Headline news looks good, but beware headlines

The data produced by UCAS earlier today on applicants to ITT postgraduate training course up to 21st January 2019 looks good on the surface. There were 14,650 applicants this year compared with 14,210 last year: an increase of around 450. This is a small increase, but heading in the right direction. However, the 2018 data were for 15th January and the 2019 data were for 21st January. The difference in reporting dates can account for a proportion of the difference in the two totals. So the picture may not be as good as the headline figure might suggest. This is especially concerning since the 2018 data was a low point in the January numbers for recent years.

In the secondary subjects, the picture is much as expected. The number accepted or holding offers is down on last year in Computing and IT and design and technology and similar to last year in Business Studies; English, music and art. Business Studies currently has just 30 applicants placed or holding an offer: all conditionally placed.

By contrast, Mathematics is doing well compared with last year, up from 410 to 520, but there is still a long way to go to reach the 3,000+ trainees identified as needed by the Teacher Supply Model. Religious Education and languages, as well as Biology, are also experiencing good increases compared with this point last year. However, in some cases, this just returns the subject to the January 2017 level.

Applications for primary courses have nearly returned to their January 218 levels; with 19,840 compared to 20,590 in 2018: but don’t forget the extra week may matter here, so there is still more work to do. Secondary courses have approaching 2,000 more applications – not applicants- even here, as noted above, work remains to be done if targets are to be met. Otherwise, 2020 will be another challenging year for recruiting teachers, as there will be even more secondary school pupils to teach than in 2019.

School Direct salaried numbers in the secondary sector continue to fall, with just 80 offers and fewer than 10 ‘placed’ trainees so far this year out of a total of 1,280 recorded applications. There are also fewer than 10 recorded placed candidates or offers for secondary PG Teaching Apprenticeships out of the 50 applications. This is compared with 30 out of 150 applications for those courses in the primary sector.

There is still work to do attracting young graduates into teaching. The number of applicants under the age of 24 is still below last year’s level, and that wasn’t an encouraging number. The good news is that there are 60 more men that have applied than last year: most are over 30 and balance further falls from new graduates. However, there are 260 more conditional placed applicants among the 4,060 men. Last year, it was 1,450 out of 4,000, but remember the difference in date may account for part of the difference.

So, this remains a challenging recruitment round if the outcome is to hit the first overall goal of doing better in shortage subjects than last year. Finger remain firmly crossed.

Teachers rule: OK

Teachers are back in the news. The DfE’s publication of an Early Career Framework, created by a group of the wise, and supported by an advisory panel of experts https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supporting-early-career-teachers has lots of good ideas and structures within it, but seems to miss two vital matters.

Teachers find their jobs in a free market and some may, therefore have to endure a break between training and employment. Additionally, as QTS isn’t linked to anything other than having undertaken an approved training course and passed it, will any post-entry framework too closely tied to progression put off teachers from being prepared to teach outside the specialism that formed the basis of their training?

Over the weekend, the Secretary of State also revealed that either he or his advisers, whether political or civil servants, have possibly been looking through their history books. I don’t know whether the current Secretary of State is an admirer of Mrs Thatcher’s tenure at the Education Department, but the concept of payments for teachers that remain in schools for three and then five years seems, at least on the face of it, a rehash of the’ Schools of exceptional difficulty’ scheme of the Heath government that paid a salary top-up to teachers after one year and then three years tenure in designated schools. There was lots of dispute about the designation of these schools at the time, and the NASUWT even fought a court case about the scheme.

I have yet to see the details of Mr Hind’s scheme, but in normal times the Treasury would be anxious about the dead hand effect of any scheme that paid money to the bulk of teachers that would remain in the profession. Presumably, Mr Hinds has reassured the Chancellor that no new money is involved, since schools can pay for the scheme out of their devolved budgets and the saving they make by not having to recruit as many teachers as they would have had to do if the scheme wasn’t in place.

Of course, if there aren’t enough teachers to fill all the teaching posts on offer, those schools with the cash and other advantages may still win out over schools that are more challenging places for teachers. After all, it was a recognition of that fact in the 1970s that limited the schools where staff received these additional payments.

The scrapping of ‘failing’ and ‘coasting’ schools, unless recognised as such by Ofsted, also shows how the tide is turning away from the payment by results regimes of the past quarter century since Ofsted replaced HMI.

How often schools are inspected will be a key issue, especially as in the past government inspection was backed by a functioning local network of advisers and inspectors at local authority level. In many places these school improvement and support teams no longer exist. The irony is that to recreate them would require even more teachers to leave the classroom in the short-term, thus risking an even worse staffing situation.

The alternative is fewer Ofsted inspections, especially of primary schools, and all sorts of associated risks.

 

Money for education

The DfE has published its annual retrospective look at the amount of money generated by education as an export industry. This implies either goods or services sold overseas or alternatively consumed and paid for here by non-residents. Now that the DfE includes both further and higher education the data can no doubt be more easily collated by one government department, although with the help of others along the way.

The latest set of data refers to 2016, although the technical note doesn’t seem to define what is covered. For fees, I assume it is the academic year 2016/17, but possibly for some other products and services, the calendar year 2016? The technical document can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/773029/Education_Exports_2016_-_Technical_Document.pdf

This blog has commented upon the figures released for previous years and the trends seem largely the same; decline in language training income and from the further education sector, balanced by higher income form higher education fees still being reported and increases in equipment, publishing and awarding body sales.

Overall, HE accounts for two thirds of the income stream, so any slowdown in the world economy and post-Brexit departure or non-arrival of EU students will impact on the figures and hurt some universities in cash terms. There is also a sizeable research income attracted from overseas that may be impacted by Brexit, especially if some research teams move elsewhere.

Further education accounted for 6% of revenues in 2010, but by 2016 this was down to just two per cent. During the same period, English Language Training share of revenue fell from 14% to just eight per cent. High education increased its share during this period from 60% to 67%.

The total income from education exports increased between 2010 and 2016 from £15.88bn to £19.93bn.

With more UK schools opening campuses across the world, a proportion of their income will no doubt continue to find its way into future year’s figures once local spending has been accounted for. How far such growth can be set off against the loss of teachers from the labour market in England to help staff this export drive is an interesting debate that no doubt someone within government has had at some point. However, this transnational education activity has shown significant growth, especially in the schools sector, albeit from a relatively low base in 2010.

Some teachers returning from overseas may well bring back more cash than they had when they left to teach overseas, but such additional wealth for the country wouldn’t be captured in this data.

There is no doubt that education is a potential export growth area for the United Kingdom as a whole. New markets will be needed, especially post Brexit it there is a significant slowdown in revenues generated by higher education.

 

Happy 6th Birthday

Phew, this blog has made it through another year. Six years of writing and with this piece the publishing of 850 posts – mostly somewhere around 500 words. The discipline of writing continues to be an interesting experience.  My thanks to all that read my posts, and especially to those that make comments about specific posts. My especially thanks to those that retweet a post, mention it in a newsletter or even a newspaper.

Some posts are seemingly never read by anyone; others attract a lot of attention and yet others are slow burns, starting by creating little interest and then over time acquiring a growing band of readers. ‘Bank holidays for teachers’ is one of these posts. Initially, when the idea was mooted by Labour during the spring of 2107, just before the general election, it attracted little notice. Now, it appears regularly in the list of visited previous posts.

The last year saw about 17,000 visitors to this bog – a bit down on the previous couple of years – with, on average, two reads per visitor. However, I suspect that the mode is actually one read. A few hardy souls read lots of the posts. Overseas visitors were thin on the ground for most of 2018, but have picked up again in 2019. I am not sure whether this is due to how WordPress record visitors, as it is often possible to have several likes for a post, but no record of anyone having read it!

Posts about the labour market for teachers and numbers applying for training tend to attract a band of regular readers, helped by the notice they are awarded by the umbrella organisations supporting those that prepare teachers. Posts about TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk where I am the Chair of the Board, are attracting more interest, especially now that the DfE has a free site for the state-funded sector. TeachVac also covers private schools in the secondary sector, so offers a more comprehensive free service to both teachers and schools than the DfE. The companion site for international schools – TeachVac Global – had a successful first full year of operation.

The aim, for 2019 and into January 2020, is to reach the round number of 1,000 posts by the blog’s seventh birthday, but without compromising either the length or quality of the writing. It would be easy to reach the 1,000 figure with a series of short posts, but I would rather fall short than just hit the target anyhow.

Sometimes, posts are written, but not published. There are some that I deemed too political after writing them, such as my thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn after his appointment as Labour Leader. I first met him during the 1974 general elections, when I was Liberal Agent in Hornsey and he had a similar position for the Labour Party.

As pieces written quickly, there are often mistakes and poor punctuation. I apologise and do try to clean up mistakes later.

Thank you for reading, and I hope finds the posts interesting, and that you will continue to read.

 

 

Bad deal for rural students

The fact that student living in London are provided with free travel to school or college by Transport for London has always been great for them, but I felt unfair on those living in the rest of the country. Free travel is also a great help to the family budget. This benefit to London sort of mirrors the complaints of the f40 group about how schools are funded across England.

The announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport on the 2nd January 2019 of a new railcard for 16 and 17 year olds just adds insult to injury for many young people living in rural areas. The new railcard isn’t an initiative from the rail industry. The department of Transport press release is very clear that the 26-30 year olds railcard is an industry initiative backed by the government, but that the card for 16 and 17 year olds is a government initiative and, therefore, can be seen as a political move.

Indeed, the press notice points out that the new card for 16 and 17 year olds includes half price for peak and season tickets, something not generally available on other railcards.

To rub salt in the wounds, the press notice goes on to announce that the ‘railcard could cut the cost of travel by hundreds of pounds a year for young people and their parents [sic], making it cheaper to get to school, college and work’. All very well if you live near a railway line.

At Oxfordshire’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, I asked a question about how the card would affect those not living near a railway line? For many, once the card comes into operation and the £30 purchase fee has been discounted, rail travel will be half the price of a similar bus journey, even assuming there is a bus after the rounds of cuts to such services.

The withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds in England by the Coalition and the refusal to change the rules on home to school transport after the raising of the learning leaving age, was an unfair allocation of resources that penalised students not able to walk or cycle to school or college.

Doing something for those that have a handy railway, but ignoring everyone else in rural areas, is an own goal for the government that may well feature in campaigning for the district council elections this May in the worst affected areas.

In Oxfordshire the 16-17 year olds in Wantage could well be paying twice the price of their college buddies that live in Didcot in order to attend classes, because the County has never progressed the re-opening of Grove Station that has been an aspiration for more than 20 years.

Similarly, those 16 and 17 year old student living in Charlbury will benefit if travelling to college in Oxford, but those living in Chipping Norton or Burford won’t when travelling to Witney.

Time for a rethink Mr Grayling.

 

Accountability and asbestos

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Commons has just published a report into Academy accounts and performance, with a final paragraph about asbestos reporting by schools tacked on the end for some reason. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/1597/159702.htm proving that Brexit is not quite the only game in town at Westminster this week.

The PAC don’t think that accounts for academies are clear enough and provide enough information at the school level for parents and others from the local community interested in the spending of individual schools. Personally, I have found academy trust accounts more forthcoming than financial information about individual maintained schools. However, there are clearly Multi-Academy Trusts where information has not been forthcoming in the views of the PAC.

We can all cite issues of questionable behaviour by the leaders of some Trusts. The DfE spent a lot of time and effort last year trying to deal with the high salaries some CEOs of Mats were paying themselves, with some degree of success.  However, it wasn’t as if everything was fine and dandy before. Head teachers had been known to fiddle the books and use the school credit cards for unacceptable purposes: a few even end up being prosecuted and doing time in prison.

The PAC has set out a list of demands that the DfE must comply with by the end of March, although I expect that deadline will be extended should there be a general election before to date to exit the EU.

Personally, as I have explained in previous post, entitled ‘Does local democratic control matter in education?’ written in August 2017 that someone has viewed earlier today ,I would rather democratic control was exercised where the school is located by democratically elected local authorities and not from London. I suppose, however, if you believe in the Regional School Commissioner role, and I don’t, then they might be the office best placed in the DfE hierarchy to oversee financial transparency of academies.

I am disappointed that the PAC didn’t mention the behaviour of some academies and MATs in respect of in-year admissions and especially the way they deal with children taken into care requiring a school transfer. That is another subject this blog has championed and will continue to so.

Finally, the difficulty in making schools report about asbestos and the importance of this matter is a real concern. The PAC reported that:

The Department originally asked schools to respond to its survey by 31 May 2018. However, due to the poor response rate, it extended the deadline to 25 June 2018 and again to 27 July 2018. Despite this, only 77% of schools responded to the survey. The Department said that it was disappointed with the response rate. We asked the Department what action it had taken with the 23% of schools that had still not provided the information requested. The Department said that it had re-opened the survey and extended the deadline for the third time, to 15 February 2019, to allow the remaining schools to respond. It also told us that those schools that still failed to respond would be picked up in its school condition survey. However, this survey will not be completed until autumn 2019.

Paragraph 30 PAC Report

This really does reveal why we need a governance structure for schools in England that is both accountable and able to act effectively on important issues of whatever description.

Trends shaping Education

In a recent post, I wrote about the effect of the housing market on schools and what might happen if there was a slowdown in transactions. Interestingly, the OECD yesterday published a much more high level approach to the same sort of question. Entitled, ‘Trends shaping education 2019’ it looks at some key trends the authors feels will affect and shape education policy. https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/trends-shaping-education-2019_trends_edu-2019-en#page1

Previous editions of the book appeared in 2008, the first edition, and then in 2010, 2013 and 2016.

This time the authors have identified a number of key themes; shifting global gravity towards Asia and China in particular; public matters; security; living longer and living better and finally, modern cultures.

Some of these trends have already had an impact on education on England. Michael Gove tried to kickstart the learning of Mandarin in schools. However, in terms of what is being taught, it is still way behind common EU languages spoken by our neighbours, but few others around the world.

Security in schools became a big issue in England after the classroom shooting at Dumblane in the 1990s, where the concern was about intruders entering schools. In more recent times, the concerns have been about ensuring pupils, especially very young ones, cannot leave without permission. How far should schools be fortresses?

With the increase in school shootings across the USA it often seems that arrival and departure times are the greatest risks for schools, certainly in the USA, rather than planned meetings with the head teacher. Total security is probably almost impossible to achieve without a huge investment in time, effort and resources. I recall visiting a high school in New York almost 20 years ago where there were metal detectors for all to pass through. Yet, there had been a shooting the previous day, with the weapon having been passed through an open window to avoid the detection system.

As we are living longer, we are also creating fewer children, despite the current bulge hitting the secondary school sector. Schools are often seeing older parents than a couple of generations ago and that may mean these parents know more about life and are more prepared to stand up for their perceived rights. This can make the job of being a head more demanding and reduce the number of teachers willing to take on the role.

Living longer means some teachers are happy to retire later, thus helping the teacher supply situation. Should the DfE run an ad campaign along the lines of ‘one year more’ and provide a bonus for those taking later rather than early retirement?

I think the current technological revolution will impact very heavily on schools and education. One year the big CES exhibition held in Las Vegas every January will major on technology and education not widescreen TVs or health devices. Not sure when, but it will happen and will challenge our whole notion of schooling and education and the link between the student, their family and educators.