Teacher Recruitment – The text of a talk to senior leaders in Birmingham

Earlier today I talked to a workshop for senior school leaders in Birmingham. I have posted the substance of my talk below for anyone interested, whether from Birmingham or elsewhere.

Is there a crisis in teacher recruitment? When I was growing up in the 1950s there was a radio programme called the Brains Trust where one panellist often started his remarks with ‘it all depends upon what you mean by ..’. I guess that is a good starting point here. It all depends upon what you mean by a recruitment crisis.

Since every child must have a teacher for every lesson on the timetable and we don’t send large numbers away untaught, the government is right to say, ‘crisis, what crisis’ in absolute terms. But, dig a little deeper and the certainty of that statement looks a little less secure.

How can we measure the possibility of a crisis?

There are two key indicators;

  • The intake into teacher preparation courses compared with determined need
  • The percentage of pupils or lessons taught by appropriately qualified teachers.

Another indicator, developed by TeachVac, is to consider whether different types of school have different recruitment experiences? Interestingly, the DfE has recently started to look at the evidence on this point in relation to retention and they recently published their first paper looking at the results from the School Workforce Census over the past 5 years.

But, let’s start at the beginning.

The DfE decides on training numbers using the Teacher Supply Model. After years of secrecy, this is now published each year, although not many people seem to make use of it. From the Model’s output the NCTL/DfE allocate places to providers on Teach First, the 2 School Direct routes, on SCITTs and to higher education and other providers.

Each November, the DfE publishes the ITT census that reveals the numbers on preparation courses and hence the likely number of new teachers that will enter the labour market the following year because the vast majority of those training to become teachers in secondary schools are on one-year programmes – Teach First is the main exception and until last year was outwith the TSM calculations.

Thus, intending teachers fall into 2 key groups; firstly, those on programmes where they enter the classroom almost straight away – Teach First and SD salaried – and where many will presumably stay at the school where they are working after completing training, assuming that they stay in teaching.

The remainder of trainees are what might be called the ‘free pool’ of possible new entrants since their preparation course doesn’t tie them in any way to a particular school, although some will be offered a teaching post in the schools where they are placed during their course.

This distinction is important because in some subjects, English is a good example, the difference between the ‘free pool’ and the trainee total number can now be quite significant. The total trainee number in the 2015 census for English was 2,283 trainees, but the free pool – after allowing for non-completers – was just under 1,400 trainees; a difference of around 900. This is a substantial number potentially not available to all schools. After all, schools with trainees outside the ‘free pool’ can also fish in that pool if they need to, but it may be harder for schools that rely on the ’free pool’ to tempt other trainees away to their school from the other routes.

In this way the re-orientation of the teacher preparation market may be having consequences the government has yet to fully understand. We will be discussing the possible apprenticeship model later: but where those numbers come from will affect the size of the ‘free pool’; quite dramatically so if they reduce new entrants in Year 1 of the other routes in some subjects.

So, let’s go back to the beginning again. Is there a recruitment into training crisis?

We can classify secondary subjects into three groups

Those where the national answer is No; PE, history, Art and languages, plus probably the biological sciences are in this group

Those where the answer is YES: design & technology, business studies, physics

Finally, those where there are problems in some years: effectively all other subjects. Based on the 2015 numbers, RE, IT, geography and English fall into that group. Next year, we expect geography and possibly English to be much better placed based on our analysis of applications to train in 2016/17, but it won’t be until the census is published in November that we can be certain of our predictions.

Nevertheless, there will be recruitment issues in 2017 in design & technology, business studies, physics: of that fact we can be pretty sure even now. For some subjects, this will be the 5th year the TSM figure hasn’t been reached.

There isn’t time here to go into how the TSM figure is calculated and why, for instance, in English it under-estimated need for a couple of years and has consistently over-estimated training need in PE in recent years.

So, a quick word about demand. TeachVac receives data about job vacancies from over 3,500 secondary schools every day. It’s a free service to schools, teachers and trainees and schools that directly enter vacancies receive our latest update about the current size of the trainee market.

Because we monitor real vacancies linked to real schools we can drill down to regional data on a daily basis. I can tell you that the West Midlands was 5th in the regional list for vacancies per school.

In Birmingham, between January and the end of August this year, TeachVac has recorded a 30% increase in vacancies compared with the same period in 2015, up from 351 to 456 with all subjects except IT, business studies and art recording either an increase or no change. Although there isn’t time to go into the details, maths and the sciences were the top two recruiting subjects. When I looked last evening, it was still 29% ahead of last year by28th September.

As you would expect, March to May is the peak recruitment season. But it is worth recalling that January 2017 vacancies will need to recruit from the same pool as September vacancies since there are few new trainees entering the market outside of the September starting point. By now most trainees that want a teaching post have found one and schools need to rely more heavily for January on movers, returners and re-entrants to fill basic grade vacancies where there aren’t enough new entrants. The DfE currently suggest between 50-55% of main scale vacancies across a recruitment cycle go to new entrants to teaching in state schools.

Looking at Birmingham schools, using TeachVac data, we could detect a sight tendency for schools with more pupils on Free School Meals as a percentage of the school roll to advertise more vacancies, but we need to do some more work on this issue over a longer-time period and at present we don’t have the funds to do so.

I mentioned at the start a second indicator of the percentage of qualified teachers in each subject. Nationally, these figures are going in the wrong direction, but as QTS allows anyone to teach anything to anyone at any level we don’t know what this actually tells us about the recruitment problem.

To conclude, there is a recruitment issue, it is not universal, but will become worse as pupil numbers increase over the next decade unless the government recruits sufficient teachers into the profession. This is a challenge it has never been able to meet when the wider economy is doing well, especially with the demand for graduates increasing. More graduate level jobs means more pressure on teaching as a career and the recruitment messages have to be better and more sophisticated.

In 1997, I recall launching the TTA’s internet café exhibition stand at a career’s fair in Birmingham putting teaching at the forefront of new technology. If you look at TV advertising today which can you recall of the 2016 campaigns, the Royal Navy, I was born in … but made in the Royal Navy, or the latest train as a teacher campaign?

The fact that there are fewer Royal Navy personnel in total than the number of trainees we need to see enter teacher preparation courses every year for at least the next decade makes you think.

Thank you for listening.


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