Reconciling applicants numbers and trainees for ITT

Last September I reviewed the statistics available at that time from UCAS for post-graduate teacher preparation courses. UCAS has now published the end of cycle reports for the 2016-17 cycle. In September, I commented that ‘what is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.

With the new data now available, it is now possible to track what appears to have happened to these ‘conditional placed applicants’? The good news is that many seem to have migrated into the ‘placed’ column rather than disappeared into the ‘other’ group that includes those rejected. I assume that this means most were able to meet with the conditions placed on their offer, whether the skills test, degree class or some other requirement. Overall, the number of placed applicants increased between September 2017 statistics and the end of cycle report by 3,090. That is about 60% of the conditionally placed applicants in the September statistics.

There are significant differences between the types of providers in how important converting ‘conditional placed offers’ to ‘placed’ applicants is in the overall scheme of things.

Primary Placed Sept 2017 Placed End of Cycle Difference % Increase
HE 5740 6070 330 6%
SCITT 920 1180 260 28%
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 2970 3350 380 13%
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 1330 1610 280 21%
Secondary Placed Sept 2017 Placed End of Cycle Difference % Increase
HE 6820 7400 580 9%
SCITT 1210 1750 540 45%
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3180 3760 580 18%
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 750 960 210 28%

Source: UCAS September 2017 and End of Cycle Report

What is also interesting is to compare the End of Cycle number with the DfE’s ITT census for 2017 published in November.

Primary Placed End of Cycle ITT Census 2017 Difference
HE 6070 5840 -230
SCITT 1180 1440 260
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3350 3410 60
Secondary Placed End of Cycle ITT Census 2017 Difference
HE 7400 7105 -295
SCITT 1750 1970 220
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3760 3870 110

Sources: UCAS End of Cycle Report and DfE ITT Census

By the time of the census, higher education appeared to have lost applicants, but all other routes reported more than through UCAS. This discrepancy merits further investigation to understand whether some routes are by-passing the UCAS system, perhaps for late applications?

What isn’t present in these figures is a breakdown by subject of acceptance rates. However we do know that of the 41,700 applicants with a domicile in England, 24,870 or 60% were accepted.

There were some interesting questions to be asked about regional acceptance rates

By UK domicile region PLACED ALL % PLACED
WALES 1300 2020 64%
SOUTH WEST 2380 3710 64%
EAST ENGLAND 2580 4140 62%
NORTH EAST 1270 2050 62%
EAST MIDLANDS 2080 3360 62%
SOUTH EAST 3650 5900 62%
NORTH WEST 3460 5630 61%
WEST MIDLANDS 2760 4520 61%
ALL UK 26800 44750 60%
YORKSHIRE & THE HUMBER 2490 4320 58%
LONDON 4200 8090 52%

Source: UCAS End of Cycle Report

Why was the percentage so high in the South West and so low in London, where teachers are really needed?

It would be really helpful if more of this data was made widely available, especially on a subject by subject basis for applicants and not just applications as the different number of applications that applicants may make can distort the data.

However, with the current cycle looking worse than the 2017 cycle, what happens over the next six months is going to be of great interest to everyone interested in teacher supply.



More south coast woes?

What is it about the south coast of England that seems to affect the learning of a disproportionate percentage of children? Today’s data from the DfE on coasting schools at Key Stage 2 contains a higher than expected number of south coast local authorities with a high than the national average percentage of their schools seen as coasting.  Five of the top ten local authorities in terms of percentage of coasting schools are on the south coast.

Poole 24% – worst in England as a percentage of schools

Southampton 14% – 4th

Bournemouth 13% – equal 5th

Dorset 13% – equal 5th

Portsmouth 9% – equal 9th.

Of the three South East local authorities with no coasting schools at Key Stage2, only East Sussex is a coastal county. By contrast, 24 London boroughs are recorded as having no coasting schools at key Stage2. Whether these schools will be able to keep up this enviable record once the new National Funding Formula kicks in, only time will tell.

Not all coastal locations have large percentages of coasting schools, Torbay, The Wirral and Sefton are three with no such schools. Across all local authorities, the average is three per cent of schools that were recorded as coasting.

One interesting aspect of the distribution, especially in the light of the new Chief inspector’s remarks, in the Daily Telegraph three days ago, is the presence of authorities with grammar schools at both ends of the table. How do parents in the coasting schools in both Poole and Bournemouth feel about the effects on the chances of their offspring passing the selection examination for grammar school if the school could be doing better? In our more litigious society might the fact that a school is coasting at Key Stage 2 be a matter for litigation if a pupil just missed a place at a grammar school? We shall no doubt see in due course.

There are a couple of caveats in terms of the data. Small schools are excluded from the dataset, so some authorities may have fewer schools included than others. Secondly, authorities are of different sizes so the Poole result is due to just four schools, whereas there are 12 coasting schools in Dorset. Norfolk, another county with a lot of coastline has the most coasting schools of any authority, 20 in number.

What will happen to coasting schools? Originally, the intention was to turn them into academies, assuming they weren’t already a school of that type. However, Oxfordshire is still waiting for a sponsor to be found for one of the first group of coasting schools identified last year. It will be up to the Regional School Commissioner to decide the governance fate of these schools. I suspect those schools that are also below the ‘floor’ in outcome terms are most likely to see the swiftest intervention. What happens if they are already academies will be interesting. A change of MAT, seems on the cards in those circumstances. At least, it is now difficult to blame the local authority for these outcomes.



TeachVac expands its free service into the Primary Sector

Teaching and schools have featured strongly in the news today with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show covering the issue of possible teacher shortages and most other news media featuring the opening of new free schools at the start of term. The Victoria Derbyshire piece is at 30 minutes into the show and can be seen on BBC i-player for anyone interested. The head from Educating Essex and the President of ATL were joined in the discussion on the show by a Teach First primary teacher and the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, with a small contribution from myself.

A little earlier, just before 0830 the Secretary of State for Education was interviewed on BBC Breakfast News about the new Free Schools. Not I think her finest hour in front of the TV cameras, but sadly you cannot judge for yourself because BBC Breakfast doesn’t appear on the BBC i-player. If anyone recorded the interview, hopefully it might turn up on youtube or somewhere else.

It was disappointing to hear a Secretary of State that didn’t know how many free schools weren’t opening today due to problems and even worse, what was going to happen to the children affected by schools not opening on time. In the days before cabinet government, could you imagine an Education Committee that would let such a thing happen? Most had far more civic pride in the service they provided regardless of their political background.

TeachVac launched its expansion into the primary sector yesterday and also welcomed another of the large academy chains to the site. As more schools and applicants register for free, so the quality of the data collected improves and more and more vacancies can be matched with teachers. I am delighted to see we are beginning to understand in ‘real time’ what is happening in the labour market for teachers. There are still issues about measuring quality, especially in mathematics where trainee numbers at the ITT census last November looked as if they might have been sufficient to meet demand but clearly haven’t been.

I suppose the trips to Canada and South Africa recruiting maths teachers are about as welcome to deputy heads as taking a press gang out during the Napoleonic Wars was to naval officers of the day. The only difference is that ship’s captains didn’t lead press gangs, but some heads might lead the recruitment team on overseas visits. However, in my experience work trips are never the fun others think they were, despite what sometimes sound like exotic locations.

There have been concerns about the pre-entry skills tests affecting recruitment. I thought it was a good idea to move them to before entry, but I may need to re-think my view if it appears that the change is reducing the intake of possible trainees that might have passed the tests at the end of a PGCE or School Direct year when they could have had some coaching in areas they found challenging. After all, we cannot afford to lose would-be teachers. The alternative would be for the government to pay potential teachers to attend courses that improve their knowledge and skills to the standard required. About as likely as paying trainees fees, I fear.

Back to the Future Part II

There is a sense of déjà vu around this August. Will Labour opt for a return to Clause 4 and the re-nationalisation of key industries rather than a regulatory regime if Jeremy Corbyn becomes their new leader? If so, will they go the whole hog and re-nationalise freight services under the British Road Services logo, or is white van driver safe for now?

Even the Tories are getting in on the act, David Cameron wants to nationalise schools under the banner of creating freedom from local authority control by allowing all schools to become an academy controlled from Westminster. If he really believes this is the way forward, why doesn’t he add a clause into the Bill currently before parliament requiring all schools to become academies and create an orderly transfer of control? Does he lack the courage of his convictions or is this suggestion just a piece of political posturing?

If you believe in something then at least have the strength of will to seek to achieve it. The Tories in Oxfordshire are apparently set to do this by I believe proposing to encourage all schools – these days that effectively means primary schools – to become academies. At least this would stop the wasteful parallel systems that could emerge under the Prime Minister’s approach. A nation where Tory authorities are full of academies, but Labour authorities aren’t won’t be a national education system but a national muddle.

Personally, as those who have followed this blog for some time know, I am content to see all secondary schools as academies but not am not sure it is the correct approach for the primary sector. With local authorities now responsible for public health and most children attending a local primary schools there is much to be said for the same authority operating both services along with libraries and other services that support families and young children. Only a politician with no experience of local government could think primary schools operate in isolation from their communities.

The Tories other backward looking policy is talk of a revival of selective schools. Designed to meet a nineteenth century need these schools have no place in forging a modern inclusive society. Once again, if it happens, it will be interesting to see whether the Tories will mandate a national programme, thus effectively interfering with the very freedom of the academies they espouse or just let the areas with selective education increase the numbers of pupils in such schools. At what level will pupils be sent to secondary modern schools and with the expansion in pupil numbers to come over the next decade will the percentage of pupils allowed to pass the selection test remain constant or reduce as pupil numbers increase? Will selective free schools be permitted in areas that haven’t seen a selective school for nearly half a century and, if so, will local authorities have to pay the cost of transporting pupils to them or will parents have to pay?  Will places be kept for pupils that move into these areas during the year or will they be sent to secondary modern schools regardless of whether they would have passed the test?

We won’t achieve a world class education system by accident, but by design. That means proper national funding and a coherent and rational system. Such a policy would need a really courageous approach to policy.

Message to schools: please don’t close down teacher training yet

I don’t normally pay as much attention to the state of primary intakes to teacher training as perhaps I should. This is because the main focus has been on shortages in secondary. However, the latest National College newsletter for those involved in School Direct – is there such as publication for other routes – contains the following:

‘If you have filled, or are close to filling, your allocation in English, and you have evidence from your application data that you have sufficient demand to take on more trainees, you can now request additional places. Additionally, if you have filled your primary cohort, then you can now request additional primary places.

We can also confirm that we are accepting requests for new courses (where there was no initial allocation) in all subjects apart from English, primary, PE and history.’ Publication date 19th May 2015

This seems to suggest that there are still primary places available as well as places in English. The second paragraph doesn’t make it clear whether the new courses can be for 2015 entry or are in anticipation of 2016 allocations. If the former, then some higher education providers will no doubt be asking whether they can also open new courses.

Of interest, is whether the places available are as a result of schools returning allocated School Direct places and, if so, whether they are salaried or training places? With so many vacancies located in and around London I am not sure of the wisdom of spending money re-allocating places from that part of the country to say either the North West or South West where, at least in the secondary sector, vacancies for main scale teachers are at a much lower level.

Elsewhere in this bulletin the National College acknowledges that schools may close down the application process as early as the end of May and reminds those schools to let UCAS know so that others can handle any late applications. The implications are that the system lost some of the 2,000 plus applicants arriving over the summer last year because they applied to schools that had stopped recruiting but handn’t made that fact clear. Personally, as we need as many applicants as possible, I believe that the funding agreement for School Direct should require schools to recruit throughout the summer, as higher education courses have always sought to do when there are unfilled places.

In a period of teacher shortage those operating teacher preparation programmes should all be doing everything possible to fill as many of the available places as possible, especially when these places are in areas of high need for teachers. The alternative will be to deepen the teacher recruitment crisis in 2016; surely that cannot be government policy?

The UCAS web site should also identify separately courses closed because they are full and those courses closed because the provider has decided not to accept any more applications, but has places still available. It may be that this information is already available to Ministers, but it should also be available to others so that the use of public money can be scrutinised.

Careless Talk

The Secretary of State’s first media outing of this parliament might not have had the outcome planned. A visit to the Andrew Marr shown and an article in the Sunday Times guaranteed plenty of media exposure, plus comment elsewhere. Tackling coasting schools may play well with the Tory faithful, but might be guaranteed to upset the teacher associations, even were it to be a valid argument.

Just imagine a company with 20,000 branches that announces on national television that every branch where sales don’t increase by the national average will be taken over by a manager working in a branch with above average sales. Now the branch in leafy Surrey where the fall in sales is due to customers switching to the internet to make their purchases rather than driving to the shop might still find plenty of people wanting to be a manager. But, the branch in a rundown shopping mall in an area of relatively high unemployment might seem less attractive, especially if it was finding it difficult to recruit staff despite the high unemployment. Of course, the company could offer incentives to relocate staff as it is one big organisation and any employee keen for promotion would recognise the need to relocate.

Schooling in England isn’t yet like that. It suffers from a chronic lack of attention to governance and management that sees local authorities clinging on to their remnants of their former power in some areas; more successfully in some places than others. Then there are the churches, with lots of schools, but for too long no obvious plan for improving standards across all their schools, but a loyal workforce. Since many teachers, especially primary school teachers, train in their local area and aim to work there for their whole careers, the idea of a mobile leadership force, especially in the primary sector is quite possibly fanciful. Indeed, one wonders if the DfE has undertaken any research into the mobility of the teaching force and its leadership, let alone into how many school leaders would need to relocate to tackle the coasting school issue. If none, then the Secretary of State really was guilty of careless talk.

Perhaps it was just a shot across the bows. After all both Nick Clegg and David Laws had proposed plans when in government to create a national cadre of school leaders – see previous posts discussing the idea – so may be this was just an extension of those ideas, but less well articulated. For there are schools that need encouragement to do better, if not for all their pupils, but for some groups whether the least able or the middle attainers or even the most able if their results are being supported by the parents that pay for private tuition and revision classes.

However, until we have an understanding of the shape and lines of control of our school system and whether it is a collaborative or competitive system, it is difficult to see how parachuting leaders into schools on the basis of external assessments will bring improvement to the system as a whole.

Indeed, it might make matters worse if it both dissuades teachers from taking on leadership roles and makes teaching look an unattractive career to new entrants, where the rewards don’t match the risks. We need to get the best from those that work in schools, Michael Gove didn’t, and it is unlikely Nicky Morgan will if she doesn’t balance the waved stick with some sensible use of the carrot.

Was Professor Halsey right after all?

Educational Priority Areas grew out of the desire in the 1960s to improve the quality of education for those children living in the most deprived parts of the country. Now over half a century later we find the government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that is chaired by a Labour politician and includes a former Tory Secretary of State for Education among its members recommending paying teachers 25% more to work in the most deprived schools as an experiment in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children. Well that sounds very like the Schools of Exceptional difficulty payments introduced under Margaret Thatcher’s regime when she was Edward Heath’s Education Secretary. This idea along with the instruction to Teach First to extend to certain coastal fringe areas this seems like another step in the move away from a free-market economics of education solution to a more planned and directed outcome to a problem that has be-devilled this country; the gaps in attainment between different social classes.

The Commission’s idea that the Pay Review Body might designate a new pay category that was non-geographical and thus unlike the present arrangements is really a challenge to the free market and comes remarkably swiftly after the abolition of national pay scales by the previous Secretary of State. The Commission noted that few academies had made use of the powers over pay that had been available to them in the past and this seems to have been one of the reasons for them advocating a more interventionist approach. Elsewhere, the Commission seem to have a somewhat fanciful notion of what local authorities can now achieve. It is all very well using the example of the London Challenge, but that was developed in a timeframe before the wholesale introduction of academies and free schools decimated local authority education departments. Realistically, the Commission needs to pay more attention to how far the complexity of running today’s school system may be adding to the very issue that they are trying to solve. As regular reads know, I would prefer local democratic involvement, especially in the primary school sector, but even more I would prefer a coherent management and leadership regime for the whole system that is dedicated to raising standards for all.

The Commission also discuss parental involvement and the poor quality of career advice that is often linked to low expectations. More must be done to encourage parents that the education system failed not to let the same thing happen with the next generation. Breaking the cycle of hopelessness is a vital component to raising standards as the Commission acknowledges. How to disseminate best practice rather than ritual nods to devolving training to schools and Teach First might have allowed for discussion about the content of both initial training and professional development of teachers.

Where I do agree with the Commission is in the vital role played by primary schools and the need to focus more attention on success in the early years. Regular attendance and strategies to help pupils that miss school are important moves in helping all pupils achieve success as last week’s publication of the EYFS profiles showed.

For anyone interested in the issue of social mobility this is an important but at times challenging and even depressing Report to read. It can be found at