School Direct in trouble in the secondary sector?

The wider world seems to be receiving the message in the Conservative manifesto. At least as far as graduates looking to train as teachers are concerned. The latest data on applications and offers was published by UCAS earlier today.

Offers in geography and history, EBacc subjects, have reached new highs for this time of year, easily exceeding the numbers reached last year and the year before at the same time. At the other end of the Range, for business studies, chemistry, music and physical education, offers are below both last year and the year before at this point in the cycle. In IT the number of offers is the same as last year, but below the year before. In the other subjects tracked, biology, design and technology, English, mathematics, physics, Religious Education, art and modern languages, the number of offer made so far this year is below this point last year, but still above the figure for two years ago at this point in time, albeit in some subjects only just.

Time is running out, with only three months of the recruitment round left before courses commence and less than two months before school start the summer holiday period. This means how new graduates react to the possibility of a career in teaching once finals are over is key to the outcome of the recruitment round and whether some subjects will confront a sixth year in a row of not meeting the government’s identified trainee numbers needed. Frankly, with the present economic climate and demand for graduates, I don’t currently expect a large rush into teaching, even with a vague promise from the Conservatives of some debt forgiveness for those that stay in teaching.

So, how bad is it looking overall? The crisis, to the extent that there is one, is most severe in School Direct in the secondary sector. Offers made for secondary School Direct Salaried route places are down from 1,130 at this point last year to just 730 this year. Of these, only 100 firm placed students are on this route, compared with 160 at this point last year. Uniquely, there are even fewer potential trainees holding offer than last year. Elsewhere, the increase in applicants holding an offer is the one bright spot in a generally dismal picture for secondary training places. Secondary higher education applications have actually increased from nearly 25,000 last year to 25,260 this year, as have applications to SCITTs. The two School Direct routes have seen a drop of round 4,000 in applications. This is a significant decline by any standards.

This blog has remarked on the decline in applications from recent graduates in previous posts looking at the earlier months of this recruitment round. The trends continues, with more than 1,000 fewer applicants under 22 than last year; a drop almost ten per cent from this age group. As this group cannot apply for the School Direct Salaried route it would seem that older applicants are applying to higher education rather than School Direct, although the reason for this trend cannot be determined from the data.

Overall, the assessment must be that School Direct in the secondary sector needs the attention of the in-coming Secretary of State as a matter of urgency. The ideological battle to take secondary teacher preparation away from higher education seems under challenge from the behaviour of the very applicants it was designed to serve. After so many –U- turns, perhaps this is another one that might be worth considering by the new government.

Hats off to hard working volunteers

One of the privileges of being a parliamentary candidate is the opportunity to meet some amazing groups of people. Shortly after writing the previous post I went to meet a group of parents of children on the autistic spectrum or in the process of being diagnosed. The testimony of each and every one really reinforced the views I expressed in the previous post.

Here are a group of parents battling a dysfunctional education system that is lacking in resources and where many of the primary schools face cuts in funding under the new national funding formula. Light years ago, when common sense prevailed, local authorities had teams of SNASTs working with schools on special needs issues and training. After all, a new teacher cannot learn everything in a 39 week postgraduate course or a three year degree. Indeed, school-based training for teachers may make the exclusion of this type of special need from discussion during training even more likely.

The lack of a training syllabus for leadership also now means it is hit and miss whether new school leaders are properly prepared for their role and helped to understand the place of EHCPs and how to liaise with the health service. Local authority services are also under strain and the government’s policy towards the creation of new special schools seems lacking in definition and awareness of need.

The growing visibility of mental health issues and a greater understanding of autism has helped in some cases, but I am sure hindered in others as head teachers decide the challenges are too great and seek to offload pupils to special schools where with a little extra support and training they could be educated in community schools.

I know that charities such as MIND provide general training for teachers on the whole spectrum of mental health issues, and also that many issues don’t become apparent until pupils are in secondary school. Autism and its associated conditions need early detection and this is helped where class teachers and the other members of the classroom team, especially of the youngest children, are alert to any signs of a lack of development not fully within the normal parameters. Eyesight and hearing issues need monitoring, but so does the signs of a lack of social interaction and sensory issues that may act as pointers.

For all these reasons, special needs is an area that needs careful coordination and sensible use of resources. Government has decided that adoption services are too important to be left to single local authorities and has regionalised the service. I would argue that special needs is too important to leave to individual schools and MATs and is another function where a democratically elected local authority has a real and effective role to play in creating an excellent service. If a local authority fails, take it out of their hands, but also understand why it has failed and create the support for future success. Measuring failure without creating the opportunity for success is no way forward.

So, my best wishes to the parents I met and all other facing challenges they didn’t expect and the system doesn’t want to know about.

 

ITT allocations 2017-18

The government has finally published the ITT allocations and associated Teacher Supply Numbers for 2017-18 recruitment onto UCAS recruited teacher preparation courses. This year they have chosen not to reveal allocations to Teach First, although they do say that they will publish recruitment numbers in the ITT census. At the same time the government has also published the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) outcome and methodology for 2017-18 and forward looking implications for teacher supply into the middle of the next decade based upon present assumptions. More of that in a later post.

As far as the TSM for 2017-18 is concerned, there are reductions in the TSM compared with the previous year in Art & Design (not a surprise); Business Studies (probably a mistake based on TeachVac data) and Design & Technology. There are increases in English; Geography; History; Religious Education and Primary. All other subject areas are probably in line with the previous year.

However, and this may have been the reason for the delay in publication compared with previous years, the overall allocations are often wildly in excess of the TSM number as this table revels.

Subject TSM number UG allocations PG allocations Overall Allocation as at 19th February 2017 Allocation as % of TSM
Art & Design 577 0 1216 1216 211%
Biology 1188 15 2339 2354 198%
Business Studies 218 0 762 762 350%
Chemistry 1053 27 2468 2495 237%
Classics 69 0 91 91 132%
Computing 723 139 1924 2083 288%
Design & Technology 917 65 1622 1687 184%
Drama 345 0 440 440 128%
English 2426 75 3763 3838 158%
Geography 1531 12 422 2434 159%
History 1160 0 1393 1393 120%
Mathematics 3102 258 4879 5164 166%
Languages 1514 128 3070 3198 211%
Music 393 20 922 942 240%
Other Subjects 812 0 1404 1404 173%
Physical Education 999 137 1157 1294 130%
Physics 1055 84 3124 3208 304%
Religious Education 643 45 1552 1597 248%
Secondary All 18726 1005 34548 35600 190%
Primary 12121 5667 15468 21135 174%
All 30847 6672 50016 56735 184%

Source DfE allocations published 9th May 2017

As the regional breakdown isn’t easy to determine by subject, it isn’t clear whether the Public Accounts Committee view about regional need has been met in the overall allocations or whether some areas will do better than others.

As we know, the 2017-18 recruitment round is proving challenging, so the over allocations in many subjects are likely to be of little overall importance whatever their regional effects, except that is to the trainees paying out £9000+ for their fees and then competing for jobs next spring.

The 6,335 trainees offered a salaried place with no doubt be alright, as will those with the generous bursaries, but those in the other subjects ought to look long and hard at the cost of training to be a teacher compared with the likelihood of finding a teaching post in 2018 or 2020 for those offered an undergraduate place. Of course, without the Teach First or High Potential Teacher Training route as we must now seemingly call the scheme data, they cannot really know how well the odds of finding a teaching post will stack up next year.

Heading towards disaster?

The latest UCAS data on the number of trainees offered or holding places for 2017 graduate courses to train as a teacher makes for grim reading. This blog has been warning, without trying to use sensational language, for some months now that all wasn’t going well. The figures issued today, based upon offers recorded up to Easter, show new lows over the last four cycles at this point in the year in terms of offers made and accepted in some subjects. So far, the serious issues are only in Business Studies, Chemistry, IT and music, and in two of these subjects a decline in teaching time over recent years means the Teacher Supply Model may be over-estimating the likely demand for teachers. In Chemistry and Business Studies, the lack of offers so far this year may be more serious for schools in 2018, especially where there are rising rolls.

The one crumb of comfort is the increase in offers in both history and geography. Elsewhere, in Mathematics and English, the trend line look unpropitious for the remainder of the recruitment round, unless there is a major shift in direction. This may be less of an issue in Mathematics than English. There are already shortages in English in 2017 according to TeachVac’s data. In Mathematics, as ever, it is not just the numbers, but also the quality of mathematical knowledge and the teaching ability of trainees that matters to schools. Hopefully, lower numbers don’t mean fewer high quality applicants.

Overall, around 2,000 less offers have been made in this recruitment round across England compared with April last year. Applicant numbers are down in all age groups, but significantly down for the younger age groups. For instance, women 21 and under are down from 3,990 applicants last year to 3,490 this year, with a similar fall of 410 in applicant numbers for those aged 22, but smaller falls among the older age groups. Only 1,100 men age 21 or under have applied so far this year; a drop of around 10% on last year at this point in time. Overall, applications from men are down by just over seven per cent, a greater decline than for applications from women.

In total applications are down to only just over 90,000, meaning most applicants have made full use of all their choices.  The good news is that there are 10 more applicants in the South West than last year; the bad news, 500 fewer in London. Indeed, there are 770 fewer offers to applicants applying to London than this point last year: with rising rolls that is really bad news for 2018.

School Direct Salaried has attracted around 500 fewer applicants for the secondary sector this year, with only 80 confirmed placed applicants so far in 2017. As these are all graduates with work experience, this number is disappointingly low and down on the 120 of April last year. The conditionally placed number is also down, from 790 to 530. Undoubtedly, some of the decline is due to the Easter holidays, but that would also have been true for 2016 figures. The one potentially bright spot is the increase in applicants holding offers, but until these numbers turn into placed applicants they are always at risk of disappearing. On the face of it, and without overall allocation numbers, primary offers seem to be holding up relatively well. It is the secondary sector that remains the key area for concern.

With purdah upon us, we can but hope that the increased DfE marketing budget, the topic of an earlier post, will help to attract more applicants over the summer. However, uncertainty over the future direction of secondary education and selective schools might put off some would-be teachers educated in the comprehensive system. Either way, 2018 looks like being a challenge for schools in London and the South East needing to recruit teachers. You will need TeachVac’s free service more than ever: have you signed up yet? http://www.teachvac.co.uk

Going down

There was a certain amount of coverage of the UCAS end of cycle report on the 2015/16 application process for graduate teacher preparation courses when it appeared last month.  The UCAS Scheme covers almost all such provision in England except for Teach First.

I find it illustrative to compare the data in the 2015/16 report with 2012/13, the last year of the previous GTTR Scheme that provided for a cascade model of applications rather than the present model where all three applications are considered together.  The current system of applications is much more expensive for both trainees and providers, whereas both models are probably cost neutral to UCAS that charges both providers and applicants a fee.

Anyway, enough comment on the system – you may deduce I am not a great fan of the change – and back to how applications compared with past cycles? In 2015/16 there were 46,000 applicants, of whom 41,400 were domiciled in England. Sadly, we don’t know how many applicants applied to providers in England, a useful but missing statistic if there has been a trend to apply for places in Wales and Scotland. The 46,000, let alone the 41,400 figure for those with a domicile in England, is well below the record 67,000 applicants of the 2010 entry round, but, that number was a consequence of the recession and associated slowdown in the graduate labour market.  However, the 46,000 was also significantly below the 52,254 of 2013 that was itself below the pre-recession figure of 53,931 applicants reached in the 2007 round.

How much further can applicant numbers be allowed to fall before alarm bells start ringing loudly in Sanctuary Buildings? The fact that so far in 2017/18 there has been a further decline must be cause for concern.

Male applicants totalled some 38% of the total, probably in line with recent years and indicating an overall lack of interest in teaching since the fall cannot be attributed to just disinterest from this group. We no longer have data in relation to ethnicity, a sad loss since there was evidence in the past that applicants from some ethnic groups found it harder to secure a place on a course.

Interestingly, after falling as a percentage of all applicants, the percentage of career switchers over the age of 30, when applying, reached 29% of applicants in 2015/16. That suggest a falloff in applications from new graduates, perhaps finally being deterred by the level of fees and lack of support in some subject areas.

I have long campaigned for all entrants to be treated the same and not for the Treasury to hide behind the fiction that because so much teacher preparation takes place in and around universities those on teacher preparation courses should be treated as students, not entrants to teaching undergoing training in a university-led course. A subtle, but not unimportant distinction.

I am sure that the DfE have much more detailed data than that which has been released to the general public, but UCAS should consider reviewing what is available and whether it might be helpful to return to the level of data provided previously by the GTTR Scheme.

No return to pupil teachers

Teaching should be a reserved occupation. You should only be able to call yourself a teacher if you have a nationally recognised professional qualification. Others can style themselves as tutors, instructors, lecturers or even childminders, but not teachers. After all, not just anyone can be a solicitor, doctor, and accountant, or use many other professional titles.

The next question is then: how do you obtain the qualification of a teacher. For most of the past fifty years, it has been accepted in the majority of advanced economies that teachers need both intellectual knowledge up to a certain level, (degree level in England), plus an appropriate preparation course to add to subject knowledge for those teaching in the secondary sector and proof a certain intellectual standard for those teaching younger children a range of different areas of knowledge in order to gain certification as a recognised teacher. So, where do apprenticeships fit into this model?

I have argued that advanced apprenticeships for graduates might not look very different from the existing post-1991 partnership model of teacher preparation, with a recognition of the need to marry time spent in schools with an understanding of how to be successful at managing the teaching and consequent learning of young people. Whether schools or higher education takes the administrative lead is really of little consequence. For most, higher education may be better equipped to handle the process as it is geared up to do so. Large MATs and even dare one say it local authorities operating on behalf of a group of schools may offer a sensible alternative as some of the successful and now almost middle-aged SCITTs have demonstrated. Such graduate apprenticeships might exempt schools from the punitive apprenticeship levy tax they currently face.

So, is there a place for a short course for eighteen year old as apprentice teachers: emphatically not. Any such course would fail the test of sufficient academic and intellectual knowledge and understanding. It is not the place of an apprenticeship to deliver such qualifications. After all, that is why Robbins moved teacher preparation for school-leavers into higher education in the 1960s, as I have pointed out before. To move back the other way would be an unbelievably stupid move. So, is there a route for apprentice classroom assistants that might later convert into teachers by taking a degree while at work? That might be worth discussing, but not unless the term ‘teacher’ has been reserved as otherwise the temptation to blur the edges of who does what is too great for both schools and governments faced with financial problems to ignore.

We cannot ‘dumb down’, to use a once popular phrase, our teacher preparation programme and still expect to achieve a world-class education system. I am sure that Mr Gibb, the Minister of State, will have realised that fact when preparing for his speech earlier this week on the nature of teaching and knowledge. I don’t always agree with him, but learners do need structure and signposting at the early stages before going on to develop their inquiring minds into independent thinkers. They also need teachers educated to graduate level.

 

More worrying signs on teacher preparation applications

The already challenging news about applications to train as a teacher in England for the 2017 recruitment round has in no way been offset by the appearance of the data for March 2017 from UCAS. Applications from those with a domicile in England were 2,450 below the same date in 2016. Of more concern is the fact that there are now fewer applicants from all age-groups. This suggests a widespread reluctance to train as a teacher under present circumstances than just amongst new graduates. However, over the past month only 640 applicants under the age of 22 have registered. This has widened the gap to just over 1,200 fewer from this age-group compared with this point last year from the 1,000 missing applicants mark reported last month.

The net effect has been to reduce the overall numbers placed, conditionally placed or holding offers from just over 21,000 to around 18,600. This is a loss of nearly 2,500 trainees offered a place compared with March 2016. The only bright spot is that the number holding an offer is 1,080 this March compared with 910 in March 2016; a gain of 170.

Differences are beginning to be seen across the secondary subjects. It is difficult to see why geography retains its position as a priority subject when business studies doesn’t qualify for such status. This is because geography has the highest level of offer at this point in the cycle for four years and should easily meet its target for the second year. On the other hand, business studies has little chance of meeting its target, at whatever level it has been set. The same failure to meet the target is to be expected of computing/IT and possibly chemistry that looks to be having a relatively bad year so far, although the science total may disguise some chemistry applicants. Although the majority of other subjects may be able to come close to target if the trend of the first part of the recruitment cycle are replicated, the slowdown over the past two months continues to provide worrying signs of what might be to come in some parts of the country unless applications pick up.

Despite the government’s attempts to move teacher preparation into schools, applicants continue to seem attracted more to higher education courses, especially in the secondary sector where there have been more than 20,000 applications to high education courses compared with a similar number of all school-based routes. So far, only 540 offers have been made to the School Direct Salaried route in all secondary subjects.

With almost 11,000 offers, primary courses may well be on their way to meeting the target, if anyone knew what it was. But, with little more than 9,000 offers across all secondary subjects, there must be concerns for meeting some targets as identified above. Fortunately, there are still 9,000 applications (and upwards of 3,000 applicants) with either interview requests or pending provider offers. We will look at this group in more detail next month.

The overall analysis must be that the gains of last year’s recruitment round look unlikely to be substantiated this year and the overall picture may be like that of 2015: a year most did not want to see repeated