Academies dominate teacher recruitment market

TeachVac, the National Vacancy Service for Teachers, has estimated from an analysis of its data that 65% of teacher vacancies in 2022 have been placed by either MATs or stand-alone academies. Maintained schools, more common in the primary sector, where nationally advertised vacancies tend to be fewer in number, have accounted for only 35% of vacancies.

Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) with more than 100 vacancies so far in 2022 accounted for 19% of the overall total of vacancies, and a higher proportion of the vacancies for secondary teachers.

One large MAT has posted more than 1,000 vacancies so far in 2022. There is an interesting question for the sector arising from this, as that MAT is one of those selected by the government to lead the new Institute of Teaching. Will there be a barrier between one side of the business and the other or will the MAT be in a more favourable position to recruit trainees than other MATs and maintained schools?

Recruitment has never been level playing field. Indeed, in 1995, I made just this point on page 213 of a book by Bines and Welton entitled ‘Managing partnership in teacher training and development’. Interestingly, I also pointed out in that chapter the need to integrate professional development into a programme that stretched beyond the then probationary year. Some things never change.

In order to meet the demands for teachers that have seen record levels of demand by schools this year, TeachVac, the on-line job board where I am Chair has just launched a new Premium Service that places subscribers’ vacancies at the top of the list of matches sent out each year.

TeachVac’s basic service remains free to schools, but the Premium Service that lists vacancies at the top of the daily match list sent to users costs £1 per match up to a maximum charge per school of £1,000 +VAT per annum for secondary schools and less for primary schools. As more schools sign up to the Premium Service the cap could be reduced to £500 per annum. With approaching 80,000 vacancies handled in 2022 to date and more than 1.8 million matches the premium service offers outstanding value for money and as more teachers sign up to the platform will over even better value. Schools can find out more at enquiries@oxteachserv.com or by messaging me directly.

Recruitment for unexpected January 2023 vacancies and for September 2023 will be challenging and as MATs and academies are currently putting their finishing touches to their 2022/23 budgets, now is an excellent time to adopt TeachVac’s No Match: No fee Premium Service with its cap on annual expenditure that can be built into the budget.

TeachVac doesn’t waste money on the hard sell. Sufficient schools have signed up to produce 1,100 matches through the Premium Service in June alone, after the May deadline for resignations. We believe that results are the best form of marketing. 

Pay primary school teachers less?

A common pay scale for all teachers has been a feature of pay policy in England since at least the 1950s. It is a surprise to read in a study published today by the NfER; a study supported by The Gatsby Foundation, the following paragraph.

Separating the primary and secondary teacher pay scales could be effective at targeting resource where it can have greater gains in terms of overall teacher supply, in a way that is cost neutral within an existing spending envelope.The impact of pay and financial incentives on teacher supply – NFER

Adopting this solution would breach this long-standing arrangement of a common pay  scale for all qualified teachers subject to regional differences. Of course, there has never been pay parity between the two sectors because, as NfER comment, and readers of this blog with know, it is easier to recruit teachers to the primary sector than to some subjects in the secondary sector. Up to now, incentives have been targeted at specific subjects where there are shortages. So, on teacher preparation courses, some trainees receive greater encouragement than others through the use of bursaries on the largest route into teaching. However, on other routes, such as Teach First, this differential doesn’t seem to apply. Both history and physics trainees receive a salary.

Before schools were provided with budgets, and a National Funding Formula based on average salaries was introduced, the allocation of the number of promoted posts differed between primary and secondary schools, to the advantage of the latter. This was, I am sure an indirect way of creating pay differentials for classroom teachers between the two sectors that was acceptable to the then Trade Unions that recognised the differences in recruitment challenges between the two sectors.

The NfER make the point that paying teachers in different sectors at different rates is already to be found in some other countries. The cite the fact that starting salaries for secondary teachers in Finland are 15 per cent higher than their primary counterparts, and secondary starting salaries are 6 per cent higher in Sweden, as evidence of the case for introducing differential salary rates. It is an interesting argument, but I am not persuaded. Evidence about recruitment to the primary sector largely only available at the macro level as anyone with QTS can be recruited to any post, and it isn’t clear if there are specific challenges in some subject specialisms and age-related posts.

The NfER report that is well worth reading despite this recommendation does make the point that I have made regularly relating to the relationship between the wider economic situation and recruitment into teaching. This was last apparent at the start of the pandemic when a fear of mass job losses before the furlough scheme was introduced caused a short-term serge of interest in teaching as a career. The NfER study makes the point that at present the graduate labour market is stronger than the government seems to appreciate.

Perhaps the most depressing feature of the report is the fact that neither physics nor IT will ever meet the target number of trainee teachers required on any of their scenarios. The government really does need to address the issue of teacher supply, not only in these subjects but also across the board.

SEND in the spotlight

The identification of pupils with Autism or on the Autistic Spectrum at a level where an EHCP (Education and HealthCare plan) is necessary would appear to account for a significant proportion of the unplanned and unfunded growth in spending on SEND, according to the latest DfE data on Special Needs. Special educational needs in England: January 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The number of EHCPs for young people on the Autistic Spectrum increased from 92,567 in January 2021 to 103,429 in the January 2022 census of pupils. To put this into some context, there are only around 10,000 EHCPs for young people with either a visual or hearing need leading to a requirement for an EHCP. Even, in the category of Social, Emotional and Mental Health, the number of EHCPs in place only increased from 45,191 to 49,525 between 2021 and 2022. However, I suspect this might increase over the coming year if predictions about the mental health of young people following the pandemic come to pass.

Source DfE SEND January 2022 Primary type of need table reordered with additional columns

The growth in EHCPs was even larger for young people with speech, language and communications needs than for those diagnosed as with an autistic spectrum disorder, although this group still only account for half as many EHCPs are for young people on the autistic spectrum disorder group.

Growth in support at this level must mean a radical rethink about how the SEND sector operate. There is no way that this number of young people can be educated in the present Special School sector. Indeed, the staffing of that sector is an issue where a spotlight needs to be shone fairly quickly. There are too many unqualified staff ‘teaching’ these young people, and no visible tracking data for the adequacy of the professional qualifications on top of the basic QTS that such teachers hold. Staying in a mainstream school with an EHCP might be something many parents would need to balance against the journey time to a special school and the more generous staffing of such schools against the qualifications of the staff.

A nine per cent overall increase each year in EHCPs also places a financial burden on more rural local authorities where transport and often that means a driver of a taxi plus another person for each additional EHCP. With fuel costs rising almost by the day, the forward pricing of these contract for next year must already be causing headaches for local authority budget makers.

I don’t have the answers to this issue, but it must be of serious concern that there is sufficient finance for our most vulnerable children to receive as good an education as possible so that they can lead fulfilling lives as adults.  

The new NPQs

The DfE has published a one-off document about participation in the National Professional Qualifications. Participation in the reformed NPQs in the academic year 2021 to 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) The report identifies the number of confirmed starts for all NPQs funded by the DfE by region. The data covers two starting points, Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022. The DfE make the point that starts don’t equate to actual numbers of people, as it is possible to start more than one NPQ.

The total starts over the two cohorts were 29,153. I though it would be interesting to see how that compared with the number of advertised vacancies in 2021 for promoted posts with a TLR and also for leadership posts across the primary and secondary sectors.

The data from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk suggests that there were around 13,000 vacancies recorded during the whole of 2021 where an NPQ might be a useful part of a teacher’s application.

Promoted postAssistant HeadDeputy HeadHeadteacherTotal for 2021
Primary126165196515364413
Secondary702310346283108995
828416851593184613408
Source: DfE

So, that might suggest that if registrations continue at this level with another intake in Autumn 2022 there is potentially a healthy supply of teachers able to seek promotion with recent experience of an NPQ assuming not too many multiple registrations by each participant.

The number of starts differed by regions according to the DfE statistics

Number of confirmed NPQ starts by region
RegionConfirmed starts (DfE-Funded)TeachVac vacancies 2021TeachVac vacancies as % of the total
North-east1,56139025%
North-west4,267156037%
West Midlands3,439128237%
East Midlands2,528102941%
Yorkshire and the Humber2,853128645%
South-west2,582124948%
London5,065253050%
South-east4,162243859%
East of England2,693164461%
Not available30%
Total29,1531340846%
Source DfE and TeachVac data

In the North East, there a much larger number of NPQ starters across the two cohorts compared with promotion opportunities identified by TeachVac than in London and the Home Counties. This raises interesting questions about the allocation of resources across the regions that might encompass the ‘levelling up’ agenda and the extent to which NPQs are useful in providing a pool of teachers equipped for promotion or whether the NPQs are to help the school where the teacher is currently employed?

It would be interesting to see a further breakdown by the local authority where the teacher’s school was located to further match provision against need. For instance, was there any difference between the estuarine part of the East of England along the north bank of the Thames Estuary and the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The same might be asked between Oxfordshire and Kent in the South East?

The data relates to ‘starters’. I hope the DfE will eventually publish data about completers. I remain in awe of teachers that take on professional development on top of a working week in the classroom. The fact that nearly 30,000 did so in a year when covid was rampant speaks volumes for the teaching profession.

150,000 views

Yesterday, this blog recorded the 150,000th view over the course of its lifetime. Not a huge number, especially when compared with those that bloggers that measure their followers in terms of such numbers and their views in the millions, but a pleasing response to the effort required to write the nearly 1,300 posts over the lifetime of the blog to date.

The blog has widened its scope since its inception in January 2013, when it first appeared. At that time, I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from no longer facing the discipline required in writing a weekly column for the TES, as I had done for more than ten years. Over time, this blog has become a means of recording my thoughts on what has mattered to me about the changing face of education than just a replaced for that long-departed column.

As regular readers know, I am not a neutral commentator, but an active politician serving the Liberal Democrats as a councillor in Oxfordshire. My political beliefs undoubtedly colour my views on the many topics this blog has covered that have values associated with them. After all, education is not a value free activity, as the challenges of the past two years have so clearly demonstrated to us all.

There is, perhaps, less about the curriculum and assessment in this blog than some might wish and for a few perhaps too much about teachers and the labour market for teachers. However, counting heads and teachers has been something of a lifetime’s work for me. I first started counting headteachers in the early 1980s and apart for the period between 2011 and 2013 have never stopped doing so since then.

My aim has been posts of around 500 words, although a few substantially longer ones, such as my submission to the Carter Review, and transcripts of various talks that I have given, have appeared from time to time. There have also been some shorter posts, although WordPress informs me that the average length has been nearer to 600 than 500 words. Perhaps some of that is down to the manner in which tables and statistics are counted.

So, if you have read this far into this post, my challenge to you, either as a regular reader or someone that has dipped in and out from time to time, is to ask you to put in the comment section the post would most want to highlight.  

And above all thank you for both taking the time to read my posts and to communicate via comments and emails your views to me. I have much appreciated the dialogue.  

There have been times when I thought about stopping this blog, but I would now like to see out a decade of writing and then reassess where the blog goes from there. Podcasts and even videos are now more fashionable that just the written word, but both are technologies I have yet to conquer. Should I bother? There is time to ponder that question.

Do you want to work in a selective school?

This bog post was first Posted on August 7, 2016 with the title ‘Do you want to work in a grammar school?’ and is now reposted in view of the revival of the debate about selective schools after a reader reminded me of its existence. Although the world has moved on in many respects – a National Funding Formula being one of them – the questions asked in 2016 remain pertinent today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TeachVac’s intelligence reports

TeachVac has created a new suite of reports on the labour market for teachers. These report on the current state of play in the market for specific areas. However, reports by subjects and phase across wider areas are also available on request to those interested in specific curriculum areas. http://www.teachvac.co.uk

The basic report tracks the vacancies for teachers from classroom to the head’s study across schools in a given area and reports the finding by subjects or the primary phase in three categories:

The reports can be tailored to cover any grouping of schools, although local authorities and dioceses are the most common formats. However, MATs and parliamentary constituency-based report are also possible, along with reports for schools in either Opportunity Areas or the new Education Investment Zones or whatever they are called today.

Academies

Maintained schools

 Private Schools

Reports are produced up to the end of the month, with current report for 2022 covering the period from January to the end of May 2022.

The reports are currently useful for those considering the shape of teacher preparation provision in the future by demonstrating the actual need for teachers in specific parts of the country across both the State and private school markets. The DFE’s own evidence doesn’t take into account the private sector demand for teachers and misses out on some school in the TeachVac pool.

TeachVac’s reports can also be useful for those concerned with professional development by identifying middle and senior leader vacancies where the new postholder may need some professional development.

The basic reports on an individual or group of local authorities costs £250 per primary or secondary sector for a 12-month subscription.  Prices for other grouping or for multiple groupings are negotiable depending upon the amount of work required.

Sample reports are available on request from either John Howson at dataforeducation@gmail.com or enquiriies@oxteachserv.com

Reports can be generated for data up to the end of the previous month in a matter of days once an order has been placed.

Elections in School: Use PR

Yesterday, I spoke at the Oxford rally of the Make Votes Matter campaign.

The event was to recognise the Suffrage Movement’s 1913 Great Pilgrimage in support of votes for women. In 1913, the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies (the non-violent section and the majority of supporters of the women’s suffrage campaign) organised a nationwide pilgrimage to demonstrate to the government of the day the widespread support for women’s suffrage. They marched and held meeting along the eight major roads in Britain. As a part of the pilgrimage one route passed through Oxford and included a meeting at the Town Hall. (From notes provided at yesterday’s meeting)

In 2022, the aims of the rally were to celebrate the 100 years since any women in Britain were allowed to vote for the first time and also to campaign for a proportional representation system of voting to replace the First Past the Post system. It was in connection with the second aim that I was asked to speak as a former Chair of Oxfordshire County Council, alongside speakers from other political parties and a historian and an authority on voting systems.

I ended my support for voting by proportional representation with a call to arms, suggesting that all school elections, whether the mock elections at the time of a general election or for school council positions should be run using a form of proportional representation. I would also go further and suggest that all elections for school governors should also use such a system as part of any ballot, although I recognise that such ballots are few and far between these days.

England is looking increasingly out of date in retaining the First Past the Post system for elections. No system is entirely perfect, but the present system does create significant unfairness. There are no Conservative Councillors in Oxford at any level, denying their supporters any say in democratic government. In some other local authority areas other parties poll a consistent share of the vote, but never see a candidate elected. Apparently, the only other country in Europe to use this system for elections is Belarus. I am not sure that I want to be associated with that State in this way.

You can find out more at the following website Make Votes Matter – Proportional Representation

Government action on teacher supply crisis

Yesterday, the government made two important announcements. Firstly, they capped the rate of interest on student loans at 7.3%, instead of the projected rate of more than 12% from September. The latter rate was based upon current rates of inflation. As the government press notice helpfully explains:

‘This is the largest scale reduction of student loan interest rates on record and will mean, for example, a borrower with a student loan balance of £45,000 would reduce their accumulating interest by around £180 per month compared to 12% interest rates. This is on the total value of the loan, as monthly repayments do not change.’ Student loan interest rates capped – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

So, the balance doesn’t change and could still be increasing if a graduate’s earnings are not enough to match repayment rates. However, the move must be regarded as at least a step in the right direction. Regular readers know that I don’t think that graduates should need to take out loans to train to teach in state schools.

The other piece of news way a widening of the welcome to teachers trained anywhere in the world by the DfE, and thus no longer limiting QTS to just EU/EEA and Gove approved countries. England opens doors to world’s best teachers – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) There is a section on the Teach in England pages on the DfE website dedicated to helping teachers from overseas teach in England Teach in England if you trained overseas | Get Into Teaching (education.gov.uk)

The site helpfully reminds teachers about the 4-year rule that doesn’t require QTS

Employing overseas teachers without QTS (the 4-year rule)

Overseas teachers can teach in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools in England without qualified teacher status (QTS) for up to 4 years. This is called the 4-year rule.

It is illegal for overseas teachers to continue working as a teacher in a maintained school or non-maintained special school in England for longer than 4 years without QTS unless there is another legal basis to teach.

The 4-year rule applies to overseas teachers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • they have qualified as a teacher in a country outside of the UK
  • they have completed a course of teacher training that is recognised by the competent authority of that country
  • they are employed in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools, but not a pupil referral unit

Bizarrely, the DfE then reintroduce the term ‘instructor’ that disappeared in favour of ‘unqualified teacher’ more than a decade ago. It would, of course, be insulting to call these teachers ‘unqualified’. Here’s what the DfE says

 ‘There is no definition of special qualifications and experience. These are matters that the local authority or governing body need to be satisfied with. An overseas teacher can only be employed as an instructor if they have the special qualifications or experience needed for the instructor post.’

Overseas teachers can also work as teaching assistants (without QTS) for any period of time.’

Make of that what you will. However, I take it to mean that the four-year time limit can be disregarded on the basis of experience alone due to the judicious use of the word ‘or’.

Of course, all overseas teachers without ‘leave to remain’ will need to meet the demands of the points-based immigration system introduced by the present government. The scheme may limit the numbers actually recruited.

The government as also been putting flesh on the bones of its iQTS scheme for teachers to train overseas.

How all these measures dovetail into the re-accreditation of teacher education to produce a holistic strategy for staffing state schools across England remains a bit of a mystery to me. But no doubt Ministers have a cunning plan to ensure no pupil is taught by a teacher lacking the appropriate skills and qualifications

BEd degrees are best?

According to data published by the DfE yesterday, the undergraduate route into teaching might be the least costly way of entering the profession. Joining a salaried scheme comes next, and taking a postgraduate course is the most expensive route, at least in the short-term. Graduate labour market statistics: 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

According to the DfE report graduates in the 21-30 age group had an average salary of £27,500. Any new teacher from an undergraduate route that can beat that average on entry into teaching is going to be better of that someone starting a postgraduate teaching course where they have to pay a fee to take the course of training. That’s before the still relatively generous teachers’ pension contribution is taken into account.

The average salary for postgraduates in the 21-30 age bracket in the DfE analysis was £32,000, already above the announced £30,000 national starting salary for teachers. By joining Teach First or another salaried scheme, graduates can mitigate against part of the loss of earning in becoming a teacher.

The problem for students is that undergraduate routes into teaching barely exist for secondary school subjects and have been cut back recently for potential primary teachers. It would be a supreme irony if less well qualified eighteen year olds we accepted onto undergraduate degrees to train as a teacher than those accepted onto graduate courses, but ended up earning more than their compatriots that opted for a subject based degree on leaving school rather than vocational training.

I have long argued that if we pay trainee soldiers, including officer cadets at Sandhurst that are graduates, we should also pay trainee teachers. However, The Treasury has always taken fright at the cost of doing so. Now might be a good time to review this policy with the same set of data from the DfE also showing 87% of young postgraduates in employment with almost 73% in high-skilled employment. Although a slight drop from the 2020 data that still doesn’t leave much of a pool to attract to teaching unless the pay and conditions are right. Even more worrying was the increase in employment rate for graduates, both overall and in high-skilled employment. Being a graduate seemed to be a better prospect overall than not taking a degree whatever some people say about too many students going to university.

As expected, being female and from a minority community doesn’t help earning overall. Since starting salaries in teaching should not discriminate on anything except the geographical location of the school, these groups might be expected to benefit from a teaching career in salary terms. Certainly, as the previous post noted, the percentage of females in the teaching workforce has continued to increase.

This data was compiled before the present cost of living crisis that will be a major test for the Secretary of State for Education. In a labour market where teaching is now a global career, and trainee numbers have been insufficient for years, letting pay and conditions deteriorate too far could be a calamity for UK plc and the future economic success of the country.