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.




New London ITT problem

Yesterday, I wrote in this blog about the headline data that has emerged from the UCAS ITT data for September 2017 that tracks postgraduate ITT applications. There is, of course, a lot more detail in the data that is of interest, partly because it provides the first look at what are likely to be numbers close to the end of cycle report when it appears sometime in 2018.

In a post on 27th March 2015, I wrote about the outcome of 2013-14 cycle, details of which had just then been published. In that cycle there had been 54,015 applicants and I noted the number hadn’t fallen below 50,000 since well before the low of just over 51,000 recorded in 2008. Now the September 2017 number of total applicants is 46,190 for the whole of England and Wales. Any number below 50,000 should start ringing serious alarm bells in the DfE.

In the previous cycle I discussed, 52% of applicants were offered a place through UCAS. This year, the figure looks likely to be around 64% of all applicants. So, almost two out of three applicants to teaching has been offered a place in this round. This is despite the drive towards school-based training and away from high education as the main provider of places. Of applicants domiciled in England, the offer rate was closer to 65%.

Geographically, London remains an anomaly, as only 57% of applicants were offered a place. The reasons for this low figure also need to be teased out. Are London applicants of a lower standard than those from elsewhere; by comparison, 67% of applicants domiciled in the North East were offered a place, a ten per cent difference.  The data currently available doesn’t allow for comparisons between phase and different subject mixes of applicants between geographical areas. Those from London may favour English, PE and history all subjects where applicants significantly exceed places available. However, as applicant usually apply within their local area, the low conversion rate for London must be of concern and worthy of further re-investigation.

It is also worth noting that the last time total applications were below the 50,000 mark the employment-based routes were not part of the UCAS system in the way that School Direct is now a part of the UCAS process. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the former employment-based routes and say, School Direct, but even assuming only 5,000 applications for employment based routes in their heyday, then the present 46,000 applicant number looks even more alarming in the face of the DfE’s projected demand for trainees of somewhere in the mid to upper 30,000s.

Interestingly, the timing of applications seems to be changing, with more applications later in the cycle. This may prove the success of the various advertising campaigns, but also puts a strain on everyone having to recruit through the summer. By mid-February this year only around 58% of the September total figure of applicants were registered in the system, compared with closer to three quarter in the previous cycle considered. The current percentage can only fall further as late applicants are included in the system. The implications for any change in recruitment timings should also be considered in details for possible wider outcomes on the system.

Finally, I remain as opposed to the current expensive and wasteful concurrent system that replaced the former consecutive application process. Both have their shortcomings, but one is much cheaper than the other.

More worrying signs on teacher preparation applications

The already challenging news about applications to train as a teacher in England for the 2017 recruitment round has in no way been offset by the appearance of the data for March 2017 from UCAS. Applications from those with a domicile in England were 2,450 below the same date in 2016. Of more concern is the fact that there are now fewer applicants from all age-groups. This suggests a widespread reluctance to train as a teacher under present circumstances than just amongst new graduates. However, over the past month only 640 applicants under the age of 22 have registered. This has widened the gap to just over 1,200 fewer from this age-group compared with this point last year from the 1,000 missing applicants mark reported last month.

The net effect has been to reduce the overall numbers placed, conditionally placed or holding offers from just over 21,000 to around 18,600. This is a loss of nearly 2,500 trainees offered a place compared with March 2016. The only bright spot is that the number holding an offer is 1,080 this March compared with 910 in March 2016; a gain of 170.

Differences are beginning to be seen across the secondary subjects. It is difficult to see why geography retains its position as a priority subject when business studies doesn’t qualify for such status. This is because geography has the highest level of offer at this point in the cycle for four years and should easily meet its target for the second year. On the other hand, business studies has little chance of meeting its target, at whatever level it has been set. The same failure to meet the target is to be expected of computing/IT and possibly chemistry that looks to be having a relatively bad year so far, although the science total may disguise some chemistry applicants. Although the majority of other subjects may be able to come close to target if the trend of the first part of the recruitment cycle are replicated, the slowdown over the past two months continues to provide worrying signs of what might be to come in some parts of the country unless applications pick up.

Despite the government’s attempts to move teacher preparation into schools, applicants continue to seem attracted more to higher education courses, especially in the secondary sector where there have been more than 20,000 applications to high education courses compared with a similar number of all school-based routes. So far, only 540 offers have been made to the School Direct Salaried route in all secondary subjects.

With almost 11,000 offers, primary courses may well be on their way to meeting the target, if anyone knew what it was. But, with little more than 9,000 offers across all secondary subjects, there must be concerns for meeting some targets as identified above. Fortunately, there are still 9,000 applications (and upwards of 3,000 applicants) with either interview requests or pending provider offers. We will look at this group in more detail next month.

The overall analysis must be that the gains of last year’s recruitment round look unlikely to be substantiated this year and the overall picture may be like that of 2015: a year most did not want to see repeated



Unresolved issues

At this time of year, it is usual to look back and consider unfinished business that will stray over into 2017. I can think of a number of different issues where I hope there will be an outcome next year.

Firstly, I look forward to the publication of the ITT training numbers. This is so we can know whether the government has further reduced the targets, even though pupil numbers are set to increase. Any reduction would be a sure sign that times will be harder for schools in the future and that fewer teachers will be expected to be employed by state-funded schools.

Of course, lower training numbers also make it easier for the government to hit their training targets, as we have seen with the 2016 ITT census. Training numbers for 2016 were reduced and also Teach First was consolidated into the targets, reducing overall requirements. As I suggested in a previous post, education funding probably doesn’t yet worry parents as much as NHS funding and the time it takes to make a GP’s appointment. Until that changes, the days of generous spending on education will probably be over.

My second issue is the lack of a report by the Education Select Committee into teacher supply. The Committee opened an Inquiry in the autumn of 2015, but has yet to produce a report. An early report in the spring of 2016 probably became unlikely when the National Audit Office published their report on teacher training. The subsequent evidence session with civil servants in front of the Public Accounts Committee still sends shivers down my spine every time I think of it. That evidence session can be read from Question 50 onwards at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmpubacc/73/7310.htm#_idTextAnchor020 and viewed at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/541b77b2-3cfd-4ba5-bd32-b6dd02dd6f5d (7th March 2016 – use accounts as a search term on Parliament TV if the link doesn’t work).

Any report from the Education Select Committee in 2017 may well be different from one produced sooner, not least because of the changes in membership of the Committee. Many of the present membership may not have been on the Committee during the main evidence gathering period. This leads me to wonder whether there should be a finite timescale for any Inquiry by a Select Committee and how this Inquiry is placed in terms of long-running inquiries by such Committees where there hasn’t even been an interim report.

Finally, we are still awaiting the outcome of the deliberations of the Migration Advisory Committee on the status of teaching and Tier 2 visa status. The call for evidence closed in September and the Committee has now had more than three months to deliberate the evidence, much of which was in its possession well ahead of the closing date for submissions from outside bodies. As the 2017 recruitment round for September appointments starts early in 2017, agencies, schools and even possible applicants will be keen to know when they can expect a decision. In the light of improved recruitment into training in both science and mathematics and the probably tightening of school budgets, this will be a difficult call for the Committee.

Clarity ahead of Select Committee – but still not good news

What has become clear this afternoon is that the DfE may have faced a dilemma last autumn. With the national roll-out of School Direct being enthusiastically taken up by schools, it could either have effectively wiped-out the university-based PGCE courses by meeting the demands of schools or it could have denied schools the places they were asking for in School Direct. The DfE targets for secondary subjects did not allow the third option of satisfying both schools applying for School Direct places and keeping the PGCE going and still keeping within the targets. The extent of the problem can be seen by comparing Table 2b in the underlying data of Statistical Bulletin 32/2013 issued by the DfE on the 13th August and Figure 1 of the School Direct management information published this afternoon by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. In practice, the DfE seems to have chosen a third way by creating inflated ‘allocations’ to try to keep higher education going, but still to satisfy the demands from schools for places. This exercise risked substantial over-recruitment against the real targets.

So what happened? Looking just at the STEM subjects, Chemistry had an allocation of 1,327 in the Statistical Bulletin, but a target of 820 places in Figure 1 of today’s document – a difference of 507. To date, recruitment has been 900 according to Figure 1, so the subject is over-recruited against target, but significantly under-recruited against allocations. School Direct, where bids totalled 422 places last November, and reached around 500 by the time all bids had been collected, apparently recruited just 260 trainees, leaving higher education to recruit the other 640.

Sadly, in Mathematics, Physics, and Biology, despite the target being well below the allocation figure, the target has not been met. In Physics the shortfall is 43% against the target; and in Mathematics, 22%. In Biology it is just 6%. However, these percentages do not reflect the actual numbers who have started courses; that number may be greater or smaller than those released today.

Indeed, in no subject was the allocation met, although in business studies it was missed by just one recruit. However, the target in this subject is apparently higher than the allocation in August, although that may have something to do with classification. Less clear is the Religious Education position where the target is shown as 450, but the allocation in August was 434 for postgraduate courses. Somewhere another 16 places have been added since August when they have been subtracted in most other subjects.

I have suspected for some time that the allocations were above the level required by the DfE’s model, and have hinted as much in earlier posts. More than 40,000 trainees did seem an excessive number to train.

More interesting is how successful School Direct has been.

SUBJECT Target School Direct School Direct % of Target
































































School Direct works in subjects where there are lots of high quality applicants looking to train as a teacher. At the other end of the scale are subjects where either the schools didn’t bid for many places, as in Art & Design or recruitment is a real challenge, as in Physics.

These are the subjects where School Direct faces it greatest challenges for 2014, and where the DfE/NCSL seemingly still cannot do without higher education.

What is also clear is that the DfE cannot repeat this same exercise this autumn for 2014 recruitment. It will have to make it clear how many trainees are needed according to the model. Otherwise students will be paying £9,000 in fees without knowing whether they are a target or an allocation, and totally uncertain about their chance of securing a teaching post. That won’t attract many takers in an improving graduate job market as the risks are too high.