The Select Committee and teacher supply

Yesterday morning was an interesting experience. I spend forty minutes alongside three other leading authorities on teacher preparation and supply appearing in front of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. This august body was taking evidence about the current state of recruitment into the profession and employment opportunities for teachers.

As might be expected, the general tone from everyone, except the Minister in the final session, was gloomy with the emphasis on targets not met and the challenges schools face when looking for new teaching staff. The Minister was right to emphasise the increased number of teachers in the profession, but along with the data on entrants to training he must ensure civil servants provide clarity on the basis for the figures. Did his comparison with last year exclude or include Teach First numbers in both sets of numbers he quoted. It would be unhelpful if 2014 data didn’t include Teach First but 2015 did, since the comparison wouldn’t have been based on a similar measure. This can be checked when the transcript appears.

What is also interesting is the data revealed in an answer Lord Nash gave on the 7th December to a written question in the House of Lords. From that information it is possible to identify success against target for the four key routes into teaching; higher education; SCITTs; School Direct fee and School Direct salaried. The rates are important because some of the routes into teaching provide more trainees for the free pool of job hunters that aren’t necessarily going to be snapped up by those responsible for preparing them for the profession than do other routes.

There is an interesting debate to be had around any route that is especially selective in its entry standards and then offers employment to all those on that route into teaching. This would leave others schools not so fortunate with a much more limited access to the trainee market. One solution would be for all schools to become involved in training. However, it only matters if some routes are better at filling the places allocated.

The table shows the percentage of allocated places filled in 2015 as reported in the answer to the PQ

  HEI SCITT SD – Fee SD – Salaried
Total 88 65 54 70
Primary 104 77 71 89
Secondary 77 57 45 56
English 142 57 60 82
Mathematics 72 51 34 47
D&T 42 47 31 77
History 108 82 85 79
Geography 93 40 38 45

On the basis of the figures in the table, there is a risk that recruitment controls in history and English might create a shortfall in 2016 with knock-on effects on the teacher labour market in 2017 if the same pattern were to develop as last year.

The effects of the controls will need to be watched very carefully in case school recruitment doesn’t take over from higher education courses once they have been capped. Recruitment controls rely upon applicants wanting to enter teaching by any route and not being wedded to a university course. Should that not prove the case, and there was a discussion about how far trainees were now prepared to travel to study to enter the profession during the Select Committee session, further action might need to be taken quickly.

Of course, allocations aren’t the TSM number and are set high in some subjects, but why did schools only manage to fill a third of their allocations in design & technology. In mathematics, might the bursary provide a better return to some candidates than the salaried route in terms of effort and cash on offer?

Hopefully, as the recruitment round for 2016 unfolds there will be room for dialogue between the DfE and other partners, even if it might have to be managed through the Select Committee.

My evidence to the Select Committee can be read on their page devoted to the inquiry at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/education-committee/supply-of-teache rs/written/24299.html

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3 thoughts on “The Select Committee and teacher supply

  1. John

    Given Gibb’s refusal to admit defeat, Teach First’s drawing off of ‘leaders’, and the byzantine complexity of routes into teaching now, it makes you wonder if something else isn’t going on.

    If as consultants tell us there’s a War For Talent then the government is not exactly making it easy for schools to recruit or retain.

    Isn’t it then that they would rather have all Talent working in business, generating tax revenue and lessening the burden on the state, and while talking of recruiting ‘best & brightest ever’ etc, in fact really want as many people as possible to stay away from teaching?

    • Not if you think it through. Failure in the education system leads to downstream costs for government. The cost to the State of one pupil that is excluded after being taught by an unqualified teacher and falls into a life of crime ending up in prison is far greater as a burden on the State for the remainder of their life than if they had been taught by competent qualified teachers.

      If the Tory party wants to stay in government it cannot just rely upon the weakness of its opponents but must manage the State effectively. More worrying is the lack of appreciation of the need for a curriculum that is wider than just EBacc.
      John Howson

      • Interesting. Highlights a tension in government perhaps between the business of government and the business of running governnent like a business.

        If they want quality school staff, then maybe they need more of the former thinking and less of the latter.

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