Job listings for teachers

There was an interesting meeting/workshop at the DfE yesterday. The focus was on their embryonic (and expensive to produce) ‘job listing service’, to use its current working title. There were more DfE representatives in the room – were they being paid London salaries – than the whole workforce of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that is located on the Isle of Wight. This is surely the sort of project that could have been outsourced to an area of high unemployment to boost a local economy, maybe it is and I am doing the DfE an injustice?

Anyway, private BETA testing is now taking place in part of Cambridgeshire and the North East of England. The aims include providing better data for the DfE. They won’t have any for this recruitment round, so they might like to view this post https://wordpress.com/post/johnohowson.wordpress.com/2542 where I commented on the situation in London.

Those of us attending the event were told not to take photographs of the slides of the entry screens to be used by schools to log jobs. However, anyone that wants to see what the system might look like has only to log on to https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/secondary-school-teacher to have some sort of idea of what the site might look like, as the DfE team are using the gov.uk standards and templates from ‘scheme.org’.

In her introduction, the deputy director at the DfE responsible for this work area said the goals included:

  • reducing the time and cost to schools – TeachVac does both of these already and
  • making finding jobs easier – but no evidence was provided as to what was wrong with current job boards and other means of finding vacancies for teaching posts.

However, the Deputy Director did say that job seekers had told them that poor quality listings make finding jobs difficult. I challenged her to publish the evidence on this point, as TeachVac welcomes feedback and the team in Newport want to know if the DfE has evidence from users about TeachVac. Sadly, I didn’t receive an answer to the direct question.

There is a hunger out there for a vacancy listing service from schools and I believe TeachVac offers the best free national vacancy service currently in operation. TeachVac hasn’t required a penny of public money. If you agree there is a need, go to https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/214287 and add your name to the petition. But also go to www.teachvac.co.uk and register as a teacher and make a free search. Then ask yourself what more do I need to know when looking for a teaching post? Let the team know your thoughts.

TeachVac may not look like a wonderful up to the minute site, but it works and you only see the front end screen when you register or change your preferences, so all the investment goes on making the system work for you.

TeachVac is a closed system – you cannot view all the jobs on offer and that is deliberate. No agency can download all the jobs. The risk of the DfE’s ‘open’ system is it provides an incentive for commercial companies to capture applicants – especially new entrants from training – and sell them to schools for a finders’ fee.

An outcome where the DfE destroyed the present market, only to create new commercial opportunities in the recruitment market at even greater cost to schools than the present system would not be a sensible or desirable outcome. But, it is a risk of the present approach using an ‘open’ system.

Is the DfE work value for public money/ That’s for others to judge, but if you haven’t tried TeachVac yet, www.teachvac.co.uk then please do so before making up your mind.

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No relief in sight

Yesterday, I reflected upon the pamphlet by EPI about teacher supply matters. Their suggestion of differential pay for shortage subjects looks even more the wrong solution after looking at today’s data from UCAS. On the basis of applications and offers by mid-April, only physical education, history and possibly geography would probably be excluded from the need for some form of salary increases to aid recruitment and retention if both offers and the identified demand as calculated by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model are taken into account.

There are at least seven secondary subjects where the April combined total of ‘placed’ students plus those ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding an offer’ are the lowest seen for this point in the cycle since well before the 2013/14 cycle, when we still had the former GTTR recruitment system. As that system measured only applicants and not applications, it is something of a challenge to compare back into the period of 2006-08 when applications were last falling, ahead of the recession of 2008 that arrived just too late to help recruitment that year.

There is some good news today, English ‘offers’ are up compared to last year, when numbers were frankly dreadful. However, it looks unlikely that the Teacher Supply Model number will be met this year, thus making recruitment again a challenge for schools in 2019. Biology is doing well for placed applicants, but this may be down to a shift from those just shown under the science heading. Neither Chemistry nor Physics have seen similar increases, with both subjects recording new lows since the 2013/14 recruitment round.

Among the arts subjects, both music and art are faring especially badly this year. The stories about cuts to the arts curriculum may well be deterring possible applicants. The independent sector and schools with an arts focus might want to check with their local providers what is happening in their areas. Seemingly there was no change at all in the aggregate number of ‘placed’, ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding offer’ applicants in music between the March and April recording points: an almost unheard of state of affairs for any subject at this point in the recruitment round.

The EPI pamphlet reminded readers that offering places to a greater percentage of applicants was one way to meet the Teacher Supply numbers A quick look at the overall regional totals of offers – it would be helpful if UCAS would publish these separately for primary and secondary programmes by region and by secondary subject – suggests an overall ‘offer’ and ‘placed’ rate of 69%. Allowing for those in the early stages of their applications and those that have withdrawn, this means probably about 70% of applicants overall had had an offer or one sort or another. Interestingly, that percentage falls to just 62% for the London region, but is at 73% of applicants with one sort of offer or another in both the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber Regions.

Younger applicants have a much higher ratio of offers to overall applicant numbers than is the situation for older students – 77% of the 21 and 22 age groups had an offer. This may partly be due to this group applying earlier, so a higher percentage of older applicants may be at an early stage in the application process, while the youngest applicants are now busy with examinations and final degree outcomes. Nevertheless, only 58% of those over 40 have had offers, a difference of 19% with the youngest age groups. For men from the oldest age group of those over 40, only 48% have had an offer. This compares with 80% of women in the 22 or under age group. However, it should be noted that men and women have different offer rates overall.

Clearly, the TV advertising campaign isn’t working this year. Perhaps the pay rise, when announced, will make a difference, but unless something does, the additional secondary pupils in our schools over the next few years are going to find that who will teach some of them will be an interesting question.

 

Chickens coming home to roost

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) have helpfully pulled a lot of information about teacher supply – some of the data has already appeared on this blog over the past few years – in a new pamphlet. The teacher labour market: a perilous path ahead? https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/EPI-analysis_Teacher-labour-market_2018.pdf

I am not sure that I agree with their conclusions about paying some teachers more than others. However, it is an inevitable solution offered by free market economists, where changing the price offered for labour is the mechanism for dealing with shortages and surpluses. Interestingly, EPI don’t suggest cutting the pay of PE teachers. I assume they believe the millstone of student debt and no guarantee of a teaching post should be enough of a disincentive. However, it would be one way to provide schools with the cash to pay others more.

I assume that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would eschew the free market approach and go for the alternative strategy of state controlled rationing. Such a strategy was popular after Second World War, when the Ministry of Education used to issue an annual circular telling local authorities how many newly trained teachers they could employ. In those days, the issue of subject expertise was less of a concern as, apart form in the selective and independent sectors, most schools employed class teachers rather than subject specialists.

The problem with the free market approach, as suggested by EPI, is the assumption that teaching can outbid the private sector when it comes to pay. This was presumably also behind the thinking of the Gatsby Foundation paper http://www.gatsby.org.uk/education/latest/examine-pay-of-early-career-shortage-subject-teachers-to-effectively-tackle-retention-in-english-secondary-schools of March this year that said ‘a data simulation to measure what the impact of a 5% pay increase for early years maths and science teachers in England would have been, had it been introduced as policy in 2010. The report reveals such a policy would have eliminated the shortage of science teachers experienced since 2010.’ I wonder whether that would have been the case or whether private sector employers would have matched the pay increases and offered better non-pay conditions of service.

Where EPI is correct is to cite a perilous path ahead for the teacher labour market. Tomorrow should see the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances for 2018 teacher preparation programmes. I doubt we can expect much good news. As the EPI pamphlet points out, and in doing so reinforces a point made on this blog, ‘there is still a chance training providers will be able to get close to meeting DfE’s recruitment targets, but they might need to accept nearly all applicants.’ As I have said before, what does that mean for the quality of applicants being offered places if almost anyone that applies can be taken onto a teacher preparation course?

Increasing the time spent on sports and PE in our secondary schools and reducing the time on separate sciences taught by specialists before Key Stage 4 might upset some departments in Russell Group universities, but it might also make for a healthier school population. Looking at the curriculum that can be staffed might be a better use of limited resources than trying to decide each year how much to pay teachers with different skills and expertise. But, if the government does go down that path, they might need to pay the highest salaries to teachers of business studies.

 

As expected: a bumper week for teaching posts

Well, as I expected, this week is shaping up to be the week with the largest number of vacancies for teachers and school leaders so far in 2018. TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free National Vacancy Service already operating across the whole of England, has looked at more 4,000 vacancies this week. This included repeat advertisements, re-advertisements and new vacancies.

We had expected this level of activity this week for the reasons Laura McInerney listed in her recent article in Schools Week https://schoolsweek.co.uk/fixing-the-madness-of-the-teacher-transfer-window/ She might have added the issue of school budgets and when schools are told how much cash they will have to spend in the next year or can estimate the direction of travel on the basis of pupil numbers. Secondary schools across much of the country are now looking at rising intakes and can plan forward on that basis for several years to come. On the other hand, primary schools, in many parts of the country are seeing reduced intakes, with the inevitable effect of reducing their income for the next few years, unless mergers and closures lead to some realignment of schools in the sector. Regular readers will know of my concerns for the future of small, and especially small rural, primary schools.

Anyway, the consequences of our funding model for schools when pupil numbers go up and down is an issue for another day. This week, we can discuss the consequences for schools that need to start searching for staff later in the recruitment cycle. TeachVac has been tracking the relationship between new entrants from teacher preparation courses and the demand for teachers from schools across four recruitment cycles, so we have a good idea of what the consequences of the under-performance into teacher preparation courses last September will mean for schools.

Earlier this month, on behalf of TeachVac, I provided both the DfE and ASCL with evidence from the TeachVac data that clearly identifies those subjects where the 2018 recruitment round is already showing signs of putting schools seeking to make appointments under strain. Until the DfE launches its own vacancy service across the country, it generally has no data of its own about the current recruitment round and must rely upon third party information.

Thirty years ago, I identified the government’s reliance on statistics – which they are generally good at collecting, although not perfect – with their lack of knowledge about management information on the day to day and up to the minute position in the teacher labour market. When central government didn’t manage schools such a lack was unhelpful, but not critical. Now with academies, free schools and the like, not knowing what is happening is a major failure.

TeachVac also supplies schools and those preparing teachers with up to the minute data on their local area, for use either when Ofsted comes calling and asks about the local labour market or when bids for teacher training places need to be justified on the basis of local needs.

Here is just one example of how policy may be affecting the labour market. TeachVac has recorded more vacancies this year in mathematics than in any of the last three years: is the spending on CPD for those already in post not working or is this a consequence of increasing pupil numbers or even changes in retention rates?

100 days and counting

Mr Hinds has now been in post as Secretary of State of Education just beyond the 100 day point, regarded as the first milestone for a politician by many commentators. During the same period in 2010 Michael Gove had already achieved the passing of the infamous 2010 Academies Act, despite having had to wait for the creation of the Coalition. However much many of us dislike its contents, and the subsequent effect on schooling in England, one must admire the political foresight of Mr Gove and his team of advisers.

As with all Mr Gove’s successors, there has been little sign of the same degree of ambition from the present incumbent of the office at Sanctuary Buildings. Now it is true that a minority government is in an even weaker position with regard to legislation than even a coalition. However, one of Michael Gove’s first acts at Defra this January was to attend both the Oxford Farming Conference and it alternative unofficial counterpart down the road. In doing so, he was making a clear political statement.

So, what has been achieved in the first 100 days by the Secretary of State for Education? Judging by Mr Hind’s speech to the ASCL Conference in March, it is more a matter of emphasis and a nudge here and there, than dealing with the big picture issues. A pause on changes in assessment and testing; more emphasis on reducing workload to calm down the teaching profession and a nod to the importance of technology. A sort of steady as you go regime.

So, what’s still in the Secretary of State’s in-tray? School funding hasn’t gone away as an issue, although it doesn’t seem to be playing very big in local elections across England. Parents haven’t yet seen the real effects of tightening budget. The fact that two of the three remaining maintained secondary schools in Oxfordshire had deficits of more than £1 million each at the end of 2017-18 financial years tells of pain yet to come. School Funding could be a big issue for Whitehall if teachers’ pay increases this year are more than was estimated by the Treasury in its school funding models.

Such an increase seems likely, since the Secretary of State hasn’t managed to tackle the issue of providing an adequate supply of teachers and stemming the outflow of those already in the profession. National teacher shortages are always seen as the responsibility of the government at Westminster, and 2018 is still not looking very healthy on the recruitment into training front. Failure to recruit trainees will impact in 2019 on the ability of schools to recruit new teachers and allows plenty of time for profession to mount any number of campaigns. The joint letter from a number of organisations sent to Mr Hinds earlier this week may be just the first in a veritable salvo of concern about this issue.

For me, the Secretary of State could make his name by regularising the parallel systems of governance between locally overseen maintained schools and nationally managed academies. Although not exactly the same situation, Mr Hinds may recognise, coming from a hospitality industry background that the 2003 Licensing Act did away with the dual system of liquor licences being issued by Magistrates’ Court and entertainment licences by local authorities. Our dual governance system for schools is a mess and, as I have said before, doesn’t help some of our most vulnerable young people such as children taken into care that need a place in a different school.

But then, a concern with social mobility also didn’t seem to feature large in Mr Hind’s first 100 days.

AI and education – The view of the House of Lords Committee

The section on education in the recent House of Lords Report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) was one of the more confusing sections in terms of understanding exactly what was being suggested as the way forward. You can read the Report, published earlier this week, at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldai/100/10010.htm#_idTextAnchor094

Not surprisingly, industry representatives told the Committee how badly prepared young people were in this country and more needed to be achieved lest we fall further behind. Then, there was the counter argument about not cutting other subjects to make time for developing these new skills and knowledge. If you want creative industries then you need to include creative subjects in the curriculum not to relegate them to some cultural backwater and just treated by schools as an afterthought.

The Committee heard that there is the downside of our modern digital world, once it was the bad effects of posters and newspaper adverts and video nasties on children, now it is reduced attention spans, shallower cognitive capabilities and experience a loss of identity as a result of time online and using social media. One witness warned the Committee, “that the idealised world represented on social media “leads to many illnesses including eating disorders … and serious mental illnesses”.   The implication being that schools must put in place strategies to prevent such outcomes among future generations exposed to the perils of the modern world.

The Committee recognised that the 2014 change to the curriculum on IT in schools across England needed time to take effect. However, the removal of any consideration of moral and ethical issues to do with social media and digital technology from the curriculum was regretted by some witnesses; no doubt more so over recent weeks as the various concerns over social media and the handling of personal data have emerged. Personally, I think the downgrading of Religious Education at examination level, where there was a real opportunity to discuss issues of ethic, morality and philosophy, by excluding the subject from the EBacc was a mistake.

The cCmmittee went on to welcome the projects outlined in last autumn’s budget for more computer science teachers and the establishment of a National Centre for Computing with industry to produce training material and support schools with the teaching of computer science. But, they didn’t really seem to probe very deeply on what is actually happening on the ground in our schools. IT and computer science teacher vacancies remain at the lower end of range seen over the past four recruitment cycles according to TeachVac’s data http://www.teachvac.co.uk; so perhaps those already in post are staying put and there aren’t large numbers of new posts being created. Whether there would be jobs for 8,000 extra teachers by the end of this parliament as envisaged in the budget seems highly unlikely.

As I wrote in my blog post when the number was leaked the weekend before the budget:

If the 8,000 number does make it into the budget, then so as not to look as if the Treasury doesn’t talk to the DfE there will have to be some form of explanation. Personally, I would add 10% to the Teacher Supply Model and split the rest between for professional development for existing teachers: spending 40% on those on professional development for secondary school teachers already teaching computer science and not fully qualified; 40% for lead teachers in the primary schools, starting with a programme for MATs and dioceses and the allocated the remaining 20% for programmes for teachers of other subjects to embed areas such as geographical information and other subject-related techniques into curriculum development. I might keep a small pot of cash back for new methods of preparing teachers that don’t rely upon face to face contact.

Finally, the Committee said: “the Government should explore ways in which the education sector, at every level, can play a role in translating the benefits of AI into a more productive and equitable economy.”

You try and work out what that really means.

Time to smell the coffee

A consortium of organisations involved in preparing postgraduates to become teachers have written to the Secretary of State about the state of teacher recruitment and made some sensible suggestions for steps that could be taken to attract more people into teaching. You can read the contents of their letter at https://www.ucet.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DHindsNASBTTUCETTSCletter-FINAL.pdf

All the suggestions are sensible, and I would go even further and ask for a return to a training salary for all on postgraduate ITT courses. As regular readers know, I don’t believe it is equitable to offer a salary to trainee army officers at Sandhurst and not trainee teachers. I also think a trainee teacher on a PGCE is working just as hard as one on Teach First and has sacrificed the right to earn. Even if teachers were guaranteed a job at the end of their training, assuming they met the standard for qualification, I still believe that they should be paid a salary. The fact that there is no guarantee of a teaching post just places all the risk and financial burden firmly on the trainee.

As I have written on this blog before, the laws of economics tell us that you can impose what conditions you like where demand exceeds supply and then see how demand is affected. When supply exceeds demand, as it now does in the provision of training places (PE and history excepted), then looking to see what can be put in place to stimulate demand is a more sensible move. The letter above recognises this truth. The DfE has yet to convince the Treasury, a Department always concerned about the dead weight effect of paying those that would have trained anyway. With such a large number of trainees the figure for revenue spending seems massive, but compared to say purchasing a single armoured vehicle or helicopter it is not out of line with the size of the overall education budget.

However, as the National Audit Office pointed out, improving retention is the best way to reduce training costs, as you then need to train fewer new entrants. I sense some of the suggestions to the Secretary of State are also aimed at helping retention. Early entrant retention doesn’t seem to be a big issue, it is more retention after 5-7 years that is now the concern.

Interestingly, entry into the profession and retention often doesn’t fall when training numbers take a dip. This may be because a greater proportion of applicants to train as teachers are there by choice rather than because they couldn’t find anything else to do or are forced to look for a new career. Sadly, this fact helps the Treasury mandarins with their ‘dead weight’ argument. However, even potentially committed teachers can be forced out of joining the profession when the financials turn sufficiently negative.

The writers of the letter clearly see that:

 We are now in the second year of graduates completing three year degree programmes having accumulated annual tuition fee debts of £9,000, as well as significant maintenance loans. With a relatively small number of exceptions, even those trainees receiving bursaries will be expected to accumulate more debt to become qualified or, at the very least, forgo the opportunity to embark on alternative salaried careers.

These are powerful arguments that should not be ignored. As an employee of the then TTA, I spent the summer of 1997 arguing with civil servants that postgraduate trainee teachers should have their fees waived and paid by the government. That was the position until the Coalition Government changed the rules. It is now time to once again waive fees and re-introduce a training grant for all postgraduate trainee teachers.