New ‘75% rule’ invoked to save some history PGCE providers

The government has swiftly changed its policy for teacher recruitment as the cap on history trainees comes into force.

Original rules, implemented from this year, brought in a blanket ban for recruitment onto university courses once providers had met a certain target – which is set at different levels for different subjects.

However, in an email sent to providers this morning, the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) described a tweak in its policy allowing universities to keep recruiting until they have offered places to 75 per cent of the numbers they recruited last year.

For example, if they recruited 20 people last year, they can offer places to 15 people this year.

The NCTL ordered all but eight higher education insitiutions (HEIs) to halt recruitment for history courses from today. Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Hull, Leeds Trinity, Leicester, Exeter and UCL will be allowed to keep recruiting until they meet the new 75 per cent level.

Concerns were raised on social media yesterday that history PGCEs at those universities would have to close if the cap was implemented.

Yesterday, universities were rushing through interviews with applicants in order to be able to offer places before the cap was reached.

The NCTL was unable to send emails to providers at the 95 per cent mark – as promised – due to the “high volume” of offers and acceptances.

But, the email sent today added: “Recruitment is still open for all school-led ITT routes and those HEIs running core History courses that have not yet reached 75% of their 2015/16 recruitment total.”

This morning, support for the change was expressed on social media. Katharine Burn, director of The Oxford Education Deanery tweeted:

It is not yet clear if this will affect any other subject, and the Department for Education (DfE) said it would “keep the situation under review”.

Last week, providers offering PE PGCEs were told to stop recruiting, overnight.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, said it was “rather late in the day” for the NCTL to make this change.

Speaking to Schools Week this morning, he said: “I do not think there is any logic in only introducing this for history but I have yet to be given an answer from the NCTL about that.

“The government never gave any indication they were going to make this amendment. It just came overnight.”

Ali Messer, head of secondary ITT University of Roehampton, said: “NCTL should be praised for seeing what’s happening across the sector and adapting its policy on closing courses. It’s good news for students that there is more fluidity now, because it gives potential trainees more choice on which pathway to take and where to study.

“I think schools and pupils will ultimately benefit from employing teachers who have trained in both School Direct and on university based courses. Both streams have their benefits through practical and research-based education, which will bring more variety to lessons through the work of strong subject development, as in history.”

In addition, Mr Noble-Rogers has this morning written to NCTL chair Roger Pope about his concerns of the change in recruitment practice.

The letter said, in regards to the closure of PE: “A number of potentially excellent teachers lost their places because there had not been time for administrators to input their details into UCAS systems after schools and universities agreed that offers could be made.”

Adding: “Given that applicants can travel hundreds of miles, even from overseas, this is no minor issue. It is unethical to treat people like this. Legal liability is also an issue.”

He added that the situation would be more manageable if student choice was not “inappropriately constrained” by imposing the “artificial cap.

Mr Noble-Rogers said the cap did not make sense “from a pure policy perspective” as many HEI programmes will have “been at least as “schools-led” as many of those delivered through School Direct”.

The government has imposed the cap to allow “moderate growth” of school-led provision, such as School Direct and SCITT. School-led routes have national minimum levels of recruitment, and HEIs can be capped and prevented from recruiting.

Any HEIs failing to stop recruitment can face sanctions. Once the cap is imposed, offers already made by HEIs can be honoured, but no further offers can be made.

The government wants 816 history places to be filled next year, with only 238 allocated to HEIs.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Teaching remains a hugely popular profession and we have record levels of trainees holding a first class degree.

“The recruitment of history teachers has been rapid, which is an encouraging sign and places remain for people who want to become history teachers through school-led courses.

“Every university will be able to make offers to at least three-quarters of the history trainees they had last year – so courses can run and no trainee should lose out.”

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  1. This new recruitment procedure is farcical. We have a situation now where some uni providers can carry on recruiting, others cannot and the left hand, UCAS, not being told what the right hand, NCTL, is doing. How does this look to highly motivated, well qualified graduates? A mess.

  2. I suppose teacher training applicants are getting an early glimpse of what chaotic top down policy changes occur in their chosen profession.

    Many of their contemporaries have decided to aim for alternative careers where the workforce are treated with more respect.

    I am not quite sure why the government has allowed this change. I thought policy was that you didn’t need any training to be a teacher. After all, most of the government were taught by teachers with no formal teacher training and look how well that has prepared them for leadership, planning, consultation, and decision making. Perhaps we should scrap teacher training altogether and let Headteachers find all those amazing unqualified teachers out there, rocket scientists etc, who will bring excitement to the classroom and earn £56,000 per annum.
    Yeah, right!

  3. Ian Phillips

    As a thankfully retired History PGCE course leader I still have links with the subject community through a range of organisations and personal and professional connections. When the NCTL announced it’s inept and ill-advised processes last year there was discussion in HEIs about the implications of these changes. There was an undersatnding that the process from interview to offer would have to be significantly accelerated. At open events potential candidates were made aware of the changing situation and urged to submit applications as soon as UCAS opened.
    I was advising and guiding a family friend on the application process this year and everything was proceeding relatively normally, it seemed at first that this was even more efficient than in previous years. 2 Universities offered interview dates within a couple of days of receiving the application. When news began to filter through about the fate of PE clearly these Universities were concerned that something similar could happen to their PGCE courses and interview dates were rapidly brought forward. Seeing this from the other side of the fence, from the perspective of the applicant was interesting. Using my privileged contacts I was able to see that there was a growing worry that courses would close if they could not get their applicants into the respective universities urgently.
    The criteria that HEIs have used have not been diluted in all 5 Universities where I still have professional or personal links the minimum degree remains 2.1. There is also a significant amount of ‘regionalism’ in ITE recruitment, certainly in the NW where I lived and worked 75% of the recruits were from the region made up equally of people who had stayed in the NW and gone to a local university, or who had come back to the NW after studying at a University outside the region. The 25% were usually ‘stayers’ who wanted at least another year in the region.
    This is another significant failure of the NCTL process – it never took account of regional need or regional variation, something which has been significantly compounded by the closure of courses in some parts of the country following Ofsted Inspections where providers ONLY got a grade 2 outcome.
    It is a crazy world in ITE and in many ways I am relieved that I largely watch from the outside: Never thought I’d end up quoting Rudyard Kipling but this does seem appropriate:
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
    I did see the things that had been part of my professional life for almost 20 years broken. I could have stayed and fought but I dedcided to do other things, mostly in mountains

  4. Alex Weatherall

    This threshold was brought in overnight in response to the uproar that two of our top universities probably would shelve their history PGCE as numbers meant running the courses was unviable. A vital need for a change if ever there was one.
    If the CAP is to exist then the least the NCTL should do is to apply the 75% (why 75%?) rule to all courses and all subjects. How many courses running PE had reached this threshold? How many from English or Primary (the next in line to suffer from this uncertain treatment) will have reached 75% before this ridiculous CAP is imposed?

    They say it is to allow moderate growth in school-led provision. At a time when teacher recruitment is at an all time slump and schools are struggling under budgetary constraints, curriculum changes, and a wholesale regime change in accountability (via RSCs, Ofsted, and an assessment statistical overhaul) it is hardly appropriate to foist most responsibility for training the new teachers on the struggling school system.

    You would have thought we’d have wanted the excellent support of higher education institutions to continue at current levels or higher at this crucial time.

    This whole debacle is a big, ill thought out mistake that will have an enormous impact on teacher numbers for years to come. Every change to ITT the DfE has made since that start of the last parliament has had a depressive effect on teacher numbers. Yet the only thing they can do is harp on about the impressive percentage of teachers with firsts they’re bringing into the system. That is a worthless goal if the overall number of teachers is too few to allow our schools to continue to be able to teach our children effectively (and you don’t need a first for that)!

    Yours extremely annoyed,