Autumn Statement

Two things struck me about the small print of yesterday’s announcement, apart that is from the procurement savings that should favour TeachVac if anyone takes any notice of the requirement to reduce costs.

The first was the final point in the education section:

2.67 The department will deliver 20% core administrative savings through greater efficiency.

I assume this means fewer Ofsted visits. Whatever happened to the aim of visiting every trainee in their last term of a preparation course and the first term of their employment? That seemed like an interesting idea, but very expensive. The second area that might be threatened is the expansion of the Regional School Commissioner idea. The present small band have huge areas to cover and need more staff to really understand their bailiwick.

Even with the cuts in the Education Support Grant, it seems to me that local authorities might still have a part to play in ensuring education performance across all types of schools, including the free schools/academies sector. After all, local authorities and local councillors have a genuine interest in their local schools and are often close to what is happening in them. I doubt most Commissioners would be as aware as fast about what is happening in every primary school in their region as the host of local councillors of all political parties. Why not stop complaining about them and harvest their enthusiasm and support.

The second piece of information buried in the small print at the end of the Treasury document (page 136 for anyone that cares) is the assumed change in wages and salaries each year between 2015 and 2020. Now no doubt some of the change will be accounted for by growth in the labour market overall, but presumably a large part will be increases in wages for existing employees. Some will be the result of salary drift to offset the Living Wage increase as those higher up the wage ladder seek to retain their differentials with those below them. No doubt this is why the Treasury sees wage growth above 4% every year to 2020, peaking at 4.5% in 2016 and 2017.

Those levels of increases mean that thanks to the power of compound interest someone on £25,000 in 2015 might be earning over £30,500 by 2020. That’s fine if public sector wage rates keep pace, but if they are held down, a teacher on £25,000 in 2015 would only be earning around £26,300 by 2020. This would be more than £4,000 adrift over the wage settlements decided during this parliament.

What such an outcome might do to recruitment into teaching of those concerned about pay, I leave for others to decide. All this comes after the recent OECD review of the pay of teachers in different countries that revealed where teachers in England were placed on the global scale of teacher remuneration.

If teachers’ pay falls too far behind that of other graduates of a similar quality there will eventually need to be a catching up exercise, but probably not until after the next general election, unless the economy does remarkably well during the next few years.


A Second Thank You

Recently I thanked readers of this blog for helping me reach the 25,000 visitors mark in the two years and nine months I had been writing the blog. Today, the blog had its 50,000 view and passed the 26,000 visitor mark this morning while I was talking to an audience at the Academies Show.

So, another big thank you to readers and those that recommend the blog to others. I know that 25,000 and 50,000 are small beer in the blogosphere, but they are important milestones to me as when I wrote my various columns in the TES I rarely know how many people were reading them. New technology makes for so much more data.

In celebrating these milestones, I also celebrate the growth of TeachVac, the free recruitment site for teachers established at the start of the year. I will reveal its success in more detail at the end of the year when it has been in operation for a full twelve months, but it is fair to say that it has exceeded our expectations in its first year.

In the autumn statement today the Chancellor said of education:

2.65 The government will help schools to make savings on procurement, including by exploiting economies of scale. In 2016 the government will publish a set of specific actions to support school leaders target over £1 billion a year in procurement savings by the end of the parliament through benchmarking, guidance and improved framework contracts.

If anyone knows how to convince the government that TeachVac is already starting to do just that and has so far cost the government, schools and teachers nothing, not a single pound, then could they please let me know?

For those of you that don’t know the site it is at and there are simple demonstration videos of how to use the site if you are a school or a teacher or trainee. We also have facilities for local authorities – possibly coming back into favour again despite the cut in the Education Support Grant today – and academy chains and others responsible for groups of schools to upload vacancies in batches.

A unique feature of TeachVac is that schools posting main scale vacancies in most secondary subjects are told what we thing the market is like at the point when they post the vacancy. We think that is a unique feature. TeachVac staff can also provide other data and analysis of the labour market in schools for interested bodies and we gather this together in our monthly newsletters and regular Reviews.

This blog is now well on the way to its third milestone of 360 posts in 36 months. There are 24 to go by the end of January 2016. I hope that will be achievable.

It is always good to receive comment and encouragement because writing anything can be something of a lonely process. So, many thanks to those that comment and especially the small band of regular commentators.


Recruitment Controls 3

The news that recruitment controls have been applied to higher education recruiters of PE shouldn’t come as a surprise to any reader of this blog. On the 5th November, I wrote:

‘Earlier in the week I estimated it might be some time next week when recruitment controls would be introduced in PE’

So, it was a little surprising that rather than issue a warning civil servants apparently said on the 13th November

It has been two weeks since recruitment for 2016/17 began through UTT and we are pleased to report applicants are showing an interest in ITT. However, whilst recruitment is looking healthy – especially in some of the popular subjects such as Physical Education (PE) and Primary – there is no need to panic as we are not close to stopping recruitment just yet.

We have heard fears of recruitment controls being implemented in the coming weeks and recruitment being stopped altogether and wanted to reassure you that NCTL will announce whenever recruitment has reached around 50%, 75%, 90% and 95% of national recruitment controls. There will be no unexpected or immediate instruction from NCTL to stop recruitment.

Well, I don’t know what you interpret those two paragraphs to mean, and I am sure my blog comment didn’t lead to the line about rumours, but it seems disingenuous to put out such a statement and introduce controls a week later with no advance warning. I am sure it was just a lack of familiarity of the speed with which applications can arrive in our new electronic age compared with old days of postal sacks winging their way to UCAS at Cheltenham that forced the hand of civil servants.

Still, it does raise the issue of ‘Wednesbury reasonableness’ it anyone wanted to mount a judicial review. Is it reasonable to offer candidates three choices but to be able to cut off some of these after a person has booked an expensive train ticket or should an applicant be able to expect the same rules for all of their choices?

It is not for me to answer that question, but it would surely have been better to introduce controls alongside a fixed application date. This would have allowed all applications by that date to have been considered and if the overall total exceeded the point at which controls would need to have been introduced the course providers could each have been told how many offers they could make and would, presumably, have selected the best rather than the fastest to apply as has now happened. The current system also discriminates against late applicants and if it can be shown that it has favoured certain groups over others that won’t help defend a charge of it being a reasonable system.

Whether it is reasonable to use public money to favour certain types of provider is also a question for the lawyers. But, I hope that a better and fairer scheme will be devised for next year.

Larger class for London schools

I guess the Chancellor wanted some good news to announce ahead of his Autumn Statement this week where the accepted mood music is of a round of cuts to department’s budgets. Is that the reason he leaked a reminder of the review of school funding and the creation of a national funding formula for schools to the BBC yesterday.

This news no doubt helps keep the f40 Group of largely Conservative shire counties happy and hopefully distracts them from the fact that they won’t benefit as much from the council tax increase allowed this year to pay for growing social care budgets as unitary authorities and London boroughs will because their council tax is split with district councils.

There didn’t seem to be anything radically new in the Chancellor’s announcement on school funding, but it is interesting to speculate how Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for London mayor, reacted to the news. As the BBC report noted, London boroughs will be the main losers in any redistribution of cash to schools, assuming there is insufficient cash to allow everyone to be a winner, as might have been the case if Labour had grasped this nettle before the 2008 recession. Will Conservative voters in the capital accept the news with equanimity or, like most losers in these situations, feel hard done by?

Now I suppose that the Chancellor is gambling that part of any loss through the change in the formula that will adversely affect London, where the funding per pupil is greatest, will be mitigated by the increase in pupil numbers which will bring more cash overall, if less per pupil.

A 100 pupils bringing £5,000 each generates half a million pounds for a school. If that was reduced to £4,500 the school would need to recruit 111 pupils to generate roughly the same amount. This would inevitably mean larger classes. While that might be possible in the secondary sector, where pupil teacher ratios have improved in recent years, it would be a real challenge for the primary sector where many schools are already running at capacity because of the extra pupil numbers that have been enrolled during the past few years as the baby boom generation entered schooling.

The other group that may be worried by the announcement are school leaders and governors. This blog has already shown that staffing schools in London is a real challenge. Any reduction in funding may make it more difficult to offer competitive salaries compared with schools in the Home Counties. Now schools in London with large numbers of pupils receiving the Pupil Premium will be protected against the change to some extent, but less so in the secondary sector than in the primary schools.

Of course, the Chancellor may also be going to announce backing for the third runway at Heathrow. In which case he may have calculated that the Conservatives have already lost the South and West London vote next May so he might as well announce all the pain at the same time and have done with it. Losing the London mayoral race might be small price to pay for winning the Conservative leadership race by pleasing the Tory shires. But, surely, I am just being an old cynic.


Reflections on teacher preparation questions

The following is the text of a talk I gave last evening to a group put together by the SSAT to discuss teacher preparation and teacher supply questions. 

The key question must be: was Lionel Robbins wrong to remove teacher preparation from the employers half a century ago? That decision to shut small monotechnic teacher training colleges run by local authorities and the main churches and place training almost completely in the higher education sector formed the pattern of teacher preparation for most of the next 30 years.

The change was accompanied by a move to an all-graduate profession, championed vigorously by the teacher associations; at the same time there was a rapid move towards graduate PGCE training for most secondary subjects and a more gradual change away from undergraduate training for the primary sector.

During the teacher supply crisis of the late 1980s the first of the employment-based routes appeared; Licensed and Articled Teacher programmes, followed later by the GTTP and RTTP. There was then the short-lived Fast Track Scheme and again, originally a product of the teacher shortages of the early 2000s, Teach First. All these were programmes characterised by closer links with employers than the higher education programmes of the time that were student focussed in terms of who was seen as the client.

As we have seen today none of these routes has solved the teacher supply problems. There were regular teacher shortages under the pre-Robbins training regime where, of course, universities had an input and were developing their PGCE programmes before Robbins reached his conclusion about the future direction of teacher preparation courses.

Since 2010, the policy has been firmly to support the development of school-led preparation courses. I would add that one development of the 1990s not so far mentioned was that of SCIITs. Groups of schools coming together to solve teacher supply issues. Some have now graduated from being precocious teenagers into respectable Twenty-year olds. The cluster of these around the Thames Estuary is no accident of history, but rather reflects the lack of higher education institutions in that part of the world, especially on the north bank of the Thames.

As someone that spent nearly 15 years in higher education preparing teachers in Worcester, Durham and Oxford; someone who created a SCITT in 1995 and someone that spent a year at the TTA trying to advise ministers on teacher supply matters, the issue of how to recruit and prepare teachers has and still is of serious concern to me.

We need more trainees each year than the total number of those employed by the Royal Navy after the latest defence cuts. That all uniformed sailors and officers combined. Indeed, we recruit each year into teaching somewhere near half the size of the British land army. We do, therefore, need to take this issue of entering our profession seriously, perhaps more seriously than we have done in the past.

I think everyone agrees that preparation needs to be closely linked to schools. Schon’s reflective, self-critical problem solver cannot develop away from the problems they are solving. In this case teaching and learning for groups of young people grouped in what we have historically termed ‘classes’. That’s what makes teaching different from tutoring, lecturing or child-minding – all not doubt respectable occupations, but not teaching. Of course, teachers do other things as well and work with individuals, but it is not the core of their daily task.

So, here are some questions;

Would it help if entry to the profession was at the start of the preparation course? This might mean a salary for all and not just Teach First and School Direct Salaried trainees. Given the numbers, would The Treasury ever agree to this?

But what if applicants vote with their feet? In 2015, there were 15,000 fewer applicants through the UCAS scheme compared with the GTTR scheme in 2005. Indeed, there probably only 5,000 more than in the disastrous year of 2001 that saw the start of the teacher supply crisis of that period. Such numbers either leave little room for choice of candidate or create a new problem of maintaining entry standards leaving unanswered the question of who fills the empty classrooms?

The majority of trainees are still between the ages of 20-23. Not far short of half of those placed on courses in 2015 fall into this group,, almost all probably new graduates. It would be interesting to know how they chose their route into teaching. Were School Direct urban places better taken up by this group than those offered by schools in coastal locations? Does the offer of a job after training matter? If so, are the School Direct salaried route and Teach First doing better at attracting applicant to teaching than university-based programmes?

The purists among us might say, give all teacher preparation to school-based programmes, but others might take the Augustinian view that they weren’t ready to do so just yet as the risks might be too high until we have more understanding of what brings people into teaching in sufficient numbers and then helps keep them in the profession.

It is worth noting that in 2010 EBITT numbers in the DfE census were recorded as just under 6,400 whereas in 2014 School Direct (both salaried and fee routes) recruited just over 9,200 primary and secondary trainees out of the 26,000 postgraduate entrants. In 2015, this had increased to 10,252 by November of whom 3,166 were on the salaried route (1,400 secondary and 1,600 primary)

Perhaps, of even more concern to me is that in 2015, schools bid for 2,252 maths training places. In 2016 the initial allocations are for 2,171 places despite there being 500 more maths places in the Teacher Supply Model for 2016: the only subject with an increase. Fortunately, that situation isn’t replicated in other subjects, but it raises the issue of how to manage need in a market, especially where the price to providers may have been reduced.

I am sure we will explore this further issue further in our discussion along with the role of government; the different regional effects and the increased desire to open up other careers to women with no parallel drive to make professions that are staffed by women more gender balanced in their workforce.

My two nightmares are firstly that all our possible women teachers are persuaded to become bankers, engineers or even police officers now that is to become an all graduate occupation and secondly that some successful business person in China decides to set up a chain of English-style schools and scoops the whole of our trainee pool. So, perhaps I am alone in thinking the slowdown in China might be a good thing for the teaching profession in England.

Not good news

Earlier today the DfE published the census of those that started teacher preparation courses this year. For the first time in some years they have included Teach First data except for history and computing numbers in the totals. As  a result it has taken a little while to disentangle the numbers to compare with the TSM for 2015 that didn’t include Teach First numbers. You can regard the old NCTL allocations as mere flights of fancy as it is only the TSM that matters except where their use distorts regional patterns of teacher supply.

I am now having some discussion with the NCTL about how Teach First was treated in the previous published TSM figures. Since the purpose of the table below is to try to identify the size of the possible free pool of trainees that will be available to schools to recruit in 2016 I will try and replace the present table with that data once the history issue has been cleared up. I assume after two years on the programme in their allocated school any Teach First person changing school is treated in the same manner as any other teacher with QTS by the DfE and would not count as  a new entrant  to the profession. This just shows how complicated it is and how important it is that schools can know how many trainees will be available for employment in 2016.

What good news there is centres around physics -where the bursary clearly works – and languages where we don’t know the nationality of applicants. Applicant numbers are now as I predicted slightly better than last year thanks to the marketing in the summer term but won’t yield enough trainees in many subjects to meet demand if it stays at 2015 levels.

Census without Teach First

2013 census 2014 census 2015 census
Languages 1260 1105 1226
RE 370 385 386
PE 1120 1271 1230
Physics 710 661 723
Music 380 372 358
Mathematics 2310 2186 2197
History 770 786
Geography 620 601 580
English 2010 1689 1940
D&T 410 450 518
Computer Studies + IT 350 519 509
Chemistry 1100 850 961
Business Studies 200 200 174
Biology 720 766 920
Art 330 534 503

I think the basis for ‘other’ has changed so it is worth discounting that figure. Both Business Studies and Design & technology are subjects where TeachVac has recorded more demand for teachers in 2015 than there has been supply, so that isn’t likely to change in 2016 unless the demand drops as schools hire more teachers in EBacc subjects.

I will add to this blog as more of the numbers are analysed over the next couple of days.


Oxford ITE Conference talk

Teacher Supply: Crisis, challenge or no problem?

1 Overview

1.1 Over the past half century teacher supply has been through a number of different cycles during which there have been short periods of over-supply interspersed with longer periods of shortages. Within these macro cycles there have been other periods where particular subjects or parts of the country have been affected by more local supply problems.

1.2 Since 2013, the recruitment into teacher preparation courses has become more challenging as numbers enrolled have declined. This would likely have been the case despite the fact that this period also witnessed a shift towards a more school-led approach to teacher preparation programmes. The development of new programmes has been a feature of periods of teacher shortage from the Articled Teacher scheme of the late 1980s through the SCITTS of the 1990s to the GTTP and Teach First of the early years of this century and now the school-Direct   programmes.

1.3 With a significant increase in pupil numbers over the next few years it seems likely that staffing schools will become a serious problem over the next few years. We will know more on Thursday when the 2015 ITE Census is published by the DfE. I expect some improvement over last year as a result of the better marketing campaigns, but still insufficient new entrants in many subjects to meet the Teacher Supply Model numbers that historically have been seen as targets. The NCTL allocations merely blur the understanding of numbers needed, but may have helped keep higher education alive in teacher preparation. Without such over-allocation against the TSM in 2014, as I pointed out to the Minister, the loss of most English and history places from higher education would have made many more vice-chancellors question the viability of their PGCE courses.

2 Introduction

2.1 The debate about whether or not there an issue in teacher supply at the present can really only be answered in terms of what it is the school system is trying to achieve? If it is to provide the highest quality education to all pupils in order to ensure that they are able to achieve the highest possible personal outcomes from schooling, then the part teachers’ play in achieving this outcome needs to be determined. Without agreed goals for the school system it is difficult to assess whether or not there is a teacher shortage at the present time.

 2.2 Crisis or Challenge?

2.2.1 There is no current definition of when a shortage of teachers or trainees might be described as either a challenge or a crisis. This lack of any benchmark has allowed language to be used in a casual and imprecise manner. In an attempt to inject some clarity into the debate, some suggested definitions are offered for both recruitment into teacher preparation programmes and for recruitment into main-scale teaching positions for classroom teachers.

2.3 Entry into preparation programmes

2.3.1 A “challenge” to the system might be described as a situation where more than 60% of applicants are offered places on preparation courses: such a figure demonstrates that there is little competition to enter the profession. A lack of competition means there is no incentive to create minimum benchmarks for entry in areas such as extent of subject knowledge or experience beyond schooling and university education.

2.3.2 A “crisis” might arise when, despite offering more than 60% of applicants places on teacher preparation courses, there are still insufficient applicants to fill all the places on offer over a two-year period. (This avoids issues over a shortfall in one year due to unforeseen events).

2.3.3 On this basis some subjects may be facing challenges and, possibly, a few are in crisis.

2.4 Entry level vacancies

2.4.1 There are no current descriptors for how to measure either a challenge or a crisis in recruitment at the level of entry grade employment in teaching.

2.4.2 A challenge might be described as a situation where there are sufficient entrants to teaching from all sources, but, because they are not distributed according to need across the country, some schools are forced to employ candidates without the skills or subject knowledge required to fully undertake the role for which they have been recruited. This could be the consequence of a shortfall in entry into training when there are insufficient other teachers available to make up that shortfall.

2.4.3 For this challenge to become a crisis, there would need to be insufficient entrants to the profession from all routes to reduce the percentage of teachers 1) with no relevant post ‘A’ level qualification teaching the subject in a secondary school, or 2) no training in the phase of primary education they are teaching (again over a two year period). The crisis could be limited to specific parts of the curriculum.

2.4.4 It seems likely that an analysis of the 2012-2014 School Workforce Census data may reveal a number of subjects where this definition of a crisis is met. It is not clear whether the DfE has the data to identify whether there is a crisis in our primary schools.

2.4.5 However, another way to consider the issue is to look further at three areas of teacher supply where the terms crisis or challenge may be used.–

  • crisis of numbers,– There needs to be enough teachers
  • crisis of location – they need to be in the right place and–
  • crisis of quality – they need to be good enough.

The issue of numbers can be further sub-divided into numbers in training, and numbers in the profession, as already discussed. A shortfall in training numbers will create a shortage in the profession, which will become compounded if the problem lasts for several years and will lead to problems with middle leadership after about 5-10 years.

2.5 Crisis of numbers.

2.5.1 In order to have enough teachers, we need to train enough in each subject area because, according to DfE modelling, the existing teachers, returners and “churn” (teachers moving schools) will only make up 50% of those needed. The government uses the Teacher Supply Model and ITT allocations to help recruit potential teachers into training, setting levels that will provide an adequate supply of teachers once those that complete training and enter teaching have been added into the overall mix.

2.5.2 Considering just the trainee numbers, TeachVac’s data reveals that some subjects have an overabundance of trainee teachers compared with the number needed, some have just enough and some are woefully short.

Analysis of vacancies advertised against trainee numbers as at 21st October 2015 –since start date 1st January 2015

Group ITT Number left % left

21 Oct

% left 13 Nov
Art 534 193 36.24 34
Science 2277 285 12.52 9
English 1689 -84 -5 -9
Mathematics 2186 439 20.08 17
Languages 1105 256 23.17 20
IT 519 -46 -8.86 -11
Design & Technology 450 -161 -35.8  


Business 200 -173 -86.5 -92
RE 385 4 1.17 -4
PE 1271 864 68.02 67
Music 372 36 9.81 5
Social Sciences 113 -96 -84.96 -91
Geography 601 -28 -4.66 -7
History 786 210 26.78 25

Source TeachVac

2.5.3 As a guide, at the end of the recruitment round having + or – 5% of trainees left in a subject or phase within primary still looking for a teaching post would be the aim; a shortage of trainees of between 5% and 10% compared with advertised need would be a challenge and a shortage of more than 10% could be construed as a crisis. This situation can arise either because of issues with the Teacher Supply Model or because insufficient trainees are recruited to meet the number suggested in the Teacher Supply Model.

2.5.4 In some subjects the opposite situation can occur, where the numbers of trainees are too high. Again this may be due to either over-recruitment against identified need from the Teacher Supply Model or a mis-match between need and reality in the recruitment round.

2.5.5 More than 5% of trainees above need, but less than 10% too many is a warning, more than 10% too many trainees means that there will be a significant number of trainees who will not be able to find a job, anywhere in the country, yet will be saddled with a significant additional student debt.

2.5.6 A quick summary suggests that at the end of December, the following will be the case for 2015 as a result of the numbers trained in 2014/15:

Numbers Crisis – Business Studies, English, IT, design & technology, Social Sciences and possibly Geography

Numbers Challenge – Science, Music, RE

Numbers Correct – Languages, History and Maths (but see later)

Numbers over-supply – PE and Art

Some Crisis subjects are a whole year’s cohort behind, but PE is at least a year’s cohort ahead of itself.

2.5.7 The recruitment round might be considered to cover vacancies for September and January and to follow the calendar year (there are few vacancies advertised for an Easter start). At the current time there are already more vacancies than available trainees in subjects such as English, IT, Design & Technology, Business Studies, Social Science and Geography. Once their contribution to the teaching of humanities was added in to the total, there were insufficient RE trainees and probably insufficient trainees in history. By the end of the recruitment round it seems likely that the sciences (overall) and music will be added to the list. This would leave mathematics, languages, art & design and PE as the only subjects where trainee numbers will have been sufficient across the whole recruitment round.

2.5.8 It seems likely that had the government not increased employer pension and National Insurance contributions in 2015 then the number of vacancies on offer might have been even greater since schools would have spent the money on extra staff in some, if not all, cases.

2.6 Crisis of location.

2.6.1 I believe that most trainees tend to look for a job either in their home area or around their training location. This tendency gives rise to a potential crisis of location if the distribution of training places does not reflect local needs. As the geographical allocation numbers were not published by the DfE in the past, it has been very difficult to ascribe the term challenge or crisis to any subjects. The exception is Mathematics where there is widespread anecdotal evidence of shortages yet the overall numbers look satisfactory. On that basis it might seem as if Mathematics has a “location crisis” in some areas.

2.6.2 An analysis of the published vacancies for entry level teaching posts tracked by TeachVac between January 2015 and mid-October 2015 suggests that there are marked regional differences in the average number of advertisements placed for such posts by schools in different regions of England.

Average number of jobs advertised per school

North East North West Yorkshire & the Humber East Midlands West Midlands London East of England South West South East
4.56 4.37 4.92 5.21 4.46 7.15 6.97 4.36 5.98
Source TeachVac                

2.6.3 The vacancies counted by TeachVac include those posted by both state-funded and private schools. It is noticeable that London, despite the presence of Teach First, has recorded the largest number of vacancies per schools with the East of England and the counties closest to London within that region a close second. There are issues with individual schools in areas such as coastal locations, but these have not been sufficient to affect the regional average.

2.7 Crisis of quality.

2.7.1 Quality is a very subjective area and yet everyone can see the difference between good and poor quality.

2.7.2 For trainees, there are two further aspects. Firstly, if there are too few applicants, then there is little opportunity to select the ‘best’ candidates. This can be measured by the application to training place ratio. From a measurement point we could say that between three applicants per place and two applicants per place would be a challenge and fewer than two applicants per place would be a crisis. The second trainee measure is that of completion – poor trainees will be less likely to complete their course and enter teaching. This issue can be exacerbated by the funding methodology used by the government and, this year, by the recruitment controls methodology.

3 Leadership Vacancies this section was omitted from the talk

3.1 Since the abolition of a compulsory qualification for headship – the NPQH – it has been difficult to know objectively, in advance, whether the number of aspiring head teachers meets the likely demand. Now that the bulge in retirement numbers has passed, the demand for head teachers should have returned to a figure more in line with long-term demand. However, a number of factors, including the creation of new schools such as Free Schools, UTCs, Studio Schools and new academies, as well as Executive Heads of multi-academy trusts, has probably increased the demand for head teachers to a level above the long-term trend, especially in the secondary sector.

3.2 Over the past quarter century, a number of factors have affected the labour market for new head teachers. Faith schools, and especially Roman Catholic schools within that group of schools, have consistently found it more of a challenge to recruit new head teachers than community schools. This may have been partly a reflection of the changing nature of society in England.

3.3 More generally, any school that has one or more factors from the following list may have experienced greater difficulty in recruiting a school leader;

  • size – both very small and very large;
  • limited age range – infant, junior or middle compared with primary or secondary;
  • single sex schools;
  • limited section of the ability range;
  • some specific types of special schools where relocation is necessary due to the small number of such schools;
  • time of year vacancy occurs if outside the key January to March period;
  • unusually low salary;
  • performance, especially on Ofsted inspections but also in examination or key stage results.

3.4 Finally, geography can play a part. In regions where house prices are higher than average this may restrict the number of applicants willing to move into the area but permit outward movement from possible candidates for headship. There has also been concern about areas with limited hinterlands such as coastal fringes of England. Areas where there may be limited scope for work for a partner may also be less attractive to potential head teachers. There are exceptions to these rules, but the occasional outstanding new head does not provide a solution to any specific problem.

4 The root causes of the lack of supply of teachers

4.1 Assuming that no issue is taken with the modelling undertaken by the DfE to determine the number of training places and the deterioration of the percentage of teachers teaching a subject that have a post ‘A’ level qualification in the subject they are teaching indicates a lack of supply, then the root causes may be regarded as:

  • Insufficient recruitment into training
  • Undue levels of early departure from the profession
  • A growing school population
  • The development of teaching as an international career and of schooling in the UK as an export industry. Both offer opportunities to teachers that can reduce teacher numbers available for state-funded schools.

5 Action the government could take to tackle teacher shortages

5.1 The government has a considerable body of evidence from previous teacher supply crises to be able to understand what actions they can take that may or may not work to solve any teacher supply crisis, even though they do not directly employ any teachers – at least until the National Teaching Force comes along. There is also evidence on the issues affecting teacher supply from the work of the School Teachers’ Review Body and the research undertake for them by the Office for Manpower Economics in connection with several of their Reports. This body of evidence could enable the DfE to consider the success or otherwise of previous attempts to solve each crisis.

5.2 However, in an age when investment in higher education is the responsibility of the individual, rather than the State, it seems perverse that a large number of individuals should have to bear the cost of their training as a teacher, with the added risk of no guarantee of a job on successful completion of the course. Simple economics suggests that although this may pose less of an issue when the private sector is not hiring graduates, it is an issue when the graduate recruitment market is buoyant, as it was after 1997 when tuition fees were first introduced, and applications from graduates to train as teachers slumped.

5.3 For instance, in 1997–98 some 1,540 of the mathematics teacher training places were filled, but 830 remained un-filled. The following year, the number of unfilled mathematics places increased to 1,080 and the number of those entering teacher preparation courses declined from 1,540 to 1,190. The eventual solution to the recruitment problem was the introduction of the training bursary in 2000.

5.4 The continual changes to the level of bursary funding, and the relative financial attractiveness of different teacher preparation routes, makes for a muddle that may make it more difficult to attract new entrants to teaching, especially when the economy is growing. Teaching cannot be seen just as a safe haven career in times of economic uncertainty if England is to have a world-class teaching profession. Teaching needs to be able to recruit high quality entrants in boom times as well as in times of recession.

5.5 There are other solutions to deal with any shortage of teachers. These include ensuring a better transition from preparation to employment that reduces wastage of qualified entrants. This ought to be easier when schools, as employers, control a greater proportion of the training than providers that do not employ teachers, such as universities.

5.6 At present, the balance of new entrants to other entrants to main scale vacancies is estimated by the DfE at around the 50:50 mark, according to evidence provided in the past by the DfE to the STRB. If there are insufficient new entrants, more could be spent trying to attract other qualified teachers either from those not working or nor currently working full-time or from teachers from either within the EU or elsewhere in the world. The DfE currently has a pilot programme underway for attracting returners in EBacc subjects.

5.7 Should there be insufficient teachers, schools have the option of changing the curriculum offer to reduce time spent on particular subjects – although there will need to be an increase in other subjects if the total time taught doesn’t alter. Re-training of teachers through programmes such as the suggested TeachNext concept and attracting new groups through programmes such as the Troops to Teacher scheme can also help at the margin in dealing with shortages.

5.8 On the demand side, group sizes in schools may be altered, subject to the capacity of classrooms to handle larger groups. The use of new technology to alter the instructional method could have profound implications for the supply and training of teachers in the future. Although wide scale use of the internet has now been around for almost two decades, the impact on teaching and learning in schools is probably very limited in its effects on the model of teacher-pupil interaction.

6 The Future of teacher supply up to 2020 and beyond

6.1 The key driver of teacher supply issues during this Parliament will be the increase in pupil numbers. The primary school population started increasing some years ago, and will continue to increase through the life of this parliament. The secondary school population fell nationally through the last Parliament as the effect of a decline in the birth rate during an earlier period worked through the system. However, from a low point in 2015, the secondary school population will increase through the whole of this Parliament and probably most of the next, assuming two fixed term parliaments. By 2023, the STRB estimated, based on DfE evidence, that the secondary school population would be 17% higher in 2023 than in 2014 (25th Report page 29).

6.2 Any reduction in numbers entering training or increase in numbers leaving the profession, for whatever reason, would obviously add additional pressure on teacher supply. In a market based system those schools with the ability either to pay more or to offer a more attractive teaching environment would probably suffer less than schools where teaching was more demanding, pay lower, or the school located in an area where teachers either did not want to live or could not afford to do so.

6.3 Teaching has become an increasingly feminised profession in both the secondary and primary sectors. Although the percentage of men entering the primary sector has probably stabilised, fewer men now train as secondary school teachers than a generation ago. The extent of any drive to make graduate careers more widely available to women than in the past could have an impact on the interest shown by women in teaching as a career. Recent data on applications by graduates to train as a teacher has shown a faster decline in applications from women than from men. This has resulted in an overall decrease in applications of several thousand and a resulting increase in the percentage of applicants accepted onto teacher preparation courses.

7 Conclusion

7.1 The various routes into teaching have been undergoing a fundamental politically driven change from a higher-education based system to a school-led system. This change has occurred as the economy has shifted from recession into a period of growth. It is not yet clear how far the changes in training routes may affect the attractiveness of teaching as a career. Indeed, salary and other associated benefits such as work/life balance and pension arrangements may be of more significance in recruitment into the teaching profession.

7.2 What is certain is that to create a world-class education system, we need not only world-class teachers but sufficient of them in the right places and right subjects with a willingness to become the school leaders of both today and tomorrow.