John Howson

Earlier today UCAS released the first data on the 2021 recruitment round for postgraduate teacher preparation courses. The data are for applications up to the 16th November. Last year the data were for Monday 18th November.

Now, it is always dangerous to read too much into the first month’s figures, but thirty years of looking at the numbers does allow me to make some observations.

Firstly, the increase in applicants domiciled in England, from 6,290 in 2019 to 7,420 in 2020, does not include large increases in applicants from the younger age groups, and  is skewed towards applicants domiciled in the London Areas.

Change in applicant numbers by age of applicant

Age        2020 round         2021 round         change

21 and

Under      1510                       1550                  40

22             970                        1040                  70

23             630                         730                   100

24             420                         570                   150

25-29       1200                       1490                   290

30-39        940                        1160                   220

40+           620                         890                    270

All             6290                      7420                  1130

Source UCAS Reports A 2019 and 2020 November data

For example, in the North East, applicants in November 2019 totalled 380. This November, the number is 390. In London the total was 890 in 2019, and is 1,300 this November. Similarly, in the South East Region, the increase is from 910 to 1,150. So, over half of the increase in applicants is accounted for by just two regions in England.

Although early days, should we be concerned that the number of male applicants aged 21 or under, final year undergraduates, has dropped from 360 last November to 300 this year? One to watch as the number of men over 40 applying has increased from 160 to 250. Overall, there are just fewer than 200 more male applicants this year compared to last year at this point in time.

More applicants means more applications, and the total increased from 17,840 in November 2019 to 21,710 this November. Again, as expected, London has done well, with an increase from 2,740 applications by last November to 4,120 this November. In the North East applications only rose from 1,090 to 1,110.

Both primary and secondary sectors have benefitted from the increase in applicants. Applications for primary sector courses are up from 7,980 to 9,890, and for secondary courses, from 9,860 to 11,790.

All types of provider have seen increases, but one of the smallest increases is in secondary SCITT applications, up from 1,320 to 1,360.

Almost all subjects have seen an increase in applications – data on applicants by subject isn’t published in the main reports.

Arts and humanities subjects has seen some of the largest increases in applications.  Even Physics has 240 applications this year, compared with 180 at this point in 2019. Art has seen applications double from 240 to 540, and even Design and Technology has 190 applications this year compared with 140 in November 2019. But, this might mean an increase an applicants from 50 last year to no more than 70 this year. Still, an increase is to be welcomed.

How long will this increase in interest in teaching last? There has been an article in SchoolsWeek recently suggesting it might be short-lived. After the start of the financial crisis it took just three years before teaching was starting to struggle to attract applicants to the profession. This time, with the pay freeze, who knows? More thought when the next set of data are published.

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