Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.

 

Now for the bad news

In my previous post I highlighted how Ministers might be pleased with the overall figure in the ITT Census released this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019 However, once the numbers are analysed in more detail, a picture of two worlds moving further apart beings to emerge.

First the good news: English, as a subject, passed its Teacher Supply Model figure and registered 110% recruitment against the ‘target’. Biology did even better, hitting 153% of target, and history managed 101%, virtually the same as last year. Physical Education, despite recruitment controls, registered 116% of target, slightly up on last year’s 113% figure. Computing also had a better year than last year, reaching 73% of target, the best level since 2014 for the subject. Geography recorded a figure of 85% of target, Classics and drama also recorded higher percentages again the TSM target.

Sadly, that’s where the good news stops. The remaining secondary subjects largely missed their TSM target by a greater percentage than last year. This means a more challenging recruitment round in 2019 for schools looking for teachers in the following subjects:

Mathematics census number down to 71% from 79% of the TSM figure

Modern Languages 88% from 93%

Physics 47% from 68%

Chemistry 79% from 83%

Design and Technology just 25% from 33%

– it would be interesting to see a breakdown across the different elements within this subject group

Religious Education 58% from 63%

Music 72% from 76%

Business Studies 75% from 80%

 

Apart from Physics, where the decline is of alarming proportions, in the other subjects the percentage decline is just part of a steady and continuing decline seen over the past two years. With demand for secondary teacher likely to be around the 30,000 mark across both state and private school in England, if 2019 is anything like 2018 has been then, many of these subjects will not be providing enough trainee to fill the vacancies likely to be on offer. Encouraging retention and managing returners, especially for those working overseas, will be key initiatives for the government if we are not to see some schools struggling to recruit appropriately qualified teachers. I am sure it won’t be the successful schools that face recruitment challenges; it also won’t be private schools free to charge what they like in order to pay attractive salaries to teachers in shortage subjects.

The government has done relatively well recruiting in EBacc subjects, although science is only doing well because of the surfeit of biologists, many of whom may find themselves teaching other sciences, at least at Key Stage 3.

However, the CBI and the IoD might look at these percentages in the other subjects with more concern, if not even alarm. Wealth generating subjects either need more support from government or a clear statement that they don’t matter. The same is true of the arts and the social sciences beyond just history and geography.

As chair of TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk I will ensure that our site continues to monitor trends in the labour market for teachers throughout 2019 and reports on the pressures we see emerging.

Phew, what a relief!

The ITT Census published by the DfE today, along with the accompanying set of notes – what used to be called Statistical Bulletins or First Releases in former times- will come as a welcome relief to Ministers, at least a the headline level. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019

The total number of trainee teachers, including Teach First, preparing for life in secondary schools in 2019 was measured by the census as 16,280. This is an increase of 1,285 or around nine per cent higher than last year. In primary, where recruitment controls exist, there was an increase of only 70 extra trainees, from 12,905 last year to 12,975 this year.

These numbers will come as a great relief to everyone, because, with rising rolls in the secondary sector, there will be a significant demand for new teachers over the next few years unless leakage out of the profession can be reduced. With the growth in the demand for teachers from the international school market keeping teachers at home will remain a challenge.

I guess a combination of the better pay award, albeit only slightly better, plus the security of a teaching job post BREXIT may have contributed to the upturn in trainee numbers. However, once the headline numbers are disaggregated it is not all good news.

Still, let’s start with the good news. In 2019, schools won’t have any difficulty finding a biologist: trainee numbers are up by around 800 to over 1,800. The same is true in English, were trainee numbers have increased from just under 2,200 to more than 2,800. Tutors in both subjects could have headaches finding enough school placements for these students, but it is headache worth having. The other subjects where numbers are significant higher are geography, up from 1,225 to 1,300; computing up from 475 to 530 and Physical Education where 1,250 trainees are on course this year compared with 1,125 last year. For both PE and geography trainees, I would suggest an early registration with TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk since there will almost certainly be more trainees than jobs available for them in 2019.

Now for the less good news. Not all subjects have recruited more trainees. There are few trainees this year in mathematics (2,195 compared with 2,450 last year); Physics (575 compared with 720); Chemistry (835 compared with 875); and Religious Education (375 compared with 405). In Design & Technology last year’s enrolment of 305 has fallen to a new historic low or just 295. Apart from anything else, this will hasten the amalgamation of art and design departments with D&T departments in schools since the figure of 295 trainees is nowhere near enough to provide middle leaders in a few years’ time for D&T as a subject.

Underlying the data on the overall numbers is their distribution around the country and it already looks as if schools in London and the south East may face a challenging labour market in 2019, especially since state schools will be competing with the independent sector where funds often allow for higher salaries.

In another blog, I will examine how the number of trainees recruited compares with the DfE’s estimate of need for teachers, as measured by the Teacher Supply Model.

So, good news overall, but not for all.

Let’s call it good news

Let’s start the day with some good news. The first UCAS data on the 2018/19 round of applications for postgraduate teacher preparation courses was published this morning. The data shows that there are the same overall number of applicants as at the same point in November last year.  I think that is good news, although of course, this number really only measures the extent of pent up demand for teaching as a career among those waiting to apply when UCAS open the process. It won’t be until January or February that a fuller picture emerges about interest in teaching as a career.

Nevertheless, after around a quarter of a century of looking at the monthly data I think that there are some runes to be read in relation to these numbers. As ever, the overall total disguises a difference between the position for primary age courses and those for the different secondary subjects. As ever, at this level, there is only data on applications and not applicants, so it is necessary to assume most applicants make use of most or all of the full range of choices available to them. This might not be the case with early applicants aiming for specific institutions, but the data doesn’t allow for that degree of analysis.

Anyway, applications for primary courses are down, but applications for secondary courses are up. For primary there are just 9,180 applications compared with 9,750 at this point last year. For secondary, the numbers are 9,810 applications this year compared with 9,150 last year. From these small beginnings we can only hope for a better year ahead as more graduates see the advantages of teaching as a career in this uncertain world.

Interestingly, higher education has seen fewer applicants for primary compared with last November, but the School Direct (non Salaried route) numbers are very similar to last year. Applications for primary School Direct Salaried at 2,230 are actually around 300 higher than at this point last year.

In secondary, higher education courses have seen a small increase in applications: long gone are the days when this route would be replaced by school-based courses. However, although applications for SCITTs are flat, applications for both School Direct routes in the secondary sector are higher that at this point last year.

I am sure that some of the increases can be put down to an earlier start to the marketing campaign by the DfE. The power of such advertising should not be underestimated. Applications are up in almost all secondary subjects, with significant increases in STEM subjects; but it only the first month’s data. The only decline is in history, down from 800 to 740 applications. Maybe history graduates have started to wonder whether there is a glut of history teachers? Certainly, this blog has warned that compared with the number of vacancies for history and humanities teachers there may have been too many being trained over the past couple of years.

Hopefully, everyone, including government, recognises the importance of high education providers for a vibrant teacher preparation sector, alongside their partnership with schools. After all, it is the person undergoing the courses that matters the most.

 

Memories

The Secretary of State for Education has been sharing the idea of bucket lists for primary school children with a national newspaper. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6417919/Childrens-bucket-list-inspired-new-Education-Secretary.html

I found this a particularly poignant story to read today, as I have just returned from the annual presentation of the Safe Drive: Stay Alive campaign to local sixth formers and college students. I didn’t see understanding why road safety or indeed any type of safety is important and how to deal with an emergency in the bucket list, but it should be there, even for primary age children.

The presentation I witnessed this morning, even viewing it for the fourth year in a row as a county councillor, moves me to tears every time that I attend the event. Pupils are taken through a video sequence of a group of young people going to a party in two cars. There is a crash and what happens next is narrated through simple and compelling testimony by emergency staff from the ambulance; fire and the police services, plus an A&E doctor, a parent and a survivor. Finally, there is a video of a prisoner serving a prison sentence for causing death by careless driving.

The images in the video are nowhere near as powerful as the spoken words. Here, a thousand words really does convey more than a single picture, however horrific the image. Sadly, three young people have died on the roads of Oxfordshire so far in 2018, not always their fault. Speed, drink, drugs, a lack of road knowledge and poor weather can affect the driving of anyone and lead to a fatality.

Most young people understand the message about not drinking and driving, but distracting the driver can be just as dangerous. Bucket lists are a great idea for selecting the positive things we want to do in life, but they must not crowd out the time to reflect upon the fact that as human being we live in social groups and have responsibilities to ourselves and others.

This is not the post to discuss whether there is appropriate funding for road and other safety learning for children and young people, but thank the emergency and other services that pick up the pieces when these event happen. The line of helmets on the table at the front of the hall today was a reminder of the teamwork involved and that message is powerfully reinforced by a crutch from a survivor paralysed for life and the flowers for the young person that didn’t come home and never will again.

So let’s encourage young people to climb trees, bake gingerbread and do the many other things Damian Hinds writes about, some of which I have never thought of doing, but let us also remember the purpose of life is not just self-fulfilment, important as that may be, but also because, as John Donne wrote, ‘no man is an island’, we need to learn to understand the consequences of our actions.

University is not for you?

Why do more children that have been in care in London go on to higher education compared with those have been taken into care in the shire counties? Last week, the DfE published the latest data about such children and young people, for the year ending March 2018. I assume that this will cover higher education entry in the autumn of 2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoption-2017-to-2018

Haringey, a London borough recorded 29 young people from care in higher education, whereas for Oxfordshire the number is shown as just three (Table LAT2a). So what might the reasons be? It could just simply be a lack of tracking of care leavers. Haringey had no information on 18 young people at that stage of their lives, whereas the number for Oxfordshire where their outcome was not known was 44, or a third of the group.

Another alternative is that children in Oxfordshire are taken into care at an older age than in Haringey and at a point where their education journey has already started on a downward spiral. The data doesn’t tell us this. No can it be determined the reasons why a child was taken into care.

In a small borough such as Haringey, a child may stay at the same school even if fostered within the borough. In a shire county there is a greater change of children having to change schools. I have written before of the challenges finding school places for children taken into care places on local authority officers. The DfE really ought to do something about putting a time limit in place for a school or college place to be made available after a child is taken into care or moves to a different placement.

Is there any difference in the innate ability levels between the children taken into care in the two authorities? I would be surprised if that was the case.

So, could we ask whether the funding of the Virtual School and indeed of all schools in the authority may partly account for the difference in outcomes in terms of those transferring into higher education? It is true that Oxfordshire is a member of the f40 Group of local authorities and feels especially keenly that its High Needs block is under-funded.  Haringey, is a London borough, usually seen as one of the group of Inner London boroughs, although it is a borough of extreme contrast from Highgate and Muswell Hill at one end to South Tottenham and Northumberland Park at the other.

Could funding account for at least a part of the difference in outcomes? Certainly London boroughs are more generally found at the end of the scale with high percentages of care leavers going on the higher education and several shire counties can be found at the other end of the list, so it is at least a plausible argument.

Raising education aspirations and attainments among those taken into care and building their self-confidence remains a key task for our Children’s Services around the country. After all, it was one reason why the two separate services were brought under one roof, so to speak, by the Labour government a decade or so ago.

Read and reflect

The news this morning that Johnston Press might collapse, carried on the BBC web site, is a further sign of the changes being wrought by technological innovations on our world. Both the retailing and publishing industries have been badly affected by the arrival of the internet. Nobody cannot say that they didn’t see the changes coming, especially in publishing. I recall, about the time that Rupert Murdoch sold the Times educational supplements, seeking out a book he had mentioned in a speech to a gathering of the great and the good of the world’s press. In the book was a chart showing changes in the readership of newspapers by different age-groups after the arrival on the scene of first radio and then television. A third line suggested what the arrival of the internet might also do to print news readership.

Interestingly, a couple of years before that speech, in the autumn of 1997, just after I quit being the government’s Adviser on Teacher Supply, I had written a report for the management at the TES about the possible effects of the internet on teacher recruitment advertising in print publications. The reason I recall this was because it was the first commission that Education Data Surveys ever received. Even at that time, some school districts in the USA were already looking at on-line recruitment possibilities and the New Zealand Government was already featuring vacancies in the government’s Education Gazette, as it still does today.

So, twenty years ago, the writing was already on the wall for those that wanted to read about the future. The TES wisely set up an on-line site for teacher vacancies and ran it in parallel with the print edition of the paper for many years. When News International sold the supplements, it was probable that recruitment advertising could cover the debt created on the purchase of the company. The key question was, how long could print advertising service the debt?

So long as the government at Westminster stayed away from the market, the TES always had a sporting chance to create a strategy to move its monopoly position with schools for recruitment advertising into the new world by offering great service at a price that reflected the lower costs of the new technology. But, if it squandered that brand loyalty, then its future would always be more challenging.

TeachVac was established as a free vacancy service more than four years ago to show how a low cost service could embrace the best of the new technology. Far cheaper to operate than either the TES or the government’s latest foray into vacancy advertising for teaching posts, TeachVac still demonstrates how existing paid for teacher vacancy platforms need to keep ahead of the curve.

I have no doubt that over the next few months we could see something happen at the TES. After all, it was put up for sale by its US owners in June, see https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/interesting-news/ after the 2017 annual results recorded a loss for possibly the first time in its history. There has been no public news of a sale almost six months on. Could the TES possibly go the way of the Johnston Press? I have no way of knowing. However, over the next few weeks as the owners evaluate both the 2018 draft accounts, plus the management reports from this term’s business, they will presumably be looking to what the future will hold. The Johnston Press restructuring came only a month after an attempt to find a buyer.

Even in this modern world, I firmly believe that there is a space for a successful and profitable on-line news, features and recruitment vehicle for the education world, operating in the private sector. How that will emerge may be as interesting and as uncomfortable a journey as British politics is today.  Top class journalism, a top class understanding of the on-line environment and where it is heading, plus a real awareness of the education scene and the labour market that creates so much of the potential revenue even today, will, I believe, be absolute necessities for success.

What’s the collective noun for a group of schools?

How many angels can you gather on the head of a pin? How many words can you inscribe on the back of a postage stamp? Along with raffle prizes about either how many sweets there are in the bottle or undergraduates in a phone box – note for younger readers, phone boxes were largely red sites for fixed landline telephones. Unlike police boxes they have yet to be immortalised in a hit TV series, but appear regularly in period dramas and old films. The K1 design is an ionic British deign classic of the 1930s.

Anyway, enough of nostalgia and factoids, the purpose of this introduction is to lead into a consideration of how many secondary schools will be located in my County Council division in North Oxford by September 2019? This week, the temporary home for Oxford’s new secondary free school, the Swan School, was announced as being on the south side of the Marston Ferry Road, just inside my division and almost next door to the excising Cherwell School. In 2020, or more likely 2021, the Swan School will move eastwards to it permanent home at the other end of the road, assuming pupil number post-Brexit require an extra school in Oxford.

However, the potential arrival of the Swan School to join the Cherwell School, both part of the River Learning Trust MAT, even on a temporary basis, set me thinking about how many schools with pupils of secondary school age were congregated in the small patch of north Oxford that I represent on the County Council? At the last count, the total for September 2019 will be eight schools, with an ninth just outside the boundary of the division.

In total, according to DfE figures and including the 120 new Swan School pupils, this will mean about 4,000 pupils are educated at schools containing secondary age pupils and located in my Division. Add in the school just outside the boundary and the total is heading towards the 4,500 figure.

Of course, since two are preparatory schools and others of the six private schools have pupils younger than eleven on roll, so the actual number of secondary age pupils is lower than the overall total for pupil numbers on roll. At least four of the schools also have boarders, so the number arriving and leaving each day is also somewhat less than the overall total. Still it does create pressure on the road system. This is despite fact that some of the private schools arrange for coaches to pick up some pupils and The Cherwell School is feted as having the largest proportion of pupils of any secondary school that cycle to school each day.

Does eight secondary schools, all located in one county division, count as some sort of record? Would it justify an entry into the record books? I would be interested to hear of anyone that has more secondary schools in one electoral division for a Councillor. Some MPs will have more such schools, but few many have such a diverse range.

Finally, there are also two state primary schools within my division, and also nurseries, childminders and other provision for the under-fives, plus a couple of Oxford Universities colleges. Perhaps it is a good thing that I have such an interest in education.

 

100: well almost

Congratulations to the DfE for reaching the 100 vacancies point on their web site for the first time. Sadly, once vacancies past their closing date and non-teaching posts are removed, the total slips just below the three figure mark, but it will make that level soon, I am sure. This on a day when TeachVac, the only other free site to both schools and teachers, has more than 50,000 vacancies for 2018. To be fair to the DfE, their site still doesn’t cover the whole of the country and has only really been in operation of three months, including the quiet month of August, so it has a way to go to catch up TeachVac, but it is running at about 5% of TeachVac’s total at present.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will also hit another key milestone and new record today. However, those details will keep for another post. Still, the team of six in Newport on the Isle of Wight have much to be proud of in developing TeachVac without a single penny of government money. This is compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DfE has spent on their site.

Rather tongue in cheek, I suggested to officials that the DfE buy the vacancies from TeachVac for a fraction of the cost it would cost the same number of schools to input the vacancies to the DfE site, especially using the DfE’s outdated methodology. The DfE could then work with TeachVac to ensure applicants were attracted to the one site. This is because, without spending on making sure teachers, trainees and returners use any vacancy site, it is valueless. TeachVac also has the added benefit of attracting teachers working overseas to teaching posts in England through its TeachVac Global site for international schools. www.teachvacglobal.com

Unlike the DfE, TeachVac also uses it data to provide schools with information on the local vacancy market and has established a new vacancy index for both primary and secondary classroom teachers that will track how recruitment is changing in a world where funding is a concern to schools, but so is the wastage of teachers with several years of experience in the profession.  The next crisis may well be trying to find sufficient middle leaders with experience and appropriate professional development to take on this demanding role.

The free sites, such as TeachVac and the DfE work alongside paid for advertising sites for teaching posts. As more and more teachers use the free sites, it will be interesting to chart the fate of the ‘paid for’ recruitment advertising market. TeachVac offers a service to the independent sector, although the DfE site doesn’t. At present it seems that Sixth Form Colleges are excluded for the DfE site, presumably as they aren’t technically schools. TeachVac is happy to accommodate such institutions as it also provides special arrangements for MATs, diocese and local authorities to handle both individual schools recruitment needs as well as those for all schools in the group.

Ideally, a jointly managed and badged recruitment site supported by the government, teacher associations, employers and teacher educators would be the best solution, provided that is, it offered the lowest cost solution using the best of modern technology.

 

Isolation poor use of funding?

Regular readers of this blog will notice there has been something of an absence of posts during the first part of this month. This means that there has been no discussion of interesting reports such as the one by the Institute of Fiscal studies into how the distribution of funding has changed over time. https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN242.pdf That report makes for an interesting read, especially when compared with books about education funding written forty years ago, such as ‘depriving the deprived’ in which Prof Tony Travers took part as one of the team investigating education spending over the course of a year in Newham, in the context of the then government financing of education.

However, the education story that most moved me to return to this blog was the one from the BBC about how children can spend long periods in isolation  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46044394  There are a group of children that a decade ago would have been locked up under Labour’s draconian policy of the period. This was a policy whether it was articulated or not that took several thousand young people off the streets and out of education and into Young Offenders Institutions.

With fewer young people coming into the criminal justice system these days, despite the increase in knife crime, it stands to reason that schools will retain more of these young people and will find their behaviour challenging. Behaviour management has always been the top concern of many schools and the teachers that work within them, despite the shift in funding. As schools were forced to focus on outputs and achievements and less on their social responsibilities, it seems obvious that some schools will look to the greatest good for the greatest number and methods that will allow teachers to teach as many pupils as possible by removing disruptive influences on the learning process.

What was missing for the BBC article was whether isolation was really a room on the road to exclusion or whether pupils were either rehabilitated back into mainstream education or moved to more appropriate settings.  If I were a youngster forced to face the wall – albeit without the dunce’s cap of Victorian times – I might see rebelling further as a way to liberation and exclusion: anything might be better than such isolation.

With secondary schools often belonging to many different academy trusts or acting alone, it is difficult to see what body can manage the local solution to this problem. Next week at Oxfordshire’s Cabinet, I have a question – put before the BBC story – about how many pupils each secondary school has brought to the local Fair Access Panel over the past few years. This is to see how the balance of permanent exclusions is playing out across the county. I doubt that the measures announced recently by the DfE in relation to under-performing schools https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-support-underperforming-schools will help tackle this problem: what is needed is concerted local action managed by a body with the long-term interests of all young people in an area. Now, I wonder what they might be.