Bumping along the bottom

The alternative title I thought about for this commentary on the February 2019 UCAS data about applications to post-graduate teacher preparation courses was, ‘the Goldilocks effect’; some good; some bad and some results in the middle. Indeed, the final outcome of this year’s recruitment round is more difficult to call than for many years. The outcome is likely to differ by individual subjects.

However, one trend that is becoming apparent is the continued decline in interest from applicants in non-EBacc arts and quasi vocational subjects. Thus, art, music, design and technology; computer studies and business studies are all either recording new lows in the number of offers for February or are bumping along the bottom. The government must look seriously at this problem if it does not want to impoverish a future generation of school students and wreck many important export earning industries by depriving them of home grown talent first nurtured in our schools.  By the same token, the independent schools ought also to be worried about this trend, to the extent that they recruit trained teachers with QTS.

As might be expected, history, geography and biology are performing well in terms of the number of offers that have been made. Biology will help ensure there will be sufficient teachers with a scientific background in 2020, even though chemistry and physics are in a similar position to this point last year. Both these subjects are unlikely to attract enough candidates to meet the Teacher Supply Model requirements on the present trajectory for offers.

Overall, applicant numbers, at 18,510 on the 18th February this year, are similar to the 18,830 recorded on the 19th February 2018, but still well down on the 24,700 of February 2017. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, without the School Direct route applicants, numbers stood at almost 35,000, not far short of double where they currently stand.

There is more detail about applicants than applicants in the data. Applications for primary are down on 2018 at 24,710 compared with 26,430 in 2018, but applications for secondary subjects are higher at 28,380 this year compared with 27,910 in February 2018. That could mean about 200 more applicants spread across all the different subjects.

Looking at the applications in more detail, primary higher education continues to witness a decline in applications, down to 10,680 this year from 12,570 in 2018. On the other hand, School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are up by around 600 applications.

In the secondary sector, higher education still dominates applications, although School Direct fee applications have seen a significant increase, from just over 8,000 applications in 2018 to 9,000 this February. However, applications for School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are still below the February 2018 figure in the secondary sector.

Young graduates and final year undergraduate applicant numbers are almost back to last year’s, level in terms of overall applicants, but young career changes are still behind the number of applicants at this point in 2018. Compared with the 10,671 men that had applied for courses in 2012, the present number of 5,900 male applicants, including the School Direct applicants, is probably little more than half the 2012 total.

Still, Mr Gibb should be pleased that two thirds of applicants have been made an offer, although only 330 have been unconditionally placed. Nevertheless, making offer to two out of every three applicants is a very generous ratio indeed.

 

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Teacher Preparation: national policy or local decision?

Schools Week recently broke a story about the STEP Academy Trust wanting to go its own way on teacher training, just at the time when the government seems to want to create a unified approach to recruitment onto courses preparing would-be teachers.

As documented previously on this blog, Mr Gibb has called for providers not to reject possible candidates wanting to become a teachers. According to Schools Week, one of the reasons for The STEP Academy Group wanting to go its own way was in order that they could demand higher standards than currently achieved by primary PGCE courses that operate through UCAS. According to the article in Schools week, the Trust apparently equates attending a Russell Group University as a key selection measure, along with a B and not a C is English and Mathematics at GCSE. Curiously, the Schools Week article didn’t mention a grade required for Science.

The DfE will have to come down hard on any provider wanting to avoid using a central application system if the government believes such a system is a good idea. Certainly, creating lots of different admissions systems, might well put off applicants. After all, that’s why centralised admission systems were invented in the first place; way back in the 1960s for undergraduate courses.

I am not a fan of the present UCAS system, as it is expensive for both candidates and providers, whilst being cost neutral for UCAS. The former GTTR system of sequential applications also allowed for better monitoring of applicants progress and also provided better data about rejections than the present Apply 1 and Apply 2 system, but it is what we have in place. There was room for improvement, as there still is. The number of places on offer and the number of offers made might help candidates assess where to apply, especially later in the recruitment round when courses are on the cusp of closing.

I assume the STEP Academy will want to operate a form of School Direct salaried training scheme, paid for by the Trust. Neither the Trust nor their suggested university partner have any allocation from the DfE for 2019-20 training places. This raises the interesting question of whether or not those on training courses need to be on courses with allocated places in order to obtain QTS? Maybe because the recruitment cap has been abolished that rule doesn’t matter, but has the cap been abolished for primary courses?

Alternatively, these could be regarded as assessment only candidates, to be presented at the end of the period of teaching in the classroom? There doesn’t seem to be any cap for the number of such people granted QTS each year.

But, none of this probably matters to the school since, under the Govian rule change, they don’t need to employ teachers with QTS; anyone will do, presumably so long as they meet the Trust’s entry requirements.

However, candidates might want to reflect upon the usefulness for a career in teaching of a non-standard entry qualification. Will schools outside of the Trust recognise their qualification? Who knows?

Finally, it may be a bit late for 2019 entry to be thinking of starting a course in September, unless the Trust have applicants knocking on their door as a result of the Schools week article.

I am also surprised that under the National Funding Formula schools in East Sussex have enough income to create such a course. Perhaps it will all be paid for by the Trust’s South London schools?

 

 

Let’s call it good news

Let’s start the day with some good news. The first UCAS data on the 2018/19 round of applications for postgraduate teacher preparation courses was published this morning. The data shows that there are the same overall number of applicants as at the same point in November last year.  I think that is good news, although of course, this number really only measures the extent of pent up demand for teaching as a career among those waiting to apply when UCAS open the process. It won’t be until January or February that a fuller picture emerges about interest in teaching as a career.

Nevertheless, after around a quarter of a century of looking at the monthly data I think that there are some runes to be read in relation to these numbers. As ever, the overall total disguises a difference between the position for primary age courses and those for the different secondary subjects. As ever, at this level, there is only data on applications and not applicants, so it is necessary to assume most applicants make use of most or all of the full range of choices available to them. This might not be the case with early applicants aiming for specific institutions, but the data doesn’t allow for that degree of analysis.

Anyway, applications for primary courses are down, but applications for secondary courses are up. For primary there are just 9,180 applications compared with 9,750 at this point last year. For secondary, the numbers are 9,810 applications this year compared with 9,150 last year. From these small beginnings we can only hope for a better year ahead as more graduates see the advantages of teaching as a career in this uncertain world.

Interestingly, higher education has seen fewer applicants for primary compared with last November, but the School Direct (non Salaried route) numbers are very similar to last year. Applications for primary School Direct Salaried at 2,230 are actually around 300 higher than at this point last year.

In secondary, higher education courses have seen a small increase in applications: long gone are the days when this route would be replaced by school-based courses. However, although applications for SCITTs are flat, applications for both School Direct routes in the secondary sector are higher that at this point last year.

I am sure that some of the increases can be put down to an earlier start to the marketing campaign by the DfE. The power of such advertising should not be underestimated. Applications are up in almost all secondary subjects, with significant increases in STEM subjects; but it only the first month’s data. The only decline is in history, down from 800 to 740 applications. Maybe history graduates have started to wonder whether there is a glut of history teachers? Certainly, this blog has warned that compared with the number of vacancies for history and humanities teachers there may have been too many being trained over the past couple of years.

Hopefully, everyone, including government, recognises the importance of high education providers for a vibrant teacher preparation sector, alongside their partnership with schools. After all, it is the person undergoing the courses that matters the most.

 

Teacher Preparation data – Part 2

Normally, that is for most of the past twenty years, I would have commented on the data provided by UCAS about applications and acceptances to the different subjects and between primary and secondary phases on the day it has appeared.

This month I refrained from doing so that I could look further into the data provided over the past three months. For some reason there appears to have been a glitch in the data I was looking at for Report B Table 10 of the data in August. I assume this was my mistake, and the data has now been corrected in my spreadsheets to conform to the published data currently on the UCAS web site.

The mistake slightly over-estimated the number of ‘offers’ to applicants, by using the end of cycle data for 2017 rather than the actual August data. Inputting the September data revealed the discrepancy and has allowed the changes to be made retrospectively. I can now say how I think the outcome will look compared with both last year and the DfE’s estimate of need, as calculated through the Teacher Supply Model.

So, on the evidence of the total ‘Placed’, Conditional Place’ and ‘holding offer’ numbers from the UCAS data, the 2018 round for secondary subjects should be slightly better overall than 2017, with biology, English, PE, art and languages exceeding the TSM number and IT/Computer Studies and history being at the required level. This leaves Chemistry, design and technology, mathematics, music, Physics and Religious Education unlikely to meet their TSM number unless Teach First can made up the shortfall.

As hinted yesterday, it may be that potential trainees on Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (SKE Courses) don’t become ‘Placed’ until the end of these courses, and some may be added to the ‘Placed’ totals over the summer, creating the increases seem this year.

Interestingly, in April, before the growth in applications, I prepared a table for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Teaching with a prediction for the outcome of the recruitment round in terms of meeting the TSM number. How good were my predictions?

Subject Meet 2018 TSM Meets 2018 TSM CHANGE From April prediction?
April view Sept view on meeting TSM
RE NO BELOW no
PE YES ABOVE no
Music NO BELOW no
Mathematics NO BELOW no
History ? AT  
Geography ? BELOW  
English NO ABOVE Yes
D&T NO BELOW no
Computer Studies + IT NO AT Yes
Business Studies NO BELOW no
Art NO ABOVE Yes
Languages NO ABOVE Yes
Biology YES ABOVE no
Chemistry NO BELOW no
Physics NO BELOW no

In four subjects, English, IT/Computer Studies, Art and languages, the prediction has changed for the better. In April, the situation on the humanities was unclear, but it now seems as if history might just miss the TSM number and geography certainly will, partly because the number was so high.

Physics remains the real worry, although the better situation in Biology means recruiting science teachers in 2019 may be no more of a challenge overall than it was this year. After a good year this year, mathematics teachers may be harder to find in 2019, whereas recruiting teachers of English in 2019 might be an easier proposition than it was in 2018.

However, we won’t be able to assess the full position until the ITT Census in late November when the Teach First numbers are added to the totals and it is revealed how many of those that were placed through UCAS actually made it on to courses.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Signs of some relief

You can just see the picture from earlier today. A civil servant rushes into Private Office and announces, ‘some good news on teacher recruitment at last!’ There have been 1,000 offers in English over the past two months and the subject is off the danger list, joining geography, history, biology, modern languages and physical education in the category of ‘should meet their targets in 2018, if these numbers are meaningful’.

However, that still leaves a slightly larger group of subjects where accepted applicants to teacher preparation courses won’t be enough to meet predicted need according to the DfE’s modelling process. Time is running out for these subjects and some, such as music and physics, are recording not only levels this month, where the Teacher Supply Model number won’t be met, but the number of offers made are also below the number of offers in July 2017.

Equally of concern is the further drop – compared with 2017 – both in the number of applicants (now down by slightly less than 2,000 on July 2017) and in the number of ‘placed’ applicants.

Although there are more applicants with a ‘conditional place’ than in July last year, there are around 900 fewer ‘placed’ applicants compared with July last year and around 3,000 fewer than in July 2015. This matters, because ‘placed’ applicants are the most likely applicants to turn up when the courses starts. Conditional placed applicants remain slightly more of a risk.

Age Group 2017 2018 Difference
21 and under

430

270

160

22

750

670

80

23

800

690

110

24

640

570

70

25-29

1550

1250

300

30-39

810

720

90

40 and over

610

500

110

All age groups

5590

4670

920

Numbers rounded to nearest ten, so total may reflect that fact.

The decline in ‘placed’ primary applicants in England, to 2,590 from 3,270 is clearly of concern, even though demand for primary teachers may be slackening compared with a couple of years ago as pupil intake numbers start to decline, mostly due to the fall in the birth rate since 2013.

There are only around 60 recorded ‘placed’ candidates in physics this year, compared to around 80 in July 2017. Even in history, ‘placed’ numbers are down from around 280 to around 240 this year. However, there 410 ‘placed’ candidates in biology compared with around 160 last year. This is another rare bit of good news and even figure is partly balanced by a decline in the number of ‘placed’ applicants in ‘science’.

The STRB Report, published earlier this week, showed a decline in the percentage of trainees on School Direct courses in 2017/18 over the previous year. In terms of ‘placed’ applicants, that decline has continued, with School Direct numbers of ‘placed’ candidates on Primary phase courses down from 1,270 to 1,060 and for Secondary phase courses, down from 1,000 to 790, with only around 130 ‘placed’ applicants on School Direct Salaried secondary courses in July this year. By contrast, placed applicants on Secondary phase courses in higher education are actually up this year compared with July 2017, from around 1,340 to around 1,390: another welcome piece of good news. Higher education courses also have more conditionally placed applicants than in July 2017 in the secondary phase, but not in the primary phase.

As we approach the summer season and the start of courses in less than two months’ time, 2018 looks like being another challenging recruitment round and it is possible that the 29th STRB Report in 2019 will have to record the seventh straight year that recruitment targets were not met. Of course, Brexit might change all that: only time will tell.