John Howson

By Monday 17th August some 45,210 people had applied for postgraduate teacher preparation courses through the UCAS Scheme. This was an increase of 6,000 on the number recorded in August 2019, for these courses in England. This represent a 15% year on year increase. However the number is still well below the record levels of more than 60,000 witnessed during the previous recession caused by the banking crisis. No doubt, this is in part due to the fact that it wasn’t until March that the world was turned upon its head.

The 2020/21 recruitment round may well see much high numbers of applicants right from the start of the cycle later this autumn. There are also Teach First numbers to be taken into account, although they don’t publish regular figures on total applicant numbers.

Every region of England witnessed increases in applicant numbers over 2019, with more than 1,000 additional applicants in the South East, and 1,500 in London: good news for both regions. There were also more applicants from all age-groups, as well as from both women and men.

As many of these new applicants have arrived relatively late in the recruitment round, and while schools and universities have been enduring ‘lockdown’, it is, perhaps, not surprising that ‘conditional placed’ numbers are up on last year, whereas, in some cases, ‘placed’ numbers are down.

For instance, for men in the age 21 and under category, there were 340 placed this August compared with 400 in August 2019. However the conditional placed number this year was 760, compared with 530 in August 2019. The number of applicants in this age group increased from 1,300 in August 2019 to 1,450 this August. While four of the seven age-groupings for men recorded fewer placed numbers than last year, only two age groups, the youngest and oldest groupings, for women recorded placed numbers below last year. This may give credence to the suggestion that male applicants for teaching tend to apply later on average than women.

School Direct seems to have suffered this year, with fewer placed applicants for both primary and secondary courses, and quite markedly fewer for School Direct Salaried places. This year only 610 applicants have been recorded as placed against 890 last year. Conditional placed numbers for School Direct Salaried this year are 1,550, compared with 1,710 in August last year. No doubt funding arrangements and school closures have affected this route more than some others.

Some subjects have seen significant increases in the number of applications. Art and design has increased to 3,570 this August compared with 1,890 in August 2019. Business studies, a shortage subject, now has 1,720 applications compared with 770 in 2019. By contrast, geography only has 3,740 applications this year compared with 4,380 last year at this point in time.

Mathematics has seen an increase from 8,600 to 11,000 applications, but only 770 of these are placed and with just 1,750 holding a conditional place it seems less than likely that the Teacher Supply Model number will be reached. The same is true for physics, where applications are up from 2,220 to 2,450, but only 550 are recorded as either placed or conditionally placed: not sufficient to meet the requirement.

So, 2020 looks like being better than recent years, but not yet a great year. Hopefully, the 2020/21 round will see all places filled. Since secondary pupil numbers will still be on the increase, this will be important to ensure adequate staffing for our schools.

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