Bumping along the bottom mark 2

Today’s data from UCAS revealing the latest data about applications for postgraduate ITT courses shows a picture very similar to that of March last year. Applications for courses in England were 22,100 by the 18th March this year, compared with 22,430 on the 19th March 2018. Really little changed. By the end of the recruitment round last year not enough applicants were recruited in a range of subjects and, unless the Brexit fiasco causes an upset of significant proportions, the same result seems likely again this year.

Casting around for items of good news, it seems as if applications from those 21 or younger is the same as last year at this point in time, and applications from those above the age of 30 are higher than last year, by around 500 applicants. But, applications from the other age groups are down on last year. Chemistry, Biology and Religious Education are doing well for applications this year, but many other subjects are only around the same level as in March last year and in a few cases hitting new lows.

The decline in applications is greater for men than for women, with men now only accounting for 29% of applicants to ITT postgraduate courses. Overall numbers placed are still down on this point in 2018, at 570, compared with 750 in 2018, and although conditionally placed numbers are up, those holding offers are at a similar level to last year.

There must be serious concerns about Business Studies, with just 360 applications, of which just 70 have been placed; all conditionally. Similarly, in design and technology, there are only 730 applications across all aspects of the subject, with just 150 of these having been placed; again all conditionally. both these subjects are already in short supply in the teacher labour market.

Never fear, 1,140 physical education applications have resulted in places being accepted along with 670 in history and 560 in geography. 690 of the 3,180 applications for Biology have resulted in applicants being placed. However, for Physics, the number is just 190 out of 960.

Can the School Direct Salaried route survive? So far only 220 applications have resulted in either a place or an applicant holding one or more offers out of 2,070 applications in the secondary sector. Things are a bit better in the primary sector, with 1,190 placed or holding offers, out of 6,140 applications. However, neither sector seems to be attracting many applications for postgraduate teaching apprenticeships. So far, there have only been 330 applications for these course across both sectors.

The loss of interest among applicants is still mainly in the primary sector, but the figures for applications to courses to train in the secondary sector are affected by the few subjects where there has been growth in the number of applications.

As noted earlier, most shortage subjects are still bumping along the bottom, and with pupil numbers increasing again in 2020 when these applicants will enter the labour market for teachers that is not good news.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

A decline is still a decline even if the rate of decline has slowed down

For most of the 25 years I have been tracking applications by graduates to enter teacher preparation courses, there has been no need to worry about the number of applicants seeking to train as a primary school teacher; the issue has always been finding enough trainees in a range of secondary subjects.

The latest data from UCAS on applications for postgraduate teacher training in the period up to just before Christmas 2018 showed that there were 10,820 applicants domiciled in England by mid-December 2018, compared with 17,420 at the December 2016 measuring point and 18,880 in 2015. Although the decline has slowed compared with previous years in 2018, it has not stopped, and makes even more of mockery of the statement quoted in the previous blog post from the LSE team’s evaluation of the DfE’s marketing campaign for teaching.

UCAS don’t provide information about the split between applicants looking at primary courses and those seeking secondary subjects. However, the nature of the decline can be determined by looking at the number of applications in the different sectors.

Applications for all secondary courses in England were stable at 16,100 in December 2018 compared with 16,070 in December 2017. However, primary, applications are down from 16,870 in 2017 to just 14,770 in December 2018. If everyone has made three applications that would be less than 5,000 applicants so far for primary courses.

Last year, the numbers required to fill all primary places were made up later in the cycle, and by the ITT census in November 103% of placed had been filled. But, gone, it seems, are the days when I needed to advocate a closing date to ensure anyone applying later than November would be considered for a place. With around primary 13,000 places to fill for autumn 2019, we need around a lot more applications if providers are going to have any choice in candidates they can offer a place to on their courses.

The good news is that applications are higher for most secondary subjects compared to December 2017. Art, history and physical education are the exceptions. The decline of nearly 1,000 in applications for physical education courses is noteworthy, as it is the first time such a decline in this subject has been seen in recent years.

Looking at applications by the region of provider, applications are down across most of England, with those applying for courses in London down from 2,570 in December 2016 to 1,540 in December 2018. The West Midlands is the only region not to record a fall. Applicant numbers there were the same in December 2018 as in the previous December.

In the primary sector, all types of provider have suffered from a decline in applications, with higher education reducing by more than 1,700 applications. By contrast in the secondary sector, School Direct Fee courses registered an increase in applications compared with last year, whereas other providers all recorded falls in applications. School Direct salaried applications in the secondary sector were around the 900 mark in December 2018. This might mean only 300 applicants, if each had made three applications. In reality, the number of applicants is likely to be higher, but is still probably around 10% down on last year’s figure for December.

December is still early in the annual recruitment cycle to panic, but unless there is a pickup early in 2019, schools faced with a growing secondary school population in September 2020 might find recruiting teachers in some subjects a real challenge. Let us hope that the same won’t be true for their colleagues leading primary schools.

Where teachers are prepared matters

The final post in my series looking at the ITT Census for 2018, published last Thursday, considers the relative fortunes of schools and higher education in recruiting trainees on to teacher preparation courses. When Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, the direction of travel was clear: away from higher education as the provider of courses and towards a school-led and based system. How well has that direction of travel survived some three Secretaries of State later?

In the 2018 census the increase in secondary trainees has been concentrated in the higher education and SCITT sectors.

Secondary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference % change
Higher Education 6965 7965 1000 14%
SCITT 1955 2435 480 25%
School Direct Fee 3780 4170 390 10%
School Direct Salaried 1080 905 -175 -16%
Teach First 915 760 -155 -17%
PG apprenticeship na 20    
Total 14695 16255 1560 11%

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

SCITTS continue to flourish, with an increase of a quarter in trainee numbers, whereas the other school-centred courses have not shared in the overall increase in trainee numbers to the same extent, with the most expensive salaried routes experiencing declines in trainee numbers. In the secondary sector, the postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has have only a minimal impact this year.

In the primary sector, where recruitment controls were more important, there has been far less change between this year and last year.

Primary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference
Higher Education 5660 5605 -55
SCITT 1390 1565 175
School Direct Fee 3350 3365 15
School Direct Salaried 1690 1830 140
Teach First 410 395 -15
PG apprenticeship na 70  
Total 12500 12830 330

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

In the primary sector, higher education seems to be still less favoured than the school-based routes; with both SCITTS and the School Direct Salaried routes recording more trainees than last year. The postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has more primary participants than secondary, but its first year has not made a significant contribution to the supply of new teachers.

Overall across both sectors, SCITTs are under-represented in the London area. This may partly be because London schools have the most School Direct Salaried and Teach First new entrants, accounting for more than one third of those on both routes. By contrast, the South West that participates in both programmes has relatively few numbers on either of these routes into teaching and nearly 60% of new entrants in the region are on higher education programmes.

Teach First seemed especially good at recruiting me to primary courses, achieving a three per cent higher outcome than other routes this year, but, by contrast, especially poor at recruiting me to secondary courses, achieving only a 31% outcome, compared with the 40% of trainees figure for high education courses.

Where higher education excels is in recruiting new graduates. Of course, the School Direct Salaried route is not open to new young graduates, but compared with the routes that take all-comers, higher education recruits the higher percentage of those under 25, accounting for 50% of the higher education intake this year: albeit down from 51% last year, a warning sign for the future. SCITTS only recruited 45% of their intake for the under 25s, perhaps signifying the importance of their more local recruitment focus, in many areas with a high percentage of career changers.

With the number of eighteen year olds dropping for the next few years, while the demand for new secondary teachers will be increasing, as the school population increases, nurturing the young new graduate market may well be important: that might mean a re-assessment of fees and other support for all trainees.

However, should the Bank of England’s predictions for 2019 and the years following any departure from the EU prove correct in terms of the economy, it is possible that teaching might once again seem like an attractive career in an unstable world: after all, there will always be children to educate.

 

Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.

 

Now for the bad news

In my previous post I highlighted how Ministers might be pleased with the overall figure in the ITT Census released this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019 However, once the numbers are analysed in more detail, a picture of two worlds moving further apart beings to emerge.

First the good news: English, as a subject, passed its Teacher Supply Model figure and registered 110% recruitment against the ‘target’. Biology did even better, hitting 153% of target, and history managed 101%, virtually the same as last year. Physical Education, despite recruitment controls, registered 116% of target, slightly up on last year’s 113% figure. Computing also had a better year than last year, reaching 73% of target, the best level since 2014 for the subject. Geography recorded a figure of 85% of target, Classics and drama also recorded higher percentages again the TSM target.

Sadly, that’s where the good news stops. The remaining secondary subjects largely missed their TSM target by a greater percentage than last year. This means a more challenging recruitment round in 2019 for schools looking for teachers in the following subjects:

Mathematics census number down to 71% from 79% of the TSM figure

Modern Languages 88% from 93%

Physics 47% from 68%

Chemistry 79% from 83%

Design and Technology just 25% from 33%

– it would be interesting to see a breakdown across the different elements within this subject group

Religious Education 58% from 63%

Music 72% from 76%

Business Studies 75% from 80%

 

Apart from Physics, where the decline is of alarming proportions, in the other subjects the percentage decline is just part of a steady and continuing decline seen over the past two years. With demand for secondary teacher likely to be around the 30,000 mark across both state and private school in England, if 2019 is anything like 2018 has been then, many of these subjects will not be providing enough trainee to fill the vacancies likely to be on offer. Encouraging retention and managing returners, especially for those working overseas, will be key initiatives for the government if we are not to see some schools struggling to recruit appropriately qualified teachers. I am sure it won’t be the successful schools that face recruitment challenges; it also won’t be private schools free to charge what they like in order to pay attractive salaries to teachers in shortage subjects.

The government has done relatively well recruiting in EBacc subjects, although science is only doing well because of the surfeit of biologists, many of whom may find themselves teaching other sciences, at least at Key Stage 3.

However, the CBI and the IoD might look at these percentages in the other subjects with more concern, if not even alarm. Wealth generating subjects either need more support from government or a clear statement that they don’t matter. The same is true of the arts and the social sciences beyond just history and geography.

As chair of TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk I will ensure that our site continues to monitor trends in the labour market for teachers throughout 2019 and reports on the pressures we see emerging.

Phew, what a relief!

The ITT Census published by the DfE today, along with the accompanying set of notes – what used to be called Statistical Bulletins or First Releases in former times- will come as a welcome relief to Ministers, at least a the headline level. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019

The total number of trainee teachers, including Teach First, preparing for life in secondary schools in 2019 was measured by the census as 16,280. This is an increase of 1,285 or around nine per cent higher than last year. In primary, where recruitment controls exist, there was an increase of only 70 extra trainees, from 12,905 last year to 12,975 this year.

These numbers will come as a great relief to everyone, because, with rising rolls in the secondary sector, there will be a significant demand for new teachers over the next few years unless leakage out of the profession can be reduced. With the growth in the demand for teachers from the international school market keeping teachers at home will remain a challenge.

I guess a combination of the better pay award, albeit only slightly better, plus the security of a teaching job post BREXIT may have contributed to the upturn in trainee numbers. However, once the headline numbers are disaggregated it is not all good news.

Still, let’s start with the good news. In 2019, schools won’t have any difficulty finding a biologist: trainee numbers are up by around 800 to over 1,800. The same is true in English, were trainee numbers have increased from just under 2,200 to more than 2,800. Tutors in both subjects could have headaches finding enough school placements for these students, but it is headache worth having. The other subjects where numbers are significant higher are geography, up from 1,225 to 1,300; computing up from 475 to 530 and Physical Education where 1,250 trainees are on course this year compared with 1,125 last year. For both PE and geography trainees, I would suggest an early registration with TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk since there will almost certainly be more trainees than jobs available for them in 2019.

Now for the less good news. Not all subjects have recruited more trainees. There are few trainees this year in mathematics (2,195 compared with 2,450 last year); Physics (575 compared with 720); Chemistry (835 compared with 875); and Religious Education (375 compared with 405). In Design & Technology last year’s enrolment of 305 has fallen to a new historic low or just 295. Apart from anything else, this will hasten the amalgamation of art and design departments with D&T departments in schools since the figure of 295 trainees is nowhere near enough to provide middle leaders in a few years’ time for D&T as a subject.

Underlying the data on the overall numbers is their distribution around the country and it already looks as if schools in London and the south East may face a challenging labour market in 2019, especially since state schools will be competing with the independent sector where funds often allow for higher salaries.

In another blog, I will examine how the number of trainees recruited compares with the DfE’s estimate of need for teachers, as measured by the Teacher Supply Model.

So, good news overall, but not for all.