Teacher training courses half empty as term approaches

The low number of trainees starting initial teacher training courses this year is “very concerning”, according to experts – with some subjects showing as half or less-than-half full on the government’s website.

New figures released today by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) show the state of recruitment controls on the three main routes in teaching: the salaried School Direct route, the fee-paying School Direct and School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) routes, and PGCE course route.

The data show that in many subjects, not one of these three routes to becoming a fully qualified teacher by 2017 are 100 per cent full. All three routes need to be at 100 per cent for the government to hit target – meaning that thousands of posts may be empty at the start of next year.

Given that September teacher training courses have now begun, experts have warned the current teacher recruitment crisis could remain as bad, “if not worse”, at the start of the next school year than its current levels. Finalised number of postgraduates on initial teacher training courses will be confirmed in the November census.

Experts say the current teacher recruitment crisis could worsen

The subjects causing greatest concern are Design and Technology, Mathematics, Physics and Business Studies – with creative subjects like Drama also showing a worrying trend – according to Professor John Howson, an education data analyst at Oxford University who runs job website Teach Vac.

“Design Technology is up there with Physics and Business Studies at the bad end of the scale,” he told Schools Week.

According to the data, only 50 per cent of the salaried places available on School Direct for Business Studies are full, and the same is true of the subject’s places on PGCE courses.

The figures are even worse for Design Technology, which is the only subject out of the total 17 secondary school subjects listed as “less than 50 per cent” full on PGCE courses.

Mathematics saw a quarter of places for the subject unfilled on the salaried Schools Direct route, half of places unfilled on the PCGE route, and five per cent of places were empty on the fee-paying School Direct and SCITT route.

Physics has similarly suffered, with 50 per cent of places still empty on the PGCE teacher training route, and 25 per cent of places even on the salaried School Direct route still open.

About 3,103 training places to teach Maths, and 1,055 to teach Physics, needed to be filled nationally according to the government’s supply model, meaning hundreds will likely go unfilled next September.

Howson said two factors were likely at play.

Schools may feel they are not being offered a high enough calibre of candidate to warrant a salaried training position, he said, adding that the government’s recruitment drive needed to be “more effective”.

Schools may feel they are not being offered a high enough calibre of candidate

“The issue with salaried and school-based teacher training is that is aimed at career-switchers, but we are at a point in the economic cycle where fewer people are now leaving their jobs,” he said.

“Now we are less in a recession fewer people might be considering teaching as a career.”

Other subjects such as the salaried Drama route, a subject which has 347 places to fill nationally, were listed as “Open” – meaning they had not even reached the 50 per cent mark.

He added that the “recruitment controls” brought in by the National College of Teaching last year, which were meant to warn training courses when places are 50 per cent, 75 per cent and 100 per cent full to prevent a glut of graduates being trained, may need to be reconsidered.

“The recruitment controls were initially introduced to prevent over-recruitment but we will have to see whether they are actually having an adverse effect,” said Howson.

“It may be the controls were crude, one-off measures that should not be used again next year.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “The latest UCAS figures show that teaching remains a hugely popular profession – nearly 28,000 people have already secured a place on a postgraduate teacher training course in England starting this month.

“We have recruited in excess of our postgraduate targets for subjects including biology, English, geography and history, and have continued to make sustained progress in a number of key subjects like chemistry, maths and physics, where recruitment is ahead on this time last year.

“We are also pleased to see the growing number of schools engaging in school-led ITT – this year more than half of postgraduate trainees are on a school led route such as School Direct where trainees get to train in the classroom from day one. We expect this trend to continue with schools having already recruited 14,500 trainees for September 2016.”

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  1. You just need to be a bit careful with context for some of those numbers, and bear in mind that for over-subscribed subjects such as PE, History and English, the lion’s share of places went to SD, whereas for shortage subjects SD was given ambitious but realistic targets with all the places that made up the difference between expected numbers and NCTL targets sitting with HEIs. Anyone not aware of this could be mis-led into looking at STEM percentages and thinking SDs were recruiting better than HEIs whereas it’s actually the other way round (by a fair way, and has been since SD was introduced).

  2. I Young

    Been abroad for many years but back in the U.K and enquired to Dundee University re teacher training which I did. I was encouraged to go ahead and apply. This I did. I have a disclosure certificate, do voluntary work with young adults who are disabled, ex drug addicts etc and have a clean record. However despite a shortage of teachers I wasn’t even granted an interview. My degree is a 2.1 BSc Hons in pharmacy. I would consider primary teaching but I seem to have just been written off with no advice given. Is this the way to encourage new teachers?