Good news for Didcot

Well done to the Oxfordshire UTC. The 14-19 school received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted this week, after its first ever inspection. In the same week the UTC in Derby was placed in special measures.

You can read the Ofsted report on the Oxfordshire UTC at  https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/141111 Schools week had some interesting statistics on UTCs recently. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/derby-manufacturing-utc-placed-in-special-measures/ Apparently, according to the report by Schools Week

almost a quarter of the 33 UTCs inspected so far have received Ofsted’s bottom grade.

Sixty-one per cent of all UTCs inspected have been rated less than ‘good’.  Six, all grade three or four, have since closed.

 Of the remaining 27 that are still open, 14 are rated either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Most UTCs have struggled since they were established in 2010, mainly because of problems attracting enough pupils to stay financially viable. Eight have so far closed.

 In January, Schools Week revealed that almost every UTC missed its recruitment targets last year, leaving them with combined debts of over £11 million.”

The UTC in Didcot is clearly bucking the trend for UTCs as a whole and I am grateful to the person that emailed me last night after the Ofsted Report had appeared to draw it to my attention. However, I still have anxieties over its long-term future if it cannot fill all the places it has on offer.

What Ofsted have revealed is that although the Oxfordshire UTC is still a work in progress it has strong leadership and a clear vision of what it is seeking to achieve.  The school and its staff are also aware that a proportion of their pupils come to them at fourteen with a less than successful record of achievement in the school system. Unlike some 14-18 schools they are not only aware of this but also set out to change the relationship with these pupils and the education system. That’s a tough job, but like Meadowbrook, the alternative provision in Oxfordshire, where Ofsted also commented on the work with teenagers that have reacted against schooling, the Oxfordshire UTC is also winning the hearts and minds of these young people. As Ofsted commented in their summary:

Pupils, including some who had previously struggled to engage with education, are inspired by the UTC’s ethos.

The Inspector went on to add that:

Since the UTC opened, some pupils have arrived in Year 10 having had negative experiences of schooling. Staff quickly get to know the pupils well, and support and reassure any experiencing stress or anxiety. Pupils gain a sense of community, security and pride during their time at UTC Oxfordshire. This equips them with great confidence and maturity.

Inspection report: UTC Oxfordshire, 22–23 May 2018

Schools cannot succeed without strong and purposeful leadership and the Oxfordshire UTC certainly has a leader creating a successful school backed by a strong team and supportive sponsors.

My more general anxiety is how the next generation of leaders for the school system will be developed? Some MATs will ensure that they create leadership pathways, but how will the stand alone academies and the remaining maintained schools ensure a leadership pipeline that is sufficient to meet the needs of all schools. This question is especially pertinent at a time when the need for career pathways for teachers that doesn’t involve whole school leadership is once again being discussed.

There are other reasons why I have concerns about 14-18 schools, but in this case I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the Oxfordshire UTC.

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Buddy, can you spare a job?

On Wednesday, during his appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, the Secretary of State’s attention was drawn to existence of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk. The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Gateshead MP, Ian Mearns, asked Mr Hinds about the DfE’s new vacancy site and the number of vacancies posted on it at present. At the same time he also mentioned the free vacancy service for schools and teachers already being provided nationwide by TeachVac. The exchange is at 1108 on the video at https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/58da6df3-da79-4b92-99cb-64a2a96d03de

Regular readers of this blog will know of my involvement with TeachVac, in my capacity as Chair of the company operating TeachVac and TeachVac Global, the site for international schools.

The DfE vacancy site is only accepting jobs at present from schools in Cambridgeshire and the whole of the North East region. Earlier today the DfE site had a total of just nine vacancies listed, and only four of those were teaching posts. Of the teaching posts, three posts had a closing date of today and the fourth closes on Monday. As a result, unless new vacancies are posted, the DfE site will have no vacancies for teachers by Tuesday of next week. All four vacancies are from two areas of the North East: there are already no vacancies posted by Cambridgeshire schools on the site.

By comparison, TeachVac has 5 vacancies for teaching posts in Cambridgeshire and 12 vacancies across the North East; all with closing dates extending into next week or beyond. One of the DfE vacancies had its closing date extended earlier today, but that is not yet apparent on the DfE site; it is on TeachVac. This is the quietist part of the year for vacancies, so the next few weeks will provide little evidence about the working of the DfE site and its capacity to handle the large number of vacancies posted during March, April and May.

The DfE site also has a significant problem with one of the posted vacancies, for a Head of Languages, with the result that most applicants probably wouldn’t find the vacancy. TeachVac uses a ‘defined’ vacancy search system, unlike the DfE’s open system that follows the type of systems used by others such as the TES.

The DfE would have saved the taxpayer a lot of money if it had just produced a portal with a list of free sites with national coverage, such as TeachVac; free sites with local coverage and paid for job sites. This would have produced a national coverage at minimal cost of time and money. Instead, there is a site that is spending public money competing with the marketplace. But, that’s alright as the Public Accounts Committee gave the DfE the green light. However, the DfE won’t have any useful data about vacancies until at least 2020 at the current rate of progress.

I also wonder how many millions will be spent on marketing their site. Again, there is a low cost solution that has political attractions for the Secretary of State, but he is going to have to ask if he wants to know what it is. Should the Select Committee want to ask me, I am happy to respond I am already updating the professional associations and other key players about TeachVac whose revamped site went live this week handling vacancies in schools across England.

 

 

 

Workforce worries over retention

Yesterday, this blog took its first look at the School Workforce Census data for 2017. Jack Worth at NfER, their authority on the school workforce, has also written a much more extensive blog about the same data. This can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/ It is well worth a read.

One interesting dataset in the DfE Tables is that on teacher retention. The DfE has updated the numbers used in their submission to the STRB as part of their discussions on pay and conditions for teachers still covered by the national pay and conditions. The updated data doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Year
NQT enter-ing service
YEAR 1
YEAR 2
YEAR 3
YEAR 4
YEAR 5
YEAR 6
YEAR 7
YEAR 8
YEAR 9
YEAR 10
1996
18100
16471
15204
14299
13213
12851
12308
12127
11584
11222
10860
1997
18900
17010
15023
14553
13986
13419
13041
12663
12285
11718
11340
1998
17800
15842
14418
13706
13172
12816
12282
11926
11392
11214
11036
1999
18300
16104
15006
14091
13542
12993
12810
12261
11895
11712
11346
2000
17600
15664
14608
13728
13024
12672
12144
11792
11616
11264
10912
2001
18600
16554
15252
14508
13950
13206
12648
12462
12276
11904
11904
2002
20700
18423
17181
16146
15318
14904
14490
14076
13662
13455
13248
2003
23000
20700
19090
17710
17020
16330
15870
15640
15410
14950
14490
2004
25200
22428
20412
19404
18648
17892
17388
17388
16884
16380
15624
2005
25700
22102
20817
19789
19018
18247
18247
17733
16962
16448
15677
2006
24000
20880
19440
18480
17760
17520
17040
16320
15840
14880
14400
2007
24400
21472
20008
19032
18788
18056
17324
16592
15372
15128
14640
2008
24400
21472
20008
19520
18788
18056
17324
16104
15860
15372
2009
22300
19401
18509
17617
17394
16056
15164
15164
14272
2010
24100
20967
19762
18557
17593
16870
15906
15424
2011
20600
18128
17098
15862
15038
14214
13390
2012
23300
20504
18873
17475
16543
15611
2013
23800
20706
19040
17612
16660
2014
25100
21837
19829
17374
2015
26100
22707
20358
2016
24900
21165
2017
23300

Abstracted from DfE Table 8 School Workforce Census June 2018

Although the number of NQTs fluctuates from year to year and is uprated as new entrants arrive in the profession as deferred entrants, either for the first time or from another sector, the loss of teachers is concerning. It is probably worth ignoring the 2011 data where the NQT number looks somewhat out of line for the period since 2006.

The DfE notes that numbers also underestimate teachers in part-time service, but, if the underestimate is consistent, this is only an issue where part-time working among this group of teachers is changing significantly.

The table does show how quickly teacher recruitment and retention can become an issue, especially where school rolls are on the increase, if the profession doesn’t hold on to its teachers.

The real concern must be with retention from years 6-10, where the next generation of middle leaders should start to be emerging. Assuming the 2007 cohort is split equally between primary and secondary sectors, this would mean a cohort of around 7,400 primary teachers. As the primary sector currently needs more than 1,000 new head teachers each year, the likelihood is that approaching 15% of the cohort may need to become head teachers at some point in their careers. Adding in deputy posts means that the percentage of the cohort needed for leadership positions probably exceeds 25%.

If you factor in specific demands, such as the need to be a Roman Catholic to lead an RC primary school, future leadership issues can already be predicted if the workforce isn’t prepared for leadership.

There are no regional breakdowns for retention in the tables. Such breakdowns would be helpful in predicating the pressures on future leadership appointments at a sub-national level and identifying the areas where there is the need to take early action. Perhaps, the Select Committee might ask for that data next time they talk to the Secretary of State for Education.

Fewer teachers, classroom assistants and technicians

Today is the day that the DfE publishes two important datasets: the results of the 2017 School Workforce Census and the data providing the identification of schools and their characteristics. You can find the details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics?departments%5B%5D=department-for-education

There are a large number of tables to assimilate, but the DfE helpfully publishes what used to be known as a Statistical Bulletin on the School Workforce data at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719772/SWFC_MainText.pdf Now it only has a title.

The headline figure is the reduction in staffing levels almost across the board, whether teachers, technicians or classroom assistants. This is the manifestation of the funding issues facing schools that have been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere. As the DfE note states’ ‘The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%’, between November 2016 and November 2017. The note is not totally accurate, because the figure includes centrally employed teachers, but since there are now less than 4,000 of these the latitude in the wording can be overlooked.

There was also a fall in the number of entrants to teaching, meaning that entrants and leavers were both recorded as at 9.9% of the qualified teaching force. This is the first year for some considerable time and probably since the School Workforce Census has been collected at its present November date that entrants into the profession have not exceeded departures as a percentage of the qualified teacher workforce.

As noted in the previous post on this blog, older applicants were taking more training places as younger graduates seem less interested in becoming teachers. The same trend is visible in the workforce data. Table 7b shows a large increase in departures among teachers in the 25-44 age brackets and especially among the key 25-34 age group where just over 14,000 were recorded as leaving compared with just 10,400 of this age group in 2011. Are we losing the leaders of tomorrow and where are they going? Are international schools tempting them overseas with better pay and easier working conditions?

Although much is made of working conditions and workload, teacher absence rates still continue to fall as Table 16 reveals. There was a one per cent rise in the percentage of teachers taking sickness absence, but the total days lost was the lowest for many a year.

After some years when the match between teachers’ qualifications ad subject expertise had been improving, there was something of a setback between 2017 and 2018 in some subjects. This may be due to the increasing challenge in recruitment into training and can be expected to show further declines in key subjects when the next set of data are published next June. In 2017 among EBacc subjects, only German and ‘other’ Modern Languages saw an improvement in the percentage of hours taught by a teacher with a relevant post A level qualification. Spanish and Chemistry recorded no change.

Now that secondary pupil numbers are on the increase and primary numbers are falling among the entry age groups, it is likely that we will see more rebalancing of the teacher workforce over the next few years. Unless funding improves, it also seems likely that more support staff will also lose their jobs as schools strive to protect teaching posts.

A glimmer of good news

The government can take some relief in the UCAS data issued earlier today, but only in subjects such as English and art that really shouldn’t be a problem anyway. The list of subjects where offers to applicants by mid-June were still below the very poor 2017 figures include the key science subjects of Chemistry and Physics, -although there is a surfeit of Biologists this year. Mathematics, Music, and Religious Education complete the list of areas of real concern with just two months to go before most courses start in September.

There has been a post finals bounce in some subjects, no doubt helped by the publicity about teaching as a career. An announcement about teachers’ pay going forward might also have helped boost recruitment if there were signs of an end to the pay cap. Interestingly, history, always a banker for meeting its target in the past, is showing signs of weakness this year when compared to the record breaking numbers of last year. However, offers are still above the figure for two years ago.

Overall, applicant numbers still haven’t recovered to the level of last year and, at 33,210, are some 2,600 below June 2017. More worryingly, the ‘placed’ number of applicants is down from 3,480 in 2017 to 2,770 this June. This is partly compensated for in a rise of 200 in those ‘holding offers’. The number of conditionally places applicants is broadly similar to last year, at just over 20,000

Interestingly, Mr Gibb won’t find much evidence in this data to support his expressed view of higher education turning away quality applicants. As noted in another earlier post, the data on applicants as opposed to applications isn’t easily accessible but if you look at secondary applications minus an estimate for Higher Education’s contribution to Physical Education – where applicants numbers exceed places by a significant amount you end up with higher education and SCITTS doing far better than School Direct routes in terms of turning applications into offers.

Secondary minus

Estimate for PE

Placed Conditionally Placed Holding Offer All Offers Total applications % Applications as offers
HE 740 4770 540 6050 20500 30%
SCITT 100 1780 110 1990 6470 31%
SD Fee 360 3190 150 3700 14770 25%
SD Salaried 70 590 40 700 3860 18%
All routes 1270 10330 840 12440 45600 27%
Source based on UCAS data for June 2018

With the data on applicants and offers by subject this would be more than an estimate of the position. Nevertheless, the longer established routes do seem to be performing better than the School Direct routes, especially the salaried route into teaching. Unless schools continue to recruit during the summer holidays this table is only likely to see a further strengthening of higher education and SCITTs in their share of applicants made offers.

Elsewhere, the data shows the continued weakness among younger applicants and relatively better application rates from those over 30. The over-30s now make up around 30% of applicants.

Unless there is a dramatic change in the next month, 2019 is going to be another challenging recruit round for schools, especially in London and the Home Counties where pupil numbers are on the increase.

 

How to run a National School

Recently Lord Agnew, the PUS for the School System wrote to firms that audit academies and their Trusts/Committees. Now a letter from a Minister carries with it both political and administrative weight when compared to one from a civil servant writing on behalf of their political masters. Lord Agnew’s letter can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-lord-theodore-agnew-to-academy-trust-auditors

In the letter, , in the words of the DfE website, Lord Agnew ‘shares across the audit sector several key points that will help boards govern more effectively and make best use of the freedoms they have.’

So what are the key points in the letter? General Annual Grant (GAG) pooling is the first point specified.

Lord Agnew reminds the auditors that ‘The opportunity to pool GAG is particularly valuable, in particular to simplify the provision of support to weaker schools in a MAT until they can grow their pupil numbers. It is worth remembering that a MAT is a single financial entity.

This isn’t a power generally available to local authorities in relation to maintained schools and typifies the different power arrangements between schools in MAT/MACs and those schools still in the maintained sector. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask the auditors for a time limit on taking money away from some schools to support others. Auditors might like to consider whether this cross-subsidy between schools should really be open-ended or in need for regular justification, since Regional School Commissioners seem to differ in their approach to such weak schools. Auditors can provide helpful national guidance by acting in concert on this point.

By the time Lord Agnew has reached Auditors’ management letters, he is telling audit firms that, ‘We would like to see the recommendations made by auditors being implemented in a timely manner with scrutiny at board level to ensure that this is the case.’ Now whether or not he sees it as a duty on the auditors to see that the contents of these letters are addressed is an interesting question. Of course, if the issue is really serious, then the auditors should quality the accounts. However, this is something auditors are generally reluctant to do, even though the DfE itself isn’t unfamiliar with the process in terms of its own accounts and their relationship with the academy sector.

Lord Agnew also hope his letter will open up debate between the auditors and their clients. His list of Operational Challenges is interesting. These include,

  1. Are your clients using a standard employment contract for all teaching staff so that they can be cross deployed to different schools?
  2. Are they using the same exam boards in all their schools to enable cross school marking and also to optimise the point above?
  3. Do they have a central electronic purchase order system to ensure strong controls on expenditure?
  4. Do they have a central bank account that simplifies bank reconciliations and ensures that there is constant, easy visibility of the cash position?
  5. Are they benchmarking their supply costs and if over a number of years the level is constant have they considered employing permanent staff to fill some of this requirement thereby improving the quality and removing agency charges?
  6. Are they accessing the Department’s procurement arrangements if they are providing better value than they can achieve on their own?

The first of these is highly interesting in the sense of moving back to controlling the lives of teachers. When I joined Haringey, in 1971, my contract specified a school but added that the council had the right to move me to another school. With all schools in the Authority in a tight geographical area this wouldn’t have had much to concern me, even if was in use, which by then it wasn’t. With MATs/MACs spread across large areas, it might be helpful to understand whether this policy, advocated by the DfE, is having any effects on recruitment and retention of teachers both at classroom level and, more specifically, in terms of promotion to middle leadership if it means a house move to a different area?

If these powers are to be enforced on academies, then presumably they are both important and useful for our school system. In that case, why aren’t local authorities allowed to create them for maintained schools and what is the future for stand-alone academies?

Perhaps Lord Agnew will write to Directors of Children’s Services explaining why these operational challenges don’t matter in the remaining maintained schools?

 

 

The making of a myth?

Where a Minister say ‘it is my view’ you can wonder whether he asked his civil servants for some evidence to support his statement, but likely it wasn’t there. Nick Gibb, a relic of the Gove era and generally no friend of higher education’s role in teacher training and development, uttered the said phrase in his speech to the Festival of Education held this weekend. As reported by the DfE he said;

It is my view that in previous years too many universities rejected candidates who were ready to be trained to become highly effective and inspirational teachers. The government has worked with universities and Ofsted to ensure that they are incentivised to take on applicants who are ready to train to teach.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nick-gibb-teachers-are-taking-control-of-their-profession

It is interesting to look at the evidence to see how far it supports his stated view

In 2017, the UCAS end of cycle report on applications revealed that there had been 54,310 applications for places on primary sector courses and 66,770 applications for places on secondary sector courses. Sadly, UCAS didn’t publish the data for applicants as opposed to applications.

Percentage of applications placed
Primary Placed Total % Placed
HE 6110 26100 23%
SCITT 1240 4910 25%
SD Fee 3390 13790 25%
SD Salary 1630 9510 17%
Total 12370 54310 23%
 
Secondary  
HE 7540 34770 22%
SCITT 1790 7330 24%
SD Fee 3800 18500 21%
SD Salary 990 6170 16%
Total 14120 66770 21%

Source UCAS End of cycle Report B Table 10

At this stage it is worth remembering that applicants could, but didn’t have to, make as many as three applications. Some rejected by all three may make additional applications to other providers. At least for 2017, the evidence is mixed. In the primary sector, two of the three schools routes accepted a larger percentage of applications than higher education, whereas in the secondary sector, where applications to different subjects plays a part, higher education placed a higher percentage of applications than the two main School Direct routes.  In both the primary and secondary sectors, the SCITT route had the highest percentage of applications accepted.

Now it is possibly that some routes attract more mature and location specific applicants. These might make less than three applications but, overall, there were 41,700 applicants recorded by UCAS with a domicile group shown as England. Providers in England received 122,150 applications. This equates to just over 2.9 applications per applicant if we assume applicants domiciled in England applied to providers also located in England, so may well not be the reason for the disparity. Applicants for primary courses may prefer training in a university rather than a school setting: the data doesn’t allow us to answer that question.

Looking back in time to 2007, where I can easily access the data on applications and acceptances through the then GTTR system from a paper I wrote for Policy Exchange on The Labour Market for Teachers, I see, higher education and the few SCITTS then around, had an impressive track record of accepting 57% of all secondary applicants and 44% of those applying for primary courses. In those days there were lots of would-be primary teachers.

In Design & Technology, always a shortage subject, 77% of applicants were accepted, as were 70% of those wanting to be music teachers and 70% of would-be languages teachers. At the other end of the scale only 32% of would-be drama teachers and 35% of potential PE teachers were accepted.

So, please Mr Gibb, can we have the evidence for your view before it joins other myths about teacher education.