Regular readers will have noticed the absence of posts on this blog during the past few weeks. This is mainly because I have been involved in the general election as the Lib Dem candidate for the Banbury Constituency. This was an interesting exercise, and will probably be the subject of a discussion in more depth in another post.
Compared with previous elections education didn’t really hit the headlines very much during the campaign; although I am pleased that it featured on the front of the Lib Dem manifesto and that public sector pay increases and extending free school meals to all primary pupils were on offer as part of the Lib Dem campaign announcements. Even tuition fees didn’t really feature all that much in the debates.
So what else has been happening? The DfE stopped publishing statistics after 31st March when parliament was dissolved. The last to appear showed the continued improvement in attendance levels by pupils. However, buried in the numbers was a possible interesting issue of rural attendance and also data that could initiate the need for a discussion as to why school attendance is so poor in parts of the relatively affluent South East of England? If there’s time, I will discuss that concern in more detail in another post.
Teacher supply was an area of interest following the teacher associations annual conferences. I was surprised, and not a little disappointed, to see the General Secretary of ATL use data from 2011 – data from during the height of the recession – to discuss recruitment and staying-on rates for teachers in 2015. It may well be that in London and the South East more teachers will leave during their first year, but in 2011 the problem for many teachers was finding a job in the first place. This year the problem for some schools has been finding a teacher at all.
TeachVac, our free recruitment site for schools, trainees and now all secondary school teachers, has tracked sufficient vacancies in business studies and social studies to have exhausted the 2014/15 cohort of trainees. Design & Technology might well see its trainee pool eliminated next week. If you want to know the details for other subjects then register at www.teachvac.co.uk either as a school or a teacher and then download the full report.
Even more worrying is the fact that applications to train for 2015 through the UCAS graduate process remain stubbornly some 5,000 below the end of April last year. Even on a 20% conversion rate that would put acceptances at 1,000 below last year: and there weren’t enough trainees in many subjects last year. In my mind, the teacher supply issue is the number one problem facing the new Secretary of State and it is time for some radical thinking. This is especially the case as Teach First, the government supported charity also seems to be struggling to attract applicants into teaching in some subject areas; at least at levels compared with recent years.
So, now it is back to business and it will be interesting to see how quickly the last few weeks are relegated to the history books.