Hopefully not a fool’s paradise

At this time of year we start to expect to see the conditional offers for the various ITT places made by providers turned into firm ‘placed’ students. After all, degree results should have been confirmed by now and the bulk of those offered places should have taken and passed the pre-entry skills tests, so there ought to be nothing to stop candidates confirming that they will be taking up their place. As a result, it is a little worrying to see in the UCAS data published yesterday that the percentage of those with offers regarded as ‘placed’ is in some secondary subjects is below where it was at this point last year. There are also more than 100 fewer candidates holding offers than at this point last year. Now that shouldn’t matter in subjects where recruitment controls mean few applicants have been offered places in recent months, but lower numbers holding offers in physics and IT might mean these subjects will struggle to fill all their available places.

After analysing the available data, it seems to me, barring any last minute hiccups, that languages, PE, history, geography, English, biology and art should meet their targets for recruitment. On the other hand, RE, physics, music, mathematics and IT look as if they are unlikely to do so. The jury is out on chemistry and business studies. The latter may well meet the government target, but that target is woefully short of the demand for these teachers in the real world.  It is difficult to know what is happening in design and technology because UCAS have reported the data in a different way this year to previous years, so we have no real comparison to judge application by.

There is a serious question to be asked by the new ministerial team about how well the present arrangements are delivering sufficient trainees on the different routes into teaching. The following data looks only at the secondary sector. The diversion of places away from universities means 200 few placed candidates, but 700 more conditional placed applications compared with this point last year among He providers. Fortunately, there are 250 more applications in the holding offer status. SCITTs have more placed and conditionally placed than at this point last year, but fewer holding offers than this point last year.

Among School Direct, the fee route has 30 fewer placed trainees, but 750 more conditionally placed and about the same number holding offers. For the School Direct salaried route, there are 100 fewer placed, but 210 more conditionally placed and 30 fewer holding an offer.

What happens to the ‘conditionally placed’ applications over the next month will determine the shape of the 2017 recruitment round for schools, since these are the new teachers entering the labour market next year. Overall, there are 270 fewer applicants across all countries than at this point last year, with the majority of the reduction being in England. The good news, well relative good news, is that the gender balance has remained the same as last year at about one third men to two thirds women. UCAS don’t provide data on ethnicity of applicants.

The Social Bank of Mum and Dad

I am grateful to BBC Radio Tees for alerting me to this Report by the Prince’s Trust that highlights the work they have been doing across the United Kingdom for the past 40 years. The Report can be accessed at https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about-the-trust/news-views/social-bank-of-mum-dad with the full report available by clicking on the side bar

According to the findings in the report; 44% of young people from poorer backgrounds say they didn’t know anyone who could help them find a job, compared to 26% of their more advantaged peers. Young people from poorer backgrounds are also less likely than their more affluent peers to have had help writing a CV, filling out a job application, preparing for an interview, or finding work experience or a first job thanks to “the social bank of mum and dad”.

  • While 20% of all young people polled found some work experience through their parents, only 10% of young people from a poorer background said they did
  • More than a quarter of young people from a poorer background (26%) think that people like them do not get good jobs, compared to 8% of their peers
  • More than a quarter of those from a poorer background (27%) feel their family “did not know how to support me when I left school”
  • More than half of young people (54%) “rarely” or “never” received help from their family with their homework.

The next generation are our untapped resource for the future of this country, even more so after the country’s decision to exit the EU.

So, what the BBC asked me, can parents do? I am sure many of you will have better ideas than me and will post them by way of advice. However, in the short time one has in a live radio interview I chose to dwell on the transfer from primary to secondary school. The importance of that transfer cannot be over-estimated and I wonder whether it is where many parents start to think they are less helpful and supportive of their children and live and schooling becomes more of a battle. Parents understand primary schools, as it is all about the basics of learning and easy to provide support. Secondary school is about subject knowledge and parents can quickly feel left behind. Good supportive schools recognise this trend and put mechanisms in place to help: but more could be achieved.

Building social capital is important and government has a role to play here by not downgrading careers education and work experience. How about some virtual work experience in areas of high unemployment to widen horizons with young people working on-line in successful companies. This might also help to show companies in successful parts of the country that there is this great untapped resource of able and enthusiastic young people waiting to be discovered in many areas of high unemployment. It is as much about moving employers out of their comfort zones and telling young people ‘to get on their bike.

Although it is worth noting that many young people that go to university do just that and willingly leave home. This may be because they know that they will be joining a community of like-minded young people. Can we learn something from that willingness to travel?




Something for everyone

As I reported last week, TeachVac has submitted updated evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee Inquiry into ‘the supply of teachers’. Perforce that evidence was of a general and summary nature. However, it does seem to have been the only comment so far on the 2016 recruitment round. There is also little discussion about what 2017 might look like on the evidence of applications to train as a teacher.

Over the weekend, I took the opportunity of looking in more detail at where the secondary and all-through schools with the most number of recorded advertisements for classroom teachers so far in 2016 are located. Now, this first look is very crude, as it doesn’t standardise for the size of a school and it stands to reason that larger schools are likely to have a greater turnover, as are new schools. Other factors affecting the number of adverts a school might place could be the result of an adverse Osfted inspection or a sudden growth in popularity and hence an increase in pupil numbers requiring more teachers to be appointed.

Leaving all these factors aside, a clear national trend stand out for the second year in succession: London dominates the top of the table for schools with the most advertisements so far in 2016.

Top 50 schools for recorded number of advertisements in 2016 by region where the school is located

  • London                  23
  • South East             11
  • East of England     6
  • West Midlands      6
  • South West             2
  • North East               1
  • North West              1

There were no schools in either the East Midlands or Yorkshire & The Humber recorded as in the top 50 schools with the most recorded advertisements.

This pattern backs up the data TeachVac provided exclusively for the BBC regional radio and TV stations in June.

So, for many schools in the north of England, concerns, where they even exist, are often limited to recruitment issues in specific shortage subjects, whereas in London and the Home Counties the problem looks to be more of a general one of finding classroom teachers in many subjects.

This data is confined to secondary school classroom teacher vacancies, as that is the area of greatest concern. The fact that our survey last week also revealed schools in London were still advertising a substantial number of School Direct vacancies on the UCAS web site must be a further cause for concern, and a worry for the 2017 recruitment round.

These numbers also suggest that trialling the National Teaching Service in the North West and Yorkshire might have been sensible, because a smaller number of schools might be looking for teachers, but there might also be fewer teachers looking to move schools in those areas, so the supply of experienced teachers willing to work in challenging schools might indeed be less than elsewhere.

Over the rest of the summer I will drill down into the data and I hope to report some findings at the BERA Conference in Leeds this September. In the meantime, if anyone wants to ask a question do get in touch.

More banned from schools

What’s the matter with schools on the south coast? An analysis of the recently published data on exclusions in the 2014-15 school year reveals that five of the eleven south coast authorities were in the worst 20 local authority areas for fixed term exclusion in the primary sector. Three of the smaller authorities, Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton had among the worst rate of fixed-term exclusions in the primary sector of all 151 authorities. Only Dorset and the Isle of Wight bettered the national average among south coast authorities.

At the secondary level, the Isle of Wight has one of the highest rates for fixed-term exclusions, but other authorities seem to fare better with their older children. Of course, the data cannot explain the reasons behind why schools in the south have performed so badly last year. Is it an effect of the recruitment challenge in primary schools; is it a result of the increase in pupil numbers affecting the size of schools or is it a lack of behaviour management skills among new teachers entering the profession. Is the last, why aren’t other areas affected? Could it be the first signs of budgetary pressures affecting some schools?

More worrying was the fact that 2014-15 saw an increase in exclusion rates. As the Statistical Bulletin noted: ‘The greatest increase in the number of permanent exclusions was in secondary schools, where there were 4,790 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 compared to 4,000 in 2013/14. This corresponded to an increase in the rate of permanent exclusions from 0.13 per cent in 2013/14 to 0.15 per cent (15 pupils per 10,000) in 2014/15.https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2014-to-2015

Any increase in exclusions is disappointing, an increase in permanent exclusions in the secondary sector potentially means 790 more young people face severe disruption to their lives while another school is found for them. However, the longer-term trend, for rate of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools at 0.07 is still on a downward trend since 2006/07 when the rate was 0.12 per cent. Nevertheless, 31 children are permanently excluded every day.

As the Bulletin also noted, Persistent disruptive behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools – accounting for 1,900 (32.8 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2014/15. This is equivalent to two permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils. It is also the most common reason for fixed period exclusions. The 79,590 fixed period exclusions for persistent disruptive behaviour in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools made up 26.3 per cent of all fixed period exclusions, up from 25.3 per cent in 2013/14. This is equivalent to around one fixed period exclusion per 100 pupils. Physical assault against an adult is the most common reason for fixed period exclusion from special schools – accounting for around a third of permanent exclusions and a quarter of fixed period exclusions in 2014/15. The figures for assault sin special schools suggest that more and better staff training may be needed since the very fact these pupils are no in a mainstream school hints at the potentially challenging nature of their behaviour. It would also be helpful to know whether the person assaulted was a teacher or other adult in the school or even someone responsible for helping the child travel to and from school.

As ever, boys are more likely to be excluded than girls and certain ethnic groups have higher than average exclusion rates, as do pupils receiving free school meals.

Looking at leadership

There has been renewed interest in the issue of school leadership recently. Partly this is because of a concern that there might not be enough candidates to fill the vacancies being recorded. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of good data around to explain what is happening at present. Between 1983 and 2012, I collected regular information on the turnover of school leaders, publishing two reports each year for many years, before stopping in 2012 when there was little interest in the topic. That was a mistake that I now acknowledge. Hopefully TeachVac www.teachvac.com will start to put that right from the autumn.

In the TeachVac’s evidence to the Commons Select Committee inquiry on Teacher Supply submitted last autumn we raised the issue of why some schools find it a challenge to secure a new head teachers? We concluded that:

Since the abolition of a compulsory qualification for headship – the NPQH – it has been difficult to know objectively, in advance, whether the number of aspiring head teachers meets the likely demand. Now that the bulge in retirement numbers has passed, the demand for head teachers should have returned to a figure more in line with long-term demand. However, a number of factors, including the creation of new schools such as Free Schools, UTCs, Studio Schools and new academies, as well as Executive Heads of multi-academy trusts, has probably increased the demand for head teachers to a level above the long-term trend, especially in the secondary sector.

Over the past quarter century, a number of factors have affected the labour market for new head teachers. Faith schools, and especially Roman Catholic schools within that group of schools, have consistently found it more of a challenge to recruit new head teachers than community schools. This may have been partly a reflection of the changing nature of society in England.

More generally, any school that has one or more factors from the following list may have experienced greater difficulty in recruiting a school leader;

  • size – both very small and very large;
  • limited age range – infant, junior or middle compared with primary or secondary;
  • single sex schools;
  • limited section of the ability range;
  • some specific types of special schools where relocation is necessary due to the small number of such schools;
  • time of year vacancy occurs if outside the key January to March period;
  • unusually low salary;
  • performance, especially on Ofsted inspections but also in examination or key stage results.

Finally, geography can play a part. In regions where house prices are higher than average this may restrict the number of applicants willing to move into the area but permit outward movement from possible candidates for headship. There has also been concern about areas with limited hinterlands such as coastal fringes of England. Areas where there may be limited scope for work for a partner may also be less attractive to potential head teachers. There are exceptions to these rules, but the occasional outstanding new head does not provide a solution to any specific problem.

TeachVac evidence to Education Select Committee http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/education-committee/supply-of-teachers/written/24299.html

These factors all still apply.

Interestingly, as the Inquiry hasn’t yet reported, TeachVac took the opportunity to submit some further evidence on the 2016 recruitment round. There appears to be some formatting issues with the non-pdf version, so best to use:  http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/education-committee/supply-of-teachers/written/35068.pdf

As an update on leadership, I looked at the number of people in the primary sector that were not head teachers, but were shown as on the Leadership Scale in the 2015 School Workforce Census. This group is generally where the appointment of new head teachers come from after allowing for head teachers changing schools.

There were 14,200 people in the key 30-44 age groups identified in the census as on the Leadership Scale working in the primary sector, but not a head teacher. Assume a 60:40 split between deputies and assistant heads; the census isn’t specific, so this is something of a guess. That would leave 8,650 possible deputies. Now assume a ten year tenure, so 20% might be too early in their appointment as a deputy to seek a headship. This reduces the pool to around 7,000. Some of these won’t have aspirations to progress to a headship. Allow a further 20% in that category and you are left with around 5,500 for possibly 1,200 posts in a typical year, based on past experience. This is a ratio of 4.5:1. Of course, some posts will attract more applicants, but other will attract fewer for the reasons stated above.

Now if you take out the 30-34 age group as generally being too inexperienced for a headship, you are left with 10,100 on which to base the calculations. This brings the ratio down to around 3.5:1; not a healthy enough number to ensure an adequate supply before the issue of quality and aptitude is factored into any equation. I have also been reminded of a recent NAHT Edge survey of middle leaders/deputies which indicated that only 36% aspired to headship. Were that to be the case, then these numbers might look just a bit scary.


Now there’s a surprise

The new Secretary of State for Education has invented an updated variation of the Jo Moore outcome. This approach, readers will recall, was about issuing bad news on a busy news day so it didn’t receive much coverage. The current variation is to issue an important announcement at the end of a parliamentary term, either because you really need to say something or because it might receive less notice than at another time.

Anyway today’s announcement is the long awaited postponement of the second stage consultation on a National Funding formula for schools. http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statements/commons/?page=2

The gist of the statement in a written answer reads as follows;

I will therefore publish the government’s full response to the first stage of the schools and high needs consultations and set out my proposals for the second stage once Parliament returns in the autumn. We will run a full consultation, and make final decisions early in the new year. Given the importance of consulting widely and fully with the sector and getting implementation right, the new system will apply from 2018-19.

All this is, of course, subject to whether there is a general election in the autumn. So, for 2017-18 and I assume for September 2017 for academies, it is business as usual based on the present funding regimes up to age 16. Presumably Schools Forums around the country will have to agree the formula to be used locally at a meeting early in the autumn term.

The delay in taking the concept of a national funding formula forward is frustrating to those authorities that might see an increase, but a reprieve for areas such as London that could be losers under the new arrangements. How schools will react is difficult to tell, but I suspect that where budgets are under pressure already, despite the guarantees for pre-16 funding, schools will take a cautious line, especially while post-16 numbers are still in decline.

So, is this a new Secretary of State acting responsibly or admitting defeat because it is just too difficult a challenge in the present economic climate where there won’t be enough money to buy off potential losers? Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the autumn.

By 2018-19 the growth in the school population will mean that for there to be any winners the Treasury is going to have to find more money for education. The Treasury is also going to have to accept that universities are already factoring in increases in student fees to £9,250 for 2017 and one step the DfE might take is to review why universities are charging the same amount for classroom-based subjects as for science and technology subjects. Anything they learn from that investigation might helpfully be considered in the light of the needs of UTCs that are funded at the same rate as other schools despite higher revenue expenditure, as I have pointed out before in this blog.

So should we thank the Secretary of State for putting everyone out of their misery for another year or attack her lack of willingness to move a challenging issue forward? Tough call, but not for under-funded schools in areas such as Oxfordshire.

End of an era

This week  marks the retirement of Baroness Sharp of Guildford from the House of Lords and witnesses the departure from front-line politics of the last of a trio of important female Liberal Democrats politicians, all of whom have been very have been influential in different areas of education.  Baroness Sharp’s departure follows the retirement of Baroness Shirley Williams earlier this year and the decision of Dame Annette Brooke not to contest the 2015 General election.

Baroness Sharp was elevated to the peerage in 1998 and has resolutely fought the higher education corner in the upper house on behalf of the Liberal Democrats ever since. Baroness Sharp’s political career began in the early 1980s when she joined the newly formed SDP  and was selected to stand in Guildford  in the 1983 general election. She fought three further elections in Guildford for the SDP and then the Liberal Democrats, gradually squeezing a 20,000 majority down to 4,500 and preparing the way for Liberal Democrat victory in the election of 2001.

On the national scene she has played an active part in policy making, chairing a number of policy working groups and for several years being vice-chair to Paddy Ashdown on the Party’s main policy committee.

As leader of higher and further education policy group, who produced the paper ‘Quality, Diversity and Choice’ for the Party.

Baroness Williams was one of the founders of the SDP and had previously been an education secretary during the Labour government of the late 1970s. Created a Life peer in 1993, Baroness Williams played an important background role in education for the Party in her role as a senior politician of wide experience. Her great speaking ability motivated many audiences in both the conference hall and at fringe meetings during many Liberal Democrat conferences over the years.

Dame Annette Brooke was a former teacher who, at the time she stood down from parliament, had attained the distinction of the longest serving female Lib Dem MP. Her contribution to education was mainly, but not exclusively, in the field of early years’ education which she championed with great vigour and expertise and help the Party to develop a significant policy base in this important but previously under-represented area.

All three of these politicians helped further the Liberal Democrat cause in developing a Party that has a deep and abiding interest in education. Over the years, I have been privileged to have been able to work closely with both Baroness Sharp and Annette Brooke. As the Lib Dem’s fortunes revive over the next few years, it will be important for a new generation of politicians to fill the shoes of these three women that have each done so much to help the Party achieve an understanding of the importance of education to society and to promote it through its policy agenda.