Published by: John Howson

Published on: Friday, 28th February 2020


Yesterday, UCAS announced its latest numbers for applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Next month will witness the half-way point in the current recruitment cycle. At this stage of the year there tends to be a levelling off in the rate of applications from current students, as they head towards final examinations and dissertation submissions, and the momentum in applications tends to be driven by career changers.

Both the current world health outlook and this week’s falls in stock market prices are too recent to have affected decisions about teaching as a career option but, if either, and certainly if both, continue then the period after final examinations this summer might see an upturn in applications for teacher preparation courses. This would obviously be helped if companies reduce or stop hiring graduates this year.

But, all that is for the future. These figures suggest very similar overall outcomes to this point last year, with some subjects doing slightly better than last year, while others are faring less well.  Applications for primary sector courses continue their downward trend.

Still, there are some crumbs of comfort for the government. Applications to providers in the key London and South East regions are up on last year, whereas in the other regions applications are lower. As ever, it would be helpful to see these changes by primary and secondary sector applications. Overall applications for primary courses are down by nearly a thousand applications, whereas those for secondary courses are up by around 500. However, this might translate into less than 200 additional applicants. In fact, there are some 50 fewer applicants overall than this point last year: a reduction of around one per cent.

Applications for Teaching Apprenticeships continue to increase on this point last year, although the level of applications remains at little more than ‘noise’ in the system. Primary School Direct (non-salaried) courses remain the only bright spot in the primary sector, with a small increase in applications, against falls elsewhere.

In the secondary sector, there are increases for all types of courses, but the School Direct Salaried route is still attracting only a small number of applications, and acceptances are down on this point last year to just around 140 applications.

The bad news on the subject front is the slump in ‘offers’ to languages courses continues, and the various subjects within this group are now registering their lowest levels of ‘placed, conditionally placed and holding offers’ applications since the 2013/14 recruitment round. Both mathematics and physics are also down on last year’s offers. Where there are increases, as in art; business studies and design & technology they come from such a low base that they are not yet anywhere near sufficient to ensure that the Teacher Supply Model number will be reached; still in these subjects every additional trainee is to be welcomed.

With increasing pupil numbers for 2021, when this cohort of trainees enters the labour market, just keeping pace with last year is to be heading backwards in terms of need for new teachers even at constant funding levels. Any increased funding for schools, if not absorbed in other cost pressures, just makes staffing issues worse.

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