Allocation of a target

Civil servants don’t use words by accident. So, when the recent Statistical Bulletin (DfE, 32/2013) was headed ITT- Allocations, you can be certain that they aren’t ITT targets in the way they used to be. The last ITT census of 2012 foreshadowed the change by containing ‘targets’ for most subjects, but  ‘maximum permitted allocations’ in four subjects – ICT, Design & Technology, Business Studies and Citizenship. This change has now seemingly been adopted for all subjects.

The Statistical Bulletin helpfully defines the allocation of ITT places as setting the limits on training availability to ensure the appropriate supply of newly qualified teachers. The Bulletin’s text continues with the clarification that ‘Sufficient numbers are allocated to ensure enough teachers are trained, but avoiding excessive provision which may lead to employment difficulties and over-burden public finances.’ However, according to the Bulletin these allocations are then set as ‘targets’ by subject – and presumably phase – by the DfE and NCSL, and these targets are then allocated to particular courses and schools after bids and informed by the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) operated by DfE statisticians, and generally not shared outside the Department. The TSM determines the optimum number of ITT places in England in order to match future teacher supply with future teacher demand as closely as possible. The Bulletin notes that whilst allocations are guided by the TSM outputs, they have to address variable recruitment patterns, viable provision issues and regional differences. New policy decision may also lead to new allocations of places.

How often the TSM is run, and what smoothing of output is currently taking place, isn’t generally shared with the wider community. More than twenty years ago I suggested that the TSM be made public in the same manner as the Treasury shared the economic models it used to forecast future trends in various indicators such as inflation and interest rates. Since then much has happened to economic debate, but little has happened with sharing the TSM except for a couple of papers in response to Select Committee Reports. However, before the appearance of the Statistical Bulletin, one might be forgiven for thinking that this really didn’t matter now. After all, the head of the NCSL told the North of England conference in January 2013 that:

In the future I would like to see local areas deciding on the numbers of teachers they will need each year rather than a fairly arbitrary figure passed down from the Department for Education. I have asked my officials at the TA to work with schools, academy chains and local authorities to help them to devise their own local teacher supply model. I don’t think Whitehall should be deciding that nationally we need 843 geography teachers, when a more accurate figure can be worked out locally.

So either the Statistical Bulletin is correct and the DfE is still setting allocations nationally, if not targets, and Mr Taylor’s approach has been rejected by Ministers or the Bulletin is a last manifestation of a system to be replaced by local decision-making.

The middle way between the two, and the most likely, is that the DfE and the Treasury set the overall national number based upon the TSM output, and how much the Treasury is prepared to allow in student loans and bursaries, and this global total is bid for by schools, with HEIs and others taking up what left after this process has happened. However, this begs a lot of questions, not least what happens to the places schools return during the recruitment rounds, as happened this year. And, who is responsible for managing any overall shortfall in recruitment into training under such a devolved system?

By way of example, take what has happened to global allocations between November 2012 and August 2013, History places have increased from 686 to 811, whereas Computer Science numbers have declined from 853 to 780. Why has it been necessary to smooth the global targets in these subjects; what policy changes have taken place demanding more history teachers but fewer computer science teachers? The rationale for these and other changes in global allocations haven’t been made clear to those I have asked about them. Overall, as the Bulletin observes, 1,199 extra places have been added to the ITT total between November 2012 and August 2013, making a total of 38,902 places plus Teach First, or more than 40,000 overall for 2013-14. That’s probably a record for England alone. Whether all 40,000 trainees will find a teaching post only time will tell. What worries me most is that many who had taken on the burden of an extra £9,000 in tuition fees may be at the back of the queue when jobs are being advertised next spring.

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