Grim news on recruitment

The latest monthly statistics on applications and acceptances for graduate teacher preparation courses starting this autumn were published by the DfE this morning. These numbers mark the end of the first year of the DfE management of the application process for all graduate courses except Teach First.

Regular readers will not be surprised by what follows, as the headline outcome around under-recruitment for the year has been expected for several months, and this blog has commented upon the direction of travel each month in its regular updates.

The total number of applications at 39,288 falls well short of the 43,300 recorded for September 2021 as domiciled in England. More alarming is that the recruited number at 20,170 is just short of 7,000 lower than the 27,100 number of September 2021. The conditions pending number at 3,719 is also below the 2021 number of 5,980, and the remining possible applicants either awaiting a decision or from whom a decision is awaited on an offer are also lower than last year.

Compared with September 2021, there are 111,592 applications in September 2022 against 115,300 last year domiciled in England. Especially worrying has been the reduction in applicants from the youngest age groups of graduates. Those new graduates under age 25 form the bedrock of those recruited into teaching as a career and any serious fall is bad news.

Age Group20212022
21 and under39203833
2238103110
2330002347
2423401698
Total placed1307010988
young graduates not interested in teaching as a career?

These are the groups from where the future leaders of the teaching profession will be drawn. According to the data released today, there are just fewer than 15,000 females placed onto courses this year compared with just over 19,000 last September. For males the numbers are 5,514 this year and 7,550 in September 2021. Unknown or referred not to say increased from 440 in 2021 to 175 with only three not in the ‘prefer not to say category’. Fewer candidates with domiciles in each region have been recruited in 2022 than in 2021. However, more important is the split between primary and secondary sectors.

There are 9,763 applications recruited in the primary sector in September 2022 compared with 12,690 in September 2021. Unsuccessful applications have fallen from 38,800 in 2021 to 35,962 this September. However, the percentage of unsuccessful applications has increased from 72% to 74$. Of course, this may mean applicants being accepted and their other applications being shown as unsuccessful. We will need the ITT Census to determine the exact recruitment into both primary and secondary training.

For secondary courses the situation is more complicated because of the different subjects and the different sizes of their graduate pools. The good news is that both geography and design and technology are likely to recruit more trainees than in 2021. The bad news is that the increase, if confirmed by the ITT Census won’t be enough to meet targets set by the DfE. In other subjects, there will be sufficient history and physical education trainees and a large surge in applications for IT and computing may make the total in that subject ore respectable, if these trainees turn up and stay the course.

Overall, the assessment for the secondary sector is that for 2023 to be anything other than a grim labour market for schools and a great time for teachers, there needs to be more returners and fewer departure overseas. I am not sure that either of those conditions will be in place by the time schools start recruiting in January 2023 for September.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will be monitoring the job market and is the ideal site to find a teaching post.

With the concerns over the shape of teacher recruitment following the DfE’s actions the next few months will be an interesting time in the labour market for teachers and likely outcomes even as far ahead as 2024. While the primary sector will probably not be too badly affected, the issue of selective schools now looms over the secondary sector to add to the other recruitment concerns.

Who wants to be a teacher?

In this time when history had gained a new relevance in our lives, I thought I would use the time available to me to look back at teacher recruitment in the 1990s. it would be interesting to look at recruitment in 1952, but the world of education has changed so much since then that the numbers really wouldn’t mean a great deal. In those days most teachers that were trained did so through the Certificate route and most only studies for two years. Graduate teachers were mostly untrained and in selective and independent schools. However, I was lucky to attend a state primary school where the headteachers was a physics graduate. How rare was that. W. W. Ashton an interesting character and a rarity in the primary sector of the 1950s.

The following data is taken from the pay review body Report of February 1996 (5th Report of STRB Table 27) I have selected 1994-95 to put alongside 2021-22, as that year marked the high point in recruitment during the five-year period between 1991-92 and 1995-96.

A couple of caveats. The 1994-95 numbers included recruitment in Wales, and the 2021-22 numbers don’t include Teach First and are based on August offers. The table can be updated once the ITT census appears at the end of 2022 as there will be late acceptances and some offered places earlier in the year might not actually start the course. Even with these caveats, there seems to be a story to tell.

SECONDAY SECTOR SUBJECTS19945-95 Number recruited2021-22 August offers excludes Teach FirstChange 2021-2022 on 1994-1995
MOD LANGS1915770-1145.00
DESIGN/TECHNOLOGY1951806-1145.00
SCIENCES29501922-1028.00
MUSIC586286-300.00
GEOGRAPHY744596-148.00
RELIGIOUS ED511388-123.00
MATHEMATICS18881857-31.00
ENGLISH & DRAMA19941969-25.00
PHYSICAL ED13791535156.00
HISTORY9351127192.00
TOTAL1485311256-3597.00
Source STRB 5th Report Table 27 and author’s analysis of DfE data for 2022

Even taking off a number for the recruitment in Wales and adding in possible Teach First recruitment, the comparison shows the decline in interest in teaching in the secondary sector. The numbers are not matched against perceived need as defined in the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model but are nevertheless useful in showing the changing interest in teaching. Physical Education and history teaching are more attractive than in 1994-95, although there may have been a more rigorous cap on applications at that time than currently, so there may have been interested applicants that could not be offered places. For that analysis, the percentage of offer to total applicants will need to be investigated.

Maths and English are at similar levels with offer this year to recruitment in 1994-95 and with swap between the removal of Wales recruits and the addition of Teach First to the totals may well be ahead this year of the 1994-95 total.

For the other six subjects in the table, the picture is very different with savage reductions across the languages and for the design, technology and IT areas. Even if Art as a subject was added to the design/technology total that would still leave a significant shortfall this year.

The number for the sciences is an interesting case. In 1994-95 recruitment was to ‘science’ courses. Nowadays, there are separate totals for each science. This shift while welcome in some respects has meant the opportunity to over-recruit in some sciences is more difficult than previously where there are likely to be shortfalls in other science subjects. The move was a good idea but the need for flexibility of recruitment as the year progresses may still be important.

In 1994-95, the employment-based routes were still in their infancy, and university-based courses were the main route into secondary school teaching.

The question for the new government still remains as to how to reverse the trend in recruitment in so many subjects and once again make teaching a career of choice?

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 (www.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

Physics

Music

English

Computing

Biology

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 (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%
Biology2,12286%8%6%78%
Music47892%3%5%78%
English3,22990%6%4%77%
Mathematics2,81287%7%5%77%
Geography1,20392%4%3%76%
Business Studies38187%7%6%75%
Religious Education65188%7%6%75%
Chemistry89986%8%6%74%
Secondary20,36589%6%5%74%
Physics54383%9%9%73%
Total35,37187%8%5%73%
Modern Foreign Languages1,65091%5%4%72%
Other39891%5%4%71%
Primary15,00685%11%4%71%
History1,67690%6%4%70%
Art & Design91990%7%3%69%
Computing62482%11%7%68%
Drama45592%4%4%67%
Physical Education1,59095%3%2%64%
Classics6990%9%1%52%
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
Biology1430524-906
Science24301531-899
English22901418-872
Geography1010519-491
History11801000-180
Computing410290-120
Religious Education400304-96
Design and technology450355-95
Mathematics15901511-79
Music240228-12
Chemistry600597-3
Physics4004000
Business studies15019747
Art and design41046858
Physical education12901469179
Dramana334na
Classicsna64na
Otherna429na
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.

Start worrying about September 2023

While I have been waiting for the DfE to produce the June data about admissions and acceptances to ITT postgraduate courses, I thought that I would have another look at the percentage of courses no longer showing as offering vacancies as listed on the DfE website.

In passing, UCAS used to publish a calendar of dates when the monthly data would be published and generally stuck to that regime. There seems to me to be little logic to the reporting by the DfE this year.  

Anyway, what are the portents for September, and thus for the recruitment round that will provide staff for schools in the 2023/24 school year? Sadly, they don’t seem great.

The data I used matches ‘courses with vacancies’ against the ‘all courses’ number. Now, of course, a course may only have one vacancy or many, and the data doesn’t show that information, useful although it might be to applicants trying to decide where to apply to at this point in the cycle. I assume that those advising applicants are privy in order to use the data to help maximise successful outcomes.

Below in the table is the percentage of courses with vacancies ranked from least to most.

Subject24th June vacanciesall courses% with vacancies
Psychology2810626%
Latin51631%
Social Sciences3611531%
Classics71839%
Heath & Soc Care163644%
Comms & Media Studies183946%
Physical education26256347%
Dance357050%
Business studies17027263%
History40664263%
Drama22735065%
Economics253866%
Computing37356166%
Art and design32547968%
Music26638769%
Primary1200171670%
Citizenship142070%
Design and technology35049471%
English57580871%
Modern Foreign Languages69196672%
Religious Education34748072%
Mathematics63087172%
Chemistry56176673%
Geography50167175%
Biology55173375%
Physics60779676%
Science212584%
Source: DfE website

Only ten subjects have more than a third of courses currently ‘closed’ with no vacancies. The assumption must be that these courses are ‘full’ although there might be other reasons for the course not shown as currently offering vacancies.

Leaving out the small number of ‘science’ courses, there are three subjects, biology, physics and geography with more than three quarters of courses still returned as with vacancies. Even the primary sector has 70% of courses with at least one vacancy.

Such high levels of courses can be seen as a ‘good thing’ if there happens to be a flood of late applications. However, it is possible some school-based providers will no longer recruit after the end of term, and are thus not taking applications after the end of next week.

If the ability and willingness to recruit throughout the summer is not a criterion for re-accreditation then it ought to be, otherwise the government risks shooting itself in the foot by missing out on late applicants. There are those that don’t decide to become a teacher until August, and want to start in September.

As Teach First has started recruiting again, for this summer, it looks fair to say that that data are pointing to 2023/24 being another challenging year for schools needing to recruit staff. Currently, the average number of vacancies for schools in London and the South East stands at 10 per school.

TeachVac’s Premium Service helps schools connect with potential applicants for a fixed annual price of a maximum of £1,000 or £20 per week. With TeachVac’s growing list of teachers and trainees the service offers excellent value for money.

Find a teacher

As the 26th May and ‘Thank a Teacher’ Day draws nearer I have looked at TeachVac statistics for vacancies in 2022 up to the 10th May compared with the vacancy number for the whole of 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. The statistics make for grim reading.

In seven areas, the total vacancies recorded so far in 2022 exceed the total recorded for the whole of 2019.

Subject 20192022Percentage +/- (The nearest whole %)
Teaching and Learning(Pastoral)50271542%
SEN61084539%
Social Sciences888107721%
RE1127132818%
Design & Technology252426646%
Leadership470850036%
IT182618461%
Business16571599-4%
Languages29322793-5%
Vocational432408-6%
Geography18121702-6%
Music11801031-13%
History13651190-13%
Total6456954453-16%
PE19831575-21%
Primary1664612964-22%
Science80596066-25%
Mathematics68485017-27%
Art1337952-29%
English63874253-33%
Source: TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk

These include subject areas such as religious education and design and technology where there have already been more vacancies posted in the first four and a bit months of 2022 than during the whole of 2019. Grim news for any school looking for a September appointment and possibly a catastrophe for schools that will need to make an appointment for January 2023.

Interestingly, it is still the EBacc subjects where recruitment is less buoyant. In the case of maths, English and the sciences, vacancies are still adrift of the 2019 total by some margin. That doesn’t mean everything is great, even in these subjects because the vacancies are still close to the total for the pool of new entrants, especially once those trainees already committed to schools are excluded from the calculations.

So, ‘Thank a Teacher’ Day must also be ‘recruit a trainee into teaching’ day, week and month if we are going to continue to improve the education for all children wherever they live and whatever school they attend.

At TeachVac, we monitor trends at every level from geographical to phase and subject and career grade. Our reports provide invaluable intelligence to schools, MATs, dioceses, local authorities and others interested in the labour market for teachers. The reports are also the most comprehensive daily reports available.

There are still a couple of weeks to go to the resignation date at the end of May and so far, this week, TeachVac has recorded more than 2,800 new vacancies in the course of just two days. By the end of this week, the total for 2022 could be in excess of 55,00 or less than 9,000 behind the total for the whole of 2019.

The teaching workforce crisis doesn’t receive the same attention as the NHS crisis, but its effects are just as key to the nation’s health, welfare and economic prosperity. Sadly, there was no recognition in the Queen’s speech of the issues facing teacher supply. Rearranging the organisational structure of schooling by making all schools academies may be a solution, but don’t bet on it.

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.

ApplicationsFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
Primary2016/173791041530442604672049350515905341054310
Primary2017/182643030540338103811041180443104690048060
Primary2018/192471028670322503585038880417904433045490
Primary2019/20202380027870319203599040180461804689048670
Primary2020/213024035770410204468048530513105294054230
Primary2021/22239672839131925

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
2015785808759095160101700
2016814908758093530100000
201775850827708955097370
201859350673907846086790
201957860667407636084790
202057780683107935091100
2021728308430092160100720120070122310
20226175570253

 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 (apply-for-teacher-training.service.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.