No relief in sight

Yesterday, I reflected upon the pamphlet by EPI about teacher supply matters. Their suggestion of differential pay for shortage subjects looks even more the wrong solution after looking at today’s data from UCAS. On the basis of applications and offers by mid-April, only physical education, history and possibly geography would probably be excluded from the need for some form of salary increases to aid recruitment and retention if both offers and the identified demand as calculated by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model are taken into account.

There are at least seven secondary subjects where the April combined total of ‘placed’ students plus those ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding an offer’ are the lowest seen for this point in the cycle since well before the 2013/14 cycle, when we still had the former GTTR recruitment system. As that system measured only applicants and not applications, it is something of a challenge to compare back into the period of 2006-08 when applications were last falling, ahead of the recession of 2008 that arrived just too late to help recruitment that year.

There is some good news today, English ‘offers’ are up compared to last year, when numbers were frankly dreadful. However, it looks unlikely that the Teacher Supply Model number will be met this year, thus making recruitment again a challenge for schools in 2019. Biology is doing well for placed applicants, but this may be down to a shift from those just shown under the science heading. Neither Chemistry nor Physics have seen similar increases, with both subjects recording new lows since the 2013/14 recruitment round.

Among the arts subjects, both music and art are faring especially badly this year. The stories about cuts to the arts curriculum may well be deterring possible applicants. The independent sector and schools with an arts focus might want to check with their local providers what is happening in their areas. Seemingly there was no change at all in the aggregate number of ‘placed’, ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding offer’ applicants in music between the March and April recording points: an almost unheard of state of affairs for any subject at this point in the recruitment round.

The EPI pamphlet reminded readers that offering places to a greater percentage of applicants was one way to meet the Teacher Supply numbers A quick look at the overall regional totals of offers – it would be helpful if UCAS would publish these separately for primary and secondary programmes by region and by secondary subject – suggests an overall ‘offer’ and ‘placed’ rate of 69%. Allowing for those in the early stages of their applications and those that have withdrawn, this means probably about 70% of applicants overall had had an offer or one sort or another. Interestingly, that percentage falls to just 62% for the London region, but is at 73% of applicants with one sort of offer or another in both the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber Regions.

Younger applicants have a much higher ratio of offers to overall applicant numbers than is the situation for older students – 77% of the 21 and 22 age groups had an offer. This may partly be due to this group applying earlier, so a higher percentage of older applicants may be at an early stage in the application process, while the youngest applicants are now busy with examinations and final degree outcomes. Nevertheless, only 58% of those over 40 have had offers, a difference of 19% with the youngest age groups. For men from the oldest age group of those over 40, only 48% have had an offer. This compares with 80% of women in the 22 or under age group. However, it should be noted that men and women have different offer rates overall.

Clearly, the TV advertising campaign isn’t working this year. Perhaps the pay rise, when announced, will make a difference, but unless something does, the additional secondary pupils in our schools over the next few years are going to find that who will teach some of them will be an interesting question.

 

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Chickens coming home to roost

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) have helpfully pulled a lot of information about teacher supply – some of the data has already appeared on this blog over the past few years – in a new pamphlet. The teacher labour market: a perilous path ahead? https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/EPI-analysis_Teacher-labour-market_2018.pdf

I am not sure that I agree with their conclusions about paying some teachers more than others. However, it is an inevitable solution offered by free market economists, where changing the price offered for labour is the mechanism for dealing with shortages and surpluses. Interestingly, EPI don’t suggest cutting the pay of PE teachers. I assume they believe the millstone of student debt and no guarantee of a teaching post should be enough of a disincentive. However, it would be one way to provide schools with the cash to pay others more.

I assume that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would eschew the free market approach and go for the alternative strategy of state controlled rationing. Such a strategy was popular after Second World War, when the Ministry of Education used to issue an annual circular telling local authorities how many newly trained teachers they could employ. In those days, the issue of subject expertise was less of a concern as, apart form in the selective and independent sectors, most schools employed class teachers rather than subject specialists.

The problem with the free market approach, as suggested by EPI, is the assumption that teaching can outbid the private sector when it comes to pay. This was presumably also behind the thinking of the Gatsby Foundation paper http://www.gatsby.org.uk/education/latest/examine-pay-of-early-career-shortage-subject-teachers-to-effectively-tackle-retention-in-english-secondary-schools of March this year that said ‘a data simulation to measure what the impact of a 5% pay increase for early years maths and science teachers in England would have been, had it been introduced as policy in 2010. The report reveals such a policy would have eliminated the shortage of science teachers experienced since 2010.’ I wonder whether that would have been the case or whether private sector employers would have matched the pay increases and offered better non-pay conditions of service.

Where EPI is correct is to cite a perilous path ahead for the teacher labour market. Tomorrow should see the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances for 2018 teacher preparation programmes. I doubt we can expect much good news. As the EPI pamphlet points out, and in doing so reinforces a point made on this blog, ‘there is still a chance training providers will be able to get close to meeting DfE’s recruitment targets, but they might need to accept nearly all applicants.’ As I have said before, what does that mean for the quality of applicants being offered places if almost anyone that applies can be taken onto a teacher preparation course?

Increasing the time spent on sports and PE in our secondary schools and reducing the time on separate sciences taught by specialists before Key Stage 4 might upset some departments in Russell Group universities, but it might also make for a healthier school population. Looking at the curriculum that can be staffed might be a better use of limited resources than trying to decide each year how much to pay teachers with different skills and expertise. But, if the government does go down that path, they might need to pay the highest salaries to teachers of business studies.

 

Much as predicted in the spring

The final set of monthly UCAS data for the 2017 recruitment round was published earlier today. There are no shock horror revelations and the progress, or lack of it, of the recruitment round has been well charted throughout the year on this blog. It remains true that unless the economy takes a turn for the worse at some point between February and July in any year the likely outcome of the recruitment round can be predicted in many subjects by the early spring.

The outcome of the 2017 recruitment into training round looks like being worse than last year for the subjects tracked throughout the year, except in PE, history, geography and IT/computing. In English, the situation looks to be similar to this point last year. In Music and business studies the acceptance numbers are the lowest for the past four years. Even where acceptances are in the mid-range of the past four cycles they may well not be enough to meet the DfE and NCTL’s expressed level of need. This will affect the 2018 recruitment round for vacancies in September 2018 – see my previous post on ‘the eye of the storm.

What is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.  Either this reflects a lack of updating by some providers, possibly schools, or it reflect uncertainty over whether some trainees offered places were actually going to start the course? We will know the actual numbers when the DfE publishes the ITT Census, either at the end of November or in early December.

Numbers recruited to primary courses are well up on last year, by around 2,000 and that masks in some of the data a slightly larger fall in placed secondary candidates. The fall in ‘accepted’ secondary subject candidates is relatively small, at 440 candidates, and most of the reduction is in ‘conditionally placed offers, so it may be that actual recruited and numbers counted in the ITT census may not be too far adrift from last year. However, it must be remembered that if some subjects have recruited more than last year; geography is an obvious example, then those increases also serve to mask the size of falls in other subjects.

On the face of it, science and mathematics continued to hold their own compared with last year, with a continued growth in late recruitment over the summer. Indeed, these are the only subjects where there are still candidates shown as ‘holding offers’.

School Direct secondary has attracted fewer applications this year; as a result there have been fewer offers on both the salaried and fee routes. Salaried School Direct secondary numbers only total 1,100 placed compared with 1,440 last year. Most of the decline has been in the ‘placed’ category. At this stage it isn’t possible to tell how different subjects have been affected, but this trend will almost certainly have an impact on the 2018 labour market if these posts not filled by School Direct trainees need to be filled in 2018 from the overall trainee pool.

The letter for ASCL to the Treasury reported in today’s press revels something of how pressures on school funding may mean fewer vacancies next year, but with rising pupil numbers and fixed size classrooms, how badly funding cuts will affect teaching posts rather than all other costs only time will tell.

 

Not a good year for ITT

The final set of UCAS numbers for ITT before most course start next month were published today. Earlier in the week, in preparation for the today’s publication, I took a look at the daily figures for a date in late August 2017 and compared them with the same date in 2016. The comparison didn’t make for encouraging reading.

Subject Difference between 2017 on 2016 offers Number of Placed and conditional firm 2017
ART & DESIGN -130 505
BIOLOGY -340 965
BUSINESS STUDIES -40 165
CHEMISTRY -110 855
CLASSICS 5 55
COMPUTING 0 520
DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY -150 315
DRAMA -25 350
ENGLISH 30 1855
GEOGRAPHY 300 1175
HISTORY 215 1135
MATHEMATICS -60 2335
MFL -50 1420
MUSIC -50 310
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 30 1195
PHYSICS -140 690
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION -40 430
OTHERS -95 500

In the table I have reproduced two sets of the data; the difference between the number of ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ offers made in 2017 compared with on the same date in 2016 and the actual number of place and conditional firm offers recorded across all four types of courses (higher education, SCITTs, and the two School Direct routes).  Now a couple of caveats; numbers are rounded, so are not exact, but indicative, and some people offed places may not turn up or stay when they do start the course. These decisions will affect the number in the published ITT census to be released in November. These changes could be balanced or, we live in hope, exceeded by those still in the system being processed at this time. However, in many subjects, the numbers awaiting offers and otherwise in the process of having their application considered is also lower than in 2016.

The good news is in Geography, history and physical education, where, in these subject, offers are up on 2016. In English and computing there are smaller improvements and certainly not enough to mean these subjects will hit their Teacher Supply Model number. Elsewhere, there is gloom with fewer offers than last year even when the ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ numbers have been added together.

On the basis of these figures, as this blog has been reporting since the start of the year, 2018 is likely to be a more challenging recruitment round for schools seeking teachers than 2017 has been, unless either funding cuts significantly reduce the demand for teachers or existing teachers receive a pay rise that absorbs more of school funds so reducing recruitment of teachers. TeachVac will report on those trends as the 2018 recruitment round unfolds from January 2018 onwards.

As this blog has reported consistently over the past few months, the key loss is from women in the 21-22 age groups, where offers are down by several hundred compared with recorded numbers last year. This is a very worrying trend and needs further investigation to see which subjects are especially affected as the increases in history and geography offers may be masking some quite large declines in other subjects. The DfE may wish to ask their advertising agency why the marketing campaign is not attracting this age group in the same numbers as in the past.

The other policy issue for the DfE to consider is where School Direct is heading? There are fewer offers for both the fee and salaried routes in secondary subjects this year, with English particularly badly affected. The decline in numbers on these routes will mean more schools competing for the trainees prepared through the higher education and SCITT routes where offers seem to have held up much better.

Now it may be that schools are switching from School Direct to consider an apprenticeship approach. If so, that change cannot be captured in this data but does need to be monitored somehow. If not, then the future direction of allocations will need consideration as to how to maximise entrants into the profession for 2019 onwards when secondary pupil numbers will be rising rapidly.

 

Where is school-based teacher training going?

Is there going to be a late bounce in acceptances into teacher preparation programmes for September 2017. The UCAS data for numbers accepted onto graduate progammes by mid July 2017, published today, shows a fall of 900 in placed applicants but an increase over last year of 890 in conditionally placed applications and 340 more applications holding offers than at mid-July last year. Assuming these are not applicants holding multiple offers and that conditional and firm offers being held translate eventually into applicants that turn up at the start of the course, then overall numbers might not look very different to last year. That’s good news for the DfE as it generally likes to talk in overall terms, but delve below the surface a bit and the picture is a somewhat murkier.

In the secondary sector, history and geography provide, between them, 510 of the 1,200 growth in offers to set against the 900 few placed applicants. Mathematics and English are also holding up well compared with last year, as is computing/IT. But, elsewhere the news is grimmer. Music is facing a decline, with the lowest July offers total since 2013/14. Business Studies, already a subject where schools face recruitment challenges, has only 160 offer in total, of which just 30 are shown as ‘placed’. Most other subjects have profiles below last year in terms of offers and similar profiles to the previous recruitment round. All this does not bode well for providing teachers for a growing secondary school population in September 2018.

Previous blog posts have commented on the situation in London and it now looks to be of great concern. There are only 4,750 applications with offers in London compared with more than 5,000 at this point last year. Assuming most primary courses are full, this means the majority of the shortfall will be in secondary subjects. Considering London receives by far and away the most applications, at over 23,000 this year (down from 25,000+ last year) it is important to know more about the distribution of the many unsuccessful applications as the offer ratio seems to have remained the same at around 20%: in the north West there is a closer to 25% offer to applications ratio.

As remarked in previous months, it is the younger applicants that are deserting teaching. There are 800 fewer applicants from those age 22 or under this year compared with 2016 and nearly 1,000 fewer than two years ago at this point in the cycle. Some 300 of the reduction compared with two years ago are due to a reduction in the number of young male graduates applying for teaching.

There remains a startling decline in offers for secondary School Direct Salaried places, down from 1,420 last July to just 1,040 this July of which just 220 are confirmed placed applicants. Higher education courses have attracted more applications than last year for both primary and secondary courses. The same is true for SCITTs, whereas only primary School Direct Salaried courses have attracted more applications than last year among the school-based courses not in SCITTs.

Next month should see many of the conditionally placed applicants become fully confirmed as the reasons for their being conditionally placed are removed. By now, it seems as if the secondary numbers are going to be more challenging than last year and that means a more difficult recruitment round for September 2018.

TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk the free job portal for schools, trainees and teachers will continue to provide a service to all interested in the labour market for schools.

 

 

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.

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.