Falling Foul of Fees?

Following on from yesterday’s post about current levels of recruitment into teacher training among graduates, I have been delving further into the data. One interesting aspect is the data provided about the age of applicants. Overall, the number of applicants increased from some 23,000 to almost 44,000; an increase of around 80% between January and mid-August. However, the increase among younger candidates has been somewhat smaller at just 42% for the youngest group of new graduates; up from around four and a half thousand in January to some six and a half thousand in mid-August.  By contrast, the increase in applications from potential trainees in their thirties has been from just over three thousand to more than six and a half thousand; an increase of more than 100%. While it is good to have a mix of ages entering the profession, those that join as teachers in their 30s, and especially their late 30s, have traditionally struggled to have their previous work experience recognised and to progress in their new career, although there have been some notable exceptions to this rule.

So why has this lack of young recruits come about? Could it be that the new fee levels are something of a deterrent? After all, older entrants may have paid off their previous student debts, and be prepared to take on one year of new debt as the cost of changing careers whereas new graduates are looking forward to a fourth year of debt that may seem less attractive than a salary. As a result, the School Direct Salaried route looks a bit like a perverse incentive, aimed as it is at the career changer with at least three years of work experience. However since there have been only 2,700 of these recruited among the potential 29,000 graduate entrants they clearly aren’t making a huge difference to the total.

At present, we don’t know whether older applicants are being discriminated against in terms of the numbers being made offers. However, they are more likely to have a stake in the community and want to teach close to where they train. From that respect, it is interesting that London has attracted the largest number of applicants of ant region in England; over eight and a half thousand, compared with six thousand each in the South East and North West regions.  The lack of any London supplement in funding doesn’t seem to be putting off applicants from applying to train with providers in the capital. It would be helpful to know more about the age profile of those applying in the different regions, but that will have to wait until the annual report is published by UCAS, probably next year.

Before then, I hope that there will have been a review of the first year of the new application system. It had an inauspicious start last November, and I don’t think offering three choices through the Apply 1 route right up to August helps either candidates or providers fill the places still available just before courses start. I would add the number of training places and the number still available to the information provided to candidates, as the DfE did last year when they managed the School Direct application site.

Perhaps the Carter Review Team can have a think about the application process or UCET, NASBITT, the professional associations and the NCTL can get together with the DfE and have a frank discussion about how we can best recruit candidates into training for 2015.

Good news and bad news

First the bad news: teacher training won’t hit its target for 2014 entry. To do so the figures issued today by UCAS must turn out to be very different from the eventual ITT census conducted by the DfE in the autumn. The good news, such as it is, centres around the fact that subjects unlikely to fill all their required places identified by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model targets haven’t changed much since last month. Computer Science/IT may reach its target, although the varied classification doesn’t help here. However, the roll call of subjects unlikely to meet targets includes, business studies, design & technology, geography, mathematics, music, physics and religious education. Primary might just make it, but there does seem to be some weakness in applications for early years courses.

In the secondary sector, higher education providers have added 370 offers to their totals since last month, compared with 20 additional recruits for SCITT courses, 70 for School Direct, and just 20 for the School Direct Salaried route. Higher education will still comfortably be training more than 50% of secondary recruits again this year, assuming that they all turn up when courses start. In the primary sector, School Direct added 150 recruits compared with 130 by higher education providers, and 40 by SCITTs. There was no change in the School Direct salaried route numbers compared with last month. Despite the good performance over the last month, School Direct will still only account for around 40% of postgraduate primary training, and a far smaller percentage of primary training overall once the undergraduate numbers have been taken into account.

At the time thesefigures were complied there were still 600 applicants with interviews outstanding and 2,320 applicants awaitng the result of an offer. To make a real difference all of these applicants would need to be accepted. Realistically, as these are UK figures, the total for England might end up around 28,000 or somewhere near 1,000 short of target by the time that courses start. Where there needs to be real concern, and rapid action by government, is in physics and design and technology. Both are vital to the national economy and both are facing a second year where recruitment will fall far short of target. The government will need to put in place credible solutions ahead of the general election or face charges that it doesn’t care about the teaching of these subjects in secondary schools.  Altohugh physics may be helped by the Teach First numbers not included in these figures or the Teacher Supply Model calculations, design and technology won’t receive any real boost from that source of entrants to the profession.

With courses commencing over the next three weeks and the need to take the Skills Tests before entry it seems unlikely that many more trainees will be recruited. The big concern now is to ensure all those with offers turn up when the course starts.

Still looking for teachers

As of Sunday three-quarters of the undergraduate teacher training courses in England were still in ‘clearing’. That was just over 30 courses. What was interesting was the large number of church universities that weren’t in clearing. Indeed, even if you exclude the University of Durham from the list of church universities, despite the historical association between its teacher education college and the Church of England, more than half the list of institutions not in clearing were church universities, with Reading, Leeds and London Metropolitan Universities being the three exceptions.

From a quick look through the clearing courses, secondary design and technology and some of the sports Science courses related to teaching, as well as primary teacher training courses are looking to fill their remaining places. Of course, the clearing lists don’t tell anything about how many places are still available. Is it one at each institution, a tiny percentage of the overall total, or a more substantial number? Perhaps how many courses are still in clearing in a couple of weeks time will provide a better indication of what is happening?

With the skills tests to pass, and most courses starting around the 15th of September, although one or two start at the beginning of the month, there is little time to spare, especially  with the bank holiday to be taken account of as well.

How far the switch of numbers resulting from some providers returning places, and the National College having had to reallocate them in the early summer to different providers, has led to so many institutions offering at least one teacher training place in clearing cannot be ascertain from the raw figures. However, as I have constantly said in the past, we need to ensure the best possible candidates are recruited into teaching.

The DfE is undertaking a study into recruitment and retention, and it might be helpful if they evaluate as a part of that study whether there are differential retention rates from the different types of training. We do need to know the true costs of all training routes if some have a lower retention rate than others.

If we assume a training cost of £10,000 per student per year allowing for expenditure not currently recovered through fees, then a five per cent difference in retention rates might cost several million pounds extra in training. For this reason alone, it is worth monitoring the different routes. However, since one route is never likely to be able to supply all the need for new entrants, it may be necessary to accept some differential wastage rates; but work to reduce them.

Nevertheless, if the main reasons for leaving the profession are retirement and for family reasons, it is worth looking hard at those other cases where some malfunction in the system has caused a person to quit the profession that they trained for. Teachers are a precious resource; we cannot afford to discard them lightly.  

What goes around, comes around

The news that the two professional associations representing the bulk of schools leaders are to collaborate on a new set of school information to help parents selecting schools reminded me of my first foray into this market nearly 30 years ago. The Parents’ Guide to Schools in London’s Commuterland wasn’t a commercial success for its publisher, but it did mark probably the first attempt to bring together in one place information about state secondary schools.

Before the famous Section 6 of the 1980 Education Act enshrined parental preference into law, and led to the publication of school prospectuses, and examination results, obtaining information was a bit of a hit and miss business. Even in the early 1980s, not all local authorities conformed to the spirit of the 1980 law. Curiously, it was often tightly controlled Labour authorities that could provide all prospectuses for all schools within the authority from one central point, whereas I well remember the suspicion of schools in Tory controlled Kent where there was no central distribution point, and it was a matter of contacting each school. Some even told me they only sent information to prospective parents after they had visited the school.

When I compiled my book, based upon a similar format for the New York area already being published by the New York Times, I was clear it was a geographical listing and not a set of league tables because that was too simplistic a representation: a point currently being made by the head teachers. So complicated was my guide that the accompanying notes to help parents understand each entry ran to three pages. This may help explain why it was not a commercial success. However, I think it more likely that arranging schools in geographical order allowed parents to brose in bookshops and obtain the key information without paying the £6.95 required to buy the book. With hindsight, I might have made my fortune if the publisher had created a hardback version at a much higher price and sold it exclusively to estate agents. But, it was a case of, live and learn, as this was my first venture into commercial publishing as an author. As it was also the publishers’ first venture into typesetting a book completely from computer output on disk; a fact that allowed it to be produced within six weeks from disk to bookshelf.

One sign of the times was that in 1986 I included the different types of IT systems schools operated, as well as all the Examination Boards they used. This was because the guide was originally conceived as an aid to parents moving into a new area that knew nothing about the local schools. Such parents, and their offspring, are still largely ignored in the debates about the presentation of school information but remain an important group across the country. Many parents faced with a job move confront the agonising choice of weekly commuting or a house and school move. Often the house move is still the easy part, but the school move needs considerable research. In that respect the head teachers can help this group with how they present the information. After all, those living in the area are still as likely to focus on gossip and school gate recollections as on hard facts, whereas incomers have a real need for quality and easily interpretable information: something the DfE data has never been.

Below, I have reproduced an entry from my 1986 guide.

High School

Address and phone number

County Comprehensive Mixed- a mixed comprehensive schools

Formed in 1984 from the merger of two existing schools

Intake 150 Staying on rate NA  HE rate NA

Microcomputers 10 RML 480Z (network); 10 BBC B

Exam Boards RSA, P, C+G

English 30%; Maths 11% of whole year group passing

1985 ‘O’ level exam results % of entries with A-C grades































Features: 1st year taught in mixed ability groups. Yrs 2/3 same curriculum with Ger for those able. Ability bands in 4/5th yrs with English, maths, RE, PE and games, health ed and a possible 6 other subj. Remedial ed available on individual or small group basis. Careers guidance in timetable in yrs 4/5. Extended library, completely refurbished gymnasium and bldg programme well on its way. Swimming pool. The school has a uniform. Many activities incl animal care, chess, computing, karting and models. Brass band, orchestra, music theory, recorder group and music/drama productions. Most sports incl keep fit and squash. Skiing journeys with lesson dry slopes. European journeys vary each yr. Annual visit to Hamburg. Youth Club activities 2 evenings a week.

1985 ‘A’ level Examination Results numbers passing (numbers entered)

Eng 9[10]; Maths 6[9]; Fr2[3]; Phy 8[11]]; Chem 2[6]; Biol 1[3]; Geog 5[10]; Hist 1[1]; Econ 7[12]; Ger 1[1]; Art 5[6]; RE 2[3]; Tech 2[2]

If music be the food of love …

Shakespeare wasn’t the only one to have views on music. For many it has been the jewel in the crown of local education services, as successive Secretaries of State have discovered down the years. Michael Gove was just the latest holder of the office to discover that you tamper with the provision of music at your peril.

The government’s review of the vexed question of how to fund schools, or at least that part of it that dealt with the Education Services Gant for 2015-16 drew what the DfE called ‘large volumes of responses to the consultation on ESG relating to the provision of music services’. Many who responded to the DfE were apparently concerned that reduced local authority support for music services would impact on the overall quality of music provision, and in particular on the opportunities for disadvantaged children. Indeed, as the DfE noted, few concerns were expressed about any other centrally provided services by Education Departments. Whether the point about disadvantaged children was because authorities know such children represent a government priority group or whether it was because they felt that Pupil Premium cash wouldn’t find its way into music lessons despite the evidence about music and learning, and in particular mathematics learning, isn’t of course clear. But, perhaps I am being a tad too cynical in my old age.

The government is funding £75 million for music hubs in 2015-16, but perhaps the concern is that these don’t always follow local authority boundaries.  

Perhaps music is a service that could be granted extra funds through a top-slice by schools forums on revenue balances more than 3% above the expected levels of 5% for secondary schools and 8% for primary schools. This might encourage some schools to think about why they are keeping this cash in the bank. This negative use of revenue funding is an unfortunate by-product of school autonomy that the DfE should allocate some time to fix.

It seems likely that the battle of music in schools is not yet over. For, although, as the DfE points out, local authorities can spend ESG money on supporting music services, and presumably any other spare cash they have lying around, most local authorities don’t have the money, and many councillors don’t see the point of funding anything to do with schools now they are no longer a local service. Thus, it seems likely that future secretaries of state are going to have to continue to dip their hand in the Westminster pocket if music is to continue to thrive in our schools much beyond the next election.

Personally, I think that it would be a great shame if one of the key antidotes to an exam factory style of curriculum were allowed to wither on the vine. Music is not just important in our schools, it is important in our daily lives, and whether classic, jazz or pop, a major export industry, much of which starts from the roots put down in our schools. So, whether or not it is the ‘food of love’ it has certainly been the bane of many secretaries of state.

Pay rise a possibility?

At the end of July the Chief Secretary to the Treasury wrote to the members of the School Teachers’ Review Body – currently without an appointed chairperson – about their work in the forthcoming year. Unlike the letter to the Health Review Body, the letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body does at least accept that there may well be a case for a pay rise for teachers next year if there are staffing problems; albeit probably another year within a one per cent envelope.

Clearly, the government will need to be persuaded that recruitment and retention issues are affecting teaching as a profession since this factor is the main justification that the government will accept for pay increases. At least, with rising pupil numbers, and the Pupil Premium cash available to schools, there should be little reason for the government to argue that pay should be held down because schools cannot afford to pay any increase. To do so would be to fly in the face of the mantra of the past four years that funding for schools has been protected just at the time when the Chief Secretary acknowledges in the letter that the fiscal forecast shows the public finances returning to a more sustainable position.

At this blog has steadfastly maintained, there is a developing recruitment crisis in terms of attracting sufficient numbers of graduates of the required quality into teaching. A short-term solution would create a competitive starting point for new a teacher that is equivalent to salaries for graduates already having spent a year in the labour market in order to compensate for the extra year of training. An alternative would be to pay everyone a training wage at least equivalent to the £24,000+ paid to graduates training at Sandhurst pro rata for the different lengths of the training courses.  The Treasury, and presumably the Chief Secretary, wouldn’t like this as they would have to pay for many that would opt to train as a teacher anyway. But, no such test is applied to whether or not the British Army, and indeed the other services, has the same recruitment difficulties attracting graduates and could ask for both the training fees as well as payment for board and lodging most trainee teachers are expected to fund.

The professional associations will already be preparing their submissions to the Review Body, and I am sure that recruitment, and possibly retention, issues will feature strongly. The evidence of earlier posts on this blog suggests a situation certainly no better than last year, and possibly worse in some subjects. However, it will be November and the ITT census before the real position is known.

As a result of this delay in gathering information, and the lack of real-time information on trainees movement into employment that still exists, I am working to find a way to gather this information quickly, easily and cheaply. Thirty years ago I started tracking the leadership labour market in real-time; and as seemingly nobody else is doing it for the wider profession, unlike in other countries, I suppose I must show how it can be done here.

In Memoriam

To commemorate the anniversary of the start of world War 1 

History Tour  (The Somme)

On the signalled route, crawls

A bus; jammed in convoy.

Far from usual destinations.

Taking a load of boys

Along the roads of France

Towards the cemetery.


Their voices full, in songs of

youth as, at the front, the

Leaders listen for the spirit,

But worry, as leaders do,

About the future.


In blazing sun, all align

To assault the first objective.

It marks our examination point.

The Cross of Remembrance;

For those who had no second chance.


Now, I would be dead.

I gaze upon the headstone’s

Name, rank and regiment, an

Infantryman who died today.

We share a birthday.

Tomorrow I have outlived him

No July bullet, to stop me in my tracks.

Is History feelings, not just facts.


Was this his first encounter?

Volunteer from service, exchanging

One country billet for another.

This first sight of battle his last.

Ten minutes fear, to end like this.

A thin line of boys plodding upwards

To meet the scything guns. Man against

Machine, mass production death.

The  factory of war producing the

Colourful, silent black of death.