The number of people applying for places on teacher training courses has dipped year-on-year for the first time since the Covid pandemic forced schools to close last March, new figures reveal.
Statistics released today by admissions body UCAS show that 44,970 teacher hopefuls have so far submitted applications in the 2020-21 cycle, compared with 46,480 at the same point last year.
It is the first time the cumulative applicant total has fallen year-on-year since the pandemic hit in 2020 – suggesting that the recruitment boom sparked by the crisis may already be coming to an end.
The news comes as data released today by the Department for Education indicates that the proportion of new teachers going on to work in a state school within 16 months of qualifying fell from 78 per cent to 73 per cent between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
In September last year, research showed that the Covid recession had reignited interest in the teacher training sector. The National Foundation for Education (NFER) suggested this was because "teaching is seen as offering secure employment when unemployment is high".
The Department for Education subsequently slashed or scrapped all bursaries for postgraduate ITT courses, which are designed to incentivise applicants, for 2021-22 – sparking dismay among providers.
Shortly afterwards, recruitment goals at secondary level were exceeded for the first time since 2012-13, with the number of new entrants amounting to 106 per cent of the target set by the Teacher Supply Model.
But experts have been warning throughout the crisis that these trends might only amount to a "short-term" boom in recruitment.
And the latest UCAS figures suggest that this month could have been a crucial turning point for the data.
Every month from March 2020 to June 2021 has seen applicant numbers rise on the previous year, bucking the trends that dominated the pre-Covid teacher recruitment crisis.
But as of this month, fewer people are applying to ITT courses than at the same point last year.
Commenting on the most recent data, Jack Worth, education economist at the NFER, said: "Rate of new ITT applications has slowed right down now, to below even previous years...
"Still on for a good year overall...but DfE will need to get next year's incentive packages right to encourage sufficient recruitment across all subjects."