As expected: a bumper week for teaching posts

Well, as I expected, this week is shaping up to be the week with the largest number of vacancies for teachers and school leaders so far in 2018. TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free National Vacancy Service already operating across the whole of England, has looked at more 4,000 vacancies this week. This included repeat advertisements, re-advertisements and new vacancies.

We had expected this level of activity this week for the reasons Laura McInerney listed in her recent article in Schools Week https://schoolsweek.co.uk/fixing-the-madness-of-the-teacher-transfer-window/ She might have added the issue of school budgets and when schools are told how much cash they will have to spend in the next year or can estimate the direction of travel on the basis of pupil numbers. Secondary schools across much of the country are now looking at rising intakes and can plan forward on that basis for several years to come. On the other hand, primary schools, in many parts of the country are seeing reduced intakes, with the inevitable effect of reducing their income for the next few years, unless mergers and closures lead to some realignment of schools in the sector. Regular readers will know of my concerns for the future of small, and especially small rural, primary schools.

Anyway, the consequences of our funding model for schools when pupil numbers go up and down is an issue for another day. This week, we can discuss the consequences for schools that need to start searching for staff later in the recruitment cycle. TeachVac has been tracking the relationship between new entrants from teacher preparation courses and the demand for teachers from schools across four recruitment cycles, so we have a good idea of what the consequences of the under-performance into teacher preparation courses last September will mean for schools.

Earlier this month, on behalf of TeachVac, I provided both the DfE and ASCL with evidence from the TeachVac data that clearly identifies those subjects where the 2018 recruitment round is already showing signs of putting schools seeking to make appointments under strain. Until the DfE launches its own vacancy service across the country, it generally has no data of its own about the current recruitment round and must rely upon third party information.

Thirty years ago, I identified the government’s reliance on statistics – which they are generally good at collecting, although not perfect – with their lack of knowledge about management information on the day to day and up to the minute position in the teacher labour market. When central government didn’t manage schools such a lack was unhelpful, but not critical. Now with academies, free schools and the like, not knowing what is happening is a major failure.

TeachVac also supplies schools and those preparing teachers with up to the minute data on their local area, for use either when Ofsted comes calling and asks about the local labour market or when bids for teacher training places need to be justified on the basis of local needs.

Here is just one example of how policy may be affecting the labour market. TeachVac has recorded more vacancies this year in mathematics than in any of the last three years: is the spending on CPD for those already in post not working or is this a consequence of increasing pupil numbers or even changes in retention rates?

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100 days and counting

Mr Hinds has now been in post as Secretary of State of Education just beyond the 100 day point, regarded as the first milestone for a politician by many commentators. During the same period in 2010 Michael Gove had already achieved the passing of the infamous 2010 Academies Act, despite having had to wait for the creation of the Coalition. However much many of us dislike its contents, and the subsequent effect on schooling in England, one must admire the political foresight of Mr Gove and his team of advisers.

As with all Mr Gove’s successors, there has been little sign of the same degree of ambition from the present incumbent of the office at Sanctuary Buildings. Now it is true that a minority government is in an even weaker position with regard to legislation than even a coalition. However, one of Michael Gove’s first acts at Defra this January was to attend both the Oxford Farming Conference and it alternative unofficial counterpart down the road. In doing so, he was making a clear political statement.

So, what has been achieved in the first 100 days by the Secretary of State for Education? Judging by Mr Hind’s speech to the ASCL Conference in March, it is more a matter of emphasis and a nudge here and there, than dealing with the big picture issues. A pause on changes in assessment and testing; more emphasis on reducing workload to calm down the teaching profession and a nod to the importance of technology. A sort of steady as you go regime.

So, what’s still in the Secretary of State’s in-tray? School funding hasn’t gone away as an issue, although it doesn’t seem to be playing very big in local elections across England. Parents haven’t yet seen the real effects of tightening budget. The fact that two of the three remaining maintained secondary schools in Oxfordshire had deficits of more than £1 million each at the end of 2017-18 financial years tells of pain yet to come. School Funding could be a big issue for Whitehall if teachers’ pay increases this year are more than was estimated by the Treasury in its school funding models.

Such an increase seems likely, since the Secretary of State hasn’t managed to tackle the issue of providing an adequate supply of teachers and stemming the outflow of those already in the profession. National teacher shortages are always seen as the responsibility of the government at Westminster, and 2018 is still not looking very healthy on the recruitment into training front. Failure to recruit trainees will impact in 2019 on the ability of schools to recruit new teachers and allows plenty of time for profession to mount any number of campaigns. The joint letter from a number of organisations sent to Mr Hinds earlier this week may be just the first in a veritable salvo of concern about this issue.

For me, the Secretary of State could make his name by regularising the parallel systems of governance between locally overseen maintained schools and nationally managed academies. Although not exactly the same situation, Mr Hinds may recognise, coming from a hospitality industry background that the 2003 Licensing Act did away with the dual system of liquor licences being issued by Magistrates’ Court and entertainment licences by local authorities. Our dual governance system for schools is a mess and, as I have said before, doesn’t help some of our most vulnerable young people such as children taken into care that need a place in a different school.

But then, a concern with social mobility also didn’t seem to feature large in Mr Hind’s first 100 days.

AI and education – The view of the House of Lords Committee

The section on education in the recent House of Lords Report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) was one of the more confusing sections in terms of understanding exactly what was being suggested as the way forward. You can read the Report, published earlier this week, at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldai/100/10010.htm#_idTextAnchor094

Not surprisingly, industry representatives told the Committee how badly prepared young people were in this country and more needed to be achieved lest we fall further behind. Then, there was the counter argument about not cutting other subjects to make time for developing these new skills and knowledge. If you want creative industries then you need to include creative subjects in the curriculum not to relegate them to some cultural backwater and just treated by schools as an afterthought.

The Committee heard that there is the downside of our modern digital world, once it was the bad effects of posters and newspaper adverts and video nasties on children, now it is reduced attention spans, shallower cognitive capabilities and experience a loss of identity as a result of time online and using social media. One witness warned the Committee, “that the idealised world represented on social media “leads to many illnesses including eating disorders … and serious mental illnesses”.   The implication being that schools must put in place strategies to prevent such outcomes among future generations exposed to the perils of the modern world.

The Committee recognised that the 2014 change to the curriculum on IT in schools across England needed time to take effect. However, the removal of any consideration of moral and ethical issues to do with social media and digital technology from the curriculum was regretted by some witnesses; no doubt more so over recent weeks as the various concerns over social media and the handling of personal data have emerged. Personally, I think the downgrading of Religious Education at examination level, where there was a real opportunity to discuss issues of ethic, morality and philosophy, by excluding the subject from the EBacc was a mistake.

The cCmmittee went on to welcome the projects outlined in last autumn’s budget for more computer science teachers and the establishment of a National Centre for Computing with industry to produce training material and support schools with the teaching of computer science. But, they didn’t really seem to probe very deeply on what is actually happening on the ground in our schools. IT and computer science teacher vacancies remain at the lower end of range seen over the past four recruitment cycles according to TeachVac’s data http://www.teachvac.co.uk; so perhaps those already in post are staying put and there aren’t large numbers of new posts being created. Whether there would be jobs for 8,000 extra teachers by the end of this parliament as envisaged in the budget seems highly unlikely.

As I wrote in my blog post when the number was leaked the weekend before the budget:

If the 8,000 number does make it into the budget, then so as not to look as if the Treasury doesn’t talk to the DfE there will have to be some form of explanation. Personally, I would add 10% to the Teacher Supply Model and split the rest between for professional development for existing teachers: spending 40% on those on professional development for secondary school teachers already teaching computer science and not fully qualified; 40% for lead teachers in the primary schools, starting with a programme for MATs and dioceses and the allocated the remaining 20% for programmes for teachers of other subjects to embed areas such as geographical information and other subject-related techniques into curriculum development. I might keep a small pot of cash back for new methods of preparing teachers that don’t rely upon face to face contact.

Finally, the Committee said: “the Government should explore ways in which the education sector, at every level, can play a role in translating the benefits of AI into a more productive and equitable economy.”

You try and work out what that really means.

Time to smell the coffee

A consortium of organisations involved in preparing postgraduates to become teachers have written to the Secretary of State about the state of teacher recruitment and made some sensible suggestions for steps that could be taken to attract more people into teaching. You can read the contents of their letter at https://www.ucet.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DHindsNASBTTUCETTSCletter-FINAL.pdf

All the suggestions are sensible, and I would go even further and ask for a return to a training salary for all on postgraduate ITT courses. As regular readers know, I don’t believe it is equitable to offer a salary to trainee army officers at Sandhurst and not trainee teachers. I also think a trainee teacher on a PGCE is working just as hard as one on Teach First and has sacrificed the right to earn. Even if teachers were guaranteed a job at the end of their training, assuming they met the standard for qualification, I still believe that they should be paid a salary. The fact that there is no guarantee of a teaching post just places all the risk and financial burden firmly on the trainee.

As I have written on this blog before, the laws of economics tell us that you can impose what conditions you like where demand exceeds supply and then see how demand is affected. When supply exceeds demand, as it now does in the provision of training places (PE and history excepted), then looking to see what can be put in place to stimulate demand is a more sensible move. The letter above recognises this truth. The DfE has yet to convince the Treasury, a Department always concerned about the dead weight effect of paying those that would have trained anyway. With such a large number of trainees the figure for revenue spending seems massive, but compared to say purchasing a single armoured vehicle or helicopter it is not out of line with the size of the overall education budget.

However, as the National Audit Office pointed out, improving retention is the best way to reduce training costs, as you then need to train fewer new entrants. I sense some of the suggestions to the Secretary of State are also aimed at helping retention. Early entrant retention doesn’t seem to be a big issue, it is more retention after 5-7 years that is now the concern.

Interestingly, entry into the profession and retention often doesn’t fall when training numbers take a dip. This may be because a greater proportion of applicants to train as teachers are there by choice rather than because they couldn’t find anything else to do or are forced to look for a new career. Sadly, this fact helps the Treasury mandarins with their ‘dead weight’ argument. However, even potentially committed teachers can be forced out of joining the profession when the financials turn sufficiently negative.

The writers of the letter clearly see that:

 We are now in the second year of graduates completing three year degree programmes having accumulated annual tuition fee debts of £9,000, as well as significant maintenance loans. With a relatively small number of exceptions, even those trainees receiving bursaries will be expected to accumulate more debt to become qualified or, at the very least, forgo the opportunity to embark on alternative salaried careers.

These are powerful arguments that should not be ignored. As an employee of the then TTA, I spent the summer of 1997 arguing with civil servants that postgraduate trainee teachers should have their fees waived and paid by the government. That was the position until the Coalition Government changed the rules. It is now time to once again waive fees and re-introduce a training grant for all postgraduate trainee teachers.

 

 

Educating children taken into care

Reflecting on my years as a secondary school teacher during the 1970s in Tottenham, I am sure that I taught many of what are now being called the ‘Windrush Generation’. These were the children from the Caribbean that followed their parents that came to Britain to help overcome the labour shortages faced by many public sector and nationalised industries in the 1950s and 1960s; nurses; bus drivers and conductors and railway porters and guards, as well as station staff working on the London Underground. I well recall the passion for the education of their children that was a feature of many of the parents attending open evenings.

Regular readers of this blog will know of my concerns for another group of young people that I view as being ignored by too many policy makers at Whitehall, hopefully not just for the sake of convenience and perhaps not ‘rocking the boat’. These are those children and young people taken into care and placed by a local authority outside of their local area; usually for very good safeguarding reasons, but sometimes because of local shortages of foster homes with appropriate experience.

In some cases, these young people are being denied an education, as schools either refuse admissions in-year or take inordinate lengths of time making up their minds. It is hard enough being taken into care, but to see your education disrupted through no fault of your own is to be punished for something that isn’t your fault. Tutoring isn’t the same as schooling and is often a poor substitute for these young people.

The DfE has a meeting later this week of civil servants and local authority officers that regularly discuss admissions issues, as well as exclusions and home to school transport matters. It is worth reminding the group that two years ago the 2016 White Paper mentioned returning powers over in-year admissions to local authorities. Such powers would go a long way to solving the problems facing these students.

Please will readers of this blog also ask their contacts to take up this issue and secure a decent education for these young people? I know that in some areas there have been concentrations of such children that can cause challenges for certain schools, especially secondary modern schools as the children mostly come from areas with non-selective secondary education and haven’t passed an entrance examination, even if the selective schools had any places in the appropriate year group, which most don’t. These schools may need extra help through a tweak in the Common Funding Formula, both nationally and by the local Schools Forum.

I would hope that Education Scrutiny and Oversight Committees around the country might also like to look at the issue of the educational outcomes of children taken into care and how they could be improved.

These are a group of young people that must not be allowed to become casualties of our system: they deserve better from us all regardless of our political persuasion.

Reconciling applicants numbers and trainees for ITT

Last September I reviewed the statistics available at that time from UCAS for post-graduate teacher preparation courses. UCAS has now published the end of cycle reports for the 2016-17 cycle. In September, I commented that ‘what is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.

With the new data now available, it is now possible to track what appears to have happened to these ‘conditional placed applicants’? The good news is that many seem to have migrated into the ‘placed’ column rather than disappeared into the ‘other’ group that includes those rejected. I assume that this means most were able to meet with the conditions placed on their offer, whether the skills test, degree class or some other requirement. Overall, the number of placed applicants increased between September 2017 statistics and the end of cycle report by 3,090. That is about 60% of the conditionally placed applicants in the September statistics.

There are significant differences between the types of providers in how important converting ‘conditional placed offers’ to ‘placed’ applicants is in the overall scheme of things.

Primary Placed Sept 2017 Placed End of Cycle Difference % Increase
HE 5740 6070 330 6%
SCITT 920 1180 260 28%
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 2970 3350 380 13%
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 1330 1610 280 21%
Secondary Placed Sept 2017 Placed End of Cycle Difference % Increase
HE 6820 7400 580 9%
SCITT 1210 1750 540 45%
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3180 3760 580 18%
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 750 960 210 28%

Source: UCAS September 2017 and End of Cycle Report

What is also interesting is to compare the End of Cycle number with the DfE’s ITT census for 2017 published in November.

Primary Placed End of Cycle ITT Census 2017 Difference
HE 6070 5840 -230
SCITT 1180 1440 260
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3350 3410 60
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 1610 1705 95
Secondary Placed End of Cycle ITT Census 2017 Difference
HE 7400 7105 -295
SCITT 1750 1970 220
SCHOOL DIRECT FEE 3760 3870 110
SCHOOL DIRECT SALARY 960 1080 120

Sources: UCAS End of Cycle Report and DfE ITT Census

By the time of the census, higher education appeared to have lost applicants, but all other routes reported more than through UCAS. This discrepancy merits further investigation to understand whether some routes are by-passing the UCAS system, perhaps for late applications?

What isn’t present in these figures is a breakdown by subject of acceptance rates. However we do know that of the 41,700 applicants with a domicile in England, 24,870 or 60% were accepted.

There were some interesting questions to be asked about regional acceptance rates

By UK domicile region PLACED ALL % PLACED
WALES 1300 2020 64%
SOUTH WEST 2380 3710 64%
EAST ENGLAND 2580 4140 62%
NORTH EAST 1270 2050 62%
EAST MIDLANDS 2080 3360 62%
SOUTH EAST 3650 5900 62%
NORTH WEST 3460 5630 61%
WEST MIDLANDS 2760 4520 61%
ALL UK 26800 44750 60%
YORKSHIRE & THE HUMBER 2490 4320 58%
LONDON 4200 8090 52%

Source: UCAS End of Cycle Report

Why was the percentage so high in the South West and so low in London, where teachers are really needed?

It would be really helpful if more of this data was made widely available, especially on a subject by subject basis for applicants and not just applications as the different number of applications that applicants may make can distort the data.

However, with the current cycle looking worse than the 2017 cycle, what happens over the next six months is going to be of great interest to everyone interested in teacher supply.

 

The responsibility of us all

The following item was reported in several newspapers earlier this week, including The Daily Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/11/child-stabbings-rise-63pc-amid-disturbing-trend-younger-knife/

NHS data shows a 63% increase over five years in the number of children aged 16 and under who have been treated for stab wounds in England. The largest increase (85%) between 2011/12 and 2016/17 was among 15-year-olds. The overall rise in the number of stabbings across England during the same period was 14%.

Now there may not be a correlation, but 15-year olds, and 15-year old young men in particular, have the highest rate of exclusions from our schools. After falling for many years, exclusions are also on the rise across much of England.

As those that know my life history will understand these two sets of statistics and particularly the one about knife crime have an especial resonance with me, as it was a teenager that stabbed me over 40 years ago in a rare act of serious and unprovoked violence that just happened to take place in a classroom in front of a group of children. As a result, knife crime has always been of special concern to me. I do view the recent upturn as a worrying trend.

Oxfordshire’s Cabinet will be discussing the County’s Education Scrutiny Committee report on exclusions in the county at their meeting next Tuesday. You can read the report in the Cabinet papers for 17th April 2018 at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk at item 6. I always hope that young people engaged fully in education will be less likely to commit these acts of knife crime.

I am also sure that cutbacks in both the Youth Service budget and that of the Youth Offending Teams across the county, along with revisions to Probation, probably haven’t helped in the prevention of such crimes. As ever, cutbacks have consequences further down the line when the money is being well spent.

In this case, changes in the nature of the curriculum probably may also have played a part since practical subjects have also too often been replaced with additional classroom time that can make life more challenging for many teachers working with pupils that don’t appreciate their efforts.

I believe there needs to be a concerted effort on the part of all responsible to once again recognise the need for behaviour management and to do everything to research and investigate the causes of exclusions in their school. Generally, persistent disruptive behaviour is given as the reasons for the largest number of exclusions. Working out how to reduce these exclusions should help allow resources to then be focused on dealing with other reasons why pupils are excluded.

It doesn’t matter whether schools are maintained, voluntary added, academies or free schools, they all have a responsibility to tackle this problem of school children carrying and using knives. Teaching Schools, National Leaders of Education and of Governance and those responsible for both training new entrants into the profession as well as designing continuing professional development will also need to ensure that they continue to make behaviour management strategies a high priority.