Teacher recruitment numbers are down by a third compared with a year ago, according to "alarming" new data published by Ucas today.
Statistics published this morning show that at 18 December 2017, 12,820 people had applied for teacher training. At the same point in the previous recruitment cycle, 19 December 2016, 19,330 people had made applications. The figures equate to a drop of 6,510 (33 per cent).
Candidates can apply for up to three courses – so the number of applications is higher than the number of applicants. There were 34,200 applications in December 2017, compared with 52,590 in December 2016.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the figures as "alarming" and "pretty disastrous".
“It’s alarming, I think, particularly as we know there are going to be another half a million children coming through the system over the next nine years... It’s pretty disastrous for a profession which is going to need more teachers.”
'Confusion' over routes into teaching
Mr Barton said he suspected the fall was down to confusion about routes into teaching and concerns about workload and accountability in the profession.
“The government really has to develop clearer routes into teaching – it’s so complicated," he said. "There are so many different ways into teaching that I think that lots of people must just feel bewildered about quite what does it mean to try and become a teacher.
“I suspect, secondly, that teacher workload, teacher accountability, all of that narrative, plays into the fact that people – particularly young people perhaps making a decision about whether to go into accountancy, management consultancy or teaching – are just put off by something which looks like it’s not going to compare with the work-life balance they will get in a different career.”
He added that the communities most likely to "suffer" from under-recruitment "are the very ones that the [Department for Education's] social mobility strategy say need the best teachers".
'Not good news'
John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University, said the drop was "not good news".
“We’re lagging behind where we were [last] January in terms of the number of people who were made offers, in pretty well every subject,” he added.
“If these figures are an early warning sign – and I think they are, after 25 years of looking at the data – I’m going to need a lot of convincing from somebody that this is not going to be a bad year.
“The government ought to step in sooner rather than later… Since we’re looking at a period of rising pupil numbers, we can’t afford to under-recruit on our teacher-training targets."
Figures on the initial teacher-training census for 2017, published by the DfE in November, revealed that the government missed its teacher-training targets in all secondary subjects apart from PE and history.
Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and Instagram, and like Tes on Facebook