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.

 

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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.

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

 

 

Uphill task, but not yet panic mode?

At the end of January, when that month’s UCAS data on applications to ITT postgraduate programmes was published, I wrote in a blog ‘The next four weeks are vital ones for teacher supply and the number of teachers entering the labour market in 2018.’ So, it has turned out to be.

The February data was published earlier today. It is worth noting that it is data up to 20th February this year, whereas the comparative data for 2016 was up to the 15th February. On that basis there are several more days for applications included in this year’s figures.

As a result, the fact that applicants with a domicile in England are down from 26,130 last year to 24,720 this year is disappointing to say the least. Applications aren’t just down in one region, but across most of the country. In London, a key area of need for teachers, applicants are down by around 200 and in the usually buoyant North West, numbers are down by around 300.

Most alarming is the haemorrhaging of applications form those under 22. Compared with 2016, there have been around 1,000 fewer applicants from this age-group, to just 7,850.

The loss of keen bright new graduates has not been fully offset by additional applications for career changers and other older applicants. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, before the School Direct programmes were included in the process, there were 34,936 applicants at this point in the cycle. So in five years, teaching has seen around 10,000 fewer applicants by February As that month marks the half-way point in the application cycle, time is already slipping away to make up this deficit.

Of course, if the smaller number of applicants are of high quality, this may not matter. But, assuming no change in the profile or even that fewer doesn’t mean better, this poses a problem for providers. Do they lower the quality mark when offering places?

Interestingly, this is a dilemma for higher education as much as for school-based providers thus year since applications to higher education are holding up better than for school-based training. HE institutions have attracted 36,260 of the 73,440 applications. School Direct salaried has only attracted 10,350 compared with 11,680 last February. This is despite the greater proportion of older applications that would be eligible for the School Direct Salaried route. Of course, there may be fewer places on offer, but that fact remains a mystery since government won’t publish the national targets.

In terms of subjects, geography and history are doing well, several other subjects are holding their own and schools might well start making room for PSHE by axing business studies since there are likely to be few teachers. After all, it isn’t a subject we are going to need post BREXIT anyway.

Teaching seems to be looking less attractive as a career to women. In February 2012, some 24,265 women has applied for courses in England. This year, the number was just 17,360. Down by nearly 7,000 or more than a quarter. In the same period applications from men fell from 10,600 to around 7,400: some 3,200 fewer.

With the exam season approaching and no obvious reason for career switchers to increase their level of applications, the remainder of the recruitment round looks like being a real challenge. Not yet a crisis, but the problem of recruiting the next generation of teachers certainly hasn’t been solved despite three reports in the past twelve months.