Don’t panic

The publication of the TIMMS data on mathematics and science outcomes at Years 5 & 9 across a wide range of countries heralds the start of a period of data announcements that will include OECD comparative data and the Chief inspectors annual report; in thelatter case, the last by the present Inspector. As I am away next week – thoroughly bad timing, but needs must – my comments on these reports will have to wait for a while. However, the TIMMS national report for England can be found at

Slow progress, with better results from the primary sector than the secondary sector might be one interpretation. Another, summed up in the findings is that:

  • Forty-six per cent of year 9 pupils in England pupils strongly valued maths: more than their peers in the five highest-performing countries.
  • Half (50%) of year 5 pupils in England very much liked learning maths compared to only 14 per cent of year 9s. In both years 5 and 9, three of the highest-performing countries – Japan, Taiwan and South Korea – had smaller proportions of pupils who liked learning maths than in England.
  • In both years 5 and 9 in England, and across all countries, on average, there is an association between all attitudinal factors and average achievement. For example, the more pupils feel confident in their maths ability; the higher their average achievement.

The message about the value of mathematics seems to now being heard and accepted in society, at least by young people. The next question is whether squeezing the last ounce of learning out of teenagers makes the process less fun? If so, does that have long-term implications for attitudes to learning, especially where the results are the outcome of longer time at school learning the subject and more tutoring hours outside of school? Is a balanced curriculum better than a narrow one even if results in some subjects are less than might have been achieved? That is not to recommend easing up on learning maths, but to place include it is a broader curriculum.

Whether the current level of success will continue in the next survey is open to question especially as:

Head teachers in England were more likely to report teacher recruitment difficulties and/or finding it hard to fill vacancies than in most other comparator group countries. About half of year 9 pupils were taught in schools with shortages in both subjects, while two-thirds (67%) of head teachers found their year 9 science vacancies somewhat or very hard to fill.

However, schools in England, despite media reports to the contrary are no longer the blackboard jungles they once were. The report states that the findings are:

The vast majority of pupils in England were taught in schools where head teachers reported hardly any problems with school discipline and which teachers reported to be safe and orderly. This compared relatively favourably against most other TIMSS countries. However, six per cent of year 9 pupils attended schools which teachers reported to be less than safe and orderly.

There is a lot more fascinating data in the Report, so it’s good to know that data skills are one we seem to do well. Not  a soft skill, but a valuable hard one.




Pay differentials matter in the public sector as well

The previous posts read by those who visit my blog are always interesting to monitor. On the day when the government is expressing its interest about the pay of bosses in private sector companies, I am not surprised to see a number of visitors to the post from this March when I discussed CEO’s pay in education. That post was written following a letter from The Chief Inspector to the then Secretary of State. At the end of the March post, I wrote:

Personally, I thought we were in an age of austerity and I set up TeachVac to offer a low cost option for recruitment to allow more money to be spent on teaching and learning. Frankly, this Report is disappointing news and I hope that there is an urgent review of salaries in education outside of those set by the STRB for teachers and school leaders. We need some clarity of purpose in the use of public funds.

Since then, the gap between the best paid directors in the private sector, but not employees – think footballers and entertainers – has exercised the mind of the new Prime Minister, but little has been said about the public sector. Mrs May will no doubt recall the attempt to limit the pay of head teachers and other public sector workers to no more than the Prime Minister’s salary, helpfully ignoring his use of a flat in central London and a mansion in the Buckinghamshire countryside for use at weekends as well as an especially generous pension scheme, when deciding pay rates rather than overall remuneration levels.

On the day the latest TIMMS data has appeared, (more of that in a later post), there is certainly a discussion to be had about the effect of salaries on the supply of talent. One outstanding figure from TIMMS for me is that the gap between Year 5 and Year 9 pupil outcomes is wider in England than in many other countries in the Survey (Figure 15). Could this be down to the challenge of recruiting specialist maths teachers to teach at key Stage 3?

If you push up salaries for classroom teachers, should you also increase the salaries for those in leadership roles? That’s the dilemma the government faces in trying to decide whether, in a free market, the government has a social responsibility to limit anyone’s pay and to decide how companies use their resources? Of course, governments could tax high earners more, but there is then the fear of driving them away. But, such a fear doesn’t seem to be there in this discussion over pay differentials being curbed.

On the other hand, the government has to recognise that free movement of labour can mean those that feel underpaid can opt to go elsewhere: hence the concerns over retention rates in teaching for those with 3-5 years of classroom experience.

The issue of compensation is a complex area that exercised parliamentarians in the 1990s when they were trying to benchmark their own salaries. The issue may now be whether the gap between the haves and have nots in society is too wide? Having decided it is, it is interesting to see a Conservative government taking the stance they are.

Is Lucy Kellaway an outlier?

The good news seems to be that the soaring cost of tuition fees isn’t putting of new graduates from pursuing a career as a teacher: perhaps they recognise they will never repay these fees unless there is a period of rampant inflation at some point in the future.

In the ITT census for 2016, published last Thursday, the percentage of graduates under 25 entering postgraduate training has increased from 44% of the total in 2012/13 to 53% in 2016/17. There has been a corresponding fall in among older graduates, with the 25-29 age group showing the sharpest decline, down from 31% in 2012/13 to 24% in 2016/17.

Interestingly, the 25-29 age group accounts for the largest number of School Direct Salaried trainees in 2016/17, some 1,132 out of the 3,159 on this route; 36% of all such trainees. I am not sure how there can be 629 under 25s on the Salaried route, as many must just qualify for the three year post-degree requirement to be part of the programme. Indeed, there are more under 25s than there are trainees over 40 on the salaried route this year. Those on the salaried route under the age of thirty account for 56% of the trainees on this route into teaching: not, perhaps, what was intended when the scheme was devised.

The fact that only 73% of Teach First trainees are under 25 is also of interest since the scheme was designed to attract new graduates. However, 94% were under the age of thirty, so perhaps the programme is doing a good job with mature new graduates. Overall, the mean age of all Teach First’s new trainees this year was just 24.

The 7,328 under 25s that started a teacher preparation course in a higher education institution this September still account for the largest single group of new post-graduate trainees.

Men remain firmly in the minority among those with a declared gender. Only 20% of postgraduate and 15% of undergraduate entrants to primary courses are men this year. Although the undergraduate percentage has remained stable for some years now, the postgraduate percentage has declined from 23% as recently as 2013/14 to 20% this year and men accounted for only 17% of trainees recruited to the primary Teach First route. Still, there percentages are better than 20 years ago, when men only accounted for 16% of primary PGCE trainees in 1995.

There is relatively better news in the secondary sector, where men accounted for 40% of recruitment this year, up from 37% in 2012/13. This means that an extra 1,000 men started secondary teacher preparation courses this year compared with in 2012/13. However, even here Teach First lagged behind other routes, as men accounted for only 35% of their new secondary trainees this year.

There is more god news for the government in the fact that 2016/17 sees 15% of trainees coming from minority ethnic groups; the best percentage since before 2012/13. Here Teach First does better than the school based routes, but higher education institutions lead the way with nearly one in five of their trainees from minority ethnic groups. The location of schools and their propensity to recruit from their localities may account for the relatively low overall recruitment percentage from minority ethnic groups since the distribution of graduates in these groups is not spread evenly across England.

Lucy kellaway will find that there are 117 trainee teachers aged 55+ this year, with a further 421 between 50-54. Together, those over 50, account for 2% of new trainees.


Is Design & Technology dying by default?

Over the past few years Design & Technology has consistently failed to recruit into training the number of teachers identified as being needed to staff our schools. The DfE uses the Teacher Supply Model to calculate an annual training number. Recent figures showing the following pattern of recruitment are in the Table.

courses starting in Number Recruited TSM Number Shortfall
2016 423 1034 611
2015 526 1279 753
2014 450 1030 580
2013 391 870 479
2012 710 825 115
2011 1970 1880 -90
2010 2940 2560 -380
2009 3100 2700 -400
10510 12178 1668

The over-recruitment (minus number in final column) of the period 2009-2011, a period when the economy was deeply mired in recession, has been replaced by five years of failure to recruit to what have been much lower targets. Indeed, the total number of new trainees recruited between 2012 and 2016 are in total less than were recruited in either 2009 or 2010.

Now it can be assumed that with falling rolls in secondary schools and a reluctance to cut back on training numbers during the period of the Labour government, too many Design & Technology teachers were probably being trained in 2009 and 2010. That cannot be said to be the case today. Demand, as measured by TeachVac, has outstripped the supply of teachers of Design & Technology in both 2015 and 2016, more notably in 2015 when the numbers in training were lower than were looking for teaching posts in 2016. The fact that the number of trainees recruited in 2016, as measured by the ITT census, is the lowest recorded since 2013 doesn’t bode well for schools looking to recruit Design & Technology teachers for September 2017 and January 2018.

Of course, Design & Technology is a portmanteau subject which, as the footnote in the ITT census explains, ’includes food’. By this, I think they mean teachers of food technology, the former home economics that emerged from the historical domestic science term used for those that taught ‘cooking and needlecraft’ in schools. Sadly, it looks as if there is no record of either the demand for teachers of the different aspects of Design & Technology or of the numbers entering training with the different backgrounds and skill sets. Perhaps there are enough trainees in food technology, but not in resistant materials? Perhaps, the position is the other way around.

Since starting this blog post, it has been pointed out to me that the numbers in Table 1a of the ITT census don’t seem to add up. There are 169 trainees shown as in higher education; 66 on courses in SCITTs and 117 on School Direct Fee courses. The numbers on the School Direct salaried route and Teach First are each hidden behind an asterisk. This normally means too few to report, so we can assume not more than 20 across both routes. By my mathematics this makes between 352 and 372 trainees and not the 423 reported in the census. The other 71 might be on undergraduate courses, but that column isn’t shown by subject in the Table, only an overall total of 243 undergraduates across all subjects. Looking back at 2014 undergraduate numbers, an assuming a three year degree course, entrants were 32 to Design & Technology undergraduate courses in 2014. Thus if all remained, an unlikely outcome, the number entering the labour market in 2017 will be 352 postgraduates (minus any that don’t complete the course – let’s say 30), so 322 postgraduates plus 32 undergraduates to a maximum of 354, the lowest number for many years.

Such numbers, and the trend over recent years does leave one to wonder why trainees in Design & Technology with a 2:2 degree don’t receive a bursary whereas those in Biology (a subject that over-recruited this year) will receive £10,000 in 2017, and those that started courses this September with a 2:2 in biology received £15,000.

But, then the distribution of bursaries has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps it has something to do with the value of the EBacc in the curriculum compared with Design & Technology.

Still a recruitment challenge in 2017, for some if not all

At the end of September, I posted a blog with my predictions about recruitment against target for ITT graduate courses that started this September, excluding Teach First. I had expected Teach First to meet its targets, but seemingly it didn’t and that hasn’t helped the overall percentages. Nevertheless, how did I do?

You can check the original post at or use the sidebar to navigate to September 2016.

My original predictions and the outcomes appear below. I wrote in September that:

As far as individual secondary subjects are concerned, this has been a better year for applications in many subjects than 2015, although the increase has not be universal. The actual outcome won’t be known until the ITT census in November, but on the basis of this UCAS data it appears that the following might be the outcome in relation to the government’s Teacher Supply Model number (minus the Teach First allocation, where applications are not handled by UCAS).

Art & Design – acceptances above 2015, but not likely to be enough to meet the TSM number. Only 82% of target was met – worse than I expected, but should still be enough to satisfy demand in 2017 from schools.

Biology – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number. Very strong recruitment reaching 115% of target, the second highest percentage of any subject this year. Some trainees may struggle to find jobs in 2017.

Business Studies – acceptances above 2015, close to TSM, but the TSM isn’t large enough to meet demand from schools for these teachers. Only 85% of places filled. I was slightly over-optimistic. On basis of last two years of data schools will find this is not enough trainees to meet demand. DfE must explain why the subject doesn’t rate more support?

Chemistry – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number. As indeed it almost did with 99% of target met. Schools should find recruitment easier in 2017 than in previous two years.

IT/computing – acceptances below last year and not enough to meet TSM. Only 68% of places met, so the latter part of 2017 might challenging for schools looking for an IT teacher for January 2018, but it depends upon overall level of demand that has fluctuated from year to year more so than in some other subjects.

Design & Technology – the position is unclear from the UCAS data, but TSM may not be met. In fact outcome was a disaster, with only 41% of target places filled. The UCAS data system must allow this fact to be tracked and the DfE must consider whether financial support is sufficient. If not, it must be questionable whether the subject or at least some aspects of it will survive in schools much longer.

English – acceptances similar to last year and should meet TSM number. Here recruitment controls seem to have worked better than in some subjects, with 98% of target met. Those schools without School Direct or Teach First trainees may struggle to fill vacancies later in the year in 2017, since only 25% of trainees are in higher education courses and 15% are on Teach First, with a further 20% on the School Direct salaried route. This is more than double the number in any other School Direct salaried subject.

Geography – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number. In fact target was passed, with 116% recruitment, higher than in any other subject. This should mean schools have little difficulty recruiting in 2017.

History – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number. Target exceeded and 112% recruited. No real excuse for this overshoot, especially as only 30% are in higher education courses. Some trainees will struggle to find teaching post in 2017 unless there is a surge in demand.

Mathematics – acceptances above last year, but probably still not enough to meet the TSM number. And that was the outcome. A good year all round and had the target not been increased there would have been an overshoot on the target of 2015. Do bursaries work here and will there be an issue about extent of subject knowledge of some trainees? This outcome poses problems for the Migration Advisory Committee in reference to whether the subject should still qualify for tier 2 visa status?

Music – acceptances above 2015 and should meet TSM number. Sadly, it didn’t and the target was missed by 10%, although that is only 40 trainees. Higher education courses account for half of trainees and there are too few School Direct Salaried trainees to count. Some schools may struggle to recruit in 2017, especially for January 2018 appointments.

Physics – acceptances above 2015, but probably still not enough to meet the TSM number. And that was the outcome, with only 81% of places being filled. Higher education accounted for more than half of the 2016 cohort of trainees. Schools will still struggle to recruit the 444 trainees not in school-based courses. The independent sector may absorb a large proportion of these trainees.

Physical Education – acceptances below last year due to the effects of the recruitment controls, but should be enough to meet TSM. There was still over-recruitment, despite the controls, and perhaps 500 trainees will struggle to find a teaching post in their subject tin 2017.

Religious Education – acceptances below last year and not enough to meet TSM. Only 80% of places were filled with higher education recruiting a very high percentage of the trainees (60%) and Teach First and School Direct Salaried routes  contributing realtively rew to the trainee count Schools will find recruitment more of a challenge as the year progresses.

Languages – difficult to determine exact position from the UCAS data, but should easily meet TSM number on the basis of acceptances. In fact, 95% of places were filled although 59% of these were in higher education institutions. On the basis of 2015 and 2016, the number of trainees overall will be sufficient, but whether they have the languages needed is another matter and I am not sure anyone actually knows.

So, the predictions weren’t too far out. That’s a relief. The outcome shows some schools will face recruitment challenges in 2017 and for January 2018 unless their financial situation deteriorates, so as to reduce demand.

What happens to retention will also be another significant factor in determining recruitment. However, pupil numbers at key Stage 3 are on the increase, so unless class sizes also increase that may create further demand. From that point of view, any weakening in the demand from the independent sector because of fewer overseas students would be helpful. However, the sinking pound makes UK schooling cheaper to buy for many that want it for their children.

In all, 2017 will be, not a disaster, but a challenge, more so for some schools than others and the government is by no means off the hook in terms of solving the recruitment issue.


So much for recruitment controls

The idea of tight daily controls on recruitment for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in the autumn of 2016 was never very popular with those charged with the task of recruiting trainees. The fact that, despite it seemingly being rigidly administered, the scheme appears not to have worked effectively in some easy to recruit subjects demands an explanation.  No doubt the Select Committee can ask questions about what happened, especially late in the recruitment round, before they finally write their long-awaited report into teacher supply.

It seems indefensible that PE recruited 10% more trainees than the target. That’s nearly 100 extra compared with the Teacher Supply Model figure issued in autumn 2015. As TeachVac data has shown, for the past two years there have been fewer teaching vacancies than there are trainees by a couple of hundred each year in PE, so it seems morally wrong to recruit trainees, saddle them with a debt of £9,000 in fees in many cases and effectively not be able offer all of them the chance of a teaching post. Even if the target had been met, there would, probably have been more trainees than needed in 2017, but at least, there would have been some justification for the number recruited.

The same issue arises from a review of the census data on recruitment in history and geography, where in total over 200 extra trainees have been recruited. The geographers may well find a job in 2017, but many of the historians won’t unless that is they are prepared to teach humanities rather than just history or there is a sudden increase in demand by schools. Some biologist may also be in the same situation, because this subject also over-recruited, but at least they can be recruited to teach science generally at Key Stage 3.

What was the point of putting everyone to the trouble of seemingly rigid recruitment controls and to create this outcome?  In the cases of PE, history and geography it seems to be the School Direct Fee route that has been responsible for the majority of the over-recruitment. In the case of Geography, had Teach First fully recruited to the original allocation total set in autumn 2015, then the over-recruitment would have been worse. As all routes were subject to the same controls, there must be some questions to ask, especially since the majority of the routes all used the same admissions process managed by UCAS.

Overall, Teach First has 2,000 places and are shown as filling 1,375, whereas schools had 3,275 salaried places of which 3,159 were filled. Schools had 9,874 ‘fee’ places either on School Direct or in SCITTs and filled 10,527. Higher Education had 14,027 places and filled only 11,992 of them. The 1,409 School Direct salaried teachers in secondary schools seem like a small number, especially when almost half of the total are trainees in either mathematics or English. Music, drama and Design and Technology have so few salaried trainees that the numbers cannot be disclosed. Indeed, Design & Technology is once again a major disaster area across all routes: but more of that in another post at the weekend.

Overseas teachers help take the strain

Unemployment in Europe may have been been driving teachers to work in England. Figures released today by the DfE as part of the ITT statistics for 2015/16 show that record numbers of teachers from Spain (1,977), Greece (572) and Romania (431) were awarded QTS. There were also 545 teachers from Poland, although that was a small drop on the record number (580) of teachers from Poland recorded as being awarded QTS in 2014/15. Interestingly, only 274 teachers were recorded as being awarded QTS from the Republic of Ireland despite this group of teachers often being cited as helping solve the recruitment crisis.

Of course, being granted QTS doesn’t mean a person is actually teaching in a state-funded school or even a school and no figures have been published for those that originally trained in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland where school systems are increasingly different to those in England.

Although numbers from the Commonwealth countries, with a right to convert a teaching qualification into QTS, were higher in 2015/16 than the previous year, they only totalled 1,652 plus a further 379 that had qualified in the USA and gained QTS under the Gove changes. There may, however, be others teaching on a temporary basis that haven’t bothered to obtain QTS. Overall, 5,032 teachers from overseas were shown as being granted QTS in 2015/16. There isn’t a breakdown by either primary or secondary, or by subject, or where in the country they were teaching. All potentially useful facts to help understand the use of overseas teachers.

Many of these teachers will be subject to visa restrictions once the UK leaves the EU, if free movement of people is restricted. It would have been interesting to have seen the data on tier 2 visas issues by the Home Office as a part of this statistical bulletin. As far as I am aware, the Migration Advisory Committee has yet to rule on the future of teaching and tier 2 visas.

The data issued today in the ITT census will make it more of a challenge to retain either biology or chemistry in the list of eligible subjects, as biology exceeded recruitment targets by 15% and chemistry recruited to 99% of their target. Physics, although more trainees were recruited than last year, remains a challenge with 19% under-recruitment. In mathematics, the target was increased by 500, so although more trainees were recruited there was still a 16% shortfall against target. Whether this is enough to keep the subject as a Tier 2 visa subject depends upon whether the evidence on vacancies and trainee numbers indicate a shortfall in numbers. I guess everyone agrees there are issues to do with quality and there are clearly regional shortfalls. However, the MAC usually only considers the national picture.

As recruitment for 2017 has already started a decision on any changes to visa regulations is really needed quite soon if there is not to be confusion for September 2017. The influx of teachers from overseas is the other side of the coin of teachers from England going to teach elsewhere in the world. On these figures the outflow is likely to be larger than the numbers recruited from overseas.