John Howson

The covid-19 pandemic has come too late in the recruitment round to ensure that all teacher preparation courses for graduates in all subjects will recruit enough students for September 2020 in order to ensure enough teachers for September 2021 vacancies.

On the basis of the July data from UCAS, the number of ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ applications were sufficient in biology; Business Studies; English; history; music; physical education; religious education; art and modern languages to reasonably expect the DfE’s Teacher Supply Number to be reached. The percentage in art and design is the highest number recorded for more than a decade. The primary sector should also exceed its target set by the DfE.

On the other hand, computing and geography might meet the target with a few more acceptable applicants during the summer. However, it seems unlikely that chemistry; design & technology; mathematics and physics will meet the desired number this year. There simply haven’t been enough time to attract applicants, unless that is there is a stream of highly qualified applicants between early July and the start of September.

Interestingly, 24% of applications in physics were in the ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ categories by mid-July 2020. This was the same percentage as in 2019. The figure for mathematics was also 24% in both July 2019 and July 2020. In Chemistry it had dropped from 25% in 2019, to 23% this year, although there were nearly 600 more applications for providers to process, so the final percentage might be higher.

In music, the percentage in the ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ categories by mid-July 2020 was 32%, one of the highest for any subject, and up from 26% in July 2019. Physical education, not a shortage subject, has seen their percentage increase from 20% in July 2019 to 24% in July 2020.

So, 2020 looks like being the best year for recruitment into training for teaching for five or six years, but it seems unlikely that all subjects will meet their targets. However, there may well be a glut of both physical education and history teachers entering the market in 2021, unless all the vacancies lost this year by schools either retrenching or not needing to recruit appear again for September 2021.

Would I take on the extra debt to train as either a PE or a history teacher? Well, I would certainly look at the employment record of the course offering me a place this year and check with TeachVac what the job situation is like in these subjects, especially in view of any debt to the government that will be incurred by joining the course. After all, we don’t know what might happen to interest rates and repayment terms as the government seeks to manage the economy over the next few years.

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