More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

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An Auger effect already?

The publication of the data on ITT applications for June 2019 coincided today with the DfE’s date for publishing its annual raft of statistics on teachers and schools. The DfE data is, of course, backward facing, whereas the UCAS data tells us what to expect in the teacher labour market in 2020.

With only three months left in the current recruitment round, it is usually easy to predict the actual outcome of the recruitment round. However, with the current levels of uncertainty over issues such as the funding of schools after the new Prime Minister is elected by Conservative Party members, and assuming there isn’t a general election in the autumn, as well as what happens to tuition fees in the short-term, the past may not be a guide to the future. Nevertheless, this blog will try and made some inferences from the data as it currently stands.

Overall applications are down on last year. The current total of 32,720 applicants is some 490 below the figure for June 2018. Perhaps of most concern is the decline in ‘placed’ applicants in London and the South East, where the figure is down from 900 last year to 710 this year. There has also been a decline in ‘conditionally placed’ numbers in these two regions, although numbers ‘holding offers’ are similar to last year at this point.

There has been a reversal in the recent trend in age profile of applicants, with fewer applicants than last year in all age groups, except for new graduates 21 or under, where the number is up from 4,630 last year to 4,670 this year. ‘Placed’ applicants over the age of 25 are down this year by 130 to some 1,440. In the past, this age group has help keep applicant numbers up as younger applicants have fallen away.

The number of applications are down from both men and women, mostly as a result of fewer applicants being ‘placed’. As degree results are confirmed over the next month or so, the number of ‘placed’ applicants should increase rapidly over the next two months. This is a number that will need watching very carefully.

The data on application status by provider region (Table B6 of the UCAS monthly data) confirms that there needs to be a focus on what is happening in London. Placed numbers are down by 100, and ‘conditionally placed’ by 160, with only those ‘holding offers’ up by 50, for a net change across the three categories of around 200. Application numbers to providers in London are down by around 600. With London schools seeing growth in pupil numbers, and so far in 2019 having advertised 10 vacancies per secondary school (www.teachvac.co.uk data) these numbers must be of concern.

So far it is primary courses that have borne the brunt of reduced applications, down from 41,180 in 2018, to 38,880 in 2019, whereas applications for secondary courses are up from 52,530 to 53,250. But, before anyone hangs out the bunting and declares a ‘dance and skylark’, it is worth delving deeper into the statistics for individual subjects. History, English and biology al doing extremely well, and could recruit their largest numbers of trainees in recent years.

On the other hand, art, chemistry, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording new lows for June in terms of those ‘placed’ and either ‘conditionally placed’ or ‘holding an offer’. Based on the evidence of previous years, none of these subjects will hit the required Teacher Supply Model number in 2019.  That’s bad news for the 2020 recruitment market for teachers.

Has the Auger Report with its suggestion for lower fees already had an effect on recruitment onto UCAS courses for this September? If so, the government must react sooner rather than later to stem any further losses ad protect teacher supply.

 

 

 

 

Chickens coming home to roost

Actually, the fact that there aren’t the chickens to come home to roost is the real story. Looking back at the numbers of those registered on the DfE’s ITT Census of graduate training courses to become teachers collected last autumn goes a long way to explain the present challenges in the recruitment market for September 2020 currently faced by schools. The annual recruitment season reaches its peak over the next few weeks.

Schools can recruit classroom teachers from one of four sources; newly minted teachers from one of several routes; teachers switching posts; returners from outside the school sector or returning to employment and in extremis, unqualified staff that can be trained on the job. Some routes, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route put teachers in the classroom and probably don’t provide candidates to help fill advertised vacancies to the same degree as higher education and SCITT courses. Nevertheless, the numbers on these courses were included in the ITT Census. However TeachVac excludes those not likely to be seeking a post in the recruitment market when calculating the size of the likely remaining pool of trainees.

There are also regional differences, but trying to add those in makes the picture even more complicated.

As the table below complied by TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk reveals, at the end of April 2019, subjects that failed to recruit sufficient trainees to meet the DfE’s suggested number needed that was derived from the Teacher Supply Model are facing recruitment challenges.

2018/19
Percentage of Target at census date % left end April
Business Studies 75 -134
Design & Technology 25 -89
Music 72 20
Mathematics 71 30
Computing 73 34
Religious Education 58 41
Science 93 45
English 110 48
Art & Design 73 48
Modern Languages 88 59
Geography 85 69
History 101 70
Physical Education 116 74

Business Studies only had 25% empty places, but demand has far exceeded the supply and the shortfall must come from the routes other than new entrants. So great has been the demand in both business studies and design and technology that TeachVac has logged more vacancies than trainees. Design and technology hasn’t been helped by the fact that only 25% of training places were filled last September. Within the subject it may be that schools seeking food technology teachers are  experiencing even greater problems with recruitment than the subject as a whole. Mathematics an English have been affected by the growth in the growth in the secondary school population that has pushed up demand for teachers in these subjects.

Demand in some of the government’s favoured Ebacc subjects such as languages, history and geography has been weaker than in some other subjects and, like PE, these are subjects where all training places were filled.

Finally, the situation I the sciences is complicated. There is a shortage of teachers of physics, but more biologists in training than the government thinks were needed. As a result, schools may find a teacher of science, but not with an idea set of qualifications.

 

Allocations for teacher preparation courses in 2019/20

The previous two posts on this blog have highlighted the fact that the DfE has recently published its annual datasets about teacher preparation in the coming years and specifically numbers for 2019/20, where recruitment is already underway. The DfE’s information can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020

Normally, the number of places allocated to each sector and the separate subjects in the secondary sector would be of great concern to those operating courses. However, with recruitment having been challenging over the past couple of years and no bar placed on numbers that can be recruited in most subjects, providers will be much more relaxed about these numbers. Whether schools should be is another matter.

Of greatest concern for the labour market in September 2020 will be the geographical distribution of recruitment into preparation courses. This is because there is considerable difference in retention rates across England. Teacher retention is high in the North and at its lowest in London and the Home Counties. That’s neither a new fact nor one that has suddenly been discovered. Old hands at this business have known it for many years and I well recall presenting the information to a House of Lords Committee investigating aspects of science teaching in the early years of this century.

The concern over differential retention rates has been at the heart of the debate about quality of course versus location of training providers that was important when recruitment was likely to be buoyant. Even so, training too many new teachers in the wrong parts of the country, and especially training those not flexible in where they can work, is at least as wasteful as the money spent on bursaries highlighted in The Times today and discussed in the previous post on this blog.

To reasons for the lower retention rates in and around London are probably the present of about 50% of the independent sector schools in England in this area, together with the fact that London represents the largest graduate labour market in the country. For almost all teachers there are other jobs they can apply for even if it means ditching their hard won expertise in teaching. After all, the transferable skill of managing the learning of young people and making many rapid decisions reinforced only by the strength of your personality is a set of skills many businesses are keen to pay good money to acquire in their staff.  This is a point government should not overlook when considering pay rates and teacher associations might want to press more ruthlessly while teachers are in short supply.

Anyway, back to the allocations for 2019/20 and the changes from the previous years. In the Teacher Supply Model outputs, Classics, Computing, Religious Education and Geography have seen drops in the number of places as have Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Food Technology and ‘Others’ although that is partly be down to a reallocation of Dance into PE for TSM purposes. These changes, plus the increases in other subjects, are reflected in Figure 1 of the DfE’s note on ITT allocations.  Of most concern is the increase from 1,600 to 2,241 in places for Modern Foreign Languages. This is to meet the expected increase in pupils studying a language at KS4 in line with the government’s aspirations of a 75% take-up by 2024.

Will the lack of restrictions on recruitment for all secondary subjects, except PE last? As I write this blog, stock markets around the world are following a well-trodden path downwards that has been seen in October many times before. Were the downward trend to affect the economy along with Brexit, not having any restrictions on applications might seem unwise in hindsight.

 

The message to potential applicants; apply now and don’t take the risk of waiting until the spring.

 

Teacher Preparation data – Part 1

The final UCAS figures for numbers on graduate teacher starting preparation courses this autumn were published earlier today. These figures exclude Teach First, but cover almost all other graduate courses. The final outcome figures of those that actually turned up, and were still there after the first couple of weeks, will be published in late November when the DfE’s ITT census appears. However, these figures from UCAS can provide a good approximation of that outcome.

This year has been an unusual recruitment round, as there has been a late surge in applications and acceptances. Such a late surge is normally only seen when the economy is in recession and jobs for graduates are scare. As that isn’t the case this year, there must be another reason for the upturn in interest in teaching. However, whatever the reason, the interest is to be welcomed.

By mid-September this year, UCAS had received applications from 41,020 applicants domiciled in England compared with 41,690 at the same point last year: a credible outcome for what might have been a disastrous year had early trends not been overturned. However, the only regions with more applicants this year were the North West and the West Midlands, both not key areas of teacher shortages. The most worrying trend is the continued downward rate in applications from the 23-29 age group. Applications from young new graduates held steady, while those from old applicants continued to increase. Whether older applicants will continue to apply, if Lucy Kellaway’s BBC radio series next week about her experiences of the profession gains wide traction, only time will tell.

The total number of men applying in England fell to just over 13,000 this year, from almost 13,700 last year while more women applied, but not in large enough numbers to offset the decline in male applicants.

Applications, and candidates may make several applications, were down for all types of course catering for primary teacher preparation. However, higher education and SCITTs saw more applications that last year for secondary teacher preparation courses. There were fewer applications for secondary School Direct courses, with only 4,970 applications for the ‘Salaried’ route compared with 6,170 in 2017. As far as secondary schools are concerned, there might need to be a review of training, especially when taken into consideration with the data on SKE courses contained in today’s DfE publication on the teacher workforce. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4

School Direct ‘Salaried’ numbers ‘Placed’ have dropped in the secondary sector from 990 in September 2016, to just 560 this year, with similar numbers ‘conditionally placed’ in both years. By this time, one wonders why there are any remaining ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. Higher Education is again taking its places as the main route for preparing secondary school teachers, even if SCITT courses are counted with the other school-based routes. In the primary sector, there has been an increase in numbers ‘Placed’ on School Direct ‘Salaried’ courses, but fewer trainees were ‘Placed’ in higher education courses than last year, although the final outcome will depend upon what happens to the slightly higher number of ‘conditionally placed’ applicants this year.

The DfE has announced the bursary rates for trainees starting courses in 2019. Still no bursary for business studies trainees, and a shocking waste of money with bursaries for history trainees. Either, pay a salary or waive fees for all trainees or have a genuine policy of dealing with shortage subjects, not this charade where bursaries have little relation to real teacher supply issues.

 

 

Mixed messages on trainee numbers

The UCAS data on the numbers applying for and accepted for postgraduate teacher preparation courses starting this autumn were published earlier today. Usually, these numbers represent a good guide to the actual numbers likely to be recorded in the DfE’s ITT census, taken shortly after courses have commenced. This year, a change in the manner of how ‘conditional place’ and’ holding offer’ numbers are recorded for applications, but not applicants, compared to previous years has led to a risk that the data may be less reliable as a guide, especially in the three science subjects.

For secondary numbers, the outcome overall looks as if it will be similar to last year, with some subjects doing slightly better than last year and other slightly worse. Overall applicant numbers are very similar to this point last year, just 850 or so down on last year for England; a decline of around two per cent. Hopefully, this means the bottom of the cycle has been reached.

Although there has been a significant recovery in applications for those under the age of 25, numbers in these age groups are still down on last year. The loss is balanced by increases in applications from those over the age of 30. However, these older applicants have not been ‘placed’ to the same extent as last year. But, there are larger numbers in the ‘conditional placed’ and ‘holding offer’ categories that are still in use for applicant numbers, even though they are not included in the applications table for secondary subjects.

Interestingly, it is a late increase in the number of women applicants that has boosted the total. The number of male applicants, at 12,570 overall, is 670 down on the 2017 August figure.

Total number offered a place with or without conditions has increased from 67% of total applicants to 72% this year. No doubt the Minister’s views on the subject, expressed in a speech earlier in the year, may have boosted offer rates.

After allowing for the fact that application numbers are expressed differently to last year, the number likely to be recruited to primary sector courses appears possibly to be around 1,500 fewer than last year according to the numbers in table B.8. This is a lot better than seemed likely the case in the early months of 2018. However, these is a difference of several thousand between this table and the numbers cited for primary course types in Table B.11. Using Table B.8 for secondary, the recorded number of applications has increased from 64,760 to 66,770, between August 2017 and August 2018. However, numbers offered places may be lower than in 2017.

School Direct offers of all types seem to be down, when compared with August 2017, in both the primary and secondary sectors, with just 990 offers for Secondary School Direct Salaried courses compared with 1,130 offers of all types for these places last August. If confirmed in the ITT census this, further reduction will present a real challenge for the future of this Scheme, celebrated by Michael Gove when Secretary of State for Education as the future route for training teachers.

Next month there will be the end of cycle preliminary figures and then nothing until the start of the 2019 recruitment round in November.

 

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.