Supernumerary teachers?

Some commentators are suggesting that schools might not want to employ NQTs for September, preferring rather to take on more experienced classroom practitioners to fill any vacancies. I can understand this view, but leaving aside the issue of whether existing teachers will want or be able to change jobs at this time, there is the more basic question about whether or not such teachers will be available even now in some subjects?

I quite understand the view that trainee teachers, especially whose long practice wasn’t completed before the closure of schools came into effect, have less experience than might be expected at the point a school would recruit them. Nevertheless, they still have more time on task than a school Direct Salaried recruit and, I suspect, in most case someone starting the Teach First programme.

For undergraduate trainee primary teachers, they almost certainly will have had the full time in schools, and should not be over-looked. After all, they started training when demand for primary school teachers was buoyant and now find themselves in a very different world.

With significant amounts of student loan debt, the most recent graduates training to be a teacher are in the worst position. Those career changes, with lower levels of loans, already partially or fully paid off, are in a somewhat better position.

So, what is to be done? With smaller classes, schools will need more teachers.  Should the government fund a scheme to allow for all trainees without a post for September to be allocated to a school, at least until the end of the autumn term?

How much more would it cost for such a scheme than paying and administering benefits to these trainees that started their programmes in a time when most could have had an expectation of a teaching role at the end of their courses.

Making them supernumerary would ensure that they can keep developing their skills and practicing in schools while the job market sorts itself out. New entrants have advantages in terms of their degree knowledge, if straight from university, and may be equipped to understand the best in new technology and learning strategies.

Using these trainees as supernumerary staff also has the benefit of ensuring that if there is a second wave of the virus in the autumn, schools may have the staff to cover for absences due to other staff members self-isolating for whatever reason.

Such a scheme might also be a way of encouraging schools to re-open where there are currently concerns for the future.

Whatever the way forward, we must not abandon the current class of trainees to their fate in an uncertain world.

TeachVac is doing its bit by offering a low price webinar about how to succeed in the job market. Details at

A new world in recruitment

There is a saying that ‘necessity is the parent of invention’. So it has proved to be during this pandemic. Video conferencing may come to be the next big breakthrough. Not perhaps on the scale of email or mobile phones, but, as the technology is refined, becoming something that will alter both our private and public lives in a way society wouldn’t have believed just two months ago. For instance, how soon before clothes retailers ensure garments will fit the wearer when viewed on-line and cannot then be returned as ‘the wrong size’?

There will also be profound effects on teaching and learning at all levels. In England, the responsibility for education has always remained with the parent or parents, and schooling by the State has been the default offering if a parent chose no other method of education. How that contract between the State and its citizens will develop in this, the 150th year of state supplied schooling, is yet to be determined, but a heck of a lot of invention has been taking place very rapidly.

All this came to mind as I reflected upon the future for TeachVac, the free matching service for teaching jobs and those looking for such a vacancy. Launched six years ago next month, the aim was then, as it still is, to demonstrate that technology could create a viable and low cost platform to bring together schools wanting teachers and teachers looking for jobs.

Well, TeachVac has proved that it can be done for little more than £2 per vacancy. Of course, schools still don’t believe that is possible and spend large amount of money with paid for platforms because they have offered the largest number of visitors to their sites. During a period of teacher shortages, such an approach made some sense, although it would probably have been cheaper to persuade those looking for jobs to move to the free platform that required the least amount of effort on the part of schools.

However, we are now in a different world. With predictions of mass unemployment and future funding for public services unlikely to be as generous as we would wish, especially if the government has to bail out the economy, schools may see a rush of applicants for any vacancy. So, why pay for an advert that attracts so many applicants that it wastes time and costs money short-listing?

A premium site, in terms of quality that is free at the point of use and requires as little efforts as possible, at least for a first advert is a much better proposition. Schools that have the cash to spare can continue to use paid-for services, but others might choose between sites such as the DfE’s, where some effort is required to upload a job, and those, such as TeachVac, where all that is required is to put the vacancy on the school’s own web site.

Of course, teachers and, especially trainees are now in a different position. Instead of having the pick of jobs, they might be competing with many more candidates for fewer vacancies, especially if teachers in post stay put. TeachVac can be tailored to meet the needs of the training sector. Perhaps by offering a 24 hour period of exclusivity for classroom teacher posts before matching them all potential candidates?

As a bonus, we are also dusting off our course on how to apply for a job’ and turning it into an on-line version ready for those that need a bit of support in this new world. Watch out for details of our first webinar next week.


ITT Applications: Some surge; some not yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Should trainee teachers be job hunting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Are new graduate entrants to teaching still predominantly young, white and female?

In the Summer of 1996, I contributed an article to a special edition of Education Review – produced by the NUT’s (now the NEU) Education and Equal Opportunities Unit – this special issue was entitled ‘reasserting equal opportunities’ and my contribution was on the issue of equal opportunities in teacher training. I concluded that article by asking the question; “young, white and female, is this the picture of the average new entrant to the profession?” (Howson, 1996)

How much has changed since then? Is that picture of the new entrant still recognisable today? This question is especially interesting, as during the intervening two decades the undergraduate route into teaching has reduced almost to nothing for secondary trainees, and by a considerable margin for those wanting to train as a primary school teacher. At the same time, the various employment-based routes such as FastTrack and the GTP (graduate Teacher Programme) have come and gone, although Teach First has stayed the course and wasn’t in existence in the 1990s. School Direct as well as apprenticeships have appeared on the scene.

My original article used data from the middle of a recruitment cycle. For this comparative piece, I have chosen to look at either end of cycle data, or DfE data about the workforce, where comparable data about trainees no longer exists in the public domain.

The late 1990s were a period similar to 2019 with teacher training providers struggling to fill all the targets for training places set them by the then Teacher Training Agency (TTA) on behalf of the government’s Department for Education and Employment, as the DfE was then known. As I wrote in the 1996 article:

“Teacher Training is entering a period of rapid growth…. The challenge may be just to fill as many places as possible if graduate recruitment in the wider labour market remains buoyant. “ Howson, 1996, 36)

Such a comment could also easily have been made about the 2018/19 recruitment round.

The first criteria considered in the original article was that of the age of applicants. In 1997, as now, UCAS was responsible for managing the application process for graduate trainees into teaching. In those days it was through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR), part of the UCAS Small Systems Department.  These days, the process is no longer handled by a separate department with its own Board and structure, but is part of the main UCAS system.

Although different age bands are now used for age groupings it is possible to consider three groups of applicants by age; those in their 20s, 30s, and 40 and above.

Table1: Percentage of Applicants to Postgraduate Teacher Training by Gender

1997 2019 Difference 2019 on 1997
Male Female Male Female Male Female
20s 23 52 21 47 -2 -5
30s 7 11 6 12 -1 1
40+ 2 5 5 9 3 4
Total 32 68 32 68 0 0

Source: GTTR Annual Report 1997 and UCAS Monthly data for September 2019 Report A

Interestingly, the profile of applicants is now older than it was in 1997. There has been a reduction in the share of applicants in their 20s, and an increase in the share of older applicants in their 40s or 50s. However, the change in profile might have been expect to have been in the other direction with the loss of many undergraduate training places meaning young would-be teachers might have been expected to seek a training place on graduation..

Nevertheless, because there are more applicants overall in 2019 than in 1997, there were more actual applicants from these younger age groups in 2018/19, but not enough to increase their share of the overall total of applicants.

There were some 9,159 applicants in the 20-22 age bracket out of a total of 33,612 applicants in 1997, but by 2019, the number had increased to 10.960 out of the total of 40,540 applicants.

How likely were applicants of different ages to be offered a place on a course?

In the 1997 group, there was a clear association of offers of a training place with the age group of the applicant

Table 2: Percentage of Age Groupings Offered a Place on a Postgraduate Teaching Course in 1997

Age-grouping Offers Applicants % offers
20-22 5857 9159 64%
23-24 4150 7071 59%
25-26 2599 4499 58%
27-28 1397 2576 54%
29-30 964 1865 52%
31-35 1807 3489 52%
36-40 1352 2598 52%
41-45 766 1480 52%
46-50 308 655 47%
50+ 97 155 63%
Total 19297 33547 58%

Source: GTTR Annual Report 1997

Altogether, around two thirds of the youngest and new graduates were offered a place compared with less than half of graduates in the 46-50 age-grouping. The percentage for the very small number of those over 50 seeking to train as a teacher suggests that many may have sought pre-selection before submitting a formal application to train.

Interestingly, by 2019, the same pattern of a decline in the percentage of applicants made an offer by increasing age group still held good. However   the percentage of applicants being made an offer was much higher, especially among the older age-groupings. For instance, although there was only a 14% increase in the percentage of the youngest group made an offer, the increase for those in their late 20s was around the 20% mark. However, the increase for applicants in their 40s was less at between 8-13%.

Table 3: Percentage of Age Groupings Offered a Place on a Postgraduate Teaching Course in 2019

Age -Grouping Offers total % offers
21 4240 5430 78%
22 4180 5530 76%
23 3320 4370 76%
24 2420 3280 74%
25-29 6600 9150 72%
30-39 4420 6950 64%
40+ 3470 5830 60%
Total 28650 40540 71%

Source: UCAS Monthly data for September 2019 Report A (Based upon total of applicants Placed; Conditionally Placed or Holding an offer – By September only 120 applicants were still holding an offer)

The changes in approaches to the teacher training landscape between 1997 and 2019, including the reduction of undergraduate places in both primary and secondary courses and the shift post-2010 to a more overtly school-led system, does not significantly seem to have altered the attitude to older applicants.

The case can be made that all age-groupings seem to have benefited from the change, but this would be to ignore the increase in demand for teachers in the period leading up to 2019, as the school population increased once again, firstly in the primary sector and more recently in the lower secondary years.

Sadly, it isn’t possible to identify trends in individual subjects at this point in time because UCAS no longer publishes a breakdown of applicants by subject, as was the case in 1997. The statistics are available for ‘applications’, but not for applicants, even at the macro level of the primary and secondary sectors. However, they are available for the regional level; a piece of data not provided in 1997.

Table 4: Percentage of Applicants Offered a Place 2019

Region Offers Total % Offers
North East 1540 2060 75%
Yorkshire & The Humber 3090 4160 74%
East Midlands 2370 3250 73%
West Midlands 3400 4700 72%
South West 2520 3500 72%
East of England 2950 4100 72%
South East 4050 5640 72%
North West 3730 5520 68%
London 4820 7630 63%
Total 28470 40560 70%

Source: UCAS Monthly data for September 2019 Report A (Based upon total of applicants Placed; Conditionally Placed or Holding an offer – By September only 120 applicants were still holding an offer)

This is not a precise measure, because it depends upon a number of different variables, including the pattern of applications across the year and the available number of different places in each secondary subject and in the primary sector there were to be filled in each region. However, since most secondary subjects did not have recruitment controls in places during the 2018/19 recruitment round, the latter concern may be less important as a factor than the former.

It is worth noting that London, the region with the greatest demand for new teachers from both the state and private sector schools, had the lowest offer ratio to applicants of any region in the country. By way of contrast, the North East, where vacancies are probably at much lower levels, had the highest percentage of applicants offered a place. One reason for this may be that the graduate labour market in London is much better developed than in the North East. As a result, applicants to teaching may be of a higher quality in the North East than in London, where there are more opportunities for new graduates to secure work. More applicants in the North East may also apply earlier when courses still have vacancies. However, this has to be just speculation.

The third aspect of the original article dealt with the race of applicants to teacher training. In 1997, UCAS produced excellent data about applicants and their declared ethnic backgrounds. In the 2018/19 monthly data from UCAS there is no information about this aspect of applicants. In some ways this is understandable, since the population is much more complex in nature now than it was even 20 years ago. There are more graduates that have family backgrounds that would lead them to identify as of more than one grouping. However, this lack of regular data does mean that it isn’t easily possible to determine whether all applicants are treated equally.

In the 1996 article, I wrote that:

“It is clear that members of some ethnic groups are less likely to find places on PGCE courses than white applicants.” I added that “These figures are alarming” and that “If graduates with appropriate degrees are being denied places on teacher training courses in such numbers, much more needs to be known about the reasons why.” During the period 2008-2011, I was asked to conduct two, unpublished, studies for the government agency responsible for training teachers (Howson, 2008, 2011). Sadly, the conclusion of both studies was that little had changed in this respect.

Fortunately, it seems as if more graduates form ethnic minority groups are now entering teaching. Data from the government’s annual census of teacher training reveals that between 2014/15 and 2018/19 the percentage of trainees from a minority ethnic group increased from 13% to 19% of the total cohort.

Table 5: Minority Ethnic Groups as a Percentage of Postgraduate Trainees

Postgraduate new entrants Postgraduate percentages
Trainee Cohort Total Minority ethnic group Non-minority ethnic group  Minority ethnic group Non-minority ethnic group
2014/15 24893 3178 21715 13% 87%
2015/16 26957 3873 23084 14% 86%
2016/17 25733 3753 21980 15% 85%
2017/18 26401 4113 22288 16% 84%
2018/19 27742 4917 22825 18% 82%
2019/20p 27675 5168 22507 19% 81%

Source: DfE Initial Teacher Training Censuses

In numeric terms, this mean an increase of some 2,000 trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds during this period.

Although UCAS no longer provides in-year data about ethnicity of applicants, there is some data in their end of year reporting about the level of acceptances for different ethnic groups.

In the 1996 article, there was a Table showing the percentage of unplaced applicants to PGCE courses by ethnic groups in the three recruitment rounds from 1993 to 1995. What is striking about both that table, and the table below for the four years between 2014-2017 that presents the data on the percentages of ethnic groups accepted rather than unplaced, is that in both of the tables, graduates from the Black ethnic group fare less well than do White or Asian applicants. Indeed, the overwhelmingly large White group of applicants had the lowest percentage of unplaced applicants in the 1990s, and the highest rate of placed applicants in the four years from 2014-2017.

In the original article I noted that “39% of the Black Caribbean group [of applicants] accepted were offered places at three of the 85 institutions that received applications form members of this ethnic group. Thirty-nine out of the 85 institutions accepted none of the applicants from this group that applied to them.” Although we no longer have the fine grain detail of sub-groups within this ethnic grouping, nothing seems to have significantly changed during the intervening period.

Table 6: Percentage Rate of Acceptances for Postgraduate trainee Teachers

2014 2015 2016 2017
Asian 39 47 44 48
Black 27 34 30 35
Mixed 49 56 51 55
White 56 64 61 64
Other 31 38 37 39
Unknown 46 53 48 52

Source: UCAS End of Cycle reports.

Using the data from the government performance tables for postgraduate trainees, it seems that a smaller percentage of trainees from ethnic minorities received QTS at the standard time when compared to those from the non-minority community, with the percentages of those trainees both not awarded or not yet completing being greater for the trainees from the minority ethnic groups.

Table 7: Success of Postgraduate Trainee Teachers by Ethnicity

2017/18   Trainees Percentage awarded QTS Percentage yet to complete Percentage not awarded QTS Teaching in a state school Percentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state school
Ethnicity Minority 4,311 88% 6% 6%  3,014 80%
Non-minority 22,861 92% 3% 4%  17,022 81%
Unknown 706 90% 4% 6%  503 79%

Source: DfE database of trainee teachers and providers and school Workforce Census

However, the percentage reported as working in a state school was similar at 80% for ethnic minority trainees and 81% for non-ethnic minority trainees. As there are no data for trainees working in either the independent sector or further education institutions including most Sixth Form Colleges, it isn’t clear whether the overall percentage in teaching is the same of whether or not there is a greater difference?


So what has changed in the profile of graduates training to be a teacher during the twenty years or so between 1997 and 2019? The percentage of trainees from minority ethnic groups within the cohort has increased. However we know their chances of becoming a teacher are still lower than for applicants from the large group of applicants classified as White as their ethnic group..

The pool of trainees is still overwhelmingly female, although there has been a shift in the age profile towards older trainees. This last change has implications, both good and more challenging, for the profile of the teaching profession. Career changers may be more likely to remain in teaching for the rest of their working lives than some young new graduates with little or no experience of the world of work. However, older trainees may reduce the possible pool of new school leaders unless those making appointments are prepared to offer leadership positions to older candidates.

However, all this may be of little more than academic interest in the present situation of a pandemic. How fast the graduate labour market, recovers, especially in London, will be a key determination of how the teacher labour market performs over the next few years and whether the gender, age and ethnic profile of those applying and accepted to become trainee teachers alters from its current composition.

Nevertheless, there are issues, not least around the ability of those graduates from some ethnic groups to access teaching as a career. There is also the continued under-representation of men seeking to join the teaching profession, but they are then over-represented in the leadership roles within education. How the government addresses the issue of equal opportunities in teaching as a profession also continues to be a matter of concern.

John Howson

Oxford April 2020

Correspondence to:


DfE (2018) Database of trainee teachers. Accessed on 7th April 2020 at

DfE (2018) School Workforce Census.  Accessed on 7th April 2020 at

Howson, J. (1996). Equal opportunities and initial teacher training. In Education Review Volume 10, Number 1. London: NUT.

GTTR (Graduate Teacher Training Registry). (1997) Annual Report Cheltenham: UCAS.

UCAS (2018). End of cycle data. Author’s private collection.

UCAS (2019). September 2019 Monthly Report A & B of applicants and applications to courses. Author’s private collection

Academic data

In many ways the data produced yesterday by UCAS about applications and acceptances for postgraduate teacher preparation courses is now merely academic. I will be very surprised if the current pandemic doesn’t see a sharp increase in applications to train as a teacher during the rest of this admissions round. Indeed, in some subjects, there is already some evidence of a recovery in offers from the levels of the last few months.

So, first the good news. There has been a surge of offers in Business Studies, art and music. These are welcome, but not yet enough to ensure these subjects will recruit sufficient trainees this year. Offers in physical education are also above last year, but don’t rate being classified as a surge. Most other subjects are still tracking where they were at this point last year. However, geography offers are below last year’s numbers and that might be a concern if the numbers don’t recover over the next few months. The real issue is with Modern Foreign Languages. Here, published offers are well down on last year. Some of this may be due to the method of reporting the data in this subject area, but it remains a concern.

On applications, the overall total for England is startlingly similar to March 2019; 63,820 this year compared with 63,570 in March 2019. However, applications for primary courses are down on last March; from 28,670 to 27,870; somewhere around 250-300 less applicants in all probability. This means that applications for secondary subjects are up from 34,600 last March to 35,940 this year: in excess of 400 new additional applicants, many in the arts subjects.

Higher education has around 400 few applications for primary courses, whereas there are 130 more applications for primary PG Teaching Apprenticeships. School Direct Salaried is the other route to have seen a significant decrease in applications.

On the secondary side, all routes have seen an increase in applications, although for the School Direct Salaried route it is only some 60 extra applications in total to bring the number to 2,130.

As far as the age of applicant is concerned, there are small increases in those in the 24 age-group and the 40+ age-group, and a small fall in those aged 22. All other groups have similar numbers to March last year. There is also little change in the gender balance of applicants when compared with March 2019. This year, 7,260 men have applied compared with 7,140 last year. For women, the numbers are 17,800 this year compared with 17,740 in March 2019.

I expect applications to increase sharply over the next month or so in response to the pandemic. I send my best wishes to everyone working in both schools and teacher education at this difficult and challenging time.






Teaching Vacancies: and where to find them

Schools Week has published an interesting article about the DfE’s vacancy site.

DfE’s teacher job website carries only half of available positions 

Of course, Schools Week also carries job adverts for teachers and other education positions.

TeachVac is the main challenger to the TES, as this blog revealed last November.

Regular readers will know that I am also chair of TeachVac that provides a free services and is funded from the data it can supply to the sector, but is now seeking to widen its scope having built a stable platform.