It’s all relative

The UCAS data on applications to postgraduate ITT courses measured a the 20th March 2018 was published earlier today. I thought for a change we would start with the good news: applicants holding offers are higher than at this point last year. In March 2017, there were 1,080 applicants holding offer out of 27,770 applicants in total. This March, there were 1,380 applicants holding offers, out of 22,430 applicants. Sadly, that about as good as the new gets.

The 22,430 figure for total applicant numbers is scary. The TSM figure issued by the DfE for post graduate trainees required, even allowing for the removal of Teach First numbers, was an expectation of a need to recruit 30,476 trainees across both primary and secondary courses; so the system is still some 7,500 applicants short of requirements, even if every applicants was offered a place. The TSM identified a need for 12,200 primary postgraduates and we currently have 41,530 applications or less than four applications per place. In secondary, the need is for 18,300 trainees and we currently have 40,440 applications: not many more than two applications per place, without allowing for disparities between subjects.

Equally scary is the fact that between March 2017 and the final figure in September of 41,690 applicants in September 2107, only around 14,000 applicants were recruited during the remainder of the 2017 cycle after the March data had been processed. Project than number forward, and hope for a bit better in 2018, and even 15,000 more applicants only takes the total for 2018 to 37,500 or so, against a need of just over 30,000 trainees: not much room for worrying about quality levels in these numbers.

There is still a real problem in primary and a range of secondary subjects including art, religious education, physics, music, chemistry, design & technology and mathematics that are all recording new lows since before the 2013/14 recruitment round and the introduction of the present system of counting numbers of applicants. Business studies and IT are at the same level as the lowest number reached in March since 2013/14. There is better news in English, MFL, PE, history and geography were the number of offers made is above the total for the worst year since 2013/14. In most cases that doesn’t mean it is anywhere near the previous highest number reached in March during this period.

Applications remain down across all age groups and for most types of courses. There were less than 340 offers for the identified 4,554 places on secondary School Direct Salaried allocations by March. That’s less than 10% even if all the offers are held by a different individual. There is better news in the primary sector, where there are 1,210 offers for the 2,166 School Direct Salaried allocations, but even that number is 250 down on last March.

Looking just at London, a region that needs many new teachers each year, applications are down from 15,630 across both sectors in March 2017 to 11,420 this March. Only 110 applicants have been placed (160 last March); 2,040 have been conditionally placed (2,550) and 360 are holding offers compared with 320 last March – the one bit of good news. Overall, there have been 11,420 applications to London providers, compared with 15,630 in March 2017.

With the TV advertising campaign in full swing, the government may need to decide on something more dramatic if schools are not going to face a really challenging recruitment round for September 2019 that is unless applications take a real turn for the better during the remainder of the recruitment round.

 

 

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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?

 

Primary ITT: a matter for concern?

On the 16th January 2011, the GTTR part of UCAS recorded the fact that there were 37,016 applicants to graduate teacher training programmes in England run through their scheme. These figures didn’t include any employment based programmes or the Open University PGCE, although the numbers did include most of the SCITTs operating at the time. It is worth remembering that in January 2011 the economy was not yet recovering from the crash of 2008.

Fast forward seven years to the 15th January 2018 and the number of applicants through UCAS for the expanded programme of teacher preparation routes is 14,210; a drop of just over 22,000 graduates or would-be graduates. Now the drop would not be of concern if it was just the excess attracted to teaching when the economy was doing badly that had disappeared. But, I don’t think that is the case. In January 2011, there were 21,326 applicants for courses to train as a primary school teacher. In January 2018, there have only been 20,590 applications for such courses even with the School Direct courses now being handled through UCAS. As each applicant can make up to three applications, there could be as few as 7,000 applicants so far this year for primary teacher preparation courses.

For the first time, possibly in living memory, the number of applications for primary courses is virtually the same as the number of secondary courses in January. There are 20,450 applications for secondary course compared with 20,590 for primary courses, and 170 other applications.

Secondary courses seem to be reaching the level where those that know they want to be a teacher account for the bulk of applicants. That says little about the success of DfE’s advertising campaign and the millions that have been spent on it. The most concerning figure in the secondary sector is that School Direct Salaried applications have nearly halved from last January; down from 2,460 to just 1,330. That could mean less than 500 applicants. This number could be a third of the number of applicants for primary School Direct Salaried places.

Applications are down across the country and from all age groups. Most secondary subjects are at levels last seen in January 2013, and that proved to be a challenging year for recruitment.

The DfE can rightly say that January is a funny month, as the data covers a shorter period than in other months because the December figures aren’t published until early January. However, that’s the same problem every year. Nevertheless, even if we allow the DfE the benefit of the doubt for January, if there is no upturn by the publication of the February data then it will be possible to ask serious questions.

One might be, was it sensible to wind down the NCTL and take Teacher Recruitment fully in-house for the first time in a quarter of a century. The second might be, is Teach First experiencing the same challenges as the UCAS system or can something be learnt from their recruitment methods? Finally, what are course organisers saying about quality of applicants this year? Is it fewer, but better or is there an issue there as well?

Do we need to attract an increased number of older entrants into teaching?

Yesterday, I commented on one aspect of the new Secretary of State’s interview with The Times newspaper. Today, I would like to look at another area he talked about; recruiting older people into teaching. Although recruits into teaching have largely been thought of in the context of young new graduates, there have always been a stream of older entrants into the profession. These older entrants probably fell into two main groups: staff working in schools, either as volunteers or paid staff and those changing careers. The former were probably more numerous in the primary sector, in the past they often consisted of those entering through access courses and a first degree in teaching. Most career changers will have entered either through the PGCE route or via the various employment based routes that once recruited outside the main recruitment envelope, much as Teach First and Troops for teachers still do today. In 2006, there was also the Open University PGCE course that didn’t recruit through UCAS, but was entirely comprised of mature entrants to teaching.

The multiplicity of routes into teaching makes exact comparison over a period of time something of a challenge, as does the fact that UCAS reports the age profile of applicants to the current scheme in a different way to the predecessor GTTR scheme run by the same organisation.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make some broad comparison between say, the 2006 entry onto the GTTR Scheme; a year when applications to train as a teacher were still healthy, and before the crash of 2008, and 2017 applicant numbers for September via the UCAS ITT Scheme. These are not the final figures for 2017, but close enough to be possible to use for comparison purposes, based upon past trends.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – actual numbers

UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 11080 15798
23-24 8570 12699
25-29 9900 15454
30-39 6750 9848
40+ 5400 5095
41700 58894

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The first obvious point to make is that despite the school-based routes (except Teach First and Troops to Teachers) now being included and the Open University no longer offering a PGCE, there has been a drop of just over 17,000 in applicants wanting to train as a teacher. This decline is across all age groupings.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – percentages

Percentages
UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 27% 27%
23-24 21% 22%
25-29 24% 26%
30-39 16% 17%
40+ 13% 9%
100% 100%

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The other interesting point to make is that with UCAS being responsible for entry to a greater part of the training market in 2017 than in 2006 and especially the part most likely to attract older applicants their share of the total made up of applicants over 40 has increased from 9% in 2006 13% in 2017. The percentage of those in their 30s has remained broadly the same. Teaching has lost more than 9,000 new graduates in their early 20s wanting to be teachers. In a previous post, I commented that so far this year teaching appeared to be seeing fewer young women applying to be primary school teachers. The loss of that group could have serious implications for teaching in future years, especially as younger teachers usually go on to provide the bulk of the leadership candidates in fifteen to twenty years’ time.

So, Mr Hinds, you many well want to attract older candidates to Teach Next and to the core programmes, but you must not neglect what is happening among new graduates saddled with more than £27,000 of possible debt, even before they enter training. In the case of primary teachers there is little chance of support during training and the debt on another £9,000+ to fund when they start teaching. This is not an attractive deal.

If the UCAS data, to be published next Thursday, shows a dismal January for applications then, now your predecessors have decided to take teacher supply fully into the DfE from April, the buck will stop at your desk. Spending £14 million by the NCTL on publicity and advertising didn’t work last year, so looking for older applicants could be a good idea, because you do need to find something that works.

Solutions needed to ITT crisis

In the early days of the think tank, Policy Exchange, I once wrote a pamphlet for them entitled ‘The labour market for teachers’. This was way back, a decade ago, in 2008 when I was less active for the Liberal Democrats than I am today as a councillor. As a result of this background, I was interested to read the latest piece by John Blake, Policy Exchange’s current head of education and social reform. The piece is entitled ‘The challenges behind the figures on teacher recruitment’. You can read it by following this link https://policyexchange.org.uk/the-challenges-behind-the-figures-on-teacher-recruitment/

Mr Blake doesn’t dispute the figures highlighted in my previous post that emerged from UCAS last Thursday. However, he claims that teaching is still a well-paid profession commenting that ‘given teaching is relatively well-paid on entry and has generous increment increases in the first few years to nearly £40,000 without having to take on any additional management responsibility, it seems unlikely it is the issue for recruitment either. This view stands in stark contrast to the Pay Review Body comments in their 2017 Report that ‘teacher’ earnings have undergone a further deterioration … continue to trail those of other professional occupations in all regions except the North East.’ (STRB, 2017 Report, page 31).

However, Mr Blake isn’t really interested in defending the pay structure, but in raising the oft asked question as to why so many show and interest in teaching, but don’t follow that interest through. For good measure, Mr Blake also attacks the profession for not producing enough teachers from those that do apply. This latter point needs careful attention. But, as to the former, he hasn’t been able to find any numbers and he doesn’t mention whether this is a general trend for other graduate occupations? By focussing on this narrow point, he misses the issues of more concern raised in my last blog that applications are down across the country; across all age groups and from both men and women and even more seriously, by a far larger amount for applicants to train as a primary teachers than as secondary teacher. By all means let us create an index of interest in teaching and see whether it is waxing or waning at the present time. We could also create an expected conversion rate, but that might mean recreating an agency to handle teacher recruitment, something Mr Blake doesn’t even consider.

But, let’s consider the key points Mr Blake makes about not converting applicants into teachers and then not doing enough to help those going through the process. We would benefit from UCAS providing more data on secondary subjects by applicants than just by applications as at present, since applicants can make up to three applications, but we have to manage with what there is available.

In the previous post, I pointed out that ‘So far, ‘placed and applicants holding offers, account for the same percentage of applicants [as in December 2016] at around 58%. Where accepting more than one in two applicants would be acceptable to most Human Resource departments is a matter for conjecture, but it seems a high percentage.’ What percentage does Mr Blake thinks schools and higher education should be aiming for and does he think it wrong for schools to turn down more applicants than higher education?

As to support during their courses, Mr Blake doesn’t offer any evidence either on the scale of loss of trainees in-course or what might be put in place to reduce such wastage? Personally, I would once again pay all tuition fees for all graduates training to be a teacher and pay them all a training grant. If that doesn’t work, then we really will have a problem.

Finally, I would be happy to join Mr Blake in researching just why applications are down for primary school teachers by such a large amount?

 

 

 

Worrying signals on ITT applications

A happy New Year. Well, I am afraid that it isn’t if you take a look at the latest data from UCAS on applications for postgraduate teacher training in the period up to just before Christmas. Overall, there were 11,430 applicants domiciled in England by mid-December 2017, compared with 17,420 at the December 2016 measuring point and 18,880 in 2015. That’s a loss effectively, 6,000 applicants in a year; effectively a reduction of a third in just a year! Perhaps even more worrying is that the gap has widened compared with last year by a thousand or so, even though it represent a smaller percentage of the total.

Of as much concern to those that follow the data, the loss in the number of applicants is across all age groups: so it is not just young new graduates not yet applying to teaching, but also career switchers and other older applicants. If there is any crumb of comfort, it is that applications, as opposed to applicants (where the data aren’t published), are holding up better for secondary courses overall than for primary. Applications for all secondary courses in England are down from 23,260 to 16,070 whereas for primary for primary, applications are down from 27,590 to just 16,870. If everyone has made three applications that would be less than 6,000 applicants so far for primary courses.

Applications are down for all types of course. Higher Education establishments account for just over 48% of applications, similar in percentage terms to this point last year. The number of applications for the School Direct Salaried/Apprenticeship route has dwindled from 7,350 in December 2016 to 4,270 in December 2017. That could mean as few as 1,450 applicants overall for this latter route.

Applications for secondary Salaried courses are down from almost 2,000 to little more than 1,000 this year, whereas for primary, applications via this route have declined from 5,370 to 3,260; potentially, a loss of 700 or so applicants.

The number of male applicants domiciled in England is down to 3,150 from 5,060 last year and the number of female applicants is down from 12,360 to 8,270. Many years ago, I wrote that if graduate women in large numbers ever turned away from teaching as a career then there would be real problems filling the places on offer.

We can but hope that it is not the quality end of the applicant spectrum that is disappearing from the applicant pool. So far, placed and applicants holding offers, account for the same percentage of applicants at around 58%. Where accepting more than one in two applicants would be acceptable to most Human Resource departments is a matter for conjecture, but it seems a high percentage.

Perhaps early applicants are those that know they want to teach and are some of the best quality applicants, thus justifying an offer to application ratio this high.

Applications are down across England, with those living in London applying down from 2,570 in December 2016 to 1,640 in December 2017.

As it is early in the cycle, data for individual secondary subjects reveals little, but the decline does seem to be across most subjects.

It won’t be until the February data is published in early March that it will be really possible to predict the outcome of this recruitment round for ITT postgraduate courses. However, unless there is an upturn, the labour market for September 2019 is going very challenging indeed. Government officials will be watching their daily and weekly data for signs of improvement. Without an upturn, there really will be a crisis in teacher supply, unless, of course, there is a downturn in the economy and a late flood of applicants.

 

 

More bad numbers

The UCAS data for applications to ITT courses starting next autumn were published this morning. The data provides details about both applicant numbers and the number of applications (up to a maximum of 3) that they have made. The snapshot is for the 20th November, a day earlier than the 21st November, when the 2016 data was logged. This may be significant, but as both were Mondays and the reference point was just after Midnight, the effect may be relatively slight.

As ever, some data are for the sector as a whole and other elements can be drilled down into, providing data about the different phases and even to subject levels. In England, secondary applications were 15,470 in November 2016 at the data collection point: this year, the figure is 9,150, a decline of 6,320 or around 40%. Coming on top of the data from the ITT census that counted the numbers on courses that started this autumn, this is a hint that the downward decline in numbers wanting to be secondary school teachers may well be continuing, at least at the start of the new recruitment round.

Although the phase of training applied for isn’t identified for the different age groups, there have been substantial falls in applicants numbers from those in the younger age groups; typically new graduates with high levels of debt. For those 21 or under, the number of early applicants has fallen from 2,590 to 1,700; for 22 year olds, from 1,910 to 1,190 and for 23 year olds, from 1,370 to just 690. Since these are traditionally among the age groups that often apply early, this must be of some concern. The decline in applications from women of 23 or younger, from 4,290 last year to just 2,650 this year must be a concern as women make up around 70% of trainee numbers. So far this year, fewer than 1,000 men in this age grouping of under-24 have applied to UCAS across both primary and secondary phases.

The decline in applications is mirrored by a similar decline in acceptances of those either fully or conditionally placed or holding an offer by the 20th November. In some subjects, such as business studies, there are no recorded applications in any of the three ‘offer’ categories. Even in History, a popular and over-subscribed subject last year, there are just 70 placed or holding offer compared with more than 200 at this point last year. With the open allocations policy there is an incentive for providers to offer as quickly as possible lest applicants are attracted to another provider.

All types of provider have been affected by this early decline in applications, with applications for secondary courses in higher education down from 7,640 to 4,660 and for secondary School Direct salaried route from 1,140 to 480.

Of course, this decline may reflect a change in the pattern of applications, but if it continues through December and into the New Year, the DfE will have to take some action or risk the most serious crisis in applications since the turn of the century. With the return of teacher recruitment in-house there is nowhere for Ministers to hide if the numbers don’t pick up.