Reclaiming Education – conference talk

What follows below is the written text of the talk I gave on Saturday at the Reclaiming education conference. The string of conferences and other talks I am giving between Saturday and the end of the month has rather restricted my time for other posts. After the event, I will upload the text of the various talks to this blog and report on the ITT census, hopefully on Thursday.

We are facing the largest increase in pupil numbers since the 1970s that even under normal circumstances would put a strain on the system in terms of producing enough teachers to meet the demands of the labour market. But;

With salaries uncompetitive in comparison with those for graduates a year after they have completed their degrees;

the pressure to teach every child to the maximum of their potential increasing workload;

a workforce with the largest number of women of childbearing age since maternity leave was introduced;

a housing market that makes it unattractive for teachers to work in large parts of the south of England and

a teacher preparation system lacking a long-term agreed plan that will guarantee places where they are needed to meet the requirements of schools

there are significant challenges if we are to continue to improve our school system. Additionally, the lack of a coherent governance system probably doesn’t help.

Of course, if you are a PE teacher that trained in the North East you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. You may well not have a teaching job, and if you do, it may well not be teaching PE or only for a part of the week. Even so, this is not just a problem of London and the South East, although that’s where it is at its worse; possibly in parts of Essex and Hertfordshire and other authorities where the out-dated funding formula affects the funds schools receive.

The DfE policy decisions that underpin the Teacher Supply Model will force secondary schools towards EBacc subjects and away from the other curriculum areas as despite rising pupil numbers training targets have been reduced for 2017 for almost all non-Ebacc subjects.

In primary, the situation is even more challenging. If the TSM figure is too low, as many seems to think it is,  then by 2017 there may be recruitment difficulties that no National Teaching Service will be able to prevent. There is will almost certainly be more problems with equality issues in the profession as a result of the recruitment controls being used this year. I am on record in my blog wondering whether they might be imposed in PE before the end of this month in view of the number of applications already in the system. (see recruitment controls 2)

Of course, the export industry that is using UK trained teachers to teach children from other countries won’t be affected by a teacher shortage so long as they can put up the fees to pay higher salaries to attract teachers.

In the end it will be an understanding of economics that will solve the problem of teacher supply. When something is in short supply you either ration it or allow the price to rise to a level that satisfies demand. I cannot see this government wanting to ration the supply of teachers into the market; at least not directly. In some ways the distribution of training places, and especially those through school direct, could be seen as a form of rationing, but a very crude one.

However, if price is used – and we can see the pricing of physics graduates has increased for 2017 with the rise to £30,000 in a small number of bursaries. Although I see that more as a marketing exercise to create a headline for the advertising campaign rather than a real attempt to tackle the problem. I think that will come later if greater efforts on the part of government and NCTL don’t pay off.

I expect that next week when the ITT census is published we will learn that there are more trainees in 2015 than in 2014, but not I think enough to meet the TSM targets in many subjects. Still, the government is likely to announce any increase in EBacc subject recruitment as good news and I suppose it certainly isn’t bad news. Whether achieving increased trainee numbers by allowing around 50%+ of all applicants to be offered places is a good idea is something we can debate later.

So, on to solutions.

Well, better marketing is clearly stage 1 of the process and that is now happening.

Make teaching an attractive career. This helps retention and probably involves doing something about workload. What are the workload implications for teaching children as individuals rather than as classes, especially in the secondary sector?

As some of you know from my blog, I am not an enthusiast of the present system of bursaries that I think is difficult to market and inequitable. I would prefer a return to the pre-2010 situation of abated fees and a training grant for all entrants to the profession. After all, if it is good enough for cadet officers at Sandhurst, it should surely be good enough for trainee teachers wherever they train.

Without sufficient teachers in training not only will schools have to spend more money on recruitment until they have all switched to TeachVac our free service that matches school needs with teachers and trainees job requests. Why pay private companies and their profits when you can use a free service set up by those that understand the needs of the teaching profession.

Finally, shortages in training now have consequences for years to come. If we take D&T as an example:

In 2012 there were 1,200 trainees –about 103% of TSM need. This means about 500 remaining after 5 years, enough to satisfy the demand for heads of department and other middle leaders in the subject. In 2015 there were around 450 entrants to the profession meaning around 150 are likely to remain by 2020; not enough to provide an adequate supply of middle leaders.


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