Will the lack of restrictions on recruitment for all secondary subjects, except PE last? As I write this blog, stock markets around the world are following a well-trodden path downwards that has been seen in October many times before. Were the downward trend to affect the economy along with Brexit, not having any restrictions on applications might seem unwise in hindsight.

 

The message to potential applicants; apply now and don’t take the risk of waiting until the spring.

 

Calculating Teacher Numbers

Today, Thursday 25th October, The Department for Education, DfE announced its latest Teacher Supply Model (TSM) projections for 2019/20. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020  These projections are a vital component in the eventual determination of the number of teacher training places the government needs to allocate each year.

However, the TSM is less directly important these days than it was at some points in history. This is because in many secondary subjects recruitment has not reached the required level for some years. Nevertheless, the TSM still performs an important function, not least in providing a long term analysis of teacher numbers needed that can become important if circumstances change post-Brexit and were there to be a downturn in the world economy. In such a scenario, keeping a tight rein on teacher supply might once again be an important and necessary task for the DfE.

The TSM appears to work well in the subjects that are taught to all pupils, such as English and mathematics. The overall number in the sciences is also a good projection of demand, but there are questions, about the balance between the different subjects that make up the sciences total. The Model seems to work less well, in my view, in predicting teacher demand in subjects that are part of options at Key Stages 4 and 5.

Civil servants are also bound by the policies set out by Ministers when operating the TSM process and that appears to be a factor in setting the allocations for Modern Foreign Languages, where the expectation of 75% of pupils studying a language to KS4 by 2024 has had an effect on allocations for 2019/2020. This is even though few practitioners actually expect the 75% level to be reached in reality, especially in a post-Brexit world, unless that is there is a rapid take-up of Mandarin to help facilitate trade with China.

Ironically, the DfE has reduced the allocation for Classics to a level that may well be lower than the demand generated by the independent sector. This could have two implications for 2020; all trainees being recruited by the private sector and a pay war among independent schools seeking to recruit these teachers. Happily, since recruitment into ITT in the subject is unrestricted, training providers can recruit more than their allocated number and prevent such a situation developing.

In some subjects, such as history, unrestricted recruitment can lead ta situation where too many teachers are being trained: this wastes government funds, as these trainees can apply for student loans to cover the fees on their courses. It also leaves many trainees facing difficulties finding teaching posts in England. It would be ironic if the UK government were funding teacher training posts for teachers only for some of them to find jobs working in schools in China or other Far East countries, where UK trained teachers are in high demand.

The DfE also updated their recently published Teacher Compendium 4 with data about the outcomes of trainees with bursaries. Sadly, a relatively low percentage of trainees in Physics with a higher bursary ended up teaching in state funded schools in the period between 2009 and 2016. More about that in another post tomorrow.

 

 

 

Teacher Preparation data – Part 2

Normally, that is for most of the past twenty years, I would have commented on the data provided by UCAS about applications and acceptances to the different subjects and between primary and secondary phases on the day it has appeared.

This month I refrained from doing so that I could look further into the data provided over the past three months. For some reason there appears to have been a glitch in the data I was looking at for Report B Table 10 of the data in August. I assume this was my mistake, and the data has now been corrected in my spreadsheets to conform to the published data currently on the UCAS web site.

The mistake slightly over-estimated the number of ‘offers’ to applicants, by using the end of cycle data for 2017 rather than the actual August data. Inputting the September data revealed the discrepancy and has allowed the changes to be made retrospectively. I can now say how I think the outcome will look compared with both last year and the DfE’s estimate of need, as calculated through the Teacher Supply Model.

So, on the evidence of the total ‘Placed’, Conditional Place’ and ‘holding offer’ numbers from the UCAS data, the 2018 round for secondary subjects should be slightly better overall than 2017, with biology, English, PE, art and languages exceeding the TSM number and IT/Computer Studies and history being at the required level. This leaves Chemistry, design and technology, mathematics, music, Physics and Religious Education unlikely to meet their TSM number unless Teach First can made up the shortfall.

As hinted yesterday, it may be that potential trainees on Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (SKE Courses) don’t become ‘Placed’ until the end of these courses, and some may be added to the ‘Placed’ totals over the summer, creating the increases seem this year.

Interestingly, in April, before the growth in applications, I prepared a table for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Teaching with a prediction for the outcome of the recruitment round in terms of meeting the TSM number. How good were my predictions?

Subject Meet 2018 TSM Meets 2018 TSM CHANGE From April prediction?
April view Sept view on meeting TSM
RE NO BELOW no
PE YES ABOVE no
Music NO BELOW no
Mathematics NO BELOW no
History ? AT  
Geography ? BELOW  
English NO ABOVE Yes
D&T NO BELOW no
Computer Studies + IT NO AT Yes
Business Studies NO BELOW no
Art NO ABOVE Yes
Languages NO ABOVE Yes
Biology YES ABOVE no
Chemistry NO BELOW no
Physics NO BELOW no

In four subjects, English, IT/Computer Studies, Art and languages, the prediction has changed for the better. In April, the situation on the humanities was unclear, but it now seems as if history might just miss the TSM number and geography certainly will, partly because the number was so high.

Physics remains the real worry, although the better situation in Biology means recruiting science teachers in 2019 may be no more of a challenge overall than it was this year. After a good year this year, mathematics teachers may be harder to find in 2019, whereas recruiting teachers of English in 2019 might be an easier proposition than it was in 2018.

However, we won’t be able to assess the full position until the ITT Census in late November when the Teach First numbers are added to the totals and it is revealed how many of those that were placed through UCAS actually made it on to courses.

 

 

 

 

A glimmer of good news

The government can take some relief in the UCAS data issued earlier today, but only in subjects such as English and art that really shouldn’t be a problem anyway. The list of subjects where offers to applicants by mid-June were still below the very poor 2017 figures include the key science subjects of Chemistry and Physics, -although there is a surfeit of Biologists this year. Mathematics, Music, and Religious Education complete the list of areas of real concern with just two months to go before most courses start in September.

There has been a post finals bounce in some subjects, no doubt helped by the publicity about teaching as a career. An announcement about teachers’ pay going forward might also have helped boost recruitment if there were signs of an end to the pay cap. Interestingly, history, always a banker for meeting its target in the past, is showing signs of weakness this year when compared to the record breaking numbers of last year. However, offers are still above the figure for two years ago.

Overall, applicant numbers still haven’t recovered to the level of last year and, at 33,210, are some 2,600 below June 2017. More worryingly, the ‘placed’ number of applicants is down from 3,480 in 2017 to 2,770 this June. This is partly compensated for in a rise of 200 in those ‘holding offers’. The number of conditionally places applicants is broadly similar to last year, at just over 20,000

Interestingly, Mr Gibb won’t find much evidence in this data to support his expressed view of higher education turning away quality applicants. As noted in another earlier post, the data on applicants as opposed to applications isn’t easily accessible but if you look at secondary applications minus an estimate for Higher Education’s contribution to Physical Education – where applicants numbers exceed places by a significant amount you end up with higher education and SCITTS doing far better than School Direct routes in terms of turning applications into offers.

Secondary minus

Estimate for PE

Placed Conditionally Placed Holding Offer All Offers Total applications % Applications as offers
HE 740 4770 540 6050 20500 30%
SCITT 100 1780 110 1990 6470 31%
SD Fee 360 3190 150 3700 14770 25%
SD Salaried 70 590 40 700 3860 18%
All routes 1270 10330 840 12440 45600 27%
Source based on UCAS data for June 2018

With the data on applicants and offers by subject this would be more than an estimate of the position. Nevertheless, the longer established routes do seem to be performing better than the School Direct routes, especially the salaried route into teaching. Unless schools continue to recruit during the summer holidays this table is only likely to see a further strengthening of higher education and SCITTs in their share of applicants made offers.

Elsewhere, the data shows the continued weakness among younger applicants and relatively better application rates from those over 30. The over-30s now make up around 30% of applicants.

Unless there is a dramatic change in the next month, 2019 is going to be another challenging recruit round for schools, especially in London and the Home Counties where pupil numbers are on the increase.