New London ITT problem

Yesterday, I wrote in this blog about the headline data that has emerged from the UCAS ITT data for September 2017 that tracks postgraduate ITT applications. There is, of course, a lot more detail in the data that is of interest, partly because it provides the first look at what are likely to be numbers close to the end of cycle report when it appears sometime in 2018.

In a post on 27th March 2015, I wrote about the outcome of 2013-14 cycle, details of which had just then been published. In that cycle there had been 54,015 applicants and I noted the number hadn’t fallen below 50,000 since well before the low of just over 51,000 recorded in 2008. Now the September 2017 number of total applicants is 46,190 for the whole of England and Wales. Any number below 50,000 should start ringing serious alarm bells in the DfE.

In the previous cycle I discussed, 52% of applicants were offered a place through UCAS. This year, the figure looks likely to be around 64% of all applicants. So, almost two out of three applicants to teaching has been offered a place in this round. This is despite the drive towards school-based training and away from high education as the main provider of places. Of applicants domiciled in England, the offer rate was closer to 65%.

Geographically, London remains an anomaly, as only 57% of applicants were offered a place. The reasons for this low figure also need to be teased out. Are London applicants of a lower standard than those from elsewhere; by comparison, 67% of applicants domiciled in the North East were offered a place, a ten per cent difference.  The data currently available doesn’t allow for comparisons between phase and different subject mixes of applicants between geographical areas. Those from London may favour English, PE and history all subjects where applicants significantly exceed places available. However, as applicant usually apply within their local area, the low conversion rate for London must be of concern and worthy of further re-investigation.

It is also worth noting that the last time total applications were below the 50,000 mark the employment-based routes were not part of the UCAS system in the way that School Direct is now a part of the UCAS process. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the former employment-based routes and say, School Direct, but even assuming only 5,000 applications for employment based routes in their heyday, then the present 46,000 applicant number looks even more alarming in the face of the DfE’s projected demand for trainees of somewhere in the mid to upper 30,000s.

Interestingly, the timing of applications seems to be changing, with more applications later in the cycle. This may prove the success of the various advertising campaigns, but also puts a strain on everyone having to recruit through the summer. By mid-February this year only around 58% of the September total figure of applicants were registered in the system, compared with closer to three quarter in the previous cycle considered. The current percentage can only fall further as late applicants are included in the system. The implications for any change in recruitment timings should also be considered in details for possible wider outcomes on the system.

Finally, I remain as opposed to the current expensive and wasteful concurrent system that replaced the former consecutive application process. Both have their shortcomings, but one is much cheaper than the other.

Advertisements

Much as predicted in the spring

The final set of monthly UCAS data for the 2017 recruitment round was published earlier today. There are no shock horror revelations and the progress, or lack of it, of the recruitment round has been well charted throughout the year on this blog. It remains true that unless the economy takes a turn for the worse at some point between February and July in any year the likely outcome of the recruitment round can be predicted in many subjects by the early spring.

The outcome of the 2017 recruitment into training round looks like being worse than last year for the subjects tracked throughout the year, except in PE, history, geography and IT/computing. In English, the situation looks to be similar to this point last year. In Music and business studies the acceptance numbers are the lowest for the past four years. Even where acceptances are in the mid-range of the past four cycles they may well not be enough to meet the DfE and NCTL’s expressed level of need. This will affect the 2018 recruitment round for vacancies in September 2018 – see my previous post on ‘the eye of the storm.

What is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.  Either this reflects a lack of updating by some providers, possibly schools, or it reflect uncertainty over whether some trainees offered places were actually going to start the course? We will know the actual numbers when the DfE publishes the ITT Census, either at the end of November or in early December.

Numbers recruited to primary courses are well up on last year, by around 2,000 and that masks in some of the data a slightly larger fall in placed secondary candidates. The fall in ‘accepted’ secondary subject candidates is relatively small, at 440 candidates, and most of the reduction is in ‘conditionally placed offers, so it may be that actual recruited and numbers counted in the ITT census may not be too far adrift from last year. However, it must be remembered that if some subjects have recruited more than last year; geography is an obvious example, then those increases also serve to mask the size of falls in other subjects.

On the face of it, science and mathematics continued to hold their own compared with last year, with a continued growth in late recruitment over the summer. Indeed, these are the only subjects where there are still candidates shown as ‘holding offers’.

School Direct secondary has attracted fewer applications this year; as a result there have been fewer offers on both the salaried and fee routes. Salaried School Direct secondary numbers only total 1,100 placed compared with 1,440 last year. Most of the decline has been in the ‘placed’ category. At this stage it isn’t possible to tell how different subjects have been affected, but this trend will almost certainly have an impact on the 2018 labour market if these posts not filled by School Direct trainees need to be filled in 2018 from the overall trainee pool.

The letter for ASCL to the Treasury reported in today’s press revels something of how pressures on school funding may mean fewer vacancies next year, but with rising pupil numbers and fixed size classrooms, how badly funding cuts will affect teaching posts rather than all other costs only time will tell.

 

Can you trust the data?

How often do government departments have to reissue press notices? Following intervention from the Office for Statistics Regulation, the DfE have been placed in that position. The OSR letter can be read at
https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DfE-statistics-Ed-Humpherson-to-Mike-Jones.pdf The revised press notice and the other issue about MAT transfers raised by OSR concern matters dear to the policy objectives of Ministers, so any potentially misleading data are of concern.

However, the DfE statisticians also have to battle with others that don’t always provide data that is of top quality. As reported in an earlier post, about local authority expenditure per pupil, there are a couple of local authorities in one table in that Statistical First Release where the data must be suspect because of the reported level: it both cases, way too low.

Then there is the case of under-reporting by schools in areas such as fixed term exclusions and more specifically for the number of pupils placed on reduced timetables, but not excluded. This is an area where more work is needed to discover what is actually happening, not least in the academy sector. This work is important because of the potential safeguarding aspect.

Local authorities and the local Safeguarding Board may not be in full possession of the facts if academies do not fully report to the DfE. It would be a simple change to add to the funding letter that academies are required to report all statistics via the local authority where they are located unless the Regional School Commissioner has explicitly provided for an alternative system that is as rigorous. At present, this is an issue with one part of the dual system not working as well as the other and creating potential risks for young people.

At least these days, as with the re-issued DfE Press notice mistakes can be rectified when noticed. In the former days before the internet such mistakes could become set in stone. One of my first communications with government was to point out that pupil teacher ratios provided in a written parliamentary answer and reported in Hansard were wrong. I think the first local authority in the list missed the PTR and was allocated that of the next by mistake. It wasn’t picked up before printing and went into the record. An error notice appeared later, but who checks written PQs for later revisions? Nobody, I would hazard a guess. As a result, anyone using that data source would have inaccurate data. It doesn’t matter now, but might have then. One year, the Department had to re-issue a whole Statistical Volume because of the number of printer’s errors.

Today, the record can be set straight quickly and easily, even if the original error is retained as well.

Statistics are important as a source of information under-pinning decision making and debate, hence the need for accuracy. The question of management information that is separate from statistics is one that has always interested me. In some areas, such as the labour market for teachers, I have always believed up to the minute information is important to spot changes in trends as early as possible. However, this data is often in a raw state and not 100% accurate. Where to draw the line between management information and statistics is an interesting and ever changing debate as technology provides ever more exciting tools for data collection and analysis.

The eye of the recruitment storm?

The National Governance Association (NGA) published its latest survey last Friday https://www.nga.org.uk/News/NGA-News/Key-findings-of-NGA-TES-annual-school-governance-s.aspx Carried out in association with the TES, it not surprisingly reveals governors worried about funding pressures and thus supports the view taken by this blog over the past twelve months.

The DfE has now published the individual school by school potential outcomes of the Mark 2 National Funding Formula. I have had a quick look at the Oxfordshire schools and the change in the method of calculation has produced some improvements, in that no school is now forecast to be facing a reduction in funding.

However, the bulk of the primary schools seemingly only face a per pupil increase of around 1%. This is not enough to fend off rising costs and will be a real problem when the pay rise eventually kicks in if it isn’t fully funded. With all the promises Labour is making at their conference, it is difficult to see how they can fund a public sector pay rise with additional cash. A Conservative government might not find it much easier either unless they can identify some new sources of funding.

Funding pressures two to three years out means that the future for small schools is still in doubt under NFF Mark 2 and the two main churches with schools across the country may face a real challenge if the present distribution of primary schools is no longer sustainable.

I was interested to see that the governors questioned thought this year had been easier in terms of recruitment, but not by much. In view of the better recruitment in 2016 to teacher preparation courses and the record numbers on School Direct and Teach First courses such a finding probably wasn’t a great surprise.  2018 may not be as easy a recruitment if the predictions already aired by this blog are accurate in terms of trainee numbers, unless the squeeze on funding really does mean schools reducing their staffing levels as some governors questioned suggested will be the outcome.

Towards the end of next month the DfE expects to reveal the Teacher Supply Model data that will underpin the allocations to 2018 preparation courses and hence numbers likely to be available to fill teaching positions in September 2019 and January 2020. By that year, the increase in secondary school rolls should really be underway, so the funding debate will really be starting to make a difference.

Should school-based training numbers reduce, as may happen this year, then more schools will be recruiting in the open market. That at least would be good news for those providing recruitment services, unless the DfE has stepped in by then with its own service. Taking recruitment away from the private sector clearly fits in with labour’s narrative, but seems less easy to sell to Conservatives stepped in the tradition of the free market.

Either way, the price of recruitment should be on the way down: good news for hard pressed schools and another win for modern technology.

 

More evidence of funding pressures

The government published data on planned local authority and school expenditure on Children’s Services in 2017-18 as Statistical First Release 48/2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/planned-la-and-school-expenditure-2017-to-2018-financial-year

The data provides some further evidence of the pressure on both the education budget and the whole of Children’s Services with funding generally not keeping place with expenditure increases. The differences between academy and local authority financial years still pose problems for the DfE, although, after several years of qualified accounts, there has hopefully been some progress in the direction of transparency across geographical areas with different mixes of schools. Nevertheless in table 4 of the main tables there are a couple of dubious looking sets of data from two authorities.

With all the talk about growing mental health problems in school-age children, it is concerning to see the fall over the four year period shown in the statistics in spending both in total and per capita on the school psychological services. Planned spending is £12 per capita in 2017-18, down from £15 in 2014-15. I do hope that the difference has been picked up from public health or some other budget, but if not, this needs re-visiting.

Spending on SEN transport is, however, going in the opposite direction once the cost- of post-16 transport is taken into account. By contrast, as a result of changes in their policies by many local authorities, spending on general school transport is falling as the cost outside London is being transferred to parents through either expecting more to pay for transport or to change the schools their child attends from a catchment school to the nearest school.

Funding for Sure Start Children’s Centres and early Years funding has been decimated, reducing from £78 per head in 2014-15 to an estimated £48 in 2017-18. This has resulted in many centres closing. The net effects of this closure programme will only be revealed in the next few years.

Other areas to see large per capita reduction over the four year period include school improvement services and regulatory duties. In both cases, time will tell whether this is either a sharpening of efficiency in local authorities that previously spent well above the median amount or a real deterioration in the quality of services across the country? It is certain that a better organised service without the twin track academy and maintained school systems running in parallel might provide the biggest opportunity for savings. However, to tackle the legacy of Mr Gove would take real political courage and probably a more settled House of Commons than currently exists.

The pressure created by the increase in the size of the looked after sector has resulted in a 10% increase in spending over the four years analysed. Sadly, the two areas not to share in this increase are spending on respite care and on education of looked after children. Surely, both are reductions to regret and to try to reverse as soon as possible.

Both substance misuse services and teenage pregnancy services have suffered significant cuts over the past four years; hopefully in some cases because of less demand for these services, but keeping funding might have produced even better results in the future.

On the day that a major credit rating agency downgraded the UK’s Sovereign Nation credit rating again, citing public finances as one reason, these DfE figures must raise questions about whether the poorest in society are being disproportionally affected by austerity and whether that is what we want as a Society.

Leaving the arts behind is a risk

My apologies to regular readers for the absence of any posts over the past few days, but I was at the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth over the weekend and have been catching up on local matters since returning.

Earlier this week EPI, The Education Policy Institute, published an interesting report into ‘Entries in Arts Subjects at Key Stage 4’. https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Entries_to_arts_subjects_at_Key_Stage_4.pdf Authored by their researcher, Rebecca Jones it paints a depressing picture of falling numbers of entries, even after allowing for the recent decline in the secondary school population. In 2016 there were the lowest number of entries in a decade.  Provisional data relating to 2017 exam entries indicate that the decline observed in the most recent years is continuing

The fall came after a period of increasing entries up to 2013. How far the government’s determination to push the EBacc has caused the fall is a matter for discussion, but the idea of concentrating on a wider measure, such as Progress8 or Attainment8 could well offer a possible way forward to halt the decline.

According to the EPI report, there is a clear and consistent North-South divide in entries to arts subjects, with Southern regions showing higher entry rates than Northern regions. In 2016, the North East experienced a particularly sharp drop in arts entries. The proportion of pupils entering at least one arts subject now ranges from 57.3 per cent in the South West region to 47.8 per cent in the North East, a gap of 9.5 percentage points.

An interesting finding by the EPI team was that before 2013, pupils with high prior attainment were more likely than those with medium or low prior attainment to enter at least one arts subject. This pattern has since been reversed, and those with medium or low prior attainment are now more likely to have at least one arts entry. In 2016, the gap was 3.5 percentage points (54.4 per cent for pupils with medium and low prior attainment, compared with 50.9 per cent for those with high prior attainment).

EPI also found that there is a very large gender gap in entries to arts subjects. In 2016, 64.7 per cent of girls took at least one arts subject, compared with 42.5 per cent of boys, a gap of 22.3 percentage points.

There are substantial gaps in arts entries between pupils from different ethnic backgrounds. Black Caribbean pupils have particularly high entry rates, whilst pupils from Indian and Pakistani backgrounds are much less likely to have at least one arts entry than those from other ethnic groups. I wonder whether the examination boards need to look at syllabuses to see whether they are attractive to those from a wide range of cultures.

For the purposes of the EPI report, arts qualifications were defined as those relating to the following subject areas: art and design; drama and theatre; media, film, and TV studies; music; dance; and performing arts. The EPI analysis does not classify design and technology as an arts subject. Design and technology was excluded from the category of arts qualifications in the EPI report because it includes subjects which have very little overlap with the arts, such as systems and control, and electronic products. It is also categorised separately from art and design in official publications by the Department for Education, including the national curriculum and statistical releases. However, it seems likely that design and technology may have suffered in the same manner as arts subjects since Ebacc was introduced. The government certainly does not seem to fully appreciate its importance in the school curriculum.

The details of the EPI report are of interest to those with concerns about the details. However, the headline finding should concern everyone interested in the role of education in helping to create a civilized society.

 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In the DfE’s White Paper of March 2016 there was discussion of the idea of the need for a teacher vacancy portal. The Select Committee in the last parliament were also interested in the idea. As we also know for the NAO report of earlier this week, the DfE historically has had little handle on the necessary management information regarding the current working of the teacher labour market. It was, therefore interesting to receive the email detailed below earlier today from the DfE:

Thank you for your email. We [at the DfE] have recently started a 14-week ‘alpha’ development phase of the Teacher Vacancy Service project, and our focus is very much on user testing at the moment. We are hoping to engage again with vacancy suppliers shortly.

I would be delighted to hear from those involved in the ‘alpha’ testing phase at present so we can see how the DfE’s efforts match up against those of TeachVac and other suppliers such as the TES and eteach?

We know the DfE set aside a budget of £300,000 last autumn for some of this work. As TeachVac is free to schools and teachers, anything the DfE is going to do isn’t going to hurt our direct profits, as TeachVac makes its money in other ways. Whether it hurts other suppliers of vacancies will depend upon the model the DfE is proposing to use.

If it is a portal to redirect schools and applicants to suppliers and other job boards it probably won’t be public money well spent. If it is a foray from the DfE into the type of service TeachVac offers for free, then it will be interesting to see how the DfE’s ideas match up with what already exists. If the DfE is intending to drive down the cost of recruiting then it will certainly have an impact on those that charge for marketing teaching vacancies? They can argue the case as to whether or not it is good use of public money.

Either way, from the Fast Track scheme of nearly 20 years ago, through the School Recruitment Service of nearly a decade ago, to the National Teaching Service, abandoned late last year, schemes derived by civil servants don’t seem to have had a great success rate when they try to intervene in the labour market for teachers.

Nevertheless, as TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has demonstrated, there is a need for a service that is free to schools and teachers and also provides high quality data for those that want to understand the current labour market.

If the DfE version does not interact with independent sector schools, the private providers such as TeachVac, the TES and others will continue to have the edge over the DfE by offering a wider range of information about vacancies all in one place.

This week has seen a significant move forward in understanding the need for real-time vacancy information for the teaching profession. The DfE should now explain what they are proposing.