Academic data

In many ways the data produced yesterday by UCAS about applications and acceptances for postgraduate teacher preparation courses is now merely academic. I will be very surprised if the current pandemic doesn’t see a sharp increase in applications to train as a teacher during the rest of this admissions round. Indeed, in some subjects, there is already some evidence of a recovery in offers from the levels of the last few months.

So, first the good news. There has been a surge of offers in Business Studies, art and music. These are welcome, but not yet enough to ensure these subjects will recruit sufficient trainees this year. Offers in physical education are also above last year, but don’t rate being classified as a surge. Most other subjects are still tracking where they were at this point last year. However, geography offers are below last year’s numbers and that might be a concern if the numbers don’t recover over the next few months. The real issue is with Modern Foreign Languages. Here, published offers are well down on last year. Some of this may be due to the method of reporting the data in this subject area, but it remains a concern.

On applications, the overall total for England is startlingly similar to March 2019; 63,820 this year compared with 63,570 in March 2019. However, applications for primary courses are down on last March; from 28,670 to 27,870; somewhere around 250-300 less applicants in all probability. This means that applications for secondary subjects are up from 34,600 last March to 35,940 this year: in excess of 400 new additional applicants, many in the arts subjects.

Higher education has around 400 few applications for primary courses, whereas there are 130 more applications for primary PG Teaching Apprenticeships. School Direct Salaried is the other route to have seen a significant decrease in applications.

On the secondary side, all routes have seen an increase in applications, although for the School Direct Salaried route it is only some 60 extra applications in total to bring the number to 2,130.

As far as the age of applicant is concerned, there are small increases in those in the 24 age-group and the 40+ age-group, and a small fall in those aged 22. All other groups have similar numbers to March last year. There is also little change in the gender balance of applicants when compared with March 2019. This year, 7,260 men have applied compared with 7,140 last year. For women, the numbers are 17,800 this year compared with 17,740 in March 2019.

I expect applications to increase sharply over the next month or so in response to the pandemic. I send my best wishes to everyone working in both schools and teacher education at this difficult and challenging time.

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Lining: not good enough

Yesterday, UCAS announced its latest numbers for applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Next month will witness the half-way point in the current recruitment cycle. At this stage of the year there tends to be a levelling off in the rate of applications from current students, as they head towards final examinations and dissertation submissions, and the momentum in applications tends to be driven by career changers.

Both the current world health outlook and this week’s falls in stock market prices are too recent to have affected decisions about teaching as a career option but, if either, and certainly if both, continue then the period after final examinations this summer might see an upturn in applications for teacher preparation courses. This would obviously be helped if companies reduce or stop hiring graduates this year.

But, all that is for the future. These figures suggest very similar overall outcomes to this point last year, with some subjects doing slightly better than last year, while others are faring less well.  Applications for primary sector courses continue their downward trend.

Still, there are some crumbs of comfort for the government. Applications to providers in the key London and South East regions are up on last year, whereas in the other regions applications are lower. As ever, it would be helpful to see these changes by primary and secondary sector applications. Overall applications for primary courses are down by nearly a thousand applications, whereas those for secondary courses are up by around 500. However, this might translate into less than 200 additional applicants. In fact, there are some 50 fewer applicants overall than this point last year: a reduction of around one per cent.

Applications for Teaching Apprenticeships continue to increase on this point last year, although the level of applications remains at little more than ‘noise’ in the system. Primary School Direct (non-salaried) courses remain the only bright spot in the primary sector, with a small increase in applications, against falls elsewhere.

In the secondary sector, there are increases for all types of courses, but the School Direct Salaried route is still attracting only a small number of applications, and acceptances are down on this point last year to just around 140 applications.

The bad news on the subject front is the slump in ‘offers’ to languages courses continues, and the various subjects within this group are now registering their lowest levels of ‘placed, conditionally placed and holding offers’ applications since the 2013/14 recruitment round. Both mathematics and physics are also down on last year’s offers. Where there are increases, as in art; business studies and design & technology they come from such a low base that they are not yet anywhere near sufficient to ensure that the Teacher Supply Model number will be reached; still in these subjects every additional trainee is to be welcomed.

With increasing pupil numbers for 2021, when this cohort of trainees enters the labour market, just keeping pace with last year is to be heading backwards in terms of need for new teachers even at constant funding levels. Any increased funding for schools, if not absorbed in other cost pressures, just makes staffing issues worse.

 

10 Adverts per school in 2019

The average secondary school has placed 10 adverts for teachers during 2019. The figure is higher for most schools in London and the Home Counties and lower for many schools in the north of England.

The data are from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the leading job boards for teachers looking for posts anywhere in England.

Of course, the average is a crude measure, as it isn’t related to the size of the school in terms of its pupil population. There are schools with more than 2,000 pupils and also at the opposite end of the scale there are those with only a few hundred pupils.

Once the year is over, TeachVac will link the number of vacancies to the pupil roll of the school, as supplied by the DfE in its data, and compare the outcome with indicators such as the percentage of pupils with Free School Meals. As TeachVac has data for several years, it will be possible to start to identify trends and whether there are certain types of school where staff turnover is more common.

Of course, now that the number of pupils entering secondary schools is on the increase, and there are also new schools being established, the picture is not as clear cut as if it were a steady state in relation to the size of the secondary school population.

The data also reveals how the demand for teachers corresponds to the supply, at least for new entrants. Data on returners seeing work is still patchy, and a national register might be a useful tool for the new government to consider.

After all, what is the point of training teachers if there are also returners willing to work as teachers? As I have said before on this blog, enticing mature entrants into teaching and then not offering them work is a wasteful misuse of human resources. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the Humanities.

There are far more history and geography trainees than required by schools. History trainees, unless lucky to be on Teach First or School Direct Salaried Scheme, have to pay fees and find the cost of looking after themselves during their training, all this expenditure with no guarantee of a job.

This year, 2019-2020, according to DfE figures, some 178 history trainees are being supported by public funds (65 on School Direct Salaried Scheme and 113 on Teach First). By comparison, some 1400+ trainees are using student loans and other funds to train as a teacher.

With such over-recruitment into training, it isn’t clear why the government allowed spending on 178 history trainees at a cost of perhaps £400,000 of public money? That’s unnecessary public expenditure. Add in those 130 geography and PE trainees also on salary schemes, subjects where supply of trainees also exceeds demand for teachers, and the cost to the public purse is well over half a million pounds.

The current hybrid system of training teachers looks overdue for a re-think. Whether it will get one from the next government is probably unlikely while planning for Brexit continues to dominate the agenda.

 

No Great Flood: ITT data November 2019

November data from UCAS on applications to postgraduate ITT courses, published yesterday, is always the first data from the new cycle; a cycle that will end next September. As such, the numbers already offered places, holding offers or already placed are small. However, we now have four years of data from November, so something might be inferred about trends from even these small numbers.

Suffice to say, in secondary subjects at least, there is no great change, at the offer level, in most subjects areas, with six of those subjects followed showing higher offers than last year; six lower and three the same. Of course, with rounding and such small numbers, the inferences must be limited.

However, modern foreign languages; music; mathematics; geography; computing and chemistry are all lower than last year in terms of all the offer categories. Of these, mathematics, chemistry and computing will be the subjects where even now there should be a watch on what is happening, because the DfE’s ITT Census, published yesterday, revealed lower numbers this year compared with 2018. In mathematics and chemistry, the Teacher Supply Model number for September 2020 is higher than last year: the mountain peak just became a bit further to climb than last year.

So, what about overall applications? Applications for primary phase courses are down this November on both last year and the year before at 7,980 compared with 9,750 two years ago. In the secondary sector, the number at 9,860 is 50 above this point last year and 700 up on two years ago: so that’s good news at the overall level. But, just taking mathematics as an example, the all states number this November is 830 compared with 930 last year: still well above the 640 of November 2017, but heading in the wrong direction.

As with the ITT Census, it seems as if the trend towards older applicants has continued. More over 30s and fewer early applicants from final year undergraduates and those in the 22 year old age bracket. Applications are down from both men and women; women by just under 400 applicants and men by around 80 applicants, to only 1,950. At this stage, we don’t have the gender breakdown by phase or subject in term of applicants.

In terms of overall applications, there has been a modest increase in applications for Teaching Apprenticeships at the postgraduate level, up from 80 applications to 150. Applications to SCITTs are at similar levels to this point last year, but other routes have seen declines in overall applications. In the case of higher education down from 9,230 two years ago to 7,910 this year. For School Direct Salaried, applications are down from 2,760 last year to 2,360 this year; about the same level as two years ago.

I don’t know whether the strikes in the university sector will affect offers being made to candidates over the next month or so, but it shouldn’t make much, if any, difference to applications since UCAS is the first point of entry.

So, no great tidal wave of applicants this year as the recruitment process opened. The increase in the starting salary and the funds for schools being offered as part of the general election campaign have yet to bear any significant fruits, at least in terms of increased applications for teaching as a career by graduates.

However, it is only the start of the cycle and at this point one must remain positive and hopeful.

 

More lows than highs

Schools are going to have to rely upon reducing wastage rates among serving teachers and encouraging returners back into teaching in order to survive the 2020 recruitment round, if the data released by UCAS today about offers for teacher training courses starting this September don’t show dramatic improvements over the next couple of weeks. The DfE is doing a valiant job fast tracking enquiries received by their ‘get into teaching’ site, but so far it isn’t enough to prevent another potential year of problems for schools.

Let’s start with the good news: history has more offers than ever before, and languages; religious education and design and technology have recorded more offers than in August last year. However, design and technology is still way below target numbers needed to meet the Teacher Supply Model number for this year.

Biology, English, geography and physical education are at similar levels to this time last year in terms of recorded ‘offers’ and should produce sufficient teachers to meet needs next year on a national scale, even if there are local shortages because of where training is located. Chemistry is also at a similar level to last year, but that may not be sufficient to meet demand for teachers of the subject.

Now for the bad news: some subjects are recording lower offer levels than at this point in 2018. Business Studies and art, although lower than last year are not at their lowest levels for August during the past six recruitment rounds. However, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording offer levels that are lower than at any August during the recruitment rounds since 2013/14. Schools across England are likely to experience recruitment challenges in these subjects in 2020 that could be worse than this year unless supply is boosted in other ways.

This grim news, is backed by a depressing 500 fewer placed applicants in England and slightly fewer ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. The additional 30 applicants ‘holding an offer’ do not make up the difference. Overall, some 72% of applicants domiciled in England have been made an offer (73% at August 2018). The published monthly statistics don’t allow for easy comparison by subject for applicants as opposed to applications which, as I have pointed out in the past, is a disappointment.

Nevertheless, most of the reduction in offers is to male applicants, where ‘placed’ applicants are down from 9,250 in August 2018, to 8,800 this August; a reduction of around 450 or the majority of the reduction in offer numbers. It is career switchers that have disappeared, especially those between the age groups of 22-29. The youngest ‘new’ graduate numbers are very similar to last year, but there are more applicants in their 30s than last year.

The School Direct Salaried route continues to be the big loser in terms of offers, but not in terms of applications. Only 770 applications are shown as with offers of any sort compared to 990 last August for the secondary sector. In the primary sector the number is higher at 1,840, but last August the number was higher at 2,000.

There are still very many offers recorded as ‘conditional’ even at this late point in the cycle. Only in history, Mandarin, PE and Religious Education, among the larger subjects, are ‘placed’ numbers shown as higher this August than in August 2019.

Next month will mark the end of the monthly date for this recruitment round. I wish I could say that I was optimistic, but despite the potential turmoil faced by the country over the political situation, I cannot be anything other than concerned for the teacher labour market in 2020 based upon these data.

 

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.

Teacher Preparation: national policy or local decision?

Schools Week recently broke a story about the STEP Academy Trust wanting to go its own way on teacher training, just at the time when the government seems to want to create a unified approach to recruitment onto courses preparing would-be teachers.

As documented previously on this blog, Mr Gibb has called for providers not to reject possible candidates wanting to become a teachers. According to Schools Week, one of the reasons for The STEP Academy Group wanting to go its own way was in order that they could demand higher standards than currently achieved by primary PGCE courses that operate through UCAS. According to the article in Schools week, the Trust apparently equates attending a Russell Group University as a key selection measure, along with a B and not a C is English and Mathematics at GCSE. Curiously, the Schools Week article didn’t mention a grade required for Science.

The DfE will have to come down hard on any provider wanting to avoid using a central application system if the government believes such a system is a good idea. Certainly, creating lots of different admissions systems, might well put off applicants. After all, that’s why centralised admission systems were invented in the first place; way back in the 1960s for undergraduate courses.

I am not a fan of the present UCAS system, as it is expensive for both candidates and providers, whilst being cost neutral for UCAS. The former GTTR system of sequential applications also allowed for better monitoring of applicants progress and also provided better data about rejections than the present Apply 1 and Apply 2 system, but it is what we have in place. There was room for improvement, as there still is. The number of places on offer and the number of offers made might help candidates assess where to apply, especially later in the recruitment round when courses are on the cusp of closing.

I assume the STEP Academy will want to operate a form of School Direct salaried training scheme, paid for by the Trust. Neither the Trust nor their suggested university partner have any allocation from the DfE for 2019-20 training places. This raises the interesting question of whether or not those on training courses need to be on courses with allocated places in order to obtain QTS? Maybe because the recruitment cap has been abolished that rule doesn’t matter, but has the cap been abolished for primary courses?

Alternatively, these could be regarded as assessment only candidates, to be presented at the end of the period of teaching in the classroom? There doesn’t seem to be any cap for the number of such people granted QTS each year.

But, none of this probably matters to the school since, under the Govian rule change, they don’t need to employ teachers with QTS; anyone will do, presumably so long as they meet the Trust’s entry requirements.

However, candidates might want to reflect upon the usefulness for a career in teaching of a non-standard entry qualification. Will schools outside of the Trust recognise their qualification? Who knows?

Finally, it may be a bit late for 2019 entry to be thinking of starting a course in September, unless the Trust have applicants knocking on their door as a result of the Schools week article.

I am also surprised that under the National Funding Formula schools in East Sussex have enough income to create such a course. Perhaps it will all be paid for by the Trust’s South London schools?