Will it be an ‘ill-wind’?

At the start of half-term, TeachVac has recorded record levels of vacancies for teachers in the first six full weeks of 2020, compared with vacancy levels or the same period in recent years.  A proportion of the increase is no doubt down to the increase in pupil numbers that there will be this coming September. Although National Offer Day for admissions is still a few weeks away, I am sure that schools already have some idea of whether they will be full in Year 7 this autumn.

Indeed, I assume that new schools opening in September have received their Funding Agreement from the ESFA. If not, this is a policy issue the DfE might want to consider, since preventing such schools recruiting at the most opportune of times is not offering them the best start in life.

On the face of it, this is, therefore, going to be a tricky recruitment round f once again or schools seeking teachers. In part this reflects the lack of recruitment into training in some subjects, as well as the increase in pupil numbers. But, is there now a new factor in the equation?

What effect will the ‘coronavirus’ outbreak have on the labour market for teachers in England? Apart from the knock on consequences on the wider economy, and a possible economic slowdown that is always helpful for teacher recruitment, will the outbreak both deter some teachers from seeking overseas jobs, and encourage some of those overseas to return to the United Kingdom, and schools in England in particular? (As an aside, what, if anything, will the outbreak do for the flow of pupils and students from Asia into schools, colleges and universities in England this year?)

Now, it is too early to tell what the outcome might be of a change in attitude to teaching in Asia in general and China – including Hong Kong – in particular, and there are plenty of other parts of the globe where schools are keen to appoint teachers from England. However, even a small downturn in those seeking to work overseas and an upturn in ’returners’ will be a welcome outcome for the local labour market for teachers in England. It is indeed, ‘an ill-wind’.

TeachVac monitors activity on its site by geographical location on a regular basis. This is a somewhat imprecise methodology, since not all users reveal their geographic la location. However, the site has seen an upturn in activity from certain countries, when compared to this point last year.   So, perhaps we might see more ‘returners’ this summer?


Teaching Vacancies: and where to find them

Schools Week has published an interesting article about the DfE’s vacancy site.

DfE’s teacher job website carries only half of available positions


Of course, Schools Week also carries job adverts for teachers and other education positions.

TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk is the main challenger to the TES, as this blog revealed last November.

Regular readers will know that I am also chair of TeachVac that provides a free services and is funded from the data it can supply to the sector, but is now seeking to widen its scope having built a stable platform.




Part-time Vacancies for teachers

Part-time vacancies for teachers differ by subject

Research by TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk where I am chair, show teachers wanting part-time work may find it easier in some subjects than others.

Based on vacancies listed since 1st January 2020 TeachVac has recorded the following percentages of part-time work being mentioned in the vacancy in a range of key secondary subjects.  In some cases the vacancy is part-time, and in other circumstances schools will consider applications from those looking for part-time work as well as candidates seeking full-time work.

Science 11%
Mathematics 7%
English 12%
Languages 16%
Design & Technology 12%

There may also be regional differences as well.

Mixed messages from ITT data

On Thursday, UCAS published the data for applications to postgraduate ITT courses by mid-January 2020. I apologise for the delay in posting my comments this month, but I was on leave last week. With the DfE now trailing their own application site, it must be assumed that the UCAS data is no longer comprehensive in terms of applicants. However, I suspect it is still good enough to be able to identify trends in the recruitment cycle for September 2020.

The two key message from the data seem to be: fewer applicants, down from 14,650 last January to 14,240 this year. But, this number is so small as to make no real difference, and the whole of the decline is probably in applications to primary age courses. Applications for secondary courses increased by 130. This probably represents somewhere between 40-50 extra applicants this January compared with 2019.

What seems to be clear is that the application process has been moving faster this year, as there are more applicants that have been placed or offered unconditional offers than at this point in 2019. The other good news is that London and The South East have bucked the trend, with more applicants this January than in 2019.  The London number is impressive, with an increase of more than four per cent over last January. BY contrast, the reduction in the North East is in the order of seven per cent over last January.

Applicant numbers have held steady across most age groups, except for those aged twenty two, and 25-29 age group where applicant numbers are down slightly on last year. There are fewer male and female applicants this year, with fewer than 4,000 male applicants this January.

In terms of applications, primary courses are over 1,000 applicants below this point in 2019, with only PG Teaching Apprenticeships showing any growth over last year. For secondary courses, SCITTs are the main winner, although there are more apprenticeship and School Direct (non-salaried) applications as well. School Direct (Salaried) courses continue to lose ground, but at a slower rate; down to 1,220 from 1,280 last January. Higher Education courses still remain the largest category with 10,830 applications compared to 7,270 for School Direct (non-salaried) courses.

The picture for individual subjects is more nuanced at this stage of the cycle. Subjects with large numbers of applications and strong competition for teaching posts, such as physical education, geography and history have seen some reductions in the number of offers made to candidates possibly as a result of reductions in overall applications in these subjects. More worrying is the decline in applications for mathematics courses, as well as for chemistry and physics courses. The latter may have seen applications down by just 30, but that means a total of just 500 applications this January, with just 90 of these applications either having been placed or holding an offer.

The good news is there are more applications in art, business studies, design and technology and music than at this point in 2019. However, the increases are not yet sufficient to ensure all places will be filled this year. But, any increase is to be welcomed.

Modern Languages look to be the main casualty, with fewer than 600 offers or placed applications, compared to close to 1,000 at the same point last year.

By next month the shape of the recruitment round with have become clearer, and it should be possible to make some realistic predictions. If I were to put my money on it at this stage, and assuming exiting the EU doesn’t upset the labour market too much, then I would say the outcome might be slightly better than in September 2019, but not enough to meet the Teacher Supply model numbers from the DfE.

1000 and out?

Seven years ago, in January 2013, I started writing this blog. Over the years the number of posts have fluctuated, as the table below reveals.

Year Total Posts Total Words Average Words per Post
2013 108 72,284 669
2014 121 76,579 633
2015 113 66,337 587
2016 146 83,869 574
2017 164 92,350 563
2018 183 107,223 586
2019 161 88,792 552
2020 4 2,073 537
total 1,000 589,507 590

Source WordPress data

Seemingly, I have become less wordy over the years, with 2019 posts containing around 120 fewer words on average than the 2013 posts. There have been more than 1,000 likes for these posts, and slightly more comments from readers. I am especially indebted to Janet Downs for her many and helpful comments over the years.

Since early 2018, visitors numbers to the blog have started to reduce, and although Christmas Day 2019 saw someone view the whole archive of posts, making it highest day for views ever recorded, the trend has been for fewer and fewer views.

If this trend continues, is it worth my making the effort to write this blog? I started it in 2013 because I was concerned that there would be a teacher supply crisis, and I wanted a platform after writing regularly for the TES for over 10 years, and for Education Journal for a couple of years after that. It is interesting to look back at the discussions over teacher supply during the summer of 2013 that so upset some within the DfE. I would like to be able to predict when teacher supply will no longer be an issue, but on present trends that may not be until the second half of this decade for the secondary sector. There should be less of a problem in the primary sector.

Since 2013, I have established TeachVac, the largest free vacancy service for teachers, and also been elected as a county councillor in Oxfordshire – and, incidentally, stood in three general elections as a candidate– and found time for a range of other activities as well.

So I am conflicted as to whether or not either to continue this blog in its current form or just to sign off at this the 1,000 post? TeachVac continues to expand, listing more than 60,000 vacancies last year, and is already on track for more in 2020, and is consuming more and more of my time. Happily, it remains the largest free job site open to both schools and teachers in England, so is well worth the effort.

With the DfE’s move to take over the application process for graduate teacher preparation being trialed with some providers this year, even that monthly update provided by this blog may become impossible, unless the DfE allow access to the data on at least the same basis as UCAS have done over the past few years.

So, perhaps it’s time for a rest and a search for new horizons. Thank you all for your comments and questions.



Problem not yet solved

Data from the second monthly report on applications and acceptances for postgraduate teacher preparation courses shows little overall change for last year. The trend is still not good, with 10,270 applicants domiciled in England as at 16th December 2019, compared with 10,820 on the corresponding date in 2018 and 11,430 in 2017. The good news is that there are more applicants this year from London and the surrounding regions, and the fall in numbers is more marked in applicants from the north of England where filling teacher vacancies has been less of an issue.

There are fewer applicants in all of the age groups compared with last year, and those shown as ‘age 22’ numbered just 1,510 this December compared with 1,910 in December two years ago. There are nearly 500 fewer women applicants this December, and 150 fewer male applicants. Male applicants make up less than a third of applicants in December 2019.

Fewer applicants also means fewer applications. Total applications were down in December, from 30,930 in 2018, to 29,330 in 2019. In 2017, the number of applications in December was over 33,000. Although it will concern providers, the fact that the bulk of the reduction in applications is for primary ITT courses; down from 14,720 in 2018 to 13,380 in 2019 will be something of a relief to the DfE, as the falling birth rate means fewer primary teachers are likely to be needed in the next few years that is unless schools receive a large cash injection for more teachers, rather than more pay for existing staff.

Applications for secondary courses at 15,950 were only 150 down on 2018 and very similar to the December 2017 figure of 16,070. Most subjects were at similar levels in terms of offers made by mi-December although art, design & technology, mathematics and Religious Education were slightly ahead of their 2018 position. By contrast, geography was slightly worse than in 2018 and acceptances for modern languages notably so. Is this the first sign of a reaction to Brexit? Certainly overall application levels for languages courses seem well down on last year.

Apprenticeships are the route in primary with more applications in December 2019 than in December 2018. Higher Education seems to be a major loser, with applications down from 6,150 in 2018 to 5,570 in December 2019. In December 2017, Higher Education had recorded 7,870 applications. In the secondary sector, both SCITTs and apprenticeships registered small increases in December 2019 over the previous December figure. All other routes were broadly similar to the previous December.

Hopefully, the government’s recruitment advertising campaign will improve matters in 2020, but compared to the defence forces, I have seen relatively little recruitment advertising for teaching over the festive period. This is despite the massive difference in recruitment needs between teaching and the whole of the armed forces.

If there is not a pickup in early 2020 in the number of applicants into secondary subjects, 2020 will begin to look like another year when training targets are not met and schools will have to make up the shortfall in teachers from other sources. With increasing pupil numbers, the need for more teachers is going to be an on-going challenge for secondary schools.


Stuck Schools

This Report from Ofsted is an important addition to the discussions aound school improvement and deserves to sit alongside other HMI documents on this topic. For those of my generation these include the famous ’10 Good Schools’ report of some 40 years ago.


Using the terms ‘stuck’ and ‘unstuck’ schools, tells it as it is. I was especially struck by the paragraph in the Executive Summary that said:

‘Most stuck and unstuck schools stated that they had received too much school improvement advice from too many different quarters of the school system. Often, the advice was intended to help schools with their improvement strategy. However, this rarely had the intended impact. Leaders perceived that the quality of the advice itself was often lacking. School leaders also commented on a poor match between the problems of the school and the advice on offer. While many were concerned about the lack of support available following inspection, schools often welcomed the fresh thinking and impetus that independent inspection had given them. Schools did not appear to be inhibited from discussing some of the challenges of inspection during this project.’

Ofsted’s suggests that there is enough capacity in the system to move ‘stuck’ schools forward, but that the content of the support, including whether it enables focused may be lacking.  There also needs to be effective action that responds directly to the issues identified. Additionally, is the support for a ‘stuck’ school best provided internally or externally to the school or MAT and there is also a question about the quality of those coordinating or delivering the support?

This last point is important as the fractured governance model for schools sometimes makes it difficult to identify the organisation responsible for taking the lead role in actually improving these schools.

What is the penalty for failure? Obviously, for local authorities and maintained schools, it is a transfer to become an academy. But what of academies? And, especially what of academies that are part of faith-led MATs where the Church doesn’t want to give up running the school, but cannot stop it being a ‘stuck’ school within a reasonable period of time?

Should there be a review of each Office of Regional School Commissioner to establish a baseline of the number of ‘stuck’ schools and a target for improvement that has consequences if not met? Alternatively, should the Office of Regional School Commissioner be abolished and a closer link to local democracy be once again added to our school system?

Finally, there needs to be a discussion about both funding for ‘stuck’ schools and how any extra funding is allocated under a National Funding Formula that clearly doesn’t take fully into account the fact that some pupils need more resources to achieve a desired level of outcome than do others.

Staff Development, and especially leadership development, also needs to be looked at afresh by the DfE. Should we re-introduce a qualification for leadership with modules about leading a ‘stuck school’? At least then the system would have a better idea of capacity to support and ‘unstick’ these schools.

We cannot allow the next decade to be wasted as the last one has been in so many cases as far as the education of these young people is concerned.