As predicted: more pupils than last year

Over 2.3 million pupils are in being taught in academies or one type of another (72.3% of all secondary school pupils) along with over 1.4 million in primary schools (29.7% of all primary school pupils). These numbers were released yesterday by the DfE as part of their annual assessment of schools ad their pupils. This information has appeared somewhat earlier than expect; it was scheduled to appear in June. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719226/Schools_Pupils_and_their_Characteristics_2018_Main_Text.pdf

The trend towards declining pupil numbers  at the lower end of the primary age range, and growing numbers at Year 7 in the secondary sector, is now clear to see from these figures and will come as no surprise to those that follow the data about schools and their pupils.

Overall, however, the number of pupils in state funded primary schools rose – as it has since 2009 – although at a slower rate than in recent years. There are 26,600 more pupils than in 2017, and 101,100 more since the 2016 census. The number of pupils in state funded secondary schools rose for the fourth year in a row by around 35,000, and in 2018 had a greater increase in population than primary schools.

There was some consolidation in the primary sector resulting in a net decrease of 20 state-funded primary schools, whereas in the secondary sector there was a net increase of 28 state-funded schools.

All-age schools once looked on askance, not least by the 1944 Education Act that outlawed them by requiring a break at eleven, are still on the increase, albeit perhaps at a slower rate than previously. In January 2017 there were 150 such schools, but this figure has increased to 163 state-funded schools in January 2018. Some of these are ‘free schools’, the most misnamed designation ever invented for a type of school.

As the economy has continued to create more jobs, especially for women, the continued fall in the number of registered pupils for free school meals is not a complete surprise. However, there is still anxiety that the universal free school meals policy for infants is affecting registration for free school meals, causing some schools to lose funding through the Pupil Premium. The issue of funding for deprivation and how it is used by schools is now overdue for a review as all schools will shortly feel the full effect of FSM+6 on their budgets. Perhaps the Social Mobility Commission might like to consider this issue.

A third of all pupils in the primary sector now come from what is classified as an ethnic background, although that includes nearly eight per cent from White non-British backgrounds. Just over one in ten pupils are from Asian background, and one in twenty from ‘Black’ backgrounds.  Slightly more than one in twenty are described as, of ‘mixed’ backgrounds, and this category is likely to increase over the coming years.

Fewer than one in twenty infants were in over-size classes of more than 30, with the majority being in classes of 31. As intakes have reduced in size, so has the issue of over-size classes for infants. Over the next few years, large classes are more likely to be a growing problem for secondary schools unless funding, especially for 16-18 improves.

 

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900th post: Solar or PV?

I thought I would save this post for something special, but I couldn’t wait, so just noting in passing that today is my birthday, I wanted to comment on the apparent lack of inclusion of schools in Labour’s announcement about renewable energy this morning. After all, climate change and reducing fossil fuel use is something very urgent and special. For everyone

The announcement from Labour talks of solar panels when I think that they mean photovoltaic panels, generating electricity and not just heating water. More concerning to me is that there is no mention of installing such panels on schools or other public buildings in the announcement. Indeed, the announcement reads more like a bribe than an energy policy advocating renewables as a way forward.

Way back in 2007, in a chapter in a book edited by Duncan Brack and called ‘Reinventing the State’, I advocated that ‘schools should take the lead in areas such as renewable energy use.’ In the chapter I wrote in the book, I suggested ’the use of community bonds to fund capital developments associated with both energy saving and the adoption of renewable supplies’. I also suggested that such schemes would also help in the education of future generations about the need for the responsible stewardship of our plant.

Earlier this year, I suggested all governing bodies should be required to undertake an audit to see if they can reduce the carbon footprint of their school and increase the use of renewable energy. I suggested starting by substituting cooking by gas with cooking using electricity in school kitchens. Schools might also encourage more cycling and walking to and from schools and less use of parent’s cars to transport pupils. How about a policy of some school minibuses being electric powered, especially where they are only used for short distance journeys.

Councils that commission home to school transport could require all taxis undertaking journeys of less than a specified distance to be electric powered vehicles and, if operators want to charge more, perhaps councils could offer lease deals to prevent costs spiraling out of control.

I wonder if new schools are being built with grey water recycling facilities and other energy saving specifications. Maybe, like sprinkler systems, the government doesn’t think these type of changes are appropriate for new schools?

As regular readers know, I also have a think about how school playgrounds and other outdoor spaces could be used to help create renewable energy during the long periods of the years when they are not being used for their designated purpose. Someone told me of a road surface being trialed in France that might be used. I will see if I can follow up on this idea.

Finally, has your school introduced a policy to eliminate the use of plastics where possible and how well are you succeeding? Should the DfE being providing more help and encouragement?

 

 

 

 

 

TeachVac has more jobs

I was interested to read in the DfE’s Recruitment Bulletin that ‘Teaching vacancies’, the official job listing service from DfE, now has over 45% of all schools in England signed up to advertise their vacant teaching posts. Of course, signed up schools isn’t the same as the share of advertised vacancies the site has achieved, still totaling at less than half of the level of TeachVac’s vacancy totals.

Compared to TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk , the original free listing service for teaching vacancies, where I am Chair of the Board, the DfE site is still playing catch-up. For instance, the DfE has only now launched a new job alerts function, enabling job-seeking teachers to get up to date notifications of suitable posts in their chosen location. This was something build in to TeachVac from the start.

As the DfE points out, ’Teaching vacancies’ is an official government service and trusted source, so no personal data will be shared or sold on to third parties. The latter has always been true for TeachVac. We match teachers to jobs, but that’s all we do with the data. Indeed, TeachVac doesn’t hold any personal data on teachers except for a username and password.

The most important difference for schools between the two sites is that TeachVac doesn’t require schools to do anything for their vacancies to appear, whereas the DfE requires schools to input vacancies, taking time and effort to do so.

The other problem the DfE faces is building up users of the site. TeachVac has several years start on the DfE, and the paid for sites even longer. Maybe this is why the DfE’s latest ITT Recruitment Bulletin says, ‘Please help to promote the service to your newly qualified teachers’. The message is even blunter in another place ‘Please encourage your trainees to start using this service rather than paid-for alternatives’.

With less than two weeks to the end of the main recruitment round for September, this seems a bit late to be having to ask ITT providers to persuade trainees to use the DfE service. We know that many trainees and teachers already use TeachVac at no cost to the public purse, and they should have no reason to switch to the DfE site.

Earlier in the recruitment round TeachVac offered to supply the DfE with the vacancies they were missing, as TeachVac still has more than twice as many teaching posts added every day compared to the DfE’s site. Until the DfE reaches similar numbers of vacancies to TeachVac, teachers looking for a teaching post will always see a larger range of vacancies on TeachVac than on the DfE’s site.

The recruitment market for teachers is changing and it is interesting to see the DfE trying to nationalise the free recruitment of teaching vacancies using taxpayer’s cash to do so. But, we live in odd political times where former norms don’t always make sense these days

 

Non to EBacc recruitment?

Schools don’t want EBacc teachers. Apart from mathematics, where recruitment into training was poor for last September (as has already been noted), schools seeking to fill vacancies in the other main Ebacc subjects aren’t having the same issues as they are with recruitment in some non-Ebacc subjects.

Computer Science will be the next Ebacc subject to see a Red Warning posted on TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk but it will be a close run thing with Religious Education as to which subject reaches the level of a red warning first.

The Ebacc subjects of history, geography and modern languages are still a long way away from seeing any posting of a red warning, and even English and the Sciences overall still have a distance to go before we reach that level of concern. However, schools looking for specific curriculum experience will always find the pool smaller than the overall total.

As ever, in determining the outcome of this recruitment round, much depends upon the numbers seeking to return to teaching after a career break and the rate of departure from the profession.

The DfE could do far more with ‘Keep in Touch‘ schemes for those leaving and the STRB might want to look at reversing the rule that a salary on departure for a career break isn’t protected. Schools can look at offering other less demanding roles for those on a career break to earn some money once maternity leave has finished, such as invigilating, lesson planning or even help with marking. Some of these tasks can be undertaken at home and can provide extra cash, as might helping with one to one tuition. Helping teachers keep in touch and stay up to date is a certain way of ensuring a greater rate of return to the profession probably earlier than in some other circumstances.

The balance between small sixth form numbers and growing KS3 numbers is also causing headaches for some schools, and no doubt adding to the financial problems some schools are facing. In a more cooperative age, schools might pool timetables in minority subjects. This is another area where competition and devolved budgets make sensible arrangements more of a challenge to organise than when there was a great willingness to make the best use of limited resources. Now the demand is for more resources as the only way forward.

How are schemes to recruit and retain teachers from the EU faring? It might be worth a PQ or two from some MP to ascertain what the DfE think is happening compared with recent recruitment rounds? And how are overseas teachers from what one might call the Gove countries reacting to the need for teachers in England? Are we seeing more Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US teachers than in recent years flooding to our shores?

This week looks set to be the peak of the 2109 recruitment round with probably 6-7,000 new vacancies posted by schools during the course of the week.

 

 

Shortage of Mathematics teachers

Normally, information about TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk now appears on the TeachVac blog rather than on this blog. However, some information is worth a wider audience that this blog reaches. The news about mathematics and challenges schools will face with recruitment teachers is one such piece of information.

At the end of last week mathematics triggered a move from an Amber warning to a Red Warning. In TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk terms that means schools anywhere in England could now face increasing issues with recruitment when seeking a teacher of mathematics. The warning will remain in place for the rest of 2019 and covers vacancies for September and January 2020.

The waning is triggered when our analysis of vacancies advertised by maintain and independent secondary schools across England more than exceeds the number of trainees identified by the government and the DfE’s assessment of the rate that trainees have entered the profession in the past few years.

With the secondary school population on the increase and a poor year for recruitment in 2017/18 for teacher preparation courses that started in September 2018, this Red Warning doesn’t come as a surprise: what is surprising is hoe early in the year it has had to be issued.

Without a systematic series of exit interviews, it isn’t easy to know whether more teachers are leaving the profession than in recent years, and if so, why they are doing so? Could the departure be temporary, for family reasons and to what extent is it balanced by more teachers working either to later in their 50s or even beyond the age of 60?

What is clear, is that without sufficient teachers to balance those leaving schools will have hard choices to make about how they deliver the curriculum.

TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk remain the largest free site for teacher vacancies in England and is now expanding across the globe offering international schools the opportunity to recruit for its growing pool of teacher talent.

Incredible, miraculous, life affirming

This blog doesn’t usually comment on football matches, but the dramatic achievements of the two Premier League clubs in defying the odds to win their European Cup semi-finals has left me in something of a quandary: who to support in the final?

Avid readers of this blog, if there are any out there, will know that I was brought up in Tottenham and taught at the long departed Tottenham School in Selby Road for seven years in the 1970s. As a result, it should be a forgone conclusion that I will support Spurs in Madrid. I cannot afford the £500+ for a hotel room, plus the travel and ticket price to actually go to the match, and should not as I am just an armchair supporter.

However, family history demands that I support Liverpool. Work on the family tree has shown that an ancestor play a key role in the events in Liverpool that created Liverpool Football Club and witnessed the creation of Everton on the other side of Stanley Park. I have always been proud to bear the name of Orrell as my middle name.

More importantly, do the events of these two matches tell us something we in education should take to heart? They certainly affirm the importance of leadership of a team, both strategic leadership by the manager and tactical leadership on the field. The support of the owners and the board are also vital. For these could we substitute, the head, the head of department or phase for the team captain and the governing body for the Board? The analogy might not be a perfect one, but you can see where I am coming from.

Do you develop under-performing players or sell them to someone else? Again, not a perfect analogy, but in the week when the Timpson Review was published, there are questions for school leaders.

However, the key message is the same as that from Robert the Bruce with his encounter with a spider: don’t give up.  I wrote a post on this blog on the 25th August 2016 that ended with the message: So, my message is one of hope. Don’t give up. If at first you fail, try, try again. Who knows what you might achieve in the end.

Of course I accept that you don’t have enough resources, we rarely do. And teachers and others working in schools are already giving of their best, no quibbles there, but for the disadvantaged, those with SEND and those facing many of lives other challenges, what messages can we as educators take from the exploits at Anfield and in Amsterdam?

At the very least we can hold our heads a bit higher today and even higher still if Chelsea and the Gunners make it a clean sweep in football’s European Finals. After the battering over Brexit, we all need some good news, and whether you are an avid football fan or not, these two matches have certainly provided that while also creating nail-biting spectacles.

Well, the incredible did happen and four teams from England are in the two finals.

 

How to advertise a teaching vacancy

Many schools still don’t seem able to work out how to achieve the best results from the changing world of advertising for teaching posts. The concept of ‘free’ adverts for schools is now firmly established as a key part of the marketplace, with the DfE’s site following along in the footsteps of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that created the first free site for schools and teachers more than four years ago. Additionally, most schools now also place their vacancies on a specific part of their site.

However, schools don’t seem to have reviewed their policy towards how they make the most use of the changing landscape for recruitment. Take science vacancies as an example. When you are paying to advertise a vacancy it makes sense to create an advert that will maximise the chance of making an appointment, especially if you are paying for each advert individually. Hence, a schools is most likely to advertise for a teacher of science, with some specific indication in the text of any desired skills or subject knowledge, such as physics or chemistry beyond ‘A’ level.

Reviewing vacancies placed by London schools so far in 2019, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has recorded more than 700 ‘advertised vacancies across the sciences by secondary schools in the capital. Of these, 73 are adverts for teachers of chemistry; 98 for teachers of physics and just 60 for teachers of biology, but 487 for science teachers. So, almost overwhelmingly, schools are still advertising for science teachers and nothing else. Many of those with adverts for chemistry and physics teachers are independent schools or schools that have a specific interest in teaching the sciences.

So here are a few suggestions for schools as the 2019 recruitment round reaches its peak. If it costs you nothing, try placing both an advert for a teacher of a specific science, say physics as well as an advert for a science teacher if you really want a teacher of physics. Sure, it makes some people’s task of analysis more challenging, but that’s not your problem. With lots of possible teachers of biology, if that’s what you want, say so.

Putting two different adverts on your web site costs a school nothing. The same with either registering and entering two different science jobs in TeachVac or letting TeachVac deal with them. For maximum effect, it is probably worth placing the vacancies a day apart. In most cases, where a school has a subscription to a paid service that doesn’t limit the number of adverts placed in a given period, the school could use the same tactics. Indeed, between January and the end of April it is worth considering precautionary advertising based upon the experience of previous years in order to build up a register of interested teachers. But, do remember that most teachers are mainly interested in finding a job, not specifically a job in your school, and if one comes up elsewhere, then they could no longer be interested in your vacancies.

Schools should also note that some candidates searching for vacancies may register only for physics, biology or chemistry vacancies and not for science vacancies as a generic term. Some sites create more restrictive matches than others. In those cases, some possible applicants might not see your vacancy.

A word of warning to MATs that use central recruitment sites, are you ensuring this works to the advantage of your schools?

Finally, a plea, do please check your vacancy adverts for simple errors such as out of time closing dates and text that differs between headlines and copy text. You will be surprised how often TeachVac staff either cannot match a vacancy or have to contact a school for clarification if time allows them to do so before the end of the daily routine.