Application apathy?

I have a lot of time for Stewart McCoy, the operations director of Randstad Education, the global recruiter that is a player in the UK education recruitment market. As a result, I read Randstad’s latest survey and report with interest. Entitled, The Invisible Barrier: https://www.randstad.co.uk/employers/areas-of-expertise/education/the-invisible-barrier/ it raises some important issues.

The most important concern is the plethora of different application forms teachers can face when applying for jobs in different schools. It is possible for each and every academy to have a different form and certainly for different MATs and local authorities to use subtly different forms for applicants.

Of course, this is nothing new, when I first started teaching many local authorities still had space on the form for national service details and every form was different. Not very helpful to new entrants, but for many serving teachers changing jobs their service record was part of their employment history.

With the proper concerns these days about child welfare and the need for more rigorous vetting of applicants for posts working with children and young people it is understandable that application forms have become more complex and demanding of a person’s life history and less standardised. Randstad’s survey found 90% of the teachers that they surveyed wanted a ‘simple, universal application process’ and that the present system was off-putting and persuaded teachers to apply for fewer jobs at any one time.

Of course, there may also be other explanations of why teachers only apply for one job at a time. In some subjects, where demand outstrips supply, why make multiple applications if you might succeed with your first. After all, if you don’t, there will certainly be other jobs to apply for. Then there is also the effect of trainee and teacher workloads during the key March to March recruitment season for permanent vacancies. This problem does indeed point towards the need to simplify the application process with, at the very least, a common form for essential details. For every specific vacancy an applicant is always wise to tailor the free text part of the form to sell their unique characteristics that make them suitable for the school to hire to fill the advertised vacancy.

Of course, agencies can operate rather like the local authority ‘pool’ arrangements that used to be so common for primary school classroom teacher vacancies, where the overall suitability is measured through the initial application process and it is left to the interview stage for the real ‘sell’ by the candidate either selected by the school from the ‘pool’ or put forward as suitable by an agency. This avoids the need for tailoring the free text to the job being applied for, but can leave schools guessing about suitability of some candidates.

Incidentally, I was interested that Randstad conducted their survey in March, but have not published it until now. Their comment that September and October are two of the busiest months for teacher recruitment is an interesting one. There is always a small surge in vacancies in September, but Teachvac’s (www.teachvac.co.uk) evidence is that October is often a quieter month for permanent vacancies. Perhaps, this is the month that Randstad see their supply teacher work pick up as schools start to face their first staffing issues of the new school year.

The Randstad Report does contain some interesting issues for the DfE as they no doubt ponder the future of any possible national recruitment portal and the lessons they have learnt about the application process from the work to date on the National Teaching Service.

 

 

 

More or less

A longer version of this blog post appeared first in the September/October edition of ‘Leader’, the ASCL magazine for school leaders.

Deciding how many new teachers to train each year is a tough job. Train too many and the Treasury wants to know why public money has been wasted; train too few and some schools won’t be able to recruit all the staff that they need. Officials also have to undertake the task several years ahead of time.

This summer, the government has been assessing how many teachers to train in the academic year 2017-18. These trainees will mostly enter the labour market in September 2018 with a small number needed for January 2019 vacancies.

Civil servants started this year’s exercise knowing that the school population was on the increase. They also knew more teachers were leaving the profession in recent years as the wider economy recovered from recession and also that public sector pay remained heavily regulated, especially with regard to annual increases.

Referendum effect

What they didn’t know was the outcome of the referendum on Europe and its possible consequences for the economy and on population movement, both inward and outward. As a result, even if the places allocated by the government are fully taken up by prospective trainees when trainee recruitment opens later in the autumn, the numbers may well still be wrong. Such is, too often, the fate of planners.

Because the teacher supply model essentially uses data that can be up to several years old, its outcomes ought to be subject to review by a group of knowledgeable individuals, including people from ASCL, who can question any obvious anomalies arising from the planning process. For the past two recruitment rounds, based on evidence collected through TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, our free-to-schools vacancy matching service, we have queried the shortage of business studies places for trainees as well as the over-supply of training places for teachers of physical education trainees compared with recorded demand from schools across the country.

In both cases, the modelling process is correct, uses authentic and reliable data, but produces the wrong answer. Of course, you can still have the right answer, as in physics and design and technology, but not recruit enough trainees. That isn’t the fault of the planners, but of another group of civil servants.

While planners might not have been able to foresee the result of the referendum, they can model the effects of the introduction of any national funding formula on the demand for teachers. However, to do so might indicate, ahead of any consultation, the thinking of government. This relationship between policy change and future consequences on the ground goes a long way to explain why, for so many years, the teacher supply model wasn’t shared with anyone outside of government.

Unexpected vacancies?

Putting aside all of this background, schools and head teachers really want to know where they are if faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2017. After all, there are no more trainees entering the labour market until next summer and the recent School Teachers’ Review Body report identified new entrants as taking 55% of main scale vacancies, up from 50% a few years ago.

At TeachVac, we track the number of trainees, as recorded by the government’s annual ITT census against recorded vacancies. We discount those trainees on Teach First, now included in the census, and those on the School Direct salaried route as these two groups are likely to be employed either in the school where they train or another local school if they prove to be suitable entrants into the profession. We also take off a percentage for those unlikely to complete their teacher preparation programme, for whatever reason. Schools that use TeachVac to register vacancies receive an update on the current position in the subject where they have a vacancy when they post that job on TeachVac.

The original article then discusses the position in the summer of 2016 as reported using TeachVac data- That section of the article has been omitted here as it is now out of date.

The picture for 2017

Finally, a brief first look at the recruitment situation for 2017. At the time of writing, recruitment to courses is still in progress. However, based on past experiences, we believe that there will be insufficient trainees in subjects such as physics, design and technology, maths, business studies and IT entering training, unless there is a last minute rush.

A survey of School Direct salaried courses shown as having vacancies on the UCAS web site at the end of July revealed more than 600 listed vacancies, although some may have been duplicates advertised under more than one heading. Nevertheless, there were only two vacancies in the North East, compared with more than 100 in London schools. This reinforces concerns for the labour market in London.

Although schools may have found the 2016 recruitment round easier in some aspects than the 2015 recruitment round turned out to be, the staffing challenge facing schools is not yet over and much uncertainty surrounds the 2017 recruitment round that starts in January.

TeachVac will continue to monitor the situation and offer schools a free platform to place vacancies at no cost to themselves, teachers or trainees.

Note: http://www.teachsted.com now offers a service to schools facing an ofsted inspection and offers a tailored report on the local job market for secondary schools

 

Preparation for school teachers is good or outstanding

Ofsted’s latest assessment of the provision of preparation courses for teachers of children of compulsory school age has rated the providers inspected as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-education-inspections-and-outcomes-as-at-30-june-2016 Only one primary ITT course, in its final stages of operation, was rated less well on an initial inspect, but had improved when re-inspected later in the year.

Of the primary courses inspected, 45% were rated as ‘outstanding’ and 55% as ‘good’. Secondary courses were rated, 33% outstanding and 67% ‘good. Joint primary/secondary courses were 53% ‘outstanding’ and 47% ‘good’. In view of the challenges some secondary courses face with recruiting trainees, and the consequent issues over funding, this must be regarded as a very satisfactory outcome for the sector.

The data only covers HEIs, SCITTS and for the first time, Teach First. This report doesn’t cover trainees not in a partnership. However, the message for Ministers is that courses preparing primary school teachers are performing well and those preparing secondary teachers are god with some outstanding provision. With the low numbers now on so many secondary courses, this finding is not surprising as it is challenging to create an outstanding provision on limited resources. To that extent, a base number of places larger than allocated to many providers would probably push up the number of outstanding outcomes. Nevertheless, five HEIs, 3 SCITTs and 3 Teach First regions inspected did manage to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating for their secondary provision. The remainder were rates as ‘good’. The overall classification doesn’t identify the classification for individual secondary subjects so, without drilling down into the inspection reports, it is impossible to discover whether certain subjects were more likely to receive ‘outstanding’ ratings than others and, thus, whether the mix of provision affected the outcome for some of the secondary provision.

I am sure that Teach First will be very pleased with the mostly ‘outstanding’ gradings they received this year. However, as a programme it has to demonstrate not only high quality preparation but also rates of retention that do not require additional trainees to be hired to meet a greater than average loss to the profession in the years after obtaining QTS.

The outcomes for the Early Years and FE provision inspected in the past year by Ofsted were more mixed. Apart from one FE provider there was little evidence of ‘outstanding’ provision in these two sectors and some providers were of concern when first inspected, although no inadequate provision was seen in these inspections.

To move any more of the training away from HEIs or SCITTs into other forms of provision really does now need evidence that the provision is not just as good, but is also superior in outcomes to that which it replaces. The limited nature of some HEI and SCITT provision that now remains means that to locate more places away from these providers into schools must only be on the back of evidence that the provision will not be materially affected by any reduction in places available.

Witney’s voters can decide the fate of grammar schools

The Education Policy Institute, of which David Laws is the Executive director, have lent their expertise to the debate about grammar schools with a new report about grammar schools and social mobility.  http://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Grammar-schools-and-social-mobility_.pdf

The EPI Report’s executive summary starts with the following:

International evidence (PISA 2012) shows that academic selection in school systems is associated negatively with equity; and students in highly stratified systems tend to be less motivated than those in less stratified systems. This international evidence suggests that schools which select students on academic performance tend to show better school average performance, even accounting for the socio-economic status and demographic background of students and schools, on average, across OECD countries. However, a school system’s performance overall is not better if it has a greater proportion of academically selective schools. And in systems with more academic selection, the impact of socio-economic status on student performance is greater.

The Report backs up what you have already read on this blog since the government started down the road of turning the education clock back to sometime in the late nineteenth Century. Hopefully, the consultation period between now and December will provide the government with time for reflection.

The good voters of Witney can help that process by trouncing the Conservative candidate in the by-election, making it clear, as the Oxfordshire’s county councillors did when discussing the issue last week that they don’t want a return to a selective secondary school system.

Nick Gibb, the junior DfE Minister, as might be expected, when speaking recently at the Academy Ambassador’s Trust event extolled the growth of selective schools saying; ‘Your trust may consider establishing a new selective free school or you may look to expand using the routes that are already available.’ He didn’t say what happens to the other children educated by the Trust. He also ignored the importance of vocational qualifications whilst lauding the EBacc.

The DfE’s lack of understanding about system-wide planning, for which presumably Mr Gibb has responsibility, is alarming in this time of growing pupil numbers across much of the country. The lack of co-ordination between the Free School programme and the remaining place planning function retained by local authorities is unhelpful, to put it at its mildest. Local authorities will be blamed when there are not enough school places for parents to obtain their first choice of school. In the end this will mean councillors losing their seats as parents express their annoyance through the ballot box. No doubt if this happens to any significant degree in the county council elections next May there will be repercussions for Mrs May and her education team at the DfE.

However, should the voters of Witney decide to send the Conservatives a message next month, they can do worse than wrap it in a bottle marked education and schools. The north of the constituency was especially upset about the changes to free home to school transport and the restrictions on choice of school they imposed, so those parents will have found Mr Gibb’s mention of parental choice ironic. Perhaps the DfE still isn’t aware that parents outside London don’t enjoy the same free home to school travel TfL them offers in London.

Issues around collecting vacancy data

Today was the day that submissions had to have been sent to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in connection with their partial review of shortage subjects in education. In preparing the TeachVac submission www.teachvac.co.uk we confronted several methodological issues.

In the first instance, there is the issue of collecting continuous data versus collecting data at a single point in time. TeachVac collects new data every weekday, whereas the DfE collects vacancies only in terms of the number of vacancies recorded at the date of the School Workforce Census in November. So long as there is data for several years that method provides information about trends at that point in time, but cannot say anything about what happens during the rest of the year. The DfE can also calculate turnover and that is also important as additional evidence, but not as compelling as it might seem at first sight. Turnover records outcomes and not desires, so if a school advertises for a teacher of physics, but appoints a biologist because no physicist applies, the data has recorded the turnover, but not the fact that it wasn’t an ideal match with the original requirement of the school.

Some other organisations that collect data on teacher vacancies appear to reply upon vacancies advertised on job boards. Even if job boards are studied regularly, the fact that many vacancies aren’t linked to a particular school makes identifying a reliable total more of a challenge. Is this maths vacancy advertised today for a teacher in London the same as the one advertised yesterday or was that filled and another London schools has requested a teacher? Indeed, could there be several vacancies for maths teachers in London hidden behind a single advertisement? This is more doubtful, because presumably job boards want to show they handle a large number of vacancies for many different schools. Hopefully, there are no occurrences of ‘ghost’ vacancies advertised on job boards just to attract applicants to the site.

As TeachVac is now collecting additional data on several man scale vacancies, it is also able to more successfully handle the issue of identifying multiple vacancies advertised at the same time in the same subject. This is quite common in new schools advertising for staff for the first time, and not unusual in subjects such as English and mathematics during the height of the recruitment season during April.

There still remains the issue of re-advertisements that bedevils all those that study vacancies. The only perfect solution is to ensure a vacancy is attached to a unique identification number that follows it until the post is filled. Until then, there must be an element of extrapolation in any statistics that analyse the job market. There is a similar issue with repeat advertisements, especially in print media, but this is essentially the same problem discussed above with jobs that appear on digital job board. TeachVac has a mechanism for coping with this issue as part of its AI routines.

The MAC will no doubt be wise to these issues when it considers the submissions it has received. It will also have to consider why in the past business studies and design and technology weren’t considered as shortage subjects. Finally, there is the issue, advanced by some in the maths world that schools are supressing vacancies because they don’t want to alarm parents.  To measure that you need to look at the DfE’s analysis of teacher numbers and the highest level of qualifications of those teaching a subject and how those have changed over time.

TeachVac has now extended its AI to start collect vacancies beyond teaching and it is discovering some of the issues recorded here makes data collection in that sector possibly even more of a challenge.

 

What do we mean by equality of opportunity?

There is a lot of vacuous talk about the advantages of grammar schools, but I have yet to hear any advantages put forward for the non-grammar schools other children would attend. The general line is that they aren’t the same as secondary moderns of the 1950s.

For those that see Education Journal, there is an excellent deconstruction of Mrs May’s speech in the latest edition. It shows how she laced non-controversial points all could support with rhetoric about what she feels grammar schools do well. For an even more devastating demolition of her policy by a leading Conservative education thinker and former adviser to Mr Gove one could do better than read Sam freeman’s piece at http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/09/sam-freeman-selective-schools-destroy-choice-and-competition-why-conservatives-should-oppose-mays-plans.html it is worth noting where it first appeared.

On Tuesday, several Conservative councillors in Oxfordshire voted with the opposition parties on the county to support a motion opposed to the return of grammar schools. It will be interesting to hear whether that happens elsewhere in the country and, indeed, whether education will play a large part in the Witney by-election?

I think much of Mrs May’s approach to grammar schools is founded on a notion of equality that differs from that now accepted by many others. This was clear during the exchanges at PMQs in the House of Commons yesterday. Mrs May appears to believe we should use state resources to strive to allow everyone to achieve their best. Actually, this normally means allowing a few to achieve their best and many others to under-achieve unless you get the funding and organisation right. That’s certainly the history of selective systems.

Elsewhere the notion of equality has tended towards one where the State recognises the right of everyone to reach at least a minimum standard and that some pupils require more resources than others to achieve this goal; hence the Pupil Premium that Mrs May’s seems to support, although not perhaps as enthusiastically as her predecessor.

Many years ago Baroness Warnock discussed these different notions of education equality in a seminal article in the first edition of the Oxford Review of Education. How you allocate resources to an education system is as important as the structure of the system. A National Funding Formula probably won’t work with a grammar school system because these schools often have higher cost structures than comprehensive schools for a variety of reasons. If the grammar school policy is not quietly shelved at the end of the consultation period then I fear for under-funded schools in Oxfordshire. They are never likely to see the extra funds that they deserve.

Finally, on grammar schools, the issue of selection by house prices. I was sent the following by Chris Waterman that well known commentator on the education scene.

One of the hackneyed arguments being put forward in favour of the expansion of grammar schools is that selection by ability is fairer than selection by house price. On face value alone it’s a silly argument – it’s replacing one form of social selection with another form of social selection, and institutionalising it.

 However, it’s interesting to look at which schools command the biggest house price premium. The most recent report was published last week by Lloyds Bank. It looked at the house price premium for the top 30 state schools in England. And of course because the top 30 schools are mostly grammar schools, the schools attracting the highest house price premiums are all grammar schools. Three of the top five are Bucks grammars with Sir William Borlase among them.

 http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/globalassets/documents/media/press-releases/lloyds-bank/2016/160905-house-prices-and-schools-final.pdf

 In other words, it is grammar schools that create the worst problems around house price inflation – contributing to social exclusivity in our communities. So, surely far from addressing the problem of selection by house price, more grammar schools will extend and entrench the problem?

For me, the aim is to create every school as a good school as the London Challenge strived to do, but that is not possible if we don’t recruit sufficient teachers. Perhaps the real impetus behind the move to more grammar schools isn’t to select pupils, but to select teachers.

The economic cost of grammar schools

Much of the Tory argument in favour or a return to a selective school system, with both grammar schools and secondary modern schools – whatever name you give them –  has centred on the  possible social mobility benefits of allowing children good at academic subjects to be socially segregated from their peers at age eleven. Those parents with the money have always been able to achieve this result by opting for private schools.

Now, I cannot oppose private schools, because how you spend your cash is up to you. How the government taxes it is up to the government. But, I do wonder what will be the fate of private day schools under a revamped selective system? Unless the Tories can come up with a regime that allows children from dis-advantaged backgrounds to be selected for grammar schools places the selective schools will become havens for parents that can afford to pay for testing to pass the entrance exams, as happens at present. Using the test of Free School Meals, existing grammar school almost universally do not admit children on free school meals, even allowing for the fact that many selective schools are in areas of relatively low unemployment.

So what happens if parents decide to switch from paying for secondary education to taking advantage of free schooling in grammar schools provided by the state? Well, someone has to pay for the cost of these extra pupils. Might the cost be as much as a billion pounds extra on the education budget once the legislation permitting grammar schools is enacted? After all, I am sure parents will see the economic benefits of not having to pay out school fees and will be pushing for such schools everywhere. It would surely be difficult for the government to win a court case that schooling was still a local service when so many decisions are taken nationally, including who has the right to open a new school and thus to try to deny a demand from a group of parents for a selective school whatever the local community as a whole wants.

Transferring the cost of educating a group of secondary pupils from the private sector to the state might be balanced by an increase in private primary schools just concerned with coaching pupils for entry to grammar schools. I have already alluded to the possible effects on recruitment to teaching in the secondary sector of re-creating a selective system, but it might also affect recruitment to primary school teaching.

There are poor schools in the present system, but the answer is to strive to improve them, as has happened in parts of London and not to turn back the clock to a system that clearly doesn’t work for the benefit of all children.

Perhaps Mrs May sees grammar schools in the same light that Mrs Thatcher saw the sale of council houses, a vote winner for the Tories and hang the consequences for society as a whole. If so, she should test the support through a general election sooner rather than later.

Grammar Schools -percentage of pupils on Free School Meals in rank order from highest % to lowest (from Edubase January 2016)

FSM %
12.4
9.6
8.5
7
6.8
6.3
6
5.8
5.4
5.4
5.4
5.2
5.2
5
5
4.9
4.8
4.5
4.5
4.4
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.2
4.2
4.2
4.1
4.1
4
4
4
3.8
3.7
3.7
3.7
3.7
3.6
3.5
3.5
3.5
3.4
3.4
3.2
3.2
3.1
3.1
3
3
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.8
2.8
2.8
2.8
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.5
2.5
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2
2
2
2
2
2
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.6
1.6
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.3
1.3
1.3
1.2
1.2
1.2
1.1
1.1
1.1
1
1
1
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.3
0.3
0.2
0