Why do head teachers leave?

The Daily Telegraph’s education editor rang me to this evening to ask this question ahead of some research to be published by NfER tomorrow. Normally, the most common reason for the departure of a head teacher is retirement, often after about ten years in post. This stands to reason in view of the age at which most heads are appointed. There are rare examples of heads appointed young staying for a quarter of a century or even longer, but that isn’t the norm.

In the primary sector, another key reason for departure is to move from the headship of a small school to a larger one. That happens as well in the secondary sector, but I suspect less often, although a study I did some years ago suggested that the schools with the highest ratings often appointed existing heads when they had a vacancy, preferring experience over other possible qualifications.

The big change since 2010, and the Academies Act, has been the formation of MATs and the creation of many more executive head or CEO posts filled by existing head teachers moving into these newly created roles. That will have created a temporary increase in departures and probably reduced the average length of service of head teachers. However, I suspect that many converter academies didn’t change heads on becoming an academy, other schools may have parted company with their head when joining a MAT, whether forced to do so or not.

Ofsted, and before that HMI, have always played an important role in determining the fate of a head teacher. A poor inspection outcome has almost always seen the departure of the head. Indeed, before inspections became commonplace, I suspect local authorities sometimes triggered an inspection as a means of removing a head they were concerned about.

I would guess that as concerns about workload and morale have increased across the profession there will have been an increase in heads leaving, just as there have been in classroom teachers. But, head shave always had heavy workloads, especially those that also have a substantial teaching load.

Apart from becoming executive heads, there are other roles heads looking for a new challenge can look undertake, including looking to lead an international school or taking on a consultancy role. However, there will be few moving into local authority administration: a popular route in the past.

What is as important as the departure is when it is announced. The key period for head teacher recruitment is January to March. Outside that period schools can often struggle to find a replacement for a departing head teacher. As this blog has noted before, any schools that differs from the norm is likely to find recruiting a new head teacher a challenge. The greater the number of variables where the school differs from the typical, the greater the recruitment challenge as some diocese have found over the decades I have been studying the labour market for head teachers.

 

 

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Heading towards disaster?

The latest UCAS data on the number of trainees offered or holding places for 2017 graduate courses to train as a teacher makes for grim reading. This blog has been warning, without trying to use sensational language, for some months now that all wasn’t going well. The figures issued today, based upon offers recorded up to Easter, show new lows over the last four cycles at this point in the year in terms of offers made and accepted in some subjects. So far, the serious issues are only in Business Studies, Chemistry, IT and music, and in two of these subjects a decline in teaching time over recent years means the Teacher Supply Model may be over-estimating the likely demand for teachers. In Chemistry and Business Studies, the lack of offers so far this year may be more serious for schools in 2018, especially where there are rising rolls.

The one crumb of comfort is the increase in offers in both history and geography. Elsewhere, in Mathematics and English, the trend line look unpropitious for the remainder of the recruitment round, unless there is a major shift in direction. This may be less of an issue in Mathematics than English. There are already shortages in English in 2017 according to TeachVac’s data. In Mathematics, as ever, it is not just the numbers, but also the quality of mathematical knowledge and the teaching ability of trainees that matters to schools. Hopefully, lower numbers don’t mean fewer high quality applicants.

Overall, around 2,000 less offers have been made in this recruitment round across England compared with April last year. Applicant numbers are down in all age groups, but significantly down for the younger age groups. For instance, women 21 and under are down from 3,990 applicants last year to 3,490 this year, with a similar fall of 410 in applicant numbers for those aged 22, but smaller falls among the older age groups. Only 1,100 men age 21 or under have applied so far this year; a drop of around 10% on last year at this point in time. Overall, applications from men are down by just over seven per cent, a greater decline than for applications from women.

In total applications are down to only just over 90,000, meaning most applicants have made full use of all their choices.  The good news is that there are 10 more applicants in the South West than last year; the bad news, 500 fewer in London. Indeed, there are 770 fewer offers to applicants applying to London than this point last year: with rising rolls that is really bad news for 2018.

School Direct Salaried has attracted around 500 fewer applicants for the secondary sector this year, with only 80 confirmed placed applicants so far in 2017. As these are all graduates with work experience, this number is disappointingly low and down on the 120 of April last year. The conditionally placed number is also down, from 790 to 530. Undoubtedly, some of the decline is due to the Easter holidays, but that would also have been true for 2016 figures. The one potentially bright spot is the increase in applicants holding offers, but until these numbers turn into placed applicants they are always at risk of disappearing. On the face of it, and without overall allocation numbers, primary offers seem to be holding up relatively well. It is the secondary sector that remains the key area for concern.

With purdah upon us, we can but hope that the increased DfE marketing budget, the topic of an earlier post, will help to attract more applicants over the summer. However, uncertainty over the future direction of secondary education and selective schools might put off some would-be teachers educated in the comprehensive system. Either way, 2018 looks like being a challenge for schools in London and the South East needing to recruit teachers. You will need TeachVac’s free service more than ever: have you signed up yet? http://www.teachvac.co.uk

Minutiae for manifestoes

Political parties are now frantically writing their manifestoes for June 8th. The headlines are probably obvious: selective schools; funding; workload; testing; standards; teachers, and ensuring that there are enough of them, and possibly something about free schools and academies. But, beneath the surface there is room to include some specific ideas that might help various groups. Special education doesn’t often get a mention, nor do children taken into care, but both are among the most vulnerable in society.

Put the two factors together and make a placement outside of the local authority responsible for taking the child into care and you have a complex situation that the present governance of education regulations don’t really provide for. Hopefully, schools are willing to cooperate and offer a rapid re-assessment for an Education & Health Care Plan, where that is necessary and provide a place. But, what if a school doesn’t want to do so and is an academy, as an increasing number of special schools are becoming. Who has the right to demand that such a child is placed in an appropriate school setting as quickly as possible? It really is unacceptable for the government to worry about pupils that miss a fortnight’s education for a family holiday and fine them, but take no action for a child out of school for several months because no school place can be found for them. The 2016 White Paper suggested that local authorities should once again have the last word on in-year admissions, regardless of the type of school. I hope that all political parties will pledge to look at the issue of school places for children taken into care mid-year, as most are. If a fortnight is too long for a holiday, it is too long for a child taken into care.

At the same time, I would like a review of the school transport arrangements. It is grossly unfair that children in London, regardless of parental income, receive free transport, but those outside the TfL area are subject to archaic rules designed nearly 150 years ago. How many cars could we take off the roads if pupils travelled by bus or train to school for free, as in London? The free transport rule might also help with encouraging parental choice, as well as reducing traffic on the roads.

I would also like to see figures for the percentage of pupils from each primary school that received their first choice of secondary school rather than just figures for the secondary school. This would help to identify areas where there are either significant pressures or unrealistic choices being made by parents.

Finally, I would like to require an academy or free school considering closure to have to go through the same consultation process that a locally authority school is required to undertake. At present, academies and free schools can effectively just hand back the keys at the end of term, rather as sometimes happens in the private sector. However, this should not be allowed with State funded schools even after an unexpected Ofsted visit.

The dog ate my homework

How much money does it take to persuade a graduate to become a teacher? More than it used to do. For more than three decades it has been known that when the economy is doing well the government finds it more of a challenge to recruit trainee teachers and also to retain those it already has. As a result, the amount of cash spent on marketing soars.

A recent article in PR week http://www.prweek.com/article/1430786/dfe-doubles-campaign-budget-attract-people-teaching suggests that the marketing budget in 2017/18 to encourage new entrants to train as a teacher will be more than £16 million. That’s a fourfold increase on what was spent in 2013/14 just four years ago. Put another way, four years ago, £114 per trainee was spent on advertising; this year, assuming all places are filled, it will cost some £474 per trainee. In reality, it is likely that the actual cost per trainee recruited will be in excess of £500.

Actually, the cost is near £1,000 per additional trainee encouraged into teaching as, even if nothing was spent, there would probably be a sizeable number of people wanting to train as a teacher, especially as a primary school teacher. So, the cost is largely to entice additional Physics, mathematics and languages teachers. The marketing bill needs to be added to the sizeable bursaries these students also attract making the real cost even higher. There are also the marketing costs of individual course providers competing with each other plus the not insignificant budget being spent by Teach First that’s not included in the £16 million.

Now that all young people have to stay in education or training until eighteen, it is worth asking whether the use of specialist teachers should be delayed in some subjects so that the costs of acquiring new teachers can be reduced. Would the money spent on marketing be better spent on up-skilling the expertise of existing teachers already having to teach subjects where they are under-prepared? How much higher will the marketing budget be allow to rise if the labour market for graduates remains tight over the next few years? Fortunately, compared with the spending from the Ministry of Defence the cost per place of recruiting teachers is probably far less than the marketing budget to recruit personnel for the armed forces.

One thing the DfE has to do is to demonstrate that it has learnt the lessons of history. Although current corporate memory in Sanctuary Buildings may not be very detailed, there are presumably copies of the studies conducted by various market research agencies for the Department during previous recruitment crises around the turn of the century. Discussing whether they are still relevant should, at least, ensure the £16 million is spent wisely and not wasted on campaigns that would never bear fruit in terms of teacher recruitment.

Making the term teacher’ a reserved occupation title would cost little, but raise the status of the profession overnight. It would also gain good press publicity. Good PR is often cheaper than poor marketing, although the reverse is sadly also true.

Bank holidays for teachers?

The Labour Party’s announcement of wanting to introduce four new bank holidays on Saint’s Days (I thought Corby’s Labour didn’t do religion) is either an attempt to lose the education vote or the parents’ vote.

Either way, if implemented, it would likely harm the education system. Drop 4 days from the education year, reducing it down to 186 and school staff including teachers benefit, unless on term-time only contracts and these are seen as not being term-time days. Parents have to find four more days of childcare if they have to work on bank holidays. Since these days move around, they won’t even create long weekend every year.

However, keep the school year at 190 days and teachers and other workers in schools won’t see the benefits of the extra holidays. This reminds me of my previous post about Labour and pay policies in the 1970s and the effects on teachers working conditions and benefits when non-pay benefits were more important than pay rises.

Labour needs to tell the education community what the announcement means for them, apart from more disruption in November, March and sometimes April as well. I wonder why they Labour didn’t go for celebrating the Tolpuddle Martyrs; Annie Besant’s birthday; Emily Pankhurst Day and perhaps Revolutionary Figures (non-sexist) Day to celebrate those that fought against Empire and oppression around the world. Saint’s Days seem just a bit passé and what we might have chosen as a country to take as holidays before the Reformation.

With an economy that doesn’t boast the best productivity record, adding another four days to the paid holiday calendar doesn’t seen a great way to run the economy either. Perhaps Labour is really thinking of the trade union workers that can charge extra pay for working on bank holidays: do they still have a day off as well? For them, it will be a great bribe to vote for Corbyn, especially if the Conservatives really don’t pledge not to raise taxes in the next parliament.

At least none of these Saint’s days fall within the examination system, so there won’t be the disruption there has been in higher education where the summer term bank holidays all on a Monday. But, perhaps Labour has given up on increasing manufacturing as the solution to our nation’s economic problems post a hard BREXIT and sees the way forward as a dance and skylark economy.

How rich are teachers?

With the details of the 2016 School Workforce Survey still awaited, we have to turn to data on salaries from the 2015 Survey, effectively reflecting pay during the 2014-15 school-year. Using the published data from the DfE, it looks as if some 8,700 of the 484,000 teachers, where the State pays their salary and the figure was disclosed, earned more than £70,000 at the reporting point. This is the figure that makes you rich if Labour is to be believed. In total that represents just 2% of the teacher workforce. However, we cannot know how many of the 22,900 with unknown salaries, earn more than £70,000. But, since over half of those where the salary was unknown were younger than 30, they are unlikely to be amongst the highest paid teachers.

By contrast to the top 2%, some two thirds of employed teachers earned less than £40,000 at the census date in 2015. They are unlikely to have seen much of a pay rise since then. The top 2% earning more than £70,000 include teachers working in London, as the summary data takes no account of the extra salary paid to teachers working in the capital; presumably because of higher costs, especially housing. It was interesting that Labour when making the announcement about taxation didn’t have anything to say about workers in London. Presumably Labour believes you are still rich in London if you earn £70,000?

Of course, pay is a crude measure of rewards, as Labour found with its pay policies in the 1970s. Too draconian an anti-high pay regime and employers turn to non-monetary benefits. The cult of the company car owes a lot to pay policies in the 1970s, a period when teachers’ non-monetary benefits came to be seriously eroded compared with those of other workers.

Public sector pay, including that for teachers, may well become an issue in the general election campaign once everyone has decided where they stand on Europe and the Tories hard BREXIT stance. I suspect many voters already know how that issue will influence their voting, especially where there are local elections and it has already been discussed on the doorsteps, as it has in my part of Oxford. Voters will want something else to talk about over the next seven weeks.

The issue is whether the many young teachers, increasingly saddled with big student loan debts and trying to build their lives, feel well off? I suspect most don’t, especially in high cost areas outside of London, of which Oxford is one. How much of the increase in jobs for teachers is due to large numbers quitting the profession: we don’t know, but with other opportunities on offer why wouldn’t you, especially if workload and low morale are affecting how you see your job.

Perhaps the political party offering most on improving workload, CPD and morale might win the teachers’ vote this time around. Here’s what the 2015 Lib Dem offer was in 2015:

Guarantee all teachers in state-funded schools will be fully qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from September 2016

  • Introduce a clear and properly funded entitlement to professional development for all teachers
  • Raise the bar for entry to the profession, requiring a B grade minimum in GCSE maths and English
  • Establish a new profession-led Royal College of Teachers, eventually to oversee QTS and professional development.
  • Continue to support the Teach First programme
  • Establish a new National Leadership Institute

So certainly room for more this time around, especially on workload pressure; retaining teachers in the classroom and making everyone working in education feel properly valued as a public servant.

Readers are reminded that for the past four years I have been the Lib Dem spokesperson on education on Oxfordshire County Council.

 

Back to Banbury

So, there’s to be a general election on 8th June. Last time, in 2015, I stood for the Lib Dems in Banbury, winning 6% of the vote and just saving the deposit. I wait to see whether I will be invited to stand there again in June. Coming off the back of a real fight in my county division for this May’s county council elections, another four weeks of campaigning isn’t what I expected.

Still, time to start thinking of some new slogans to go alongside the ‘If you voted remain in 2016 then vote Lib Dem in 2017.’

I think education will play a bigger part in the sub-text of this general election than in 2015, when it barely rated a mention.

Here are two possible slogans for starters

If you want your child to attend;

A secondary modern school; Vote Conservative

A good comprehensive: Vote Liberal Democrat

Another might be

If you think children;

Can be taught by unqualified teachers: Vote Conservative

Need professionally trained teachers: Vote Liberal Democrat

Do let me know of any other such slogans that you can suggest for the campaign.

 

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