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?

 

 

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Headline news looks good, but beware headlines

The data produced by UCAS earlier today on applicants to ITT postgraduate training course up to 21st January 2019 looks good on the surface. There were 14,650 applicants this year compared with 14,210 last year: an increase of around 450. This is a small increase, but heading in the right direction. However, the 2018 data were for 15th January and the 2019 data were for 21st January. The difference in reporting dates can account for a proportion of the difference in the two totals. So the picture may not be as good as the headline figure might suggest. This is especially concerning since the 2018 data was a low point in the January numbers for recent years.

In the secondary subjects, the picture is much as expected. The number accepted or holding offers is down on last year in Computing and IT and design and technology and similar to last year in Business Studies; English, music and art. Business Studies currently has just 30 applicants placed or holding an offer: all conditionally placed.

By contrast, Mathematics is doing well compared with last year, up from 410 to 520, but there is still a long way to go to reach the 3,000+ trainees identified as needed by the Teacher Supply Model. Religious Education and languages, as well as Biology, are also experiencing good increases compared with this point last year. However, in some cases, this just returns the subject to the January 2017 level.

Applications for primary courses have nearly returned to their January 218 levels; with 19,840 compared to 20,590 in 2018: but don’t forget the extra week may matter here, so there is still more work to do. Secondary courses have approaching 2,000 more applications – not applicants- even here, as noted above, work remains to be done if targets are to be met. Otherwise, 2020 will be another challenging year for recruiting teachers, as there will be even more secondary school pupils to teach than in 2019.

School Direct salaried numbers in the secondary sector continue to fall, with just 80 offers and fewer than 10 ‘placed’ trainees so far this year out of a total of 1,280 recorded applications. There are also fewer than 10 recorded placed candidates or offers for secondary PG Teaching Apprenticeships out of the 50 applications. This is compared with 30 out of 150 applications for those courses in the primary sector.

There is still work to do attracting young graduates into teaching. The number of applicants under the age of 24 is still below last year’s level, and that wasn’t an encouraging number. The good news is that there are 60 more men that have applied than last year: most are over 30 and balance further falls from new graduates. However, there are 260 more conditional placed applicants among the 4,060 men. Last year, it was 1,450 out of 4,000, but remember the difference in date may account for part of the difference.

So, this remains a challenging recruitment round if the outcome is to hit the first overall goal of doing better in shortage subjects than last year. Finger remain firmly crossed.

A decline is still a decline even if the rate of decline has slowed down

For most of the 25 years I have been tracking applications by graduates to enter teacher preparation courses, there has been no need to worry about the number of applicants seeking to train as a primary school teacher; the issue has always been finding enough trainees in a range of secondary subjects.

The latest data from UCAS on applications for postgraduate teacher training in the period up to just before Christmas 2018 showed that there were 10,820 applicants domiciled in England by mid-December 2018, compared with 17,420 at the December 2016 measuring point and 18,880 in 2015. Although the decline has slowed compared with previous years in 2018, it has not stopped, and makes even more of mockery of the statement quoted in the previous blog post from the LSE team’s evaluation of the DfE’s marketing campaign for teaching.

UCAS don’t provide information about the split between applicants looking at primary courses and those seeking secondary subjects. However, the nature of the decline can be determined by looking at the number of applications in the different sectors.

Applications for all secondary courses in England were stable at 16,100 in December 2018 compared with 16,070 in December 2017. However, primary, applications are down from 16,870 in 2017 to just 14,770 in December 2018. If everyone has made three applications that would be less than 5,000 applicants so far for primary courses.

Last year, the numbers required to fill all primary places were made up later in the cycle, and by the ITT census in November 103% of placed had been filled. But, gone, it seems, are the days when I needed to advocate a closing date to ensure anyone applying later than November would be considered for a place. With around primary 13,000 places to fill for autumn 2019, we need around a lot more applications if providers are going to have any choice in candidates they can offer a place to on their courses.

The good news is that applications are higher for most secondary subjects compared to December 2017. Art, history and physical education are the exceptions. The decline of nearly 1,000 in applications for physical education courses is noteworthy, as it is the first time such a decline in this subject has been seen in recent years.

Looking at applications by the region of provider, applications are down across most of England, with those applying for courses in London down from 2,570 in December 2016 to 1,540 in December 2018. The West Midlands is the only region not to record a fall. Applicant numbers there were the same in December 2018 as in the previous December.

In the primary sector, all types of provider have suffered from a decline in applications, with higher education reducing by more than 1,700 applications. By contrast in the secondary sector, School Direct Fee courses registered an increase in applications compared with last year, whereas other providers all recorded falls in applications. School Direct salaried applications in the secondary sector were around the 900 mark in December 2018. This might mean only 300 applicants, if each had made three applications. In reality, the number of applicants is likely to be higher, but is still probably around 10% down on last year’s figure for December.

December is still early in the annual recruitment cycle to panic, but unless there is a pickup early in 2019, schools faced with a growing secondary school population in September 2020 might find recruiting teachers in some subjects a real challenge. Let us hope that the same won’t be true for their colleagues leading primary schools.

Teacher Preparation data – Part 1

The final UCAS figures for numbers on graduate teacher starting preparation courses this autumn were published earlier today. These figures exclude Teach First, but cover almost all other graduate courses. The final outcome figures of those that actually turned up, and were still there after the first couple of weeks, will be published in late November when the DfE’s ITT census appears. However, these figures from UCAS can provide a good approximation of that outcome.

This year has been an unusual recruitment round, as there has been a late surge in applications and acceptances. Such a late surge is normally only seen when the economy is in recession and jobs for graduates are scare. As that isn’t the case this year, there must be another reason for the upturn in interest in teaching. However, whatever the reason, the interest is to be welcomed.

By mid-September this year, UCAS had received applications from 41,020 applicants domiciled in England compared with 41,690 at the same point last year: a credible outcome for what might have been a disastrous year had early trends not been overturned. However, the only regions with more applicants this year were the North West and the West Midlands, both not key areas of teacher shortages. The most worrying trend is the continued downward rate in applications from the 23-29 age group. Applications from young new graduates held steady, while those from old applicants continued to increase. Whether older applicants will continue to apply, if Lucy Kellaway’s BBC radio series next week about her experiences of the profession gains wide traction, only time will tell.

The total number of men applying in England fell to just over 13,000 this year, from almost 13,700 last year while more women applied, but not in large enough numbers to offset the decline in male applicants.

Applications, and candidates may make several applications, were down for all types of course catering for primary teacher preparation. However, higher education and SCITTs saw more applications that last year for secondary teacher preparation courses. There were fewer applications for secondary School Direct courses, with only 4,970 applications for the ‘Salaried’ route compared with 6,170 in 2017. As far as secondary schools are concerned, there might need to be a review of training, especially when taken into consideration with the data on SKE courses contained in today’s DfE publication on the teacher workforce. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4

School Direct ‘Salaried’ numbers ‘Placed’ have dropped in the secondary sector from 990 in September 2016, to just 560 this year, with similar numbers ‘conditionally placed’ in both years. By this time, one wonders why there are any remaining ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. Higher Education is again taking its places as the main route for preparing secondary school teachers, even if SCITT courses are counted with the other school-based routes. In the primary sector, there has been an increase in numbers ‘Placed’ on School Direct ‘Salaried’ courses, but fewer trainees were ‘Placed’ in higher education courses than last year, although the final outcome will depend upon what happens to the slightly higher number of ‘conditionally placed’ applicants this year.

The DfE has announced the bursary rates for trainees starting courses in 2019. Still no bursary for business studies trainees, and a shocking waste of money with bursaries for history trainees. Either, pay a salary or waive fees for all trainees or have a genuine policy of dealing with shortage subjects, not this charade where bursaries have little relation to real teacher supply issues.

 

 

A thank you to Schools of Education

Michael Gove didn’t like Schools of Education in Universities. He effectively set out to reduce their leading role in teacher education and especially their role in training new teachers. He wasn’t alone in that regard among Conservative Secretaries of State for Education. Mr Gove took the decision to create the two School Direct routes – fee based and salaried – to replace the former Graduate Teacher Training Route (GTTP) that had been operating for just over a decade as a replacement for earlier schemes designed to help alleviate teacher shortages; he also decided to allow Teach First to expand.

I recall a meeting in Whitehall with David Laws, when he was Minister of State during the coalition, where I explained that the policy then in operation would have effectively destroyed many higher education secondary teacher preparation courses, especially where they were not under-pinned by a large primary cohort, because they would simply not have been economic to run.

Had all the requests from schools that year for arts and humanities places been accepted, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been considerable changes in the landscape of university provision across England and possibly course and even department closures. Fortunately, increasing secondary pupil numbers and a degree of common sense, plus I suspect a degree of lobbying by others more influential than myself, meant that the doomsday scenario for higher education didn’t come to pass.

So what has happened over the past four years in terms of the percentages of applications via the different routes? The month of May is a good time to consider this question as, although universities and most SCITTs remain open all year for applications, some schools tend to close their books with the end of their summer term. As a result, the data for the end of the year may be skewed in favour of higher education providers. I was also asked the question by a course provider in response to yesterday’s post ‘a sigh of relief’.

So here are the percentages for applications in May over the past four years, as derived from the UCAS monthly data reports.

Primary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 45 48 47
SCITT 8 9 9 10
SDFEE 24 27 25 25
SDSAL 17 19 18 18
Secondary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 47 50 52
SCITT 8 10 11 12
SDFEE 29 31 29 28
SDSAL 12 12 9 7

Source; UCAS Monthly data reports on ITT – percentage of applications

The key point to note is the different position of higher education in the two sectors. In the primary sector, schools have been adding market share in terms of applications every year since 2015, although the School Direct Fee route seems to have stalled this year. Some of the change may be due to the reduction of new women graduates looking to train as a primary teacher, as the decline in their numbers may have dis-proportionally affected higher education providers. It is worth noting that in May 2015 there were just over 49,000 applications for primary courses, compared with just 38,100 in May 2018.

In the secondary sector, as numbers applying have reduced, so higher education has started to regain market share, reaching 52% in May 2018. The big decline is in School Direct Salaried – down from 12% of applications to seven per cent in 2018. Had SCITTs not taken up part of the decline, higher education might now have an even larger market share of the just under 47,000 applications this year. This compares to more than 53,000 applications to secondary courses in May 2015.

Without higher education and its willingness to train teachers and to fight for the right to do so, our schools  might now be in an even worse situation than they find themselves in when trying to recruit new teachers.

it is a salutatory lesson to politicians such as myself that we need to look not only at the immediate consequences of our actions, but also ensure resilience for the longer-term. That isn’t an argument for never changing anything, but for being aware of the consequences of our actions. A new system would have emerged from any collapse of existing higher education providers, but would it have been worth the pain and turmoil?

 

 

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
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 1610 1705 95
Secondary Placed End of Cycle ITT Census 2017 Difference
HE 7400 7105 -295
SCITT 1750 1970 220
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3760 3870 110
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 960 1080 120

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 bad numbers

The UCAS data for applications to ITT courses starting next autumn were published this morning. The data provides details about both applicant numbers and the number of applications (up to a maximum of 3) that they have made. The snapshot is for the 20th November, a day earlier than the 21st November, when the 2016 data was logged. This may be significant, but as both were Mondays and the reference point was just after Midnight, the effect may be relatively slight.

As ever, some data are for the sector as a whole and other elements can be drilled down into, providing data about the different phases and even to subject levels. In England, secondary applications were 15,470 in November 2016 at the data collection point: this year, the figure is 9,150, a decline of 6,320 or around 40%. Coming on top of the data from the ITT census that counted the numbers on courses that started this autumn, this is a hint that the downward decline in numbers wanting to be secondary school teachers may well be continuing, at least at the start of the new recruitment round.

Although the phase of training applied for isn’t identified for the different age groups, there have been substantial falls in applicants numbers from those in the younger age groups; typically new graduates with high levels of debt. For those 21 or under, the number of early applicants has fallen from 2,590 to 1,700; for 22 year olds, from 1,910 to 1,190 and for 23 year olds, from 1,370 to just 690. Since these are traditionally among the age groups that often apply early, this must be of some concern. The decline in applications from women of 23 or younger, from 4,290 last year to just 2,650 this year must be a concern as women make up around 70% of trainee numbers. So far this year, fewer than 1,000 men in this age grouping of under-24 have applied to UCAS across both primary and secondary phases.

The decline in applications is mirrored by a similar decline in acceptances of those either fully or conditionally placed or holding an offer by the 20th November. In some subjects, such as business studies, there are no recorded applications in any of the three ‘offer’ categories. Even in History, a popular and over-subscribed subject last year, there are just 70 placed or holding offer compared with more than 200 at this point last year. With the open allocations policy there is an incentive for providers to offer as quickly as possible lest applicants are attracted to another provider.

All types of provider have been affected by this early decline in applications, with applications for secondary courses in higher education down from 7,640 to 4,660 and for secondary School Direct salaried route from 1,140 to 480.

Of course, this decline may reflect a change in the pattern of applications, but if it continues through December and into the New Year, the DfE will have to take some action or risk the most serious crisis in applications since the turn of the century. With the return of teacher recruitment in-house there is nowhere for Ministers to hide if the numbers don’t pick up.