Back to the future?

According to a report in the Daily Mail, as quoted by the LGiU at the weekend, the Teaching Schools Council wants to see the first teaching apprenticeship scheme for 18-year-olds, which would see these youngsters go straight into the classroom as trainee teachers. Now if you are not familiar with the Teaching Schools Council, a government backed organisation, Schools Week did a good background story on the organisation in June this year that can be found at:

The Daily Mail story, coming as it does in August, looks a bit like government kite flying. However, is it worth considering further? Take Physics as a subject where schools struggle to recruit enough teachers. Even though most of the degree courses are no longer concentrated in Russell Group universities, many other curses are four years in length necessitating extra tuition fee debt. There are also a very small number of undergraduate QTS courses in Physics or Physics with mathematics on offer for 2017. All this means that students missing the points score necessary to attend most Russell Group universities do have opportunities to Physics at university. However, whether there are enough places to satisfy demand outside of the teaching profession is something that needs to be considered.

So, does the Teaching School Council’s idea have merit? It certainly seems worth discussing further. However, an apprenticeship not linked to a degree as an outcome isn’t likely to find much favour across a profession that struggled so long and hard to move away from the pupil-teacher apprentice model that operated for so long in the elementary school sector that was the main type of schooling for the masses before the 1994 Education Act created the break at eleven.

The academic content issue of an apprenticeship must be dealt with to satisfy organisations such as the Institute of Physics. If they allowed student membership for these apprentices that might go a long way to guarantee standards and reassure the profession as a whole. However, there may well be other objections. Does the single apprentice model work or are apprenticeships more likely to succeed where there are a group of young people studying together, helping each other and challenging themselves to continue with the programme when they feel down, as inevitably happens from time to time.

If you start putting groups of these apprentices together in a teaching school, does that start to look like the old monotechnic training colleges that the Robbins Report was so concerned about in the 1960s and that led to the policy of moving employer-controlled training into higher education and away from the local authorities and the churches? The roots of that system can still be seen in the heritage of universities such as Worcester and Lincoln’s Bishop Grosseteste university.

So, is it ‘back to the future’ as with grammar schools? It is worth noting that sir Andrew Carter is, according to the Schools Week article, on the Council of the Teaching Schools Council. He is certainly an advocate of the ‘grow you own style’ of teacher preparation, so the suggestion needs to be taken seriously. Perhaps it marks a new direction for School Direct and a new role for Teaching Schools?

Do you want to work in a grammar school?

Grammar schools were a product of the nineteenth century that lingered overlong into the twentieth and have no place in the modern world. We should not ensure the effective education of those gifted and talented in some areas by separating them from the rest of society at an early age. Even where their education is fundamentally different, whether for future ballet dancers, musicians, footballers or choristers, some degree of integration with others less skilled in these areas should be the norm.

Since intellectual ability isn’t fully developed at eleven, the grounds for grammar schools seem more social than educational, even when cloaked in the guise of meritocracy. Scare resources are best employed developing better education for all, not in keeping a few Tory voters in the fold.

Before any decision is taken, and this wasn’t a manifesto pledge, the government should undertake some polling on the effect of the introduction of new selective schools across the country on both the current teacher workforce as well as the views of those that might want to become a teacher.

For existing secondary school teachers, the question is simple: If your school were to lose 30% of its most able pupils, would you continue to teach here?

For potential teachers the question is: would you be willing to teach in a school where 30% of the age range didn’t attend?

For primary school teachers, the question has to be whether they would prepare children for the selection process?

Making a teacher supply crisis worse won’t help the education of those not selected form a grammar school place.

To introduce grammar schools without a comprehensive education plan for every child the State has been entrusted with educating is unbelievably short-sighted: something only a narrow-minded government would contemplate. To cloak the introduction of grammar schools in the social mobility agenda without offering any evidence that such schools create more mobility than the alternative is to pander to the views of the few and to disregard the needs of the many.

What plans do the government have for those left out of a grammar school in a bulge year because grammar school places cannot be turned on an off? Will the government create a system to cope with 30% of the peak pupil numbers in the mid-2020s and allow either a less rigorous selection procedure until then or will it leave places empty? The alternative seems to me to be that it will set the limit on places now and see more parents denied places as pupil numbers increase?

What is certain is that the present per pupil funding formula cannot work within a two-tier system as the redundancies in Kent have already shown. Perhaps this is the real reason why the National Funding Formula consultation has been delayed, to allow for the incorporation of a different method of funding of grammar schools to non-selective schools within the new system?

Will Council taxpayers in areas that don’t want selective education be forced to pay the transport costs of pupils attending such schools and will the government reimburse them or expect them to take the cash away from other hard pressed services?

I am all in favour of local democracy in education, but not in a government sponsored free-for-all.



As some readers may know, TeachVac, the free to use recruitment site for schools, teachers, trainees and returners to teaching, has its operational base on the Isle of Wight. I was, therefore, disgusted to read of the comments by the Chair of Ofsted about the islanders. The comments themselves don’t dignify with repeating, but I am firmly of the opinion that Mr Hoare, the Ofsted chairman, having made the remarks at a public event should now do the decent thing and resign in line with the principles of public life he presumably accepted when offered his appointment.

This does not mean that there should be an unwillingness to confront some of the deep-seated issues within schooling on the Island that go back many years. The Tory government in the early 1970s was probably wrong to create a single unitary council for the Island and not instead to enforce closer working with Hampshire or even Dorset. The island may have made an unfortunate choice in opting for the three tier school system when creating a comprehensive school system. It probably fitted the use of buildings best of any system but, along with other councils that opted for such systems, they weren’t to know that changes in the way teachers were trained for secondary schools, away from undergraduate courses and towards a one-year PGCE, may not have helped provide sufficient teachers willing, able, properly trained and motived to work in ‘middle schools’, especially the 9-13 middle schools in use on the Isle of Wight.

These middle schools eventually also faced challenges finding head teachers willing to run what were increasingly isolated pockets of such schools, a fact pointed  out in some of the annual reports that I complied about the leadership market for NAHT and from time to time ASCL as well.

Then there is the issue of location. Much has been made in recent years of the challenges of coastal schools. In practice, this really means more isolated schools wherever they are, but the issue was first noticed in relation to coastal schools with a more limited hinterland than other schools. The Island has a limited travel to work area and that can restrict recruitment as can the very nature of being an island and the extra time it takes to reach the mainland.

The fact that all of these issues are well known makes Mr Hoare’s comments even more unforgivable, if he said what has been reported.

TeachVac is proud to be located on the Isle of Wight and has employed some excellent staff since we started operations just over two years ago. The company will continue to put its faith in the Island as a location and I join in on the call on Mr Hoare to resign. Whatever the reason for his remarks, they were uncalled for and should not have been made.



Mr Hoare resigned on the 23rd August 2106 just over two weeks after his remarks became public knowledge.

Hopefully not a fool’s paradise

At this time of year we start to expect to see the conditional offers for the various ITT places made by providers turned into firm ‘placed’ students. After all, degree results should have been confirmed by now and the bulk of those offered places should have taken and passed the pre-entry skills tests, so there ought to be nothing to stop candidates confirming that they will be taking up their place. As a result, it is a little worrying to see in the UCAS data published yesterday that the percentage of those with offers regarded as ‘placed’ is in some secondary subjects is below where it was at this point last year. There are also more than 100 fewer candidates holding offers than at this point last year. Now that shouldn’t matter in subjects where recruitment controls mean few applicants have been offered places in recent months, but lower numbers holding offers in physics and IT might mean these subjects will struggle to fill all their available places.

After analysing the available data, it seems to me, barring any last minute hiccups, that languages, PE, history, geography, English, biology and art should meet their targets for recruitment. On the other hand, RE, physics, music, mathematics and IT look as if they are unlikely to do so. The jury is out on chemistry and business studies. The latter may well meet the government target, but that target is woefully short of the demand for these teachers in the real world.  It is difficult to know what is happening in design and technology because UCAS have reported the data in a different way this year to previous years, so we have no real comparison to judge application by.

There is a serious question to be asked by the new ministerial team about how well the present arrangements are delivering sufficient trainees on the different routes into teaching. The following data looks only at the secondary sector. The diversion of places away from universities means 200 few placed candidates, but 700 more conditional placed applications compared with this point last year among He providers. Fortunately, there are 250 more applications in the holding offer status. SCITTs have more placed and conditionally placed than at this point last year, but fewer holding offers than this point last year.

Among School Direct, the fee route has 30 fewer placed trainees, but 750 more conditionally placed and about the same number holding offers. For the School Direct salaried route, there are 100 fewer placed, but 210 more conditionally placed and 30 fewer holding an offer.

What happens to the ‘conditionally placed’ applications over the next month will determine the shape of the 2017 recruitment round for schools, since these are the new teachers entering the labour market next year. Overall, there are 270 fewer applicants across all countries than at this point last year, with the majority of the reduction being in England. The good news, well relative good news, is that the gender balance has remained the same as last year at about one third men to two thirds women. UCAS don’t provide data on ethnicity of applicants.

The Social Bank of Mum and Dad

I am grateful to BBC Radio Tees for alerting me to this Report by the Prince’s Trust that highlights the work they have been doing across the United Kingdom for the past 40 years. The Report can be accessed at with the full report available by clicking on the side bar

According to the findings in the report; 44% of young people from poorer backgrounds say they didn’t know anyone who could help them find a job, compared to 26% of their more advantaged peers. Young people from poorer backgrounds are also less likely than their more affluent peers to have had help writing a CV, filling out a job application, preparing for an interview, or finding work experience or a first job thanks to “the social bank of mum and dad”.

  • While 20% of all young people polled found some work experience through their parents, only 10% of young people from a poorer background said they did
  • More than a quarter of young people from a poorer background (26%) think that people like them do not get good jobs, compared to 8% of their peers
  • More than a quarter of those from a poorer background (27%) feel their family “did not know how to support me when I left school”
  • More than half of young people (54%) “rarely” or “never” received help from their family with their homework.

The next generation are our untapped resource for the future of this country, even more so after the country’s decision to exit the EU.

So, what the BBC asked me, can parents do? I am sure many of you will have better ideas than me and will post them by way of advice. However, in the short time one has in a live radio interview I chose to dwell on the transfer from primary to secondary school. The importance of that transfer cannot be over-estimated and I wonder whether it is where many parents start to think they are less helpful and supportive of their children and live and schooling becomes more of a battle. Parents understand primary schools, as it is all about the basics of learning and easy to provide support. Secondary school is about subject knowledge and parents can quickly feel left behind. Good supportive schools recognise this trend and put mechanisms in place to help: but more could be achieved.

Building social capital is important and government has a role to play here by not downgrading careers education and work experience. How about some virtual work experience in areas of high unemployment to widen horizons with young people working on-line in successful companies. This might also help to show companies in successful parts of the country that there is this great untapped resource of able and enthusiastic young people waiting to be discovered in many areas of high unemployment. It is as much about moving employers out of their comfort zones and telling young people ‘to get on their bike.

Although it is worth noting that many young people that go to university do just that and willingly leave home. This may be because they know that they will be joining a community of like-minded young people. Can we learn something from that willingness to travel?




Something for everyone

As I reported last week, TeachVac has submitted updated evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee Inquiry into ‘the supply of teachers’. Perforce that evidence was of a general and summary nature. However, it does seem to have been the only comment so far on the 2016 recruitment round. There is also little discussion about what 2017 might look like on the evidence of applications to train as a teacher.

Over the weekend, I took the opportunity of looking in more detail at where the secondary and all-through schools with the most number of recorded advertisements for classroom teachers so far in 2016 are located. Now, this first look is very crude, as it doesn’t standardise for the size of a school and it stands to reason that larger schools are likely to have a greater turnover, as are new schools. Other factors affecting the number of adverts a school might place could be the result of an adverse Osfted inspection or a sudden growth in popularity and hence an increase in pupil numbers requiring more teachers to be appointed.

Leaving all these factors aside, a clear national trend stand out for the second year in succession: London dominates the top of the table for schools with the most advertisements so far in 2016.

Top 50 schools for recorded number of advertisements in 2016 by region where the school is located

  • London                  23
  • South East             11
  • East of England     6
  • West Midlands      6
  • South West             2
  • North East               1
  • North West              1

There were no schools in either the East Midlands or Yorkshire & The Humber recorded as in the top 50 schools with the most recorded advertisements.

This pattern backs up the data TeachVac provided exclusively for the BBC regional radio and TV stations in June.

So, for many schools in the north of England, concerns, where they even exist, are often limited to recruitment issues in specific shortage subjects, whereas in London and the Home Counties the problem looks to be more of a general one of finding classroom teachers in many subjects.

This data is confined to secondary school classroom teacher vacancies, as that is the area of greatest concern. The fact that our survey last week also revealed schools in London were still advertising a substantial number of School Direct vacancies on the UCAS web site must be a further cause for concern, and a worry for the 2017 recruitment round.

These numbers also suggest that trialling the National Teaching Service in the North West and Yorkshire might have been sensible, because a smaller number of schools might be looking for teachers, but there might also be fewer teachers looking to move schools in those areas, so the supply of experienced teachers willing to work in challenging schools might indeed be less than elsewhere.

Over the rest of the summer I will drill down into the data and I hope to report some findings at the BERA Conference in Leeds this September. In the meantime, if anyone wants to ask a question do get in touch.

More banned from schools

What’s the matter with schools on the south coast? An analysis of the recently published data on exclusions in the 2014-15 school year reveals that five of the eleven south coast authorities were in the worst 20 local authority areas for fixed term exclusion in the primary sector. Three of the smaller authorities, Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton had among the worst rate of fixed-term exclusions in the primary sector of all 151 authorities. Only Dorset and the Isle of Wight bettered the national average among south coast authorities.

At the secondary level, the Isle of Wight has one of the highest rates for fixed-term exclusions, but other authorities seem to fare better with their older children. Of course, the data cannot explain the reasons behind why schools in the south have performed so badly last year. Is it an effect of the recruitment challenge in primary schools; is it a result of the increase in pupil numbers affecting the size of schools or is it a lack of behaviour management skills among new teachers entering the profession. Is the last, why aren’t other areas affected? Could it be the first signs of budgetary pressures affecting some schools?

More worrying was the fact that 2014-15 saw an increase in exclusion rates. As the Statistical Bulletin noted: ‘The greatest increase in the number of permanent exclusions was in secondary schools, where there were 4,790 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 compared to 4,000 in 2013/14. This corresponded to an increase in the rate of permanent exclusions from 0.13 per cent in 2013/14 to 0.15 per cent (15 pupils per 10,000) in 2014/15.

Any increase in exclusions is disappointing, an increase in permanent exclusions in the secondary sector potentially means 790 more young people face severe disruption to their lives while another school is found for them. However, the longer-term trend, for rate of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools at 0.07 is still on a downward trend since 2006/07 when the rate was 0.12 per cent. Nevertheless, 31 children are permanently excluded every day.

As the Bulletin also noted, Persistent disruptive behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools – accounting for 1,900 (32.8 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2014/15. This is equivalent to two permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils. It is also the most common reason for fixed period exclusions. The 79,590 fixed period exclusions for persistent disruptive behaviour in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools made up 26.3 per cent of all fixed period exclusions, up from 25.3 per cent in 2013/14. This is equivalent to around one fixed period exclusion per 100 pupils. Physical assault against an adult is the most common reason for fixed period exclusion from special schools – accounting for around a third of permanent exclusions and a quarter of fixed period exclusions in 2014/15. The figures for assault sin special schools suggest that more and better staff training may be needed since the very fact these pupils are no in a mainstream school hints at the potentially challenging nature of their behaviour. It would also be helpful to know whether the person assaulted was a teacher or other adult in the school or even someone responsible for helping the child travel to and from school.

As ever, boys are more likely to be excluded than girls and certain ethnic groups have higher than average exclusion rates, as do pupils receiving free school meals.