A matter of semantics?

Is it headteacher or head teacher? The DfE generally seems to favour the former, as indeed I have always done since I started collecting data about headteacher turnover way back in the early 1980s. However, in an idle summer moment I thought that I would see whether there was any uniformity on the way the term was used? In an on-line search, the Oxford dictionaries and the Collins dictionaries provide a definition using the two words ‘head teacher’ for a school leader, whereas the Cambridge dictionary used the one word headteacher to describe the person in charge of a school. So, no agreement there then. There have been a number of different threads on bulletin boards and other question and answer sites over the years than seem to have come to no definite conclusion. Some now some use terms such as principal instead, and I also wonder if it is generally accepted that headmaster/headmistress seem to belong to a different age?

Whether either to split a word into two in order to describe a position or to use the concatenated version is a relatively trivial issue suitable for discussion in the dog days of summer as we await the deluge of the results season; clearing and the start of the new school term that is fast approaching.

This blog has campaigned, albeit soto voce, for the term teacher, and by extension headteacher, to be a reserved occupation term that can only be used by those accredited by a recognised body such as the General Teaching Councils outside England in the other home nations and the College in England. This could be a morale boost for teachers that would cost the government nothing in relative terms to achieve and would reverse the ‘govian’ notion that anyone can teach as opposed to the fact that anyone can instruct those that want to be taught. Teaching and instruction are not the same occupations, as the Newsom Committee observed more than half a century ago, (in passing it was 64 years last week that Sir John Newsom submitted his report – see blog post – Half our Future) when citing evidence on the issue of teacher preparation from the then Committee charged with discussing the subject. In those days, discussions between civil servants and others with an interest in schooling often took place in advisory committees and were more transparent than today when so much happens behind closed doors.

Anyway, this was a blog about words and not deeds, so to return to the original theme for one last time; should there be a new term for someone responsible for more than one school? I have never liked the term ‘executive headteacher’ especially since it is something of an oxymoron as their role is often strategic and not executive in nature. Historically, the strategic role was that of education officers up to an including chief education officers, but that role became blurred with the creation of Children’s Services under Labour for good, if not always helpful, reasons.

Diocese often still have education officers, perhaps showing how little some have changed despite the revolution in the education world around them. MATs prefer business terms, such as chief executive and, at least like the term education officer, these titles recognise the lack of any teaching in the role. By reminding headteachers of the origin of their role we can hopefully help them to focus on what is still the essential heart of the work of a headteacher: teaching and its leadership in a school.


Who was right?

Four years ago, in August 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘STEM subjects lead retreat from teaching’. Shortly afterwards a DfE spokesperson, helpfully anonymous, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying of my delving into the then current teacher training position that there was no teacher shortage, adding ‘This is scaremongering and based on incomplete evidence.’ Well, four years on and the sixth year some training numbers are going to be missed, I wonder how we might view that exchange in the light of subsequent events.

Of course, in some ways, the newspaper article said more about journalists and the need to identify both sides of a story than about the real situation regarding recruitment into training at that time. Did the Daily Mail journalist check whether the DfE spokesperson was doing anything more than trying to put the government in a good light? Did they ask what the complete evidence showed or did they just print the DfE line? I cannot now recall exactly what happened, but I don’t remember being presented with any DfE evidence and asked how it challenged my thoughts and comments.

Making statements about teacher supply that show governments up in anything but a perfect light is never going to make one popular, even with the Party you belong to, and especially when it is in a coalition government. However, to be fair to officials at the DfE, the press office line was replaced by the only Statistical Bulletin ever issued in August containing the final allocations into training through the various routes, although at that time Teach First was still being excluded from the overall totals, much as employment based routes had been earlier in the century. Happily, Teach First totals now appear in the national data sources with regard to numbers being prepared to achieve qualified teacher status. I hesitate to say, prepared to teach since they are in classroom from September, albeit after an extensive and demanding summer school. The publication of those allocations allowed a debate about the number of offers identified through the recruitment process and the decisions about how the training place totals were reached that probably helped David Laws to agree to publish the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model and its working for debate when he was the Minister responsible for that aspect of the DfE’s work. We now live in a much more open culture, although the UCAS data is still being presented in what might be regarded as a less than helpful manner.

As I write this blog, a second journalist has been in contact with me this summer about the position schools will face this September with regard to staffing: editors are clearly looking for the start of term story for 2017 after the examination outcomes have been fully discussed. As I have made clear for some time, 2017 is likely to have been an easier recruitment round than last year, partly due to funding pressures, but also because recruitment into training was higher than in the previous year.

As I have also made clear, 2018 looks as if it will be a more challenging recruitment round for schools if teacher preparation numbers turn out as I expect this autumn. Of course, the current advertising campaign and the millions of pounds being invested in recruiting teachers from overseas might tip the balance and, suddenly, there will be a surfeit of Physics teachers, but then teachers might also be paid more than 1% in a pay rise. We can always hope.




Does local democratic control matter in education?

How far has the education map of England become a picture of two nations growing apart? There are many different ways in which you can consider that question. One is to look at the governance structure of state funded schools. How many are still maintained schools of the various types largely linked to the 1944 Education Act and how many are now the product of the Ball/Gove academy revolution? Among selective schools the answer is that almost all are academies; only 23 remain as maintained schools and 10 of these are in Kent. At the other end of the spectrum, London is the only region where free schools, UTCs and studio schools comprise more than 10% of the total of secondary schools and even there it is still only 11%. This is despite the fact that London has probably seem the greatest demand for new secondary school places since 2010. In the North East and East Midlands areas, just four per cent of secondary schools fall into the category of these new types of nationally administered schools free from local democratic oversight.

However, academies are a group have become the dominant governance form for secondary schools, accounting for almost two out of three secondary schools in England. Nevertheless, the percentage is still lower in the north of England and, perhaps more surprisingly, in London and especially Inner London, where 81 of the 185 secondary schools are still local authority maintained comprehensives than in the rest of England.

Of course, just counting schools is a somewhat imprecise measure, since schools do differ in size from small 11-16 schools to large 2,000+ 11-18 or all-through schools. The same is true in the primary sector, where there as some very large schools coping with recent pupil growth, but still many small schools in rural areas. The percentage of schools that are academies or free schools differs from the secondary sector in some regions.

SW 632 1870 34%
EM 454 1635 28%
YH 466 1785 26%
WM 437 1776 25%
EE 485 1993 24%
L 363 1816 20%
SE 507 2598 20%
NE 155 861 18%
NW 249 2452 10%
ALL SCHOOLS 3748 16786 22%



However, there are fewer primary academies across much of the north of England and in London. The preponderance of Conservative controlled county councils in the south West many account for the relatively high percentage of primary academies in that regional, although it is still only around one in three primary schools, much lower than the percentage in the secondary sector.

As a Lib Dem politician, I wonder whether it is worth testing a campaign in the South West along the lines of ‘return our schools to community democratic oversight’. The membership has never seemingly taken to academies and control from Westminster in the manner that Lib Dem spokespeople and Ministers seem to have done. I am not sure where the present spokesperson stands on this issue?

Such a campaign might also highlight that there is no way back for schools entering MATs. The government may remove them to another MAT and MATs may voluntarily give up or even close a school, but neither the community not the local governors can seemingly force the trustees, those with the real power in a MAT, do so. Like much of the NHS, this is a denial of local democratic involvement in a key public service.

There is, however, one gain from the academy programme, the 140 academies that are selective schools can have their status changed to non-selective schools much more easily than when they were still maintained schools.


More post BREXIT confusion

This week the DfE announced a new tender for someone to recruit, train and support overseas teachers in England for the next four years, presumably up to 2022. The information was contained in the teacher Recruitment Bulletin for August https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-august-2017 put out by the National College.

The tender states that the NCTL are seeking a framework of suppliers to assist schools and academies in recruiting, supporting, training and acclimatising international teachers in shortage, priority subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages. The framework will be in place for up to 4 years and will be directly available to schools and academies. The subject list goes wider than that identified as Tier 2 subjects by the Migration Advisory Committee at the start of this year in their report, but does not specifically mention computer science or Mandarin, two subjects added to the list of shortage subjects by the MAC in January along with Science. Whether other language teachers will be able to obtain Tier 2 visas is not clear from the notice about the tender. Whether the use of ‘such as’ is meant to include other priority subjects not regarded as shortage subjects by the MAC also isn’t clear from the announcement.

The Recruitment Bulletin for August also gave further proof of how challenging this year’s recruitment round is into training, offering providers a reminder that:

“You can still request additional ITT allocations for a September 2017 start.

If you’ve already achieved 90% or above of your original allocation, you can request additional places up to 125%. Further requests beyond this increase will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This offer applies to higher education institutes (HEIs), school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITTs) and School Direct partnerships in all category one subjects (drama, history and primary, excluding PE and undergraduate courses); it applies to HEIs and SCITTs in all category 2 subjects (art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music), with School Direct partnerships continuing under the same methodology as before.

Please note the 10% tolerance in each subject remains for all allocated subjects, including PE and undergraduate courses, and is in addition to the subjects listed.”

No doubt the relaxation of recruitment rules has already lead to the reported surge in offers in history and geography: the latter reaching new record highs for offers.

In an attempt to keep up the pressure on the government the Sun newspaper has reported that the Labour Party has looked at the time series data in the School Workforce Census and discovered that teacher numbers in secondary schools fell by around 11,000 between 2011 and 2016. Had they probed a bit deeper they would also have noticed that the pupil teacher ratio worsened from 15.6 to 16.4 in the same period, with most of the deterioration being since 2014. How much of the worsening is due to increased pupil numbers not being fully funded and how much by the worsening funding situation is still partly a matter of conjecture but the evidence is mounting of school budgets under pressure.

This will be the sixth year in succession that some training targets are likely to have been missed unless there is a late surge in applications to train as a teacher.





Buy British education

At the end of July the DfE published a research report into ‘the UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity 2010-2014’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-related-exports-and-transnational-education-activity The higher education sector is by far and away the largest contributor to revenue in this sector, increasing from 60% to 66% of the total income during this period.

Non-EU student income across the higher education sector increased by around 30% in current prices from £6.56 billion to £8.55 billion between 2010 and 2014. Income from research and other contracts rose by around 56% in current prices from £0.77 billion to £1.19 billion over the same period. Interestingly, income from both the further education sector and from English Language training fell during this period. The latter, it is said, because courses were shorter in length, thus providing lower fee income. The FE sector now accounts for just two per cent of overseas income. Some of the reduction may have as a result of the crackdown on private colleges and potential visa applications from those that after entry didn’t actually become students.

Independent schools witnessed a 28% growth in income from their UK based operations. They will also have benefitted from the return to the UK of any profits from their overseas campuses established in recent years. The transnational income for the schools sector increased by some 47%, based upon an estimate of the trend data. The local spending associated with this type of activity is excluded from the figures when calculating the transnational revenue figure.

Education publishing, the most mature of the product sectors selling education overseas, saw only an eight per cent growth during the period 2010 to 2014, whereas education related equipment sales increased in revenue terms by 20%, based on the estimate of trend data and education-related broadcasting by nearly a third at 31%. Publishing may find it hard to grown in the future, especially if students continue to switch from paper to on-line sources for information and learning materials. Books generally carry a much high profit margin than resources in new technologies in the same way that print advertising is more profitable than on-line for many publishers.

After BREXIT, the value of EU sales will be added to those generated in the rest of the world. This should pride a one-off change even if registrations from EU students and sales to schools and students in EU countries actually fall post 2019.

Education exporting is an area where both the Business Department and the DfE need to work closely together to encourage exports of educational goods and services and to support both education trade bodies and individual exporters. Fortunately, there is plenty of demand, as is shown on the government’s exporting web site.  However, the range of countries is quite narrow and excludes large sections of the world, especially in the Americas.

There are new potential sources of income such as those from on-line courses increasingly provided by both universities and private sector trainers. This could provide some companies with a lucrative new form of income that allows them to export without ever leaving the comfort of their home base.



Why are some pupils missing out on a free lunch?

Why are families in the South East, along with some others from across the country, ignoring the chance to increase their spending power by not taking up the free infant lunch programme on offer in schools? Many of the authorities with the lowest take up in the latest DfE statistics of census day are located in the South East. They include unitary authorities, such as Brighton & Hove, Slough, Reading, Medway and Milton Keynes and counties such as East Sussex and Oxfordshire. All these authorities had a take-up of less than 81% of pupils eating lunch on census day.

At the other end of the scale, Inner London averaged a nearly 91% take-up and Solihull managed to achieve just over 96% take-up. Now, I guess there may be some parents that regard the food on offer as not acceptable for culinary, cultural or dietary reasons, but it is difficult to see why so many parents in some authorities not only forgo an extra £400 or spending money, but presumably also shell out hard cash on creating meals for their children to eat instead. If they don’t think that the food on offer is good enough then they should be lobbying the governing body or MAT trustees for an improvement.

Now, I am sure some of the difference could be a result of how important the local authority still sees its role in education and thus in encouraging schools to provide meals that are attractive and nutritional. This may be less of a concern in areas with lots of academies and free schools.

It could also be that some of these families have children in schools where more emphasis is placed on the breakfast club than on lunch to ensure a healthy start to the day. Of course, locally high incidences of sickness in specific schools may also have played a part in an authority’s position in the rankings. However, it does seem that the further north you travel in England, the higher the take-up was, with London, and specifically the inner London boroughs, being the main exception to this rule of thumb analysis.

The should be sufficient data now available to identify whether pupils in schools with low take-up fare any differently at the end of Key State 1 than pupils in schools where take-up is much higher once  researchers have standardised for all other possible variables; a tough ask.

I guess, with the present funding problems facing schools, there won’t be any real pressure from government for a scheme to extend the free lunch arrangements to Key Stage 2 pupils and, no doubt, some politicians may see the whole exercise as an ineffective use of money, forgetting the benefits to both parents and children achieved by the was the scheme is resourced. The initiative to roll out the scheme for Key Stage 1 pupils was a Coalition government action with some parts of the Labour strongly supporting and other being either lukewarm or downright hostile to the idea.


Celebrating Diversity

Twenty years ago this autumn, the then Teacher Training Agency (TTA) launched an advertising campaign to attract new recruits to train as a teacher. There were two adverts. The talking heads one with the strap line, ‘no one forgets a good teacher’ remains memorable, but the other, although more innovative as an advertisement, doesn’t register in the collective memory to the same degree. In a sign of how far society has changed since 1997, when published, neither advert contained either a web site or email contact address; unthinkable these days.

At the same time the TTA was launching its advertising campaign it was also starting its first drive to recruit minority groups into teaching, starting with a focus on ethnic minority groups. There were a series of conferences to launch the policy, including one in East London addressed by the new Minister, Estelle Morris, newly launched on her career in government.

A decade later I conducted a detailed study for the then TDA into progress in recruitment of minorities into teaching and some years later I replicated the work just on the progress of recruiting ethnic minority candidates both into training and into teaching. As a result, it is interesting to see the data in the recently published ITT provider profiles about the change in percentages of minority groups recruited into training. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016

n many respects, 2015/16 as a good year for minority groups seeking to enter teaching. The percentage of male recruits broke through the 30% barrier for the first time since 2010/11; the percentage of students with a declared disability increased to its highest in the past decade, to reach nine per cent of postgraduate students; similarly, students from a minority ethnic background reached a new high for the decade of 14% of postgraduate entrants. There was even an increase among older trainees over the age of 25, although, at 54%, is still well below the record 62% of trainees over 25 that was reached 2010/11.

How far these percentages reflect either a genuine change in policy or just the outcome of falling overall application levels isn’t clear from the data. An analysis of the provider data for trainees from an ethnic minority background, where numbers are large enough to be reported, shows that London providers dominate the scene, with half the top twenty providers with the best ratio of ethnic minority trainees to overall numbers of postgraduates recruited being located in London. Of the other ten providers, five are located in the West Midlands; two in Yorkshire and The Humber and one in each of the South East, East Midlands and East of England. There were no providers north of the West Midlands or in the South West in the top 20 providers for graduate trainees where data is reported. Indeed, six of the next ten are also in London and the first identified provider in the South West is only in the 39th highest position.

In this context, the reduction in offers to new applicants for 2017 by London providers, reported in previous blogs, will be watched with interest to see what effect it has on recruitment profiles. However, it won’t be until the summer of 2019 that we will know the outcomes.