John Howson

Data released today by UCAS for applications by December 2020 to graduate teacher preparation courses revealed a big jump on the numbers over the figures from the same time in the previous year. In the London region, the number of applicants domiciled in London increased from 1,580 in December 2019, to 2,550 in December 2020. The number of applicants in London this year exceeded the combined total of applicants in the North East and Yorkshire and The Humber regions wanting to become a teacher.

Although there were increases in applications across all age categories, only 400 more undergraduates have applied, compared with 900 more in the 25-29 age group. More than 500 extra applicants in the 40+ age group had applied by December 2020, compared with the number that had applied in December 2019.

Although there were more applicants for primary courses, bringing the number to the highest December level since 2016/17, there was an even larger increase in applications for secondary courses. These increased from 15,950 in December 2019 to 22,730 on the same date in December 2020. Overall, applications increased from 29,330 in December 2019 to 41,520 in December 2020.

As a result of the increase in applicants, many secondary subjects registered totals for ‘Place, Conditionally Placed or Holding Offers’ in December 2020 that were double levels seen in December 2019. Only in geography and English, among the larger subject areas were the increases significantly more subdued. In business studies, a traditionally difficult to recruit to subject, offers increased from a paltry 10 in December 2019 to more than 100 in December 2020. This may be the first year for some years that this subject recruits sufficient trainees to meet government expectations.

Even in physics, offers increased, from 40 in December 2019 to 140 in December 2020.   For some reason UCAS did not report on the gender breakdown of applicants this month, normally found in Tables A7-9 of their report. As UCAS do not report on the ethnic background of applicants, there is no further overall breakdown about the characteristics of applicants, other than their age and geographical domicile.

These numbers must be good news for teaching, although whether this number of accepted applicants in history, physical education and art and design will find teaching posts in 2022 will depend upon how many more applicants are offered places during the coming few months. I am sure that HM Treasury won’t want to spend more on tuition fees than is necessary.

All routes have seen an increase in applications, although Apprenticeships are still limited in the secondary sector to a small increase, and there were actually 300 fewer applications to School Direct Salaried courses in the primary sector in December compared with December 2019, possibly marking yet another nail in the coffin for this route?

With the new shock to the economy generated by the third national lockdown, it seems logical to assume that teacher preparation courses will experience their best year for almost a decade, and that the teacher supply crisis of recent years will now be coming to an end.

This blog was the first to call the start of the crisis and received much criticism from those in high places for doing so. It is fitting to be able to mark the start of a period of adequate teacher supply, at least in terms of numbers.

The article can be viewed here.

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