ITT Applications: Some surge; some not yet

Applications to subjects such as art and design and business studies have shown some of the largest increases in applications over the period between mid-March and mid-April– note this isn’t the same as an in applicants, because applicants may make a number of applications to different courses.

There have also been increases in subjects such as chemistry; mathematics; music, religious education, many of the European Languages and Computing. On the other hand, applications for design and technology; drama and history have remained at similar levels to last year. There are actually fewer applications for both physical education and geography, continuing the trend seen earlier in the year. Perhaps the most disappointing number, is revealed in the fact that applications for physics courses have also remained flat, at just some twenty or so applications below last April.

In terms of applications to the different sectors, the extra applicants have targeted the secondary sector; where applications are up from 40,560 in April 2019, to 43,270 this April. By way of contrast, applications for the primary sector courses fell from 32,350 in April 2019, to 31,920 this April.

Most of the extra applications are concentrated in and around London, with the East of England; South East and London regions accounting for the 680 of the 710 or so additional applicants. The number of applicants registered in the North East was actually below the April 2019 number; falling from 1,350 to 1,310. Although more applicants were registered in all age groups, the increase in those in the 30-39 age group, from 4,160 to 4,310 stands out as worthy of note. Relatively few new graduates have so far chosen to apply, as might be expected at this point in their courses, even though they may be facing a great degree of uncertainty over their futures.

The School Direct Salaried route and higher education courses seem to have borne the brunt of the decline in applications for primary sector places, with the Apprenticeship and School Direct Fee courses recording increases, and SCITT applications remaining broadly the same as last April.

In the secondary sector, all routes have recorded more applications, with higher education and School Direct fee courses experiencing the greatest increases.

As a result of the increase in applications to the secondary sector, there is little point in discussing the number of offers that have been made in the different subjects, as it is too early to tell anything about the quality of the additional applicants. However, as I hinted in last month’s report, this recruitment round is likely to take on a very different outlook than was being predicted even as recently as February. Indeed, it may well turn out to be the best recruitment round in some subjects since 2013.

My best guess is that with the increased number of those seeking benefits after being made redundant, and the possibility of some graduates having employment offers withdrawn as firms struggle to reduce their costs, we will see further increases in applications over the next couple of months.

Will the DfE consider the need for recruitment controls once again, in order to ensure government expenditure on student loans does not exceed a certain level as part of the need to cap some areas of government spending? Might some bursaries come under threat as part of any package of emergency changes forced upon the government?

 

 

 

 

Should trainee teachers be job hunting?

Laura MCInerney the teacher turned editor turned commentator, and also a successful businesswoman has been discussing the question of whether trainee teachers will want to apply for jobs since their training having been so disturbed?

As a former teacher trainer, and someone that has spent many years studying trends in teacher supply I have two observations on this question. Firstly, by the end of Term 2 of their preparation most graduates fall into one of three categories; those that can be told that providing that they keep up their momentum they will pass the course and can apply for jobs if they haven’t been snapped up by the schools where they have already been working; secondly, the small group where either the selection process failed or some other factor has intervened to ensure the trainee is highly unlikely to successfully complete the course. Clearly, even in normal circumstances this group won’t be expect to be applying for teaching posts, or if they do, then their reference might not be fully supportive and draw attention to the challenges they have faced. Finally there is a small group not yet ready to be told that they ‘not yet ready to be on track to complete the course successfully’. This group might be helped to identify their needs by a supportive final term , whether to develop those classroom skills or hone their planning or assessment abilities. This group might want to defer applying for a job, but then they would in any other year be likely to be advised to do so.

The anxiety is no doubt over whether the third term learning will take place, but I don’t see why the manner in which trainees adapt to the changed , and the work currently being undertaken, should not be regarded as just as valuable as the normal curriculum of teacher preparation.

No doubt of more concern in the minds of trainees is whether the job market for teachers, that is still operating, albeit at a much reduced pace than normal for late April, will be swamped with returners to teaching that have lost their current source of income? Such is the normal pattern of events in a recession, and schools have to weigh up the value of trainees over the experience either former teachers or teachers returning from abroad can offer.

Because of the risk of an avalanche of returning teachers seeking a teaching post, I would suggest trainees don’t delay making applications and that they cast their net as wide as possible, especially if they are training for the primary sector or are history or PE teachers. Such vacancies may be in short supply and competition will be fierce.

As ever, I suggest using TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk where I am Chairman to search for vacancies. It’s free and as far as England is concerned more comprehensive that the DfE site, as TeachVac contains both state and private school vacancies.

Good luck with job hunting whether you are a trainee looking for your first job; a current teacher seeking to change jobs or a returner for whatever reason.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Gifts may not be the same as presents

As many readers of this blog will know, the DfE is planning a new digital application service for prospective trainee teachers. Apart from being trendy, I am not sure what the word ‘digital’ adds to the title, as surely nobody would create a new paper-based application service these days.

You can read about the service at https://dfedigital.blog.gov.uk/2019/09/05/testing-apply/ The new service will eventually replace the existing service run by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), probably by the start of the application round for 2021 courses, if the trial stages go well.

Now, I have had my differences with UCAS over the present system, introduced when I sat on a Committee representing ITT interests as an independent member. Some of my concerns seems to be being replicated by the DfE in designing their system. However, I have a much more fundamental concern than the design of the system about the DfE’s proposal. UCAS isn’t a government body. Instead, it is owned by its members. The new system will transfer ownership of the postgraduate application process for teaching to the government.

Is that change of ownership a good idea? Certainly, it will directly save both candidates and the providers of courses money as, like the DfE teacher recruitment service, it will be free at the point of delivery. It am sure it will also be well designed.

However, ownership of the process will then be in the hands of politicians and not the providers. Imagine a future government that recognises the need to balance supply and demand for teachers across the country and closes off courses when sufficient applications have been received, but before providers have made their choice of applicants. This could force later applicants to choose from the remaining courses that are short of applicants. Now, in some ways this is similar to the recruitment controls imposed upon the sector a few years ago. Any such regulation might reduce the freedom of providers to select candidates. You could envisage other interventions.

The DfE team running the service will need to know a great deal about the complexities of the teacher preparation market. If it is an in-house set-up at the DfE, what oversight will there be? Is there to be an advisory board or some other form of governance structure or will the system just be run by a changing stream of civil servants, supervised by a senior policy officer and just keeping ‘in contact’ with the providers?

As a government function, the application service will always be subject to Ministerial oversight and direction. Whether that is a ‘good thing’ or not will depend upon your views about services run by government. Certainly, as a public service, there should be more data available than is currently the case with the UCAS service.

It is also worth recalling that the DfE ran the admissions process for School Direct in 2013 and allowed me to comment in May of that year about the state of applications in a post entitled Applications Good: Acceptances better. https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/applications-good-acceptances-better/

As Ed Dorrell of the Tes remarked at the NABTT Conference, during his talk on teacher supply, Ministers don’t like talking about a crisis, and my analysis of the data that year certainly landed me in hot water, as anyone that reads the August 2013 posts on this blog can discover.

Whatever I think, the DfE is presenting the new system to the sector. I just hope it is a gift worth receiving.