Minister hides his light under a Select Committee

I needs must start this post with an apology, and a confession. Despite my interest in teacher supply and training, I missed the Minister for Schools announcement about the changes to the Teacher Supply Model. By way of mitigation, I would point out that the announcement appeared in a reply to the Education Select Committee following his appearance in front of the Committee in February to talk about underachievement by white working class children, and has seemingly been documented as DfE supplementary evidence to that inquiry. For those of you having difficulty finding what he said, the link is http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/education-committee/underachievement-in-education-of-white-working-class-children/written/7989.html

What is of interest is David Laws updating of the Committee about the Teacher Supply Model. After all the usual platitudes about how well the Department and NCTL are doing on teacher recruitment and retention, and that School Direct is proving popular on the basis that schools have been signing up for places, David Laws confirmed to the Committee that the Teacher Supply Model was being redeveloped, and that the replacement is expected to be ready by autumn 2014; presumably in time to run the numbers for teacher preparation courses starting in 2016. The Minister didn’t say whether the work on the Model was being done entirely in-house or whether the DfE had convened a group of experts to help with the necessary changes.

However, that may not matter because the Minster also told the Committee that the new Model would be available online, as previously recommended by the Committee, and advocated by myself since I first appeared in front of a Select Committee to discuss the modelling of teacher supply in 1996.

David Laws went further by stating that publication of the Model will enable public examination of the assumptions and working of the Model to help estimations of future teacher demand and projected ITT recruitment. Furthermore, he told the Committee, worked up examples will be included in the online model. This is good news, as it will help the current debate about why so few teachers of English are needed when fewer pupils are being taught by teachers qualified in the subject.

However, the fact that David Laws then went on to offer the Committee data from as far back as 2009-10 about teacher stocks and flows as if this is the latest available to the DfE raises considerable concern in my mind about his understanding of the function of planning. And there may be revealed one of the serious issues in the debate about whether we should be planning teacher training or leaving it to the market as Mr Taylor of the NCTL would seem to prefer. As I have pointed out in the past, information gleaned at one stage of an economic cycle may not be helpful in planning for another stage, so using information about teacher flows during a recession, and the deepest post-war recession there has been, may not be helpful in projecting training numbers needed in 2016, when the economy is still hopefully motoring forward, unless that is teacher supply is entirely disconnected from the wider economy.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the teacher supply model copes with shortfalls in recruitment to training. Exposing this issue, and making sure it is debated, is a key feature that will make the current discussion about creating sufficient teacher numbers different from past periods of teacher shortage. This letter to the Select Committee has placed one more brick in the wall.

 

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