Probably none left?

Yesterday, Friday 16th March, Business Studies turned negative on TeachVac’s scale that compares vacancies for main scale teachers with trainee numbers. I wrote on this blog a few weeks ago predicating this would happen soon, and it has duly come to pass. Next to turn negative will be Design and Technology, probably sometime in April, if the present rate of progress is maintained and allowing for the Easter break.

Now, it is interesting to compare the date these subjects effectively ran out of trainees and turned negative in each of the past three years as well as this year.

Date where TeachVac recorded enough vacancies to provide a teaching post for all trainees in the relevant ITT Census

Year Business Studies Design & Technology
2015 15th April 20th May
2016 22nd April 30th September
2017 31st March 2nd June
2018 16th March Before end of April?

Source: TeachVac

Both subjects are likely to have seen enough teaching posts created by schools in England to absorb all trainees at a ratio of two recorded vacancies for every one trainee at an earlier point this year than in any of the previous three years. Of course, Business Studies may be propped up by some schools being prepared to recruit economists to teach Business Studies and TeachVac doesn’t publish data on the number of posts in economics, although the data is collected. However, the warning signs apparent when the DfE ITT census was announced of a failure to fill all training places available has come about.

The position in a portmanteau subject such as Design and Technology is more complex. The ITT Census does not breakdown the categories of specialism with the subject, so there may already have been more vacancies for say, teachers of textiles, than there are trainees, but still relatively more trainees in another aspect of the subject. TeachVac collects the data from advertisements about specific knowledge and skills required, but does not make it public. For anyone with a genuine reason to want the data, TeachVac is willing to discuss what might be made available. But, clearly even with timetables being adjusted downward in the subject, the failure to fill more than a third of training places was always going to have a severe impact upon schools looking to recruit design and technology teachers.

So, what are the effects of this situation? Well, it is likely to mean that some schools will find recruiting teachers in these subjects challenging. As the recruitment round heads towards its conclusion in November and December for January 2019 appointments, any school with an unexpected vacancy might well start by considering it won’t be just a matter of placing an advert and waiting for applications to arrive. The number of returners, for whatever reason, is always unpredictable, as is the wastage rate of teachers leaving the profession. Existing teachers may well see whether other schools are offering incentives for current teachers to smove to them? Whether the new subscription model being operated by the TES makes this more likely is an interesting question. Free services such as TeachVac and the one currently being worked upon by the DfE might face the charge that by reducing recruitment costs they increase opportunities for churn among the teaching force. Such a situation is always possible under a market-based model of teacher recruitment, but is only replacing state planning of where teachers are to be sent with acceptance of the laws of supply and demand.




Applications to train as a teacher still far too low for comfort

Let’s start with the good news: there isn’t going to be a shortage of PE teachers in 2019. Last month also saw some applications and acceptances for graduate teacher training courses. But, that’s about the good news that I can find from the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances processed by mid-February 2018.

On the downside, a group of subjects are recording either new lows for February when compared with any cycle since the 2013/14 recruitment round or an equal joint low with the figure for February acceptances in the 2013/14 cycle that was the last really poor recruitment round. The list of subjects bumping along the bottom includes: Chemistry; IT; design & technology; mathematics; music; physics, religious education and art.

Applications for primary courses still remain a matter for serious concern, with just 26,430 applications compared with 39,240 in February 2016. Assuming around 2.5 applications per applicants that translates into less than 11,000 applicants for primary places. Acceptance rates amount to 7,320 for primary this February, compared with 10,910 at the same point two years ago in 2016. (Based upon place; conditionally placed and those holding an offer). The only spot of good news is that the number of offers being held is 1,020 this year for primary compared with 990 at this point in 2016. Nevertheless, with around 12,500 primary places to be filled by postgraduates, the current situation isn’t looking good.

Across the secondary courses, total applications of 27,910 are relatively in better shape than primary, since the fall from 2016 is only from 36,560 applications. As a result, applications for secondary courses continue to be above the total of applications for primary courses. However, there is little room for complacency as the following table relating to placed candidates and those holding offers in February and March of recent recruitment rounds for mathematics demonstrates.

Mathematics – the number of candidates accepted or holding offers in recent recruitment rounds

Recruitment round February March
2013/14 920 1140
2014/15 940 1110
2015/16 980 1290
2016/17 900 1160
2017/18 700

Source; UCAS monthly Statistics

In the 2011/12 recruitment cycle, before School Direct had been included in the UCAS process, applications totalled some 34,936 candidates at the February measuring point. This compares with 18,830 applicants domiciled in England recorded this February by UCAS; down from 24,700 in February 2017. Compared with recent years, applications are down from both men and women; all age-groups and from across the country. If there is a glimmer of hope, as noted earlier, it is in the fact that across both primary and secondary sectors the number of offers being held by applicants is above the level of February 2016, although not by any great number.

The DfE’s new TV campaign has now kicked in and, if targeted properly by the agency, this should help to attract some more applicants. However, between now and June, most final year undergraduates will be concentrating on their degrees and not filling in application forms. Hopefully, with the wider economy slowing, some older graduates might start to think teaching is once again a career to consider. This week’s bad news on the retail sector employment front could be good news for teaching, but I wonder how many store assistant are actually graduates?


Lowering the bar?

The government has now published the letter from Nick Gibb, Minister of State, sent last week to teacher training providers, encouraging maximum effort in recruitment this year. I cannot recall such a similar letter being sent by a Minister in any recent recruitment cycle. I think in the mid-1960s a Labour Secretary of State once wrote to Mayors across the country asking them to encourage residents to become teachers or return to teaching during the baby boom of that time.

The text of Mr Gibb’s letter can be found at;

The most interesting paragraph in the letter reads as follows:

‘It is right to reject candidates who are not suitable. However, it is also crucial to support and develop those who have the desire and talent to teach. The emphasis must be on assessing applicants based on their suitability to train to teach, rather than whether they are ready to teach at the point of entry.’

As Ofsted will amend the Inspection handbook, this will presumably mean candidates where quality is of concern will now be offered the possibility of becoming a teacher with the final decision about suitability being deferred until the end of the preparation period. It will be interesting to see how much of a boost this letter provides to recruitment totals during the remainder of the recruitment round. After all, if there are no applicants, you cannot offer them a place.

The notion of civil servants looking at rejection rates and then contacting institutions where they feel too many applicants are being rejected raises some interesting issues. Is it acceptable to reject any marginal quality primary arts and humanities graduate because the provider wants to see if they can recruit more maths and science entrants or will civil servants now tell them to accept on a first come first served basis anyone that meets the new threshold. Presumably, monitoring gender, ethnicity and social mobility outcomes are also now thrown out the window in favour of the new approach?

Will there be a new marketing campaign extolling how easy it is to become a teacher. Just turn up and meet the basic maths and English requirements and you will be offered a place. Might the skills tests be the next brick in the wall to be dismantled, returning to an end of course test rather than the present pre-entry timing. This would allow providers to coach trainees in danger of failure and presumably add a few more on to the list of possible applicants.

Of course, simplifying the complex bursary and fee remission arrangements might help more than exhortations to recruit more of the present pool of applicants, especially if rejection rates are already very low in some subjects After all, only a third of design and technology places were filled on courses starting in September 2017. I guess providers weren’t too anxious to turn many applicants away. Sadly, UCAS data isn’t arranged in a manner so as to easily make it possible to determine the number of applicants as opposed to applications per subject, so one cannot answer that question.





The Politics of Bursaries

Why should some people wanting to become a teacher receive help with their training costs and others not? We don’t discriminate between future tank commanders and those heading for the infantry or entrants to the civil service by the department they are going to be working in. But, teaching is different. Ever since the Coalition put up student fees and withdrew the right for graduates both to have their fees paid and receive a bursary regardless of the subject that they preparing to teach, the government has had to spend cash explaining to potential teachers what they might or n=might not receive by way of cash payments. Of course, the really lucky one receive a salary and a virtual guarantee of a teaching job at the end of training f they are on either a School Direct Salaried placement or Teach First.

I took a look at the current bursaries and how the subjects recruited to the Teacher Supply Model figures last year and then added in the number of entries to GCSE or equivalent by pupils in state funded schools.

PE 113 105,715
History SOME 102 235,396
Languages YES 93 247,375
English YES 90 513,746 Language
Biology YES 86 132,676
Chemistry YES 83 132,238
Geography YES 80 220,506
Business Studies 80 71,055
Mathematics YES 79 515,803
Music SOME 76 34,766
Art 74 143,904
Physics YES 68 131,894
Computer Studies + IT YES 66 127,025
RE SOME 63 105,715
D&T SOME 33 141,568
Any Science YES NA 509,329

Sources: ITT Census 2017; DfE get into teaching and SFR 01/2018 Table S2a

Although I don’t have a Teacher Supply model number for Latin, trainees do receive a bursary, even though only 2,279 pupils were entered for GCSE or an equivalent qualification by state funded schools in 2017.

The logic of excluding Physical Education is obvious, but excluding art and only offering reduced bursaries for Religious Education and Design and Technology seems harder to defend. Personally, I would add Business Studies to the list of bursary subjects because, as regular readers know, I think the DfE has underestimated demand for teachers of the subject. Perhaps, a rethink of the whole of that area of the curriculum and the needs of schools for teachers might be worth considering.

A Simple scheme for all graduate entrants, including to the primary sector where yesterday’s blog post revealed the decline in applications, would be both easier to administer and easier to sell to would-be teachers. The present arrangements appear both haphazard and unjust.


Primary ITT: a matter for concern?

On the 16th January 2011, the GTTR part of UCAS recorded the fact that there were 37,016 applicants to graduate teacher training programmes in England run through their scheme. These figures didn’t include any employment based programmes or the Open University PGCE, although the numbers did include most of the SCITTs operating at the time. It is worth remembering that in January 2011 the economy was not yet recovering from the crash of 2008.

Fast forward seven years to the 15th January 2018 and the number of applicants through UCAS for the expanded programme of teacher preparation routes is 14,210; a drop of just over 22,000 graduates or would-be graduates. Now the drop would not be of concern if it was just the excess attracted to teaching when the economy was doing badly that had disappeared. But, I don’t think that is the case. In January 2011, there were 21,326 applicants for courses to train as a primary school teacher. In January 2018, there have only been 20,590 applications for such courses even with the School Direct courses now being handled through UCAS. As each applicant can make up to three applications, there could be as few as 7,000 applicants so far this year for primary teacher preparation courses.

For the first time, possibly in living memory, the number of applications for primary courses is virtually the same as the number of secondary courses in January. There are 20,450 applications for secondary course compared with 20,590 for primary courses, and 170 other applications.

Secondary courses seem to be reaching the level where those that know they want to be a teacher account for the bulk of applicants. That says little about the success of DfE’s advertising campaign and the millions that have been spent on it. The most concerning figure in the secondary sector is that School Direct Salaried applications have nearly halved from last January; down from 2,460 to just 1,330. That could mean less than 500 applicants. This number could be a third of the number of applicants for primary School Direct Salaried places.

Applications are down across the country and from all age groups. Most secondary subjects are at levels last seen in January 2013, and that proved to be a challenging year for recruitment.

The DfE can rightly say that January is a funny month, as the data covers a shorter period than in other months because the December figures aren’t published until early January. However, that’s the same problem every year. Nevertheless, even if we allow the DfE the benefit of the doubt for January, if there is no upturn by the publication of the February data then it will be possible to ask serious questions.

One might be, was it sensible to wind down the NCTL and take Teacher Recruitment fully in-house for the first time in a quarter of a century. The second might be, is Teach First experiencing the same challenges as the UCAS system or can something be learnt from their recruitment methods? Finally, what are course organisers saying about quality of applicants this year? Is it fewer, but better or is there an issue there as well?


A new direction for education?

The speech from the Secretary of State, Mr Hinds, to the world Education Forum was interesting in several respects. This blog will reflect upon two points; technology and teaching and the curriculum.

I have long been an advocate of the use of technology to improve learning. Ever since I was responsible for technology hardware when teaching in the 1970s and bought a Sony video pack to record both PE lessons and rehearsals for the school play I wondered whether the age of didactic memory dependent learning was coming to an end? Of course it isn’t, as children need to learn and internalise the basic of literacy and numeracy as well as survival and communication skills and many other aspects of learning for life. But, I guess we don’t teach logarithms these days and many might no longer know their northings from their eastings yet successfully manage to navigate using their mobile phones: technology has meant changes.

Personally, I think the Secretary of State might want to start any quest for greater understanding of the role of technology in learning in the future of schooling with teacher preparation and the views it inculcates into new entrants. Do preparation course of all types from Teach First to a Russell Group university find space for thinking about the future. Are they helped by the DfE informing them of cutting edge research into learning and the use of technology? Indeed, does the DfE fund enough research projects into this area, especially to help raise the learning achievements of pupils with special educational needs? Can we close the gap for these children and enhance their life chances through a better use of technology?

Mr Hinds mentioned the curriculum in his speech and the recognition in business, where he was previously a junior Minister, of the importance of soft skills. What he didn’t mention is the importance of culture. In that respect, teachers with experience of the world of business can bring invaluable insights into the lives of pupils and the understanding for the many teachers that have progressed from classroom to university and back to the classroom. I don’t in anyway denigrate that pathway but, especially for the school leaders of tomorrow, there is a need to broaden horizons in a way that hasn’t bene possible for much of the past twenty years.

The Secretary of State might want to ask why the DfE has a target of training about 1,000 PE teachers, but only just over 200 business studies teachers. I don’t doubt the PE number is correct, especially if we are to provide the Olympic champions of the future and possibly ever win the football World Cup again as a nation. But, do we need more teachers of business studies in our schools? The sector failed to even meet the low target the DfE set using the Teacher Supply Model for 2017 trainees; it was missed by 20%. Yesterday, TeachVac issued an amber warning for the subject to schools registered with them. Already, in 2018, sufficient vacancies have been advertised to mean there won’t be enough trainees to go around again this year. At this rate of progress, the trainee pool with be exhausted before the end of March, even earlier than last year.

Education needs to take both business and technology seriously: the new Secretary of State might be just the person to help them do so.



Do we need to attract an increased number of older entrants into teaching?

Yesterday, I commented on one aspect of the new Secretary of State’s interview with The Times newspaper. Today, I would like to look at another area he talked about; recruiting older people into teaching. Although recruits into teaching have largely been thought of in the context of young new graduates, there have always been a stream of older entrants into the profession. These older entrants probably fell into two main groups: staff working in schools, either as volunteers or paid staff and those changing careers. The former were probably more numerous in the primary sector, in the past they often consisted of those entering through access courses and a first degree in teaching. Most career changers will have entered either through the PGCE route or via the various employment based routes that once recruited outside the main recruitment envelope, much as Teach First and Troops for teachers still do today. In 2006, there was also the Open University PGCE course that didn’t recruit through UCAS, but was entirely comprised of mature entrants to teaching.

The multiplicity of routes into teaching makes exact comparison over a period of time something of a challenge, as does the fact that UCAS reports the age profile of applicants to the current scheme in a different way to the predecessor GTTR scheme run by the same organisation.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make some broad comparison between say, the 2006 entry onto the GTTR Scheme; a year when applications to train as a teacher were still healthy, and before the crash of 2008, and 2017 applicant numbers for September via the UCAS ITT Scheme. These are not the final figures for 2017, but close enough to be possible to use for comparison purposes, based upon past trends.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – actual numbers

UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 11080 15798
23-24 8570 12699
25-29 9900 15454
30-39 6750 9848
40+ 5400 5095
41700 58894

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The first obvious point to make is that despite the school-based routes (except Teach First and Troops to Teachers) now being included and the Open University no longer offering a PGCE, there has been a drop of just over 17,000 in applicants wanting to train as a teacher. This decline is across all age groupings.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – percentages

UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 27% 27%
23-24 21% 22%
25-29 24% 26%
30-39 16% 17%
40+ 13% 9%
100% 100%

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The other interesting point to make is that with UCAS being responsible for entry to a greater part of the training market in 2017 than in 2006 and especially the part most likely to attract older applicants their share of the total made up of applicants over 40 has increased from 9% in 2006 13% in 2017. The percentage of those in their 30s has remained broadly the same. Teaching has lost more than 9,000 new graduates in their early 20s wanting to be teachers. In a previous post, I commented that so far this year teaching appeared to be seeing fewer young women applying to be primary school teachers. The loss of that group could have serious implications for teaching in future years, especially as younger teachers usually go on to provide the bulk of the leadership candidates in fifteen to twenty years’ time.

So, Mr Hinds, you many well want to attract older candidates to Teach Next and to the core programmes, but you must not neglect what is happening among new graduates saddled with more than £27,000 of possible debt, even before they enter training. In the case of primary teachers there is little chance of support during training and the debt on another £9,000+ to fund when they start teaching. This is not an attractive deal.

If the UCAS data, to be published next Thursday, shows a dismal January for applications then, now your predecessors have decided to take teacher supply fully into the DfE from April, the buck will stop at your desk. Spending £14 million by the NCTL on publicity and advertising didn’t work last year, so looking for older applicants could be a good idea, because you do need to find something that works.