Mixed messages from ITT data

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.

1,336 Physics trainees in 2020/21: wishful thinking or realistic target?

Yesterday, the DfE released the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) information for England covering the academic year 2020 to 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2020-to-2021 There was also information on the methodology underlying the TSM that continues the trend towards more open government set by David Laws when he was Minister of State at the DfE.

Perhaps one of the strangest lines ever to appear in a government publication can be found on page 3 of yesterday’s key DfE publication, where it states reassuringly for ITT providers that ‘in reducing the 2020/21 TSM target, this does not mean there will necessarily be fewer trainees’. This is because the DfE has continued to uncap ITT recruitment in most secondary subjects, except PE, but has continued to cap primary numbers.

The DfE’s rationale for reducing targets, most of which haven’t been reached in recent years, are improvements in the methodology of the TSM, including the fact that NQTs entering through the assessment only route are now included in the calculations. Put simply, the DfE have found some more teachers not counted in previous versions of the TSM, and that has reduced the requirement for new teachers to be trained in 2020/21.

The problem the DfE civil servants face is that each September schools must be fully staffed, otherwise children would be sent home. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry forward unfilled places from previous years, as there are not vacancies in the system. Also, carrying forward unfilled places would eventually lead to targets that were ludicrous in size. Better to start afresh each year.

Rising pupil numbers, teacher retention rates and curriculum changes are among the key drivers of the targets that are set at a national level. Interestingly, business studies and physics are two subjects where targets have increased for 2020/2021. In the case of the latter, from 1,265 to 1,336, an increase of 71 possible trainees. As in 2018/19 only 575 physics trainees were recorded outside of Teach First, this increase might raise something of a hollow laugh among providers.

One might wonder why recruitment in Biology (reduction of 76 trainee numbers), history (291 fewer trainees) and geography (187 fewer trainees) isn’t capped in view of their over-recruitment in 2018. Could it be that by recruiting in these subjects the overall deficit will be smaller than it would otherwise be? Surely not, but trainees need to consider their job opportunities before undertaking training to become a teachers in some of these subjects. By 2020, the DfE should be able to tell them about job chances as part of the new DfE Apply System that ought to be operating at that time.

Next month, the ITT Census for 2019 will be published, and it will be possible to see whether, as I hope, the shortfall this year is smaller than the number of missing trainees last year.

Overall, the drop of 602 in secondary targets won’t have much effect on the ground. The reduction of more than 1,500 in the primary postgraduate target to just 11,467, may have more implications for some providers and their future, especially if this is not the end of the reductions resulting from the recent decline in the birth-rate.

£26,000 for some trainee teachers in 2020

Why should a new teacher of mathematics starting work at one of the best selective schools in England receive a £1,000 a year bonus for staying in the school for up to five years, while a similar teacher starting in a non-selective school anywhere in South East Essex won’t receive this salary boost?

Are house prices higher in Reading than in Southend on Sea? Is the level of deprivation far greater in Reading than on Canvey Island or in Thurrock? Teachers in Bracknell Forest will also be favoured with this extra cash, while their compatriots working in Slough won’t be so lucky.

The government’s recent announcement on support for trainees and new teachers reveals an ever yet more complex scheme as Ministers and officials try to stem the teacher recruitment crisis now entering its sixth year https://www.gov.uk/government/news/up-to-35k-bursary-and-early-career-payments-for-new-teachers

Long gone are the days when DfE officials and Ministers tried to deny there was a crisis building in teacher recruitment and retention. Now, the answer seems to be ‘throw money at the perceived problem’, but still favour EBacc subjects over the more vocationally orientated areas of the curriculum.

Thus, the announcement for trainees being recruited to start training in September 2020 of the following postgraduate bursaries and scholarship.

Postgraduate bursaries and scholarships

Scholarship Bursary (Trainee with 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s)
Chemistry, computing, languages, mathematics and physics £28,000 £26,000
Biology and classics No scholarship available £26,000
Geography £17,000 £15,000
Design and technology No scholarship available £15,000
English No scholarship available £12,000
Art and design, business studies, history, music and religious education No scholarship available £9,000
Primary with mathematics No scholarship available £6,000

Almost the only subjects missing from the list are physical education and drama. Why classics should merit a bursary of £26,000 when art and design and business studies only merit £9,000 is for Ministers to explain. The level of payment to geography trainees also seems out of line with demand unless the DfE is expecting these trainees to help fill gaps elsewhere, such as a shortage of mathematics teachers.

The School Teachers’ Review Body needs to consider evidence as to how these schemes have been working over the past few years? Is the School Direct Salaried route now ‘dead in the water’ for secondary trainees in the face of bursaries and scholarships that cost schools nothing like the School Direct Scheme?

On the evidence of recruitment into training in 2019, discussed in a previous post, the fact that both mathematics and physics are recording some of their lowest levels of new entrants into training for many years suggests that it isn’t just cash incentives that are needed to attract talent into teaching.

Teacher workload and morale are as important as pay in a labour market where many other employers can offer better conditions of service and more flexible working conditions. Yes, teachers still have a better pension scheme than many, although not as good as when I entered the profession. But, how much of an attraction is this to the average 20-30 year old seeking a career?

By Christmas, it will start to become clear whether these levels of support for trainee teachers are working or whether yet another recruitment strategy might need to be developed in 2020?


Teacher Labour Market 2020 – current thoughts

While I was away, UCAS published the September data about applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Generally, any changes between these data and the end of cycle data are small. As a result, these data provide a guide to how many new teachers may be available in 2020.

The number of new teachers required is affected by the interplay of supply and demand. In the primary sector, although there may be local issues created by local circumstances, I do not think there will be any national problem over supply. This is because the birth rate is now lower than a few years ago and more teachers are working for longer, possibly as a result of changes to the pension age. Of course, any increase in departure rates might upset my calculations, but, for now, I don’t see the sort of issues the secondary and special school sectors will face confronting the primary sector in 2020.

The secondary sector is facing the challenge of more pupils in 2020 than in 2019. This generally mean a requirement for more teachers. Sadly, many subjects do not appear to have reached the DfE’s estimate of trainee numbers, as set out in their Teach Supply Model (TSM). I am especially anxious for both mathematics and physics, where the UCAS data has likely outcomes below the numbers accepted in 2018. In both cases this was not enough to satisfy demand from schools, even before the increase in pupil numbers is factored into the equation. Fortunately, the number of biologists is likely to be at a record level, and this supply line will help offset any shortages of physical scientists.

The lack of mathematics teachers will need to be covered by trainees from subjects such as geography where trainee numbers remain healthy, as they do in history and physical education. Many history trainees will need to find a second subject, as there is unlikely to be enough vacancies to support this level of trainee numbers. From the DfE’s point of view record numbers in history help the overall total of trainees and will allow Ministers to use a more flattering headline number that disguises issues within particular subjects. But, hey, with QTS any teacher can be asked to teach any subject to any child, so who cares about the details?

Happily, Religious Education has had a good year, with offers coming close to its projected need identified by the TSM, assuming all those offered places actually turned up at the start of their courses. Design and Technology fared slightly better this year than last year’s disastrous recruitment round, but will still fall far short of requirements, as will Business Studies. IT also appears to have suffered from a poor recruitment round into courses in 2019.  Elsewhere, outcomes may be close to last year’s, so there should be enough teachers of modern languages overall, although whether with the combination of languages needed is not known. Similarly, the number of trainee teachers of English may cause problems in some parts of the country in 2020, most notably London and the Home Counties and any other areas where the school population is growing.

These predications will be validated later this autumn when the DfE publishes its annual ITT census. Until then they remain observations based upon more than 20 years of studying the trends in the teacher labour market in England.

20,000 fewer teachers?

The news that the Home Office are going to oversee the recruitment of either 20,000 new graduate police officers or people capable of earning a vocational degree must prompt the question; in the current labour market, where are these new police officers going to come from? Of course, it might be a preemptive strike by the government against a possible recession and the associated increase in unemployment. This must be on the assumption that any recession will hit the graduate end of the labour market at least as hard as it hits those with no qualifications.

After seven years of a failure to recruit enough new teachers into training – a back door cut – and facing an increasing pupil population, teaching also need more entrants than it has at present. Indeed, it seems likely that when the ITT Census for 2019 is published in November, this will be the eighth year of missed targets in some subjects. I recorded the disturbing decline of design and technology trainee numbers in one of yesterday’s posts, if anyone is interested.

So, might teachers switch to become police officers? I doubt it will be 20,000, but the loss of any experienced teachers will be a blow to the profession that has also seen retention rates worsen for teachers we might have expected to have reached the stage where they had become what one person described to me this week as ‘lifers’.

Potential teachers, especially those keen to be in London and not eligible for Teach First, might well weigh up the starting salary of a constable against the fees to be paid as a trainee teacher and the absence of any guarantee of a teaching post on completion of training.

I certainly think that this move to increase police numbers will reinforce the need for a review of the former training grant for all teachers, and not just payments to those lucky enough to be on Teach First or the School Direct Salaried routes or receiving a bursary. Of course, the government could wait and see, but that must be deemed a risk unless graduate unemployment rises both quickly and fast.

If the new Secretary of State for Defence wants more graduates in the armed forces and the NHS more nurses, then those actions will place more pressure on the teaching profession to be competitive in a labour market where it clearly isn’t competitive at present.

Do we really want a system that produces just enough qualified teachers of Physics to meet the needs of private schools, Sixth Form Colleges and the selective schools? Do we want a system that fails to produce enough teachers of design and technology; of music; even of art? According to head teachers that I meet, this isn’t even the complete list of subjects where recruitment is currently a challenge.

The other salvation is that a slowing down of the global economy might reduce demand from ‘overseas schools’ for teachers trained in England. Such a situation is possible, but with the switch of many of these schools to educating not the children of expat business families, but locals dissatisfied with their State system or unable to access it, not too much hope should be placed on this solution, at least for now.

Are marginal trainee teachers more likely to fail?

The latest ITT performance profiles were published this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2017-to-2018 These include data for individual providers as well as general figures for the whole undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts gaining QTS in 2017/18 – last summer’s output of new teachers.

Generally, the picture isn’t much changed from the previous year. Headline percentage gaining QTS for the postgraduate cohort remained at 91%, with happily some 734 more trainees that gained QTS for a total of 25,490, up from 24,764 the previous year. Sadly, these were not always in the subjects where there was the most needed.

The total of those on undergraduate courses continued to fall; down by nearly 300 to just 4,733 gaining QTS. The new Secretary of State might care to reflect that the 30,000 new teachers last summer isn’t far short of the whole establishment of the Royal Navy he was responsible for as Defence Secretary. Imagine if ITT had the same revenue budget as the Royal Navy to train teachers. Hopefully, some of the new cash promised by Boris will come in the direction of both teacher preparation and CPD.

It is interesting that Physics, where recruitment onto teacher preparation courses has been challenging for a number of years, is bottom of the list of secondary subjects in terms of trainees awarded QTS. Some of this may be down to early departure from the course, and clearly some did not complete the course to QTS in time, with some 5% ‘yet to complete’ when the numbers were compiled.

Physical Education, a non-bursary subject, and one where demand for places exceed supply, turned in a percentage of 97% of trainees being awarded QTS. However, not all bursary subjects with few recruitment challenges managed to turn out such a high level of trainees with QTS. History and English both only managed to see 95% and 93% respectively of their trainees awarded QTS.

The groups with lower than hoped for percentages being awarded QTS against the overall postgraduate average of 91% included men (88%); those from an ethnic minority background (88%) – although 13% did not declare on this measure and that may have affected the outcome. Those with a declared disability and with lower academic performance as measured by degree class were also groups with lower than average percentages gaining QTS as were older trainees that were switching careers. The highest identified percentage (94%) was for those with First Class degrees

The saddest statistic is the number of trainees gaining QTS in design and technology:

2009/10                1159

2010/11                1118

2011/12                  808

2012/13                  500

2013/14                  383

2014/15                  433

2015/16                  493

2016/17                  399

2017/18                  288

This is not enough to provide for future middle leaders in the subject, let alone to staff the subject effectively. This is something else for the new team in Sanctuary Building to discuss.

I hope in future posts to discuss the differences between the different postgraduate routes. However, they can be small and accounted for in terms of attitudes to recruiting groups that achieve lower rates of QTS.

An Auger effect already?

The publication of the data on ITT applications for June 2019 coincided today with the DfE’s date for publishing its annual raft of statistics on teachers and schools. The DfE data is, of course, backward facing, whereas the UCAS data tells us what to expect in the teacher labour market in 2020.

With only three months left in the current recruitment round, it is usually easy to predict the actual outcome of the recruitment round. However, with the current levels of uncertainty over issues such as the funding of schools after the new Prime Minister is elected by Conservative Party members, and assuming there isn’t a general election in the autumn, as well as what happens to tuition fees in the short-term, the past may not be a guide to the future. Nevertheless, this blog will try and made some inferences from the data as it currently stands.

Overall applications are down on last year. The current total of 32,720 applicants is some 490 below the figure for June 2018. Perhaps of most concern is the decline in ‘placed’ applicants in London and the South East, where the figure is down from 900 last year to 710 this year. There has also been a decline in ‘conditionally placed’ numbers in these two regions, although numbers ‘holding offers’ are similar to last year at this point.

There has been a reversal in the recent trend in age profile of applicants, with fewer applicants than last year in all age groups, except for new graduates 21 or under, where the number is up from 4,630 last year to 4,670 this year. ‘Placed’ applicants over the age of 25 are down this year by 130 to some 1,440. In the past, this age group has help keep applicant numbers up as younger applicants have fallen away.

The number of applications are down from both men and women, mostly as a result of fewer applicants being ‘placed’. As degree results are confirmed over the next month or so, the number of ‘placed’ applicants should increase rapidly over the next two months. This is a number that will need watching very carefully.

The data on application status by provider region (Table B6 of the UCAS monthly data) confirms that there needs to be a focus on what is happening in London. Placed numbers are down by 100, and ‘conditionally placed’ by 160, with only those ‘holding offers’ up by 50, for a net change across the three categories of around 200. Application numbers to providers in London are down by around 600. With London schools seeing growth in pupil numbers, and so far in 2019 having advertised 10 vacancies per secondary school (www.teachvac.co.uk data) these numbers must be of concern.

So far it is primary courses that have borne the brunt of reduced applications, down from 41,180 in 2018, to 38,880 in 2019, whereas applications for secondary courses are up from 52,530 to 53,250. But, before anyone hangs out the bunting and declares a ‘dance and skylark’, it is worth delving deeper into the statistics for individual subjects. History, English and biology al doing extremely well, and could recruit their largest numbers of trainees in recent years.

On the other hand, art, chemistry, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording new lows for June in terms of those ‘placed’ and either ‘conditionally placed’ or ‘holding an offer’. Based on the evidence of previous years, none of these subjects will hit the required Teacher Supply Model number in 2019.  That’s bad news for the 2020 recruitment market for teachers.

Has the Auger Report with its suggestion for lower fees already had an effect on recruitment onto UCAS courses for this September? If so, the government must react sooner rather than later to stem any further losses ad protect teacher supply.