A glimmer of good news

The government can take some relief in the UCAS data issued earlier today, but only in subjects such as English and art that really shouldn’t be a problem anyway. The list of subjects where offers to applicants by mid-June were still below the very poor 2017 figures include the key science subjects of Chemistry and Physics, -although there is a surfeit of Biologists this year. Mathematics, Music, and Religious Education complete the list of areas of real concern with just two months to go before most courses start in September.

There has been a post finals bounce in some subjects, no doubt helped by the publicity about teaching as a career. An announcement about teachers’ pay going forward might also have helped boost recruitment if there were signs of an end to the pay cap. Interestingly, history, always a banker for meeting its target in the past, is showing signs of weakness this year when compared to the record breaking numbers of last year. However, offers are still above the figure for two years ago.

Overall, applicant numbers still haven’t recovered to the level of last year and, at 33,210, are some 2,600 below June 2017. More worryingly, the ‘placed’ number of applicants is down from 3,480 in 2017 to 2,770 this June. This is partly compensated for in a rise of 200 in those ‘holding offers’. The number of conditionally places applicants is broadly similar to last year, at just over 20,000

Interestingly, Mr Gibb won’t find much evidence in this data to support his expressed view of higher education turning away quality applicants. As noted in another earlier post, the data on applicants as opposed to applications isn’t easily accessible but if you look at secondary applications minus an estimate for Higher Education’s contribution to Physical Education – where applicants numbers exceed places by a significant amount you end up with higher education and SCITTS doing far better than School Direct routes in terms of turning applications into offers.

Secondary minus

Estimate for PE

Placed Conditionally Placed Holding Offer All Offers Total applications % Applications as offers
HE 740 4770 540 6050 20500 30%
SCITT 100 1780 110 1990 6470 31%
SD Fee 360 3190 150 3700 14770 25%
SD Salaried 70 590 40 700 3860 18%
All routes 1270 10330 840 12440 45600 27%
Source based on UCAS data for June 2018

With the data on applicants and offers by subject this would be more than an estimate of the position. Nevertheless, the longer established routes do seem to be performing better than the School Direct routes, especially the salaried route into teaching. Unless schools continue to recruit during the summer holidays this table is only likely to see a further strengthening of higher education and SCITTs in their share of applicants made offers.

Elsewhere, the data shows the continued weakness among younger applicants and relatively better application rates from those over 30. The over-30s now make up around 30% of applicants.

Unless there is a dramatic change in the next month, 2019 is going to be another challenging recruit round for schools, especially in London and the Home Counties where pupil numbers are on the increase.

 

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The making of a myth?

Where a Minister say ‘it is my view’ you can wonder whether he asked his civil servants for some evidence to support his statement, but likely it wasn’t there. Nick Gibb, a relic of the Gove era and generally no friend of higher education’s role in teacher training and development, uttered the said phrase in his speech to the Festival of Education held this weekend. As reported by the DfE he said;

It is my view that in previous years too many universities rejected candidates who were ready to be trained to become highly effective and inspirational teachers. The government has worked with universities and Ofsted to ensure that they are incentivised to take on applicants who are ready to train to teach.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nick-gibb-teachers-are-taking-control-of-their-profession

It is interesting to look at the evidence to see how far it supports his stated view

In 2017, the UCAS end of cycle report on applications revealed that there had been 54,310 applications for places on primary sector courses and 66,770 applications for places on secondary sector courses. Sadly, UCAS didn’t publish the data for applicants as opposed to applications.

Percentage of applications placed
Primary Placed Total % Placed
HE 6110 26100 23%
SCITT 1240 4910 25%
SD Fee 3390 13790 25%
SD Salary 1630 9510 17%
Total 12370 54310 23%
 
Secondary  
HE 7540 34770 22%
SCITT 1790 7330 24%
SD Fee 3800 18500 21%
SD Salary 990 6170 16%
Total 14120 66770 21%

Source UCAS End of cycle Report B Table 10

At this stage it is worth remembering that applicants could, but didn’t have to, make as many as three applications. Some rejected by all three may make additional applications to other providers. At least for 2017, the evidence is mixed. In the primary sector, two of the three schools routes accepted a larger percentage of applications than higher education, whereas in the secondary sector, where applications to different subjects plays a part, higher education placed a higher percentage of applications than the two main School Direct routes.  In both the primary and secondary sectors, the SCITT route had the highest percentage of applications accepted.

Now it is possibly that some routes attract more mature and location specific applicants. These might make less than three applications but, overall, there were 41,700 applicants recorded by UCAS with a domicile group shown as England. Providers in England received 122,150 applications. This equates to just over 2.9 applications per applicant if we assume applicants domiciled in England applied to providers also located in England, so may well not be the reason for the disparity. Applicants for primary courses may prefer training in a university rather than a school setting: the data doesn’t allow us to answer that question.

Looking back in time to 2007, where I can easily access the data on applications and acceptances through the then GTTR system from a paper I wrote for Policy Exchange on The Labour Market for Teachers, I see, higher education and the few SCITTS then around, had an impressive track record of accepting 57% of all secondary applicants and 44% of those applying for primary courses. In those days there were lots of would-be primary teachers.

In Design & Technology, always a shortage subject, 77% of applicants were accepted, as were 70% of those wanting to be music teachers and 70% of would-be languages teachers. At the other end of the scale only 32% of would-be drama teachers and 35% of potential PE teachers were accepted.

So, please Mr Gibb, can we have the evidence for your view before it joins other myths about teacher education.

 

Notice to ITT providers, both existing and potential new providers

I would be grateful if readers of this blog could alert those that either provide ITT places or are seeking to do so in 2019 to the following.

In the DfE’s Requesting initial teacher training places for 2019 to 2020 document issued yesterday https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/initial-teacher-training-itt-requesting-places-2019-to-2020 There is mention of:

.. a realistic assessment of employment need in the local area in submissions (Section 3, page 6)

TeachVac is able to offer providers an independent set of figures showing the number of vacancies advertised in Jan – Dec 2017 and from Jan – Jun 2018 in a range of secondary subjects and for primary teacher posts. There is a small fee providing this information. TeachVac will also add some summary information about the national vacancy situation at the end of 2017. The information provided can be used to justify data include din submissions to the DfE

TeachVac’s normal turnaround for this service would be three working days from receipt of both an official order and details of the secondary subjects needed, whether primary teacher vacancies are required, and local authority areas to be covered. A one working day turnaround is available for an extra fee.

TeachVac can offer the following list of secondary subjects for which data is readily available:

PE, Art, History, Languages, Mathematics, All sciences, Music, Geography, English, Computing /IT, D&T, Business Studies as well as primary teaching vacancies.

Other secondary subjects on the DfE may well be available – if you would like data on these, please ask about the specific the subject required.

Costs:

For many providers the costs are likely to be £55 + VAT, but larger providers requiring more data, a provider could pay around £110 + VAT. This is made up as:

Up to 5 subjects across up to 5 LEA’s – £55 + VAT (this is the minimum cost)

If you need more subjects / local authorities then TeachVac will charge £28 + VAT for each group of up to 10 subject-LEA’s (1 subject in 10 LEA’s or 2 subjects in 5 LEA’s etc).

Expedite fee (1 day turn around) – £85 + VAT

Sub division of science into Combined / Physics / Chemistry / Biology specialisms as requested in the job adverts – £11 + VAT per LEA. This service is also available on request for design and technology and modern languages for an extra fee.

Those providers who recommend TeachVac to their trainees and or registered schools are entitled to a 10% discount on these costs.

How to proceed:

Email data@teachvac.com with details of who you are, a list of subjects, a list of LEA’s, any special requirements and whether you recommend TeachVac to your trainees and or registered schools.

TeachVac will email back a total cost and action the request upon receipt of an official order / order number.

TeachVac is a totally free national vacancy service to schools and teachers.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact TeachVac.

 

A sigh of relief

The UCAS data on postgraduate applications to train as a teacher as recorded for May appeared today. The combination of the arrival of offers affected by the Easter holidays plus the addition of almost an extra week of data compared with last year means the government can breathe a small sigh of relief. On the evidence of this data meltdown has been averted for 2018, except perhaps in music, religious education, design and technology and probably physics.

Overall applicant numbers have recovered to 29,890 in England, still down on last year, despite the extra days and some 10% down on May 2016 applicant numbers, but it could have been worse. The decline is still national in scope, with all regions recording lower applicant numbers than in 2016. The almost 3,000 fewer applicants than last year are also spread across the age groups, although the loss is probably greatest among early career changers in their mid to late 20s. This fact shows up in the further reduction in the number of ‘placed’ applicants compared with those with either ‘conditional firm’ places or ‘holding offers’. By domicile region of applicants, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 2,330 last year to 1,890 this May. In London, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 380 to just 300.  Of course, over the next few months the ‘placed’ number will increase as ‘conditionally placed’ applicants receive their degrees and complete any other requirements needed to move them into the ‘placed’ category.

All routes, apart from applications to secondary SCITTs, have been affected by the reduction in applications. Primary courses have lost more than 6,000 applicants compared with last year and numbers ‘placed’ only just exceed 1,000, with fewer than 10,000 applicants with ‘conditional places’ and a further 700 holding offers. In total, this is barely more than 11,000 potential trainees and marks the continued downward trend for the primary sector.

In the secondary sector, SCITTS have attracted just a couple of hundred more applications than this point last year, but that must be regarded as a success. Applications to School Direct Salaried courses have nearly halved over the past two years, although whether that is a drop in applicants or a decline in interest in this route on the part of schools isn’t clear from this data. At this rate there will be fewer than 1,000 secondary trainees with a salary come September (leaving aside those on Teach First).

Looking at some of the individual secondary subjects, music has just 200 possible applicants with offers of any type, compared with 260 in May 2017. Design and Technology is down to only ten ‘placed’ applicants compared with 30 in May 2017. Even in mathematics, numbers placed or holding offers is little more than 1,500; a new low for May in recent times.

Finishing on a good note, English is doing relatively well, with 1,640 offers, although that still isn’t enough to meet the Teacher Supply Number of just over 2,500 trainees.

Overall, perhaps the sigh of relief might only be a small one at the moment. Let’s hope for better times next month as new graduates that haven’t done anything about a job while studying start to decide how to spend their future.

 

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.

 

Time to smell the coffee

A consortium of organisations involved in preparing postgraduates to become teachers have written to the Secretary of State about the state of teacher recruitment and made some sensible suggestions for steps that could be taken to attract more people into teaching. You can read the contents of their letter at https://www.ucet.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DHindsNASBTTUCETTSCletter-FINAL.pdf

All the suggestions are sensible, and I would go even further and ask for a return to a training salary for all on postgraduate ITT courses. As regular readers know, I don’t believe it is equitable to offer a salary to trainee army officers at Sandhurst and not trainee teachers. I also think a trainee teacher on a PGCE is working just as hard as one on Teach First and has sacrificed the right to earn. Even if teachers were guaranteed a job at the end of their training, assuming they met the standard for qualification, I still believe that they should be paid a salary. The fact that there is no guarantee of a teaching post just places all the risk and financial burden firmly on the trainee.

As I have written on this blog before, the laws of economics tell us that you can impose what conditions you like where demand exceeds supply and then see how demand is affected. When supply exceeds demand, as it now does in the provision of training places (PE and history excepted), then looking to see what can be put in place to stimulate demand is a more sensible move. The letter above recognises this truth. The DfE has yet to convince the Treasury, a Department always concerned about the dead weight effect of paying those that would have trained anyway. With such a large number of trainees the figure for revenue spending seems massive, but compared to say purchasing a single armoured vehicle or helicopter it is not out of line with the size of the overall education budget.

However, as the National Audit Office pointed out, improving retention is the best way to reduce training costs, as you then need to train fewer new entrants. I sense some of the suggestions to the Secretary of State are also aimed at helping retention. Early entrant retention doesn’t seem to be a big issue, it is more retention after 5-7 years that is now the concern.

Interestingly, entry into the profession and retention often doesn’t fall when training numbers take a dip. This may be because a greater proportion of applicants to train as teachers are there by choice rather than because they couldn’t find anything else to do or are forced to look for a new career. Sadly, this fact helps the Treasury mandarins with their ‘dead weight’ argument. However, even potentially committed teachers can be forced out of joining the profession when the financials turn sufficiently negative.

The writers of the letter clearly see that:

 We are now in the second year of graduates completing three year degree programmes having accumulated annual tuition fee debts of £9,000, as well as significant maintenance loans. With a relatively small number of exceptions, even those trainees receiving bursaries will be expected to accumulate more debt to become qualified or, at the very least, forgo the opportunity to embark on alternative salaried careers.

These are powerful arguments that should not be ignored. As an employee of the then TTA, I spent the summer of 1997 arguing with civil servants that postgraduate trainee teachers should have their fees waived and paid by the government. That was the position until the Coalition Government changed the rules. It is now time to once again waive fees and re-introduce a training grant for all postgraduate trainee teachers.

 

 

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?