School recruitment woes look set to worsen as new data suggests the government has missed its target for secondary teacher recruits this year by even more than forecast.
As of last Monday, 12,646 applicants to secondary initial teacher training (ITT) courses this year had been recruited, way off the 20,945 target.
The new figures, published today, do not include recruits from Teach First. But assuming the provider recruits the same proportion of trainees as last year, it means ministers would, at best, miss their target for secondary recruits by a third. ‘Grim news’ for schools John Howson, chair at teacher vacancy site TeachVac, described the forecast as “grim news” amid ongoing concerns over teacher recruitment and retention. He added the secondary sector would now be dependent on more qualified teachers returning and less departing to prevent staff shortages in the coming months. “I am not sure that either of those conditions will be in place by the time schools start recruiting in January 2023 for September,” he added. On Monday, education unions said they were joining forces to flag concerns over teacher shortages at the ongoing Labour party conference. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “After years of successive governments and numerous education secretaries, conditions, pay and school funding have so deteriorated that it is now one that many graduates are choosing not to enter or those currently teaching are choosing to leave.” It’s very hard to overstate how dreadfully bad these ITT application numbers are– Primary is 8% lower than 2019, despite no bursary change in between – Secondary is 23% lower than 2019 pic.twitter.com/ChYOgM9ldk— Jack Worth (@JackWorthNFER) September 27, 2022 Secondary recruits this year are also nearly a quarter lower than in 2019. NFER Schools Workforce lead Jack Worth said it was “very hard to overstate how dreadfully bad these ITT application numbers are”. Gloomy outlook worsens The already gloomy outlook has worsened since August. A Schools Week analysis of those actually recruited and awaiting outcomes suggested the target would be missed by a quarter. The increase appears to have been driven by more unsuccessful candidates being confirmed. While there were 43,949 unsuccessful secondary ITT applicants as of 15 August, the figure had jumped to 47,602 as of last week. Howson suggests the disparity between the two months could be down to a “tidying up of unresolved applications by providers”, particularly where staff were on holiday during the summer. Meanwhile, Kevin Mattinson, a professor emeritus in teacher education, suggested the growth in unsuccessful applications could be down to later submissions which are “often of poorer quality”. Today’s statistics include applicants who applied through the government’s ‘Apply for teacher training’ service, the main route for ITT courses in England. Teach First and applicants who have applied directly through their provider are not included in the data. Few candidates apply directly through their provider, but 1,294 new secondary trainee teachers were recruited through Teach First last year, making up 6 per cent of the overall secondary teacher target. If their recruits make up the same percentage this year, that would leave a shortfall of 7,042 secondary trainees (34 per cent of the target). These include candidates with confirmed or conditional places, those who had received an offer but not responded and even those still awaiting decisions from providers – meaning the figures represent a best-case scenario. The figures also do not account for a reduction due to no-shows and not meeting conditions of entry – which could wipe off up to another five per cent of recruits. While data from the school workforce census later this year will confirm the overall figures, recruitment for this year’s cohort – including Teach First’s autumn institute – has ended. However, the Department for Education’s target for new primary trainee teachers – 11,655 – has been met. Physics worst hit Physics is still likely to take the biggest hit. Despite a target of 2,610, only 516 trainee physics teacher applicants had been recruited or given a conditional offer as of September 19. This is 80 per cent short of the government target. Worth said the data underlines it “has been an extremely challenging year for recruiting teachers, due to the strong post-pandemic wider labour market competing with teaching. “There needs to be renewed policy focus on a strategy for recruitment and retention, including improving pay and reducing workload.” The DfE was contacted for comment.