At least one alarm bell is ringing

The demands associated with employing new staff for TeachVac means that I have been a little delayed in catching up with the DfE’s latest submission to the Pay Review Body (the STRB).  This document is more than just an instruction on how much teachers working in school probably should be paid according to the government. It also brings together lots of other useful data about the workforce in our schools.

This year, the document can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evidence-to-the-strb-2019-pay-award-for-school-staff and probably the scariest figure in the document is buried on page 44, where there is a table on wastage rates for the teaching profession. According to the 2017 School Workforce Census wastage at that point was 14% among classroom teachers employed in Inner London schools. I make that one almost one in seven teachers in London quit. If that isn’t including turnover, but just those leaving the School Workforce Census it frightening, but even if it is all departures, including those taking a job in another London school, the figure is still pretty scare, especially since this is the average.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has consistently provided data for this blog showing London schools creating the highest percentage of vacancies per school. Indeed, so far in 2019, London schools are averaging around two vacancies per school according to TeachVac. It is worth noting that London is in an area where Teach First supplies a significant number of teachers, without their help the numbers would undoubtedly be even higher.

By contrast, in the rest of the county, wastage among classroom teachers is around the 10% mark. High, but manageable if supply is sufficient. The fact that in the secondary sector, (and the wastage figures aren’t separated into primary and secondary sector figures), recruitment into teacher preparation courses continues to fall short of need, as demonstrated in table 10 on page 48 of the document for EBacc subjects, is a cause for concern.

The figure for entrants into state schools in 2017, shown in the table on page 43, was just 23,300 teachers across both primary and secondary sector. This is 2,800 fewer teachers the peak of 26,100 reached in 2016. Again the DfE don’t break this number down in the STRB submission between those entering the primary and secondary sectors. I assume the STRB can ask for this data?

Much of the rest of the document puts the best possible gloss on a deteriorating situation. DfE officials have been required to undertake that task on many previous occasions and I am sure, having myself appeared before the STRB on several occasions that its members are well equipped to dig beneath the surface if the teacher associations don’t bring the missing data to their attention.

Finally, a little bit of history. In 2002, when wastage rates were collected in January not November, the total wastage rate calculated from the Database of Teacher Records was 9.9%, the second highest level since 1992. The highest wastage rate was 10.1% in 1998, but that may have been artificially inflated by departures ahead of a significant change to the pension scheme. Sadly, the DfE’s evidence to the STRB in 2019 doesn’t provide an overall national figure for the period November 2016 to November 2017, but I am sure that someone will provide the STRB with the figure.

 

 

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Teacher Preparation: national policy or local decision?

Schools Week recently broke a story about the STEP Academy Trust wanting to go its own way on teacher training, just at the time when the government seems to want to create a unified approach to recruitment onto courses preparing would-be teachers.

As documented previously on this blog, Mr Gibb has called for providers not to reject possible candidates wanting to become a teachers. According to Schools Week, one of the reasons for The STEP Academy Group wanting to go its own way was in order that they could demand higher standards than currently achieved by primary PGCE courses that operate through UCAS. According to the article in Schools week, the Trust apparently equates attending a Russell Group University as a key selection measure, along with a B and not a C is English and Mathematics at GCSE. Curiously, the Schools Week article didn’t mention a grade required for Science.

The DfE will have to come down hard on any provider wanting to avoid using a central application system if the government believes such a system is a good idea. Certainly, creating lots of different admissions systems, might well put off applicants. After all, that’s why centralised admission systems were invented in the first place; way back in the 1960s for undergraduate courses.

I am not a fan of the present UCAS system, as it is expensive for both candidates and providers, whilst being cost neutral for UCAS. The former GTTR system of sequential applications also allowed for better monitoring of applicants progress and also provided better data about rejections than the present Apply 1 and Apply 2 system, but it is what we have in place. There was room for improvement, as there still is. The number of places on offer and the number of offers made might help candidates assess where to apply, especially later in the recruitment round when courses are on the cusp of closing.

I assume the STEP Academy will want to operate a form of School Direct salaried training scheme, paid for by the Trust. Neither the Trust nor their suggested university partner have any allocation from the DfE for 2019-20 training places. This raises the interesting question of whether or not those on training courses need to be on courses with allocated places in order to obtain QTS? Maybe because the recruitment cap has been abolished that rule doesn’t matter, but has the cap been abolished for primary courses?

Alternatively, these could be regarded as assessment only candidates, to be presented at the end of the period of teaching in the classroom? There doesn’t seem to be any cap for the number of such people granted QTS each year.

But, none of this probably matters to the school since, under the Govian rule change, they don’t need to employ teachers with QTS; anyone will do, presumably so long as they meet the Trust’s entry requirements.

However, candidates might want to reflect upon the usefulness for a career in teaching of a non-standard entry qualification. Will schools outside of the Trust recognise their qualification? Who knows?

Finally, it may be a bit late for 2019 entry to be thinking of starting a course in September, unless the Trust have applicants knocking on their door as a result of the Schools week article.

I am also surprised that under the National Funding Formula schools in East Sussex have enough income to create such a course. Perhaps it will all be paid for by the Trust’s South London schools?

 

 

Revenue balances: a waste of money?

The issue of high salaries paid to top officers by some academy trusts, highlighted in the previous post, isn’t the only financial issue facing the sector.  Now that more of the 2017-18 account are appearing a Companies house, it is possible to see the extent of the revenue balances being held by many academies; together with the occasional deficit.

So far, in Oxfordshire, 20 of the 39 Trusts operating academies or free schools across the county have reported their accounts and had them published on the companies house web site. In aggregate, they reveal around £4.6 million of revenue reserves held by primary schools and £4.3 million held by secondary schools. However, the deficits across both sectors total £1.1 million, mostly from one secondary school that has been in financial special measures for a couple of years and is gradually reducing its deficit.

One multi-academy trust, United Learning, operates six schools in Oxfordshire, but does not reveal revenue balances by school in their accounts. This MAT pools the money centrally for all their schools, and can then presumably use it where it can do the most good. Pooling also allows the total amount held in reserves to match the needs across the MAT in any one year and the amount can be set at a lower level than if the figure is chosen by each school. This was the approach taken in the past by local authorities, before schools gained control of their own budgets nearly 30 years ago.

A MAT operating say, 30 schools can decide that a reserve of five per cent overall might be appropriate to meet the contingencies and future needs in any one year of all schools in the MAT, whereas each school governing body might be more cautious and aim for 10% if setting a level on its own.

There is, however, a risk with pooling across geographical boundaries that schools in one area could be subsidising schools in another area. If parents discovered that a school in a MAT was taking this approach, they might choose not apply to that school, but to a school where the full funds were available for the education of their offspring.

This is an argument that balances are reducing because of the financial pressure that school currently face. There are certainly schools where revenue balances were lower in 2018 than in the 2017 accounts. But it is not yet a universal truth for all schools.

Could all schools in a local area be required to bank either with the local authority or an arm of central government? Such pooling would only work if these balances can be used rather than be treated as a deposit accounts. Pooling balances might also free cash being saved by schools for special projects at some point in the future for more immediate use, including cash being accumulated for capital projects. There seems little other justification for revenue balances of more than £1 million being held by some secondary schools other than future capital projects, especially while other school have insufficient funds.

Funding schools is a tricky business, but money should not be tied up in reserves when it can be released for improving teaching and learning.

Market forces or national pay scales?

The DfE has announced that the Academies Minister, Lord Agnew, has written to 28 chairs of trustees as part of the Government’s commitment to curb what it feels are ‘excessive’ salaries based on the size, standards, and financial health of trusts. The academies have been asked to provide more details on the pay of executives who earn more than £150,000 – and those earning £100,000 if two or more people in a school earn a six-figure salary. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-minister-calls-on-academies-to-justify-excessive-pay

This issue of six figure salaries has concerned the government for some time now, and comments about their letters to Trusts have featured in previous posts on this blog during the past year, ever since the issue first surfaced as a matter of concern.

Schools Week has publish a full list of the Trusts the DfE has written to at https://schoolsweek.co.uk/holland-park-school-warned-over-heads-260k-salary-as-minister-writes-to-28-trusts/

Interestingly, Holland Park School is one of the Trust to receive a letter. Their accounts lodged at Companies House, for the year to end August 2018, show the highest paid staff member receiving an emolument [sic] in the range of £260,000-£270,000 for the year.

Those with a long memory stretching back into the early 1990s will recall that as a large secondary school Holland Park always paid at the top end of the salary scale. But, how to justify around double the national rate for the job as identified by the School Teachers Review Body and the Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document? Well, ever since a Secretary of State allowed academies to ignore both of those documents, the genii was out of the bottle. Indeed, Holland Park School had three staff earning more than £140,000 in 2017-18.

The school is judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and is a Teaching School. The examination results are excellent, but does any of this justify paying such high salaries to senior staff? As a single school trust the head isn’t managing several schools, so there cannot be that argument for additional pay.

Is there an argument around market forces? Without such pay the school would not attract and keep a head teacher? Research into the turnover of senior staff in school using TeachVac data for 2017-18 suggest that only around 12% of secondary schools failed to appoint a head teacher when seeking to make an appointment. The figure is higher in the primary sector.

After more than 30 years of studying the labour market for senior staff in schools, I would suggest that rarely has there been a period when finding secondary head teachers that been easier than at present.  You can justify a recruitment allowance to help heads settle in a new area, but is a differential of around ten times the pay of a newly qualified teacher acceptable? The government clearly thinks not.

Should all public sector schools be brought back within a national pay framework and was it a mistake to allow schools to go their own way? Perhaps the real mistake lies with a refusal a decade or so ago to set rules for what was an Executive Head Teacher and how much they should be paid.

 

Update on the job market for teachers in England

As Chair of the Board at TeachVac, I thought some regular readers might like this update.

TeachVac February 2019 Update on the job market for teachers in England

More teaching post for those wanting to teach in secondary schools, but fewer posts recorded for those looking to work as either teachers or school leaders in the primary sector.

TeachVac’s monthly recruitment index details for January 2019 compared with January 2018 vacancies appear in the table below.

Recruitment Index

  September

2018

October

2018

November

2018

December

2018

January 2019
Primary Classroom Teacher 52 57 59 63 61
Primary Leadership 44 40 38 35 29
Secondary Classroom Teacher 52 55 61 66 70

TeachVac remains the largest free site for teacher vacancies in both state funded and private schools across England.

Register with www.teachvac.co.uk to find your teaching post

TeachVac Global www.teachvacglobal.com offer a similar service for a small fee to schools anywhere in the world.