The Impact of Covid-19 on Initial Teacher Training

Jack Worth, Dawson McLean

21 September 2020

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, England’s school system was facing an increasingly severe challenge of recruiting enough trainees to initial teacher training (ITT) to meet growing teacher demand. The pandemic has had a number of impacts on the ITT sector and on teacher supply more broadly.

This report highlights some of the main opportunities and challenges brought by Covid-19, drawing on applications data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and nationally-representative surveys of teachers and senior leaders.

Key Findings

  • The overall number of teacher training applicants is 16 per cent higher than the same time in 2019. The number of accepted offers to primary and secondary courses is 14 and 20 per cent higher, respectively, in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Covid-19 has led some schools to reduce or withdraw school-based training placement offers and an overall reduction in placement capacity. Overall, primary placement capacity was 20 per cent lower due to Covid-19 and seven per cent lower for secondaries. Schools with the most disadvantaged pupils reported the largest average reductions in placement capacity due to Covid-19
  • Despite a surge in applications to ITT and a likely increase in teacher retention, teacher supply gaps are unlikely to close fully this year. Accounting for increased recruitment and an increase in teacher retention rates, it is likely that trainee numbers in almost all subjects will meet the school system’s need for teachers in September 2021. This includes closing under-recruitment gaps in shortage subjects such as mathematics, MFL and chemistry, relative to teacher need. The exceptions are physics and design & technology.
  • Thanks to flexibilities made by DfE to the ITT requirements and ITT providers’ careful approach of only making offers where placements were arranged, the system looks likely to be able to train the increased number of trainees. However, the squeeze on placement capacity has highlighted a vulnerability that could continue to impact the ITT sector. Mentor capacity in schools is likely to be a key potential limiting factor, particularly as 2021/22 is also the year of the national roll-out of the Early Career Framework (ECF).