Improve teacher retention, but that’s not the whole solution

The NfER has produced its final comprehensive report into teacher supply and retention entitled, ‘Teacher Workforce Dynamics in England’. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/government-mustnt-lose-focus-tackling-teacher-supply-shortage

I have to confess that, as noted in the acknowledgements, I acted as a consultant to the team working on this project at NfER. During the various stages of the project the team issued research reports and the final documents brings all these together and amplifies them in a number of different ways not possible in the shorter documents. The Nuffield Foundation must be recognised for their help in funding the project.

At the launch last evening there were some interesting issues raised that may merit further analysis should funds be available. Firstly, the data on retention is presented in terms of the percentage of staff leaving the profession. This raises two issues: what is meant in terms of leaving the teaching profession is leaving maintained state funded schools as teachers – they may still be working in state funded Sixth Form Colleges or further education or as a teacher in the private sector. When comparing leaving rates with nursing it isn’t clear whether registration of nurses includes those working in non-NHS settings such as the private sector and as school nurse and thus affects how leaving rates are calculated. Additionally, for the police, there was a period where most police forces stopped recruitment, so departure rates may be depressed when there were no new entrants to create a pool of early leavers during part of the survey period.

However, the other issue with the data are the use of percentages of staff leaving. This can be problematic. Thus, in 2015, 20,700 leavers from the secondary sector were detected by the School Workforce Census – a rate of 9.2% for secondary teachers; in 2017 the rate increased to 10.4%, but the actual number decreased to 20,170.  There is no suggestion that the data used by NfER experienced this situation, but it highlights why I often prefer to use real numbers.

Leavers do so at different times in their careers in teaching. Much has been made by the National Audit Office in their study and in this NfER report on the advantages of retaining more teachers in state funded schools. To that end, there is an interesting chart on page 24 of the NfER Report showing where leavers typically may be going. Again, percentages are used, so let’s assume a hypothetical example based upon 40,000 leavers and how many might be persuaded to return at any point.

Since 30% are retiring, the pool can be reduced to 28,000 straightaway, assuming there aren’t a large pool of teacher taking early retirement. The 400 taking maternity leave, a somewhat low figure given the age profile of the profession, takes another 400 out of the total. Another 800 are removed because they are studying as students. I assume this will include future Educational Psychologists and those seeking extra qualifications, such as to teach children with special education needs. However, the biggest category of leavers are those teaching in the private sector; some 33% or another 13,200 off the total.

So, how many of the remaining 13,600 might be persuaded to return?  4,000 are employed in schools as teaching assistants or other non-teaching roles. Some of these might have decided teaching is not for them, but others may have left for other reasons and might be persuadable back into the classroom as a teacher: let’s say 50% or 2,000 could fit into that category, perhaps if better part-time teaching opportunities were available.

Of the remaining 9,600, the 1,200 unemployed might offer some possibilities if teaching didn’t run on a market based recruitment system. After all, if there are teacher shortages, and these teachers wanted to work, there must be an assumption that they are in areas where teaching posts are not available for those with their skills. The other big group worth exploring further are the 4,400 in our example listed as self-employed. Are they working as tutors or using their skills as musicians, artists, historians or scientists for positive reasons or because they gave up on teaching?

Let’s assume half might tempted back, at last part-time if offered better terms. We now have possibly 4,000 that might be enticed back. Add another 1,000 for all the other smaller categories NfER identified, and the total is some 12.5% of leavers. However, many might only be interested in part-time work, so that might only be half that in terms of full-time equivalent teachers, say 2.500. Working trying to recruit, but still not the absolute answer to the teacher shortage issue. Certainly it is worth exploring whether some of these leavers might have been persuaded to remain in the profession.

 

 

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Lollipops and Déjà vu

Yesterday’s budget handout of £400 million to schools reminded me of Gordon Brown’s budget of 2000 after he had stopped following the Tory plans for the economy set out under John Major’s government. Those with long memories will recall both the 1997 decision by Blair and Brown to continue with government spending restraint and the spending spree after the Labour government changed direction.

One of Gordon Brown’s rabbits was to announce from the dispatch box in his 1999 and 2000 budgets extra funding for schools. This was great news for the schools, but less so for the orderly planning of teacher supply. As now, the extra cash came at a point in time when recruiting new entrants into teaching was proving quite a challenge: the cash make the situation far worse as schools went out seeking to hire teachers that just weren’t there. Eventually, the Education Department stopped the rot by upping the salaries of existing teachers in a way that prevented unchecked growth in teacher numbers. The result was a period where teachers were relatively better paid than for a generation. The end only came with the 2008 recession and the freeze on public sector pay.

So, yesterday felt like a sense of Déjà vu, with a Chancellor pulling a rabbit out of his budget red box and handing an average of £10,000 to each primary school and £50,000 to each secondary school: so much for a National Funding Formula. Of course, these numbers aren’t anywhere near the amount Gordon Brown had on offer in real terms in his 2000 budget when he announced that:

To support these reforms in our secondary schools he will now make a payment to every head teacher for books, equipment and staffing.

 Last year he was able to make an extra payment for books and equipment of 2,000 pounds.

 This April every one of these 3,500 secondary schools will receive a minimum payment of 30,000 pounds and the largest schools will receive 50,000 pounds.

 A total of 300 million in new investment through these measures alone, money paid direct to the school and to the head teacher for use in the classroom.   http://www.ukpol.co.uk/gordon-brown-2000-budget-speech/

but if used to recruit extra teachers, the new cash announced yesterday could seriously affect the plans announced only last week by the DfE for the ITT allocations in 2019/20. After 2000, schools went shopping for teachers. Perhaps, this time the cash will be used to pay for the unfunded Leadership pay increases, rather than extra teachers. But, it could distort the distribution of teachers in real shortage subjects, such as teachers of Physics, if some schools decided to offer recruitment and retention allowances to attract such teachers. However, the confusion over the use of the word ‘capital’ alongside ‘little extra’ is budgets where schools can spend money mostly as they see fit and the timescale for the cash arriving in school’s budgets will make understanding of how the cash is spent challenging, even should the DfE really want to know.

The £10,000 will certainly make a difference for many small primary schools, especially those losing pupils as the birth rate has slowed down. For some it may make the difference between possible closure and staying open that bit longer.

There must be a question about the purpose of a National Funding Formula if a Chancellor can override it on the one hand and an academy trust can ignore it on the other hand. As ever, it seems like back to the future.

 

Should you train to be a teacher?

This is the time of year when final year undergraduates; recent graduates unhappy with their current lot in life and career changers often start to consider teaching as a possible career.

Teaching in England requires more than half a million graduates to provide an education to all children. Even a low departure rate of around five per cent would require more than 25,000 replacement teachers each year, either through new entrants or by those return9gn to teaching. So, even if the economy goes downhill thanks to trade wars and Brexit, there will still be lots of children to educate.

If you are a potential teacher reading this blog, you can visit the DfE’s advice service for potential teachers at https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/

One of the questions you might want to ask the advice line is, will I find a teaching post where I want to teach and doing what I want to do when I qualify? May, I suggest that if the person answers ‘yes’ to that question, you press them for some hard evidence. After all, the DfE is now running a vacancy web site for teaching posts, so should be able to answer a simple question such as ‘what are my chances of finding a teaching post?’

Unlike many graduate training programmes, only some teacher preparation courses will guarantee those that complete the course successfully a teaching job. Most, however, will require you to take on extra student debt to pay for the course: in some cases this is ameliorated by a bursary payment made tax-free. In other subjects, where the government considers the supply of entrants is sufficient then there is no bursary available. This fact might be a warning sign about job prospects.

Even where there are bursaries, do you want to commit a year of your life to training to become a teacher only to find there are not enough jobs to meet the supply of teachers where you want to teach? Hence the need to quiz the government’s recruitment advisers about vacancies.

If the government cannot answer your question, then local authority might be able to do so, as many still have teacher recruitment services or at least operate job boards and should know something about the local demand for teachers. However, they may not know what is happening in academies in their area, with regard to job prospects for teachers.

You can also ask course providers during any interviews how successful their trainees are at finding jobs and where they find them?

Finally, I recommend you sign up with a job board that can tell you about real vacancies. Beware vacancies not tied to a specific school: the job might not exist. Some schools these days operate talent pools and collect applications even when they don’t have a vacancy. The best make this clear; some don’t.  You can often spot these apparent vacancies by a lack of any starting date and a long period to the closing date with a comment that appointments may be made before the closing date if a suitable candidate appears.

If you want a job board that is free to both schools and teachers and tries to only match real vacancies with teachers looking for those jobs in specific parts of England, then may I recommend TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk This free national vacancy service was established more than four years ago and currently handles more vacancies than any other free service, including that operated by the DfE.  I am happy to be the Chair of its Board.

If you are considering becoming a history teacher, a teacher of PE or of Modern Languages or indeed a teacher of any subject or a teacher working in the primary sector, then signing up when you are considering teaching as a career can provide evidence of the job market that may help you assess the risk of training to be a teacher.

As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be delighted to welcome you to join with many other teachers, trainees and returners already making use of our free service.

Should you have a wish to teacher overseas, then our global site www.teachvacglobal.com  may be able to help you find a teaching post almost anywhere in the world.

 

 

 

Allocations for teacher preparation courses in 2019/20

The previous two posts on this blog have highlighted the fact that the DfE has recently published its annual datasets about teacher preparation in the coming years and specifically numbers for 2019/20, where recruitment is already underway. The DfE’s information can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020

Normally, the number of places allocated to each sector and the separate subjects in the secondary sector would be of great concern to those operating courses. However, with recruitment having been challenging over the past couple of years and no bar placed on numbers that can be recruited in most subjects, providers will be much more relaxed about these numbers. Whether schools should be is another matter.

Of greatest concern for the labour market in September 2020 will be the geographical distribution of recruitment into preparation courses. This is because there is considerable difference in retention rates across England. Teacher retention is high in the North and at its lowest in London and the Home Counties. That’s neither a new fact nor one that has suddenly been discovered. Old hands at this business have known it for many years and I well recall presenting the information to a House of Lords Committee investigating aspects of science teaching in the early years of this century.

The concern over differential retention rates has been at the heart of the debate about quality of course versus location of training providers that was important when recruitment was likely to be buoyant. Even so, training too many new teachers in the wrong parts of the country, and especially training those not flexible in where they can work, is at least as wasteful as the money spent on bursaries highlighted in The Times today and discussed in the previous post on this blog.

To reasons for the lower retention rates in and around London are probably the present of about 50% of the independent sector schools in England in this area, together with the fact that London represents the largest graduate labour market in the country. For almost all teachers there are other jobs they can apply for even if it means ditching their hard won expertise in teaching. After all, the transferable skill of managing the learning of young people and making many rapid decisions reinforced only by the strength of your personality is a set of skills many businesses are keen to pay good money to acquire in their staff.  This is a point government should not overlook when considering pay rates and teacher associations might want to press more ruthlessly while teachers are in short supply.

Anyway, back to the allocations for 2019/20 and the changes from the previous years. In the Teacher Supply Model outputs, Classics, Computing, Religious Education and Geography have seen drops in the number of places as have Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Food Technology and ‘Others’ although that is partly be down to a reallocation of Dance into PE for TSM purposes. These changes, plus the increases in other subjects, are reflected in Figure 1 of the DfE’s note on ITT allocations.  Of most concern is the increase from 1,600 to 2,241 in places for Modern Foreign Languages. This is to meet the expected increase in pupils studying a language at KS4 in line with the government’s aspirations of a 75% take-up by 2024.

Will the lack of restrictions on recruitment for all secondary subjects, except PE last? As I write this blog, stock markets around the world are following a well-trodden path downwards that has been seen in October many times before. Were the downward trend to affect the economy along with Brexit, not having any restrictions on applications might seem unwise in hindsight.

 

The message to potential applicants; apply now and don’t take the risk of waiting until the spring.

 

Bursary concerns

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned the data on bursary outcomes the DfE had published earlier in the day as a part of the raft of information about teacher supply matters. The Times newspaper has picked up on this aspect of the data published and made a calculation that some £44 million was spend on bursaries for those that either didn’t enter teaching or went on to teach elsewhere than in state funded schools. Some might have secured posts in Sixth Form College or Further Education; some might well be working in the independent sector and some might not have been able to find a teaching post in the area where they currently live, but the DfE doesn’t know how many fall into each category.

The DfE data is based on bursaries paid under a range of different schemes operating between 2009/10 and 2015/16. At the start of the period, in 2009/10, the training bursary was available to all postgraduate trainees; albeit at different rate. This was essentially the scheme announced in March 2000 during the recruitment problems teaching faced at that time. Some details of the scheme can be found at http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/6588.pdf

During the recession and when fees were increased to £9,000, the original scheme was replaced by a more nuanced set of payments totrainees. The DfE time series used in their latest publication might have been better if it had either taken data only from the start of the scheme that replaced a universal bursary or detailed the percentages teaching by each year of training.  Allowing The Times to claim that £44 million could have been wasted is a bit of an own goal for the DfE. A better explanation of the way the schemes operated might have deflected this criticism. After all, I don’t read of concerns over the salary paid to trainee army officers at Sandhurst if they don’t continue their careers after training. The same concerns might be levied at other public servants that draw a salary during training. In that respect, it is unfair to highlight just the teaching profession.

However, one might well ask about a subject like Classics, where the DfE data identified 120 trainees were paid a bursary, but only 40 have been located as teaching in a state school. With no link between training and employment on most routes into teaching – Teach First and School Direct Salaried route are exceptions – the leakage from training at public expense to the private sector is almost inevitable. Maybe the same happens in the NHS where there is a much more direct relationship between training and employment, since staff can always resign after appointment.

One solution is a return to a golden Hello type arrangements, where payments are made after entry into the profession and a tailored to the type of school a teacher is prepared to teach at. A challenging school, such as those supported by Teach First would attract more payment than a teacher working in a selective school in an area where there are no teacher supply issues. Such a scheme would need careful consideration, not least for possible effects on Teach First candidates remaining in the school after completing the Teach First programme.

Was the government wise to abolish a special unit dealing with teacher training and recruitment and to lose the expertise and knowledge contained within its staff? It’s not for me to say, but the presentation of the data on the bursary scheme might have been handled differently in the past.

Calculating Teacher Numbers

Today, Thursday 25th October, The Department for Education, DfE announced its latest Teacher Supply Model (TSM) projections for 2019/20. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020  These projections are a vital component in the eventual determination of the number of teacher training places the government needs to allocate each year.

However, the TSM is less directly important these days than it was at some points in history. This is because in many secondary subjects recruitment has not reached the required level for some years. Nevertheless, the TSM still performs an important function, not least in providing a long term analysis of teacher numbers needed that can become important if circumstances change post-Brexit and were there to be a downturn in the world economy. In such a scenario, keeping a tight rein on teacher supply might once again be an important and necessary task for the DfE.

The TSM appears to work well in the subjects that are taught to all pupils, such as English and mathematics. The overall number in the sciences is also a good projection of demand, but there are questions, about the balance between the different subjects that make up the sciences total. The Model seems to work less well, in my view, in predicting teacher demand in subjects that are part of options at Key Stages 4 and 5.

Civil servants are also bound by the policies set out by Ministers when operating the TSM process and that appears to be a factor in setting the allocations for Modern Foreign Languages, where the expectation of 75% of pupils studying a language to KS4 by 2024 has had an effect on allocations for 2019/2020. This is even though few practitioners actually expect the 75% level to be reached in reality, especially in a post-Brexit world, unless that is there is a rapid take-up of Mandarin to help facilitate trade with China.

Ironically, the DfE has reduced the allocation for Classics to a level that may well be lower than the demand generated by the independent sector. This could have two implications for 2020; all trainees being recruited by the private sector and a pay war among independent schools seeking to recruit these teachers. Happily, since recruitment into ITT in the subject is unrestricted, training providers can recruit more than their allocated number and prevent such a situation developing.

In some subjects, such as history, unrestricted recruitment can lead ta situation where too many teachers are being trained: this wastes government funds, as these trainees can apply for student loans to cover the fees on their courses. It also leaves many trainees facing difficulties finding teaching posts in England. It would be ironic if the UK government were funding teacher training posts for teachers only for some of them to find jobs working in schools in China or other Far East countries, where UK trained teachers are in high demand.

The DfE also updated their recently published Teacher Compendium 4 with data about the outcomes of trainees with bursaries. Sadly, a relatively low percentage of trainees in Physics with a higher bursary ended up teaching in state funded schools in the period between 2009 and 2016. More about that in another post tomorrow.

 

 

 

If you don’t pass the 11+, you probably won’t study Physics as a subject by KS4

Last week the DfE published a whole raft of data about the outcomes for GCSE and other examinations taken at Key Stage 4. Most commentators have looked at outcomes. However, there is also some interesting data in the tables about entries by different types of school and the subjects that their students are entered for at the end of KS4. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/gcse-and-equivalent-results-2017-to-2018-provisional (and in particular the subject tables and within that file, tables S8 and S9.)

GCSE entries in selected subjects of pupils at the end of key stage 4 by school admission basis of state-funded mainstream schools (as a percentage of pupils at the end of key stage 4 in each school type) Selective schools Non-selective schools in highly selective areas Other non-selective schools
English, Mathematics & Science 100 98 98
Combined Science   18 80 71
Computer Science   20 12 13
Any Design & Technology   24 17 21
Information Technology     4   6   9
Business Studies   17 12 14
Geography   56 42 43
History   51 43 46
Any Modern Language   89 35 46
Art and Design   22 29 27
Music   11   4   6
Physical Education   16 13 16
Religious Studies   47 35 39

As might be expected, almost all pupils study English, mathematics and some form of science to the end of KS4. The type of science differs between schools, with selective schools highly likely to put the majority of their students in for separate sciences, whereas non-selective schools are much more likely to opt for combined science. Indeed, in Physics, the figures are 82% for pupils in selective schools; 26% for pupils in non-selective systems and just 18% for pupils in nonselective schools in areas with selective schools. Much of this disparity may be due to the lack of teachers of Physics with sufficient subject knowledge to sustain examination groups at KS4. This lack of Physics in non-selective schools no doubt has an impact on ’A’ level numbers and thus university entrants.

There is also a disparity in modern languages between the percentage studying the subject at the end of KS4 in selective schools and non-selective schools. French still remains the most popular language although Spanish is not far behind. The teaching of German at this level now seems largely confined to selective schools in the state sector.

Although non-selective schools produce higher percentages of candidates in art than do selective schools, the same is not the case with music, where selective schools have a higher percentage still taking the subject at the end of KS4. Selective schools also have higher percentages studying business studies and design and technology than non-selective schools.

There must be a suspicion that pupils in selective schools study more subjects than their counterparts in many non-selective schools.

How far it is easier for selective schools to recruit staff in the subjects where training numbers don’t meet DfE projections cannot be determined from these percentages. However, it might be a fair assumption that selective schools may generally find recruitment less of a challenge even in high costs areas. Such schools may also find retention of staff less of an issue.