On Thursday, UCAS published the data for applications to postgraduate ITT courses by mid-January 2020. I apologise for the delay in posting my comments this month, but I was on leave last week. With the DfE now trailing their own application site, it must be assumed that the UCAS data is no longer comprehensive in terms of applicants. However, I suspect it is still good enough to be able to identify trends in the recruitment cycle for September 2020.
The two key message from the data seem to be: fewer applicants, down from 14,650 last January to 14,240 this year. But, this number is so small as to make no real difference, and the whole of the decline is probably in applications to primary age courses. Applications for secondary courses increased by 130. This probably represents somewhere between 40-50 extra applicants this January compared with 2019.
What seems to be clear is that the application process has been moving faster this year, as there are more applicants that have been placed or offered unconditional offers than at this point in 2019. The other good news is that London and The South East have bucked the trend, with more applicants this January than in 2019. The London number is impressive, with an increase of more than four per cent over last January. BY contrast, the reduction in the North East is in the order of seven per cent over last January.
Applicant numbers have held steady across most age groups, except for those aged twenty two, and 25-29 age group where applicant numbers are down slightly on last year. There are fewer male and female applicants this year, with fewer than 4,000 male applicants this January.
In terms of applications, primary courses are over 1,000 applicants below this point in 2019, with only PG Teaching Apprenticeships showing any growth over last year. For secondary courses, SCITTs are the main winner, although there are more apprenticeship and School Direct (non-salaried) applications as well. School Direct (Salaried) courses continue to lose ground, but at a slower rate; down to 1,220 from 1,280 last January. Higher Education courses still remain the largest category with 10,830 applications compared to 7,270 for School Direct (non-salaried) courses.
The picture for individual subjects is more nuanced at this stage of the cycle. Subjects with large numbers of applications and strong competition for teaching posts, such as physical education, geography and history have seen some reductions in the number of offers made to candidates possibly as a result of reductions in overall applications in these subjects. More worrying is the decline in applications for mathematics courses, as well as for chemistry and physics courses. The latter may have seen applications down by just 30, but that means a total of just 500 applications this January, with just 90 of these applications either having been placed or holding an offer.
The good news is there are more applications in art, business studies, design and technology and music than at this point in 2019. However, the increases are not yet sufficient to ensure all places will be filled this year. But, any increase is to be welcomed.
Modern Languages look to be the main casualty, with fewer than 600 offers or placed applications, compared to close to 1,000 at the same point last year.
By next month the shape of the recruitment round with have become clearer, and it should be possible to make some realistic predictions. If I were to put my money on it at this stage, and assuming exiting the EU doesn’t upset the labour market too much, then I would say the outcome might be slightly better than in September 2019, but not enough to meet the Teacher Supply model numbers from the DfE.