Teacher recruitment update

The question of school and college funding may have driven the issue of teacher recruitment from the top of the education agenda, but that does not mean that the concerns about staffing have one away. They have just been buried under more topical concerns.

Whether it a sign of the growing number of secondary pupils for September or that the funding crisis isn’t as bad everywhere as it obviously is in some schools, but advertised vacancies are ahead of this point last year in the TeachVac system www.teachvac.co.uk That’s good news for teachers and trainees looking for a job for September, but less good news for some schools trying to recruit a new staff member.

As in the past, the main secondary subjects fall into three groups. Firstly, there are the quasi-vocational subjects of business studies and design and technology where there has already been more vacancies recorded in 2019 than the market can cope with and schools anywhere in England could find recruiting a teacher challenging. Schools seeking a teacher of physics can also face recruitment issues regardless of where the school is located.

The second group of subjects are those where local recruitment challenges may now be apparent, but recruitment problems are most likely to affect schools in London and the Home Counties. These subjects include, mathematics, English, computing, religious education and music. Most of these subjects may well migrate into the first group before the May resignation deadline.

Finally, in the third group are three EBacc subjects, modern languages, geography and history as well as physical education. At present, there is no sign that there won’t be enough of teachers in these subjects to meet needs. However, as noted in the past, this doesn’t address either the issue of the quality of applicants or the possibility that some schools may find attracting candidates a challenge for a variety of reasons.

In the primary sector, vacancies seem to be appearing more slowly than last year, perhaps reflecting the slowdown in the birth rate that is affecting intake numbers quite dramatically in some areas.

It is worth noting that you still wouldn’t be able to obtain this information from the DfE’s vacancy site. As of last Friday, the DfE site had only around 25% of the live vacancies being carried by TeachVac, so teachers looking for a job might use the DfE site if it was a vacancy in the first group of subjects listed above, as applicants may well be few and far between, but for subjects in the other groups they might well be missing some possible opportunities if they stick to just the DfE site.

I don’t know how much the DfE has spent on their site so far, but, as I have comments before, a simple site linking to other free vacancy sites such as TeachVac would achieve a better outcome for far less expenditure of public money.  This takes us back to school funding and why the DfE chose to compete in a marketplace already well served in this manner?


Support Youth Justice

One of the success stories of the past decade has been the reduction in the number of young people held in custody, both on remand and after sentencing. Sadly, with the present increase in ‘knife’ crime that trend may well be reversed over the coming few months.

Perhaps the increase in violent crime might have been reduced in scale had the Funding to help local authorities keep young people away from crime and re-offending not been halved since 2010. Youth justice grants, which fund council youth offending teams, have been reduced from £145m in 2010-11 to £71.5m in 2018-19, according to the Local Government Association. Furthermore, even though councils have already set their budgets for 2019-20, they are still awaiting their allocations for youth justice grants, thus, according to the Local Government Association, making it “extremely difficult” to plan services aimed at preventing gangs and violent crime.

Now it stands to reason that although the number of young people entering the youth Justice system is sharply down on the terrible days of the Labour government – by some 86% for the drop in first time entrants to the youth justice system – again according to the Local Government Association, many already in the system may be continuing to reoffend. . https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/03/youth-offending-team-funding-halved?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_term=

Cutting the grant for Youth Justice Services seems like another short-sighted attempt to save cash, where it may have actually had the opposite result in practice. Youth offending teams cannot devise schemes to held reduce re-offing, especially among what used to be termed ‘persistent young offenders’ if they no longer have the funds to do their work.

So, here is a suggestion. Any secondary school with more than 8% of its current annual revenue grant held in reserves and also with an above average figure for permanent exclusions across years 10 and 11 and any off-rolling of pupils in those years for pupils with SEND should have 50% of the excess of their reserves above the 8% level removed by the government and reallocated to the local Youth Offending Team.

Yes, the suggestion is crude, and if it catches any genuine cases, then the local Youth Offending Team can work with those schools to reallocate the funds to appropriate programmes.

This is a one-off short-term solution to allow government, in this time of policy paralysis, to find a better long-term solution to the increase in crime among teenagers and the cash to support new programmes over the longer-term.

At present, although more schools are reporting deficits, some have put money aside for a rainy day in a prudent manner, these latter group of schools would only be affected under these proposals if they had also shifted the burden of educating some challenging pupils onto others.

Cash in reserves is sterile public money, and with a need to deal with the present increase in violent crime, something needs to be done and quickly. Of course, if the government can find new cash in the Spring Statement my solution won’t be necessary.



Employing NQTs

Recently, I asked Ofsted if they could provide me with a list of schools not allowed to employ NQTs, following an inspection of the school, so I could have a look at a range of job advertisements to see how the recommendation was being presented to possible applicants, including NQTs. Following an FOI request, Ofsted informed me on Friday that

‘… we do not record collated information relating to the appointment of NQTs. Each inspection is regarded as a standalone inspection event, and statements regarding the appointment of NQTs are made in the individual reports and subsequent monitoring letters for each inspection.’

They suggested that I use the published data on inspections, last updated to August 2018.

The appointment of NQTs differs between maintained schools and academies because maintained schools provide a period of induction. Thus, with regard to maintained schools, induction may not be served in a school that has been judged to require special measures, unless HMCI has given permission in writing. School Inspection Handbook paras 98 and para 121.

For all schools, a school placed in special measures following a full Section 5 inspection, the report must include a judgement (or recommendation in the case of academies and presumably free schools) about whether a school should be permitted to employ NQTs. School Inspection Handbook Section 8 para 173. This judgement can be changed at subsequent monitoring reports.

Now this raises two interesting issues in my mind. Firstly, maintained schools declared inadequate these days must normally become an academy and part of a multi-academy trust or committee. The inadequate school is closed, and no Ofsted report is available for the new school. Presumably, the new academy is perfectly entitled to hire NQTs from day one, since the new school has no recommendation resulting from an inspection report. This seems a little concerning. In one case the report on the closing schools said ‘strongly recommend do not appoint NQTs’. Should the new academy recognise and act on this judgement?

The second issue emerged from looking into what is happening on the ground. Viewing records for some of these schools converting to become an academy after an ‘inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted, has identified a concern about the amount of time an academy emerging from an ‘inadequate’ judgement on a maintained school is taking to receive an inspection report. The school that received an inspection report ‘strongly recommending do not employ NQTs’ seemingly had not received a published monitoring report more than a year after it opened as an academy.

A third issue is that not all inspection reports declaring a school ‘inadequate’ appear to mention in the report anything about employing NQTs. Almost half of the inspection reports on secondary schools in London identified as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors that I viewed didn’t seem to mention anything about employing NQTs in the report. That’s also a worry. Indeed, recording use of Pupil Premium seemed of more concern in reports that statements about employing NQTs.

Arising from this is a fourth issue. If a school cannot employ an NQT, should it be allowed to employ any unqualified teachers? There must be a presumption that if a school cannot support NQTs, then they also cannot support an even less qualified person in their classrooms?

Am I worrying unduly or can readers tell me of instances where they didn’t know Ofsted had said ‘don’t employ NQTs’, but the schools had gone ahead and employed them.  Did it work out?







Knife Crime must be tackled

Those readers that have followed this blog since its inception in 2014 will know that I have written sparingly about the issue of knife crime. They will also know that I write from personal experience. In 1977 a pupil excluded from both a mainstream secondary school and then a special school entered my classroom and stabbed me in front of a class of pupils: luckily I survived.

I think my comments on the issue of exclusions and knife crime, today’s current topic for debate in the media, were best summed up in my post of 14th April last year under the heading ‘The responsibility of us all’. https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/the-responsibility-of-us-all/

The most telling paragraph is not about the deaths but that:

NHS data shows a 63% increase over five years in the number of children aged 16 and under who have been treated for stab wounds in England. The largest increase (85%) between 2011/12 and 2016/17 was among 15-year-olds. The overall rise in the number of stabbings across England during the same period was 14%.

Like my experience, most of these could have been near misses. As I pointed out last year, exclusions have always been greatest among 14 and 15 year old boys.

What was also interesting today was to hear the Mayor of London on the BBC’s Today programme apparently recognising the role local authorities used to play in education; not least in coordinating what happens to excluded pupils. The role of local authorities is one, although unfashionable, I have consistently championed through this blog.

I am also interested to know how many local authority scrutiny committees have focused the spotlight on exclusions in recent years: Oxfordshire Education Scrutiny Committee has done so, and you can find link to their report by using the search facility on WordPress.

The reduction in the use of youth custody has been a positive outcome of the change in the approach to penal policy and sentencing in recent years, and I do not think locking up fewer young people has contributed to the rise in knife crime and the associated deaths and serious injuries.

However, I do think the almost complete destruction of youth services and the speed with which ideas can be transmitted through social media may be important factors. Much has been made of gangs, and what happened in Lancashire recently was horrific, but the stabbing of individuals on suburban streets and in other public spaces merits the question as to what was behind these seemingly senseless acts of violence. Were they gratuitous or was there a motive?

Much has also been made of the spread of drugs and the ‘county lines’ that have recreated modern ‘Fagins’, with control over the lives not only of those that run drugs but their families and friends.

Tacking these complex problems while also staying alert for the threat of terrorism almost certainly demands more resources for our police. Schools may also need more targeted resources to cope with challenging pupils. Will this mean a move back towards are more hypothecated distribution of funds, thus curbing some of the freedom schools currently enjoy?



Middle Leaders: unsung stars of schools

Good to see some research into attitudes and feelings of middle leaders in schools https://www.teachwire.net/news/3-things-weve-learnt-about-middle-leaders The work was conducted by TeacherTapp http://teachertapp.co.uk/ the excellent web site created by a formidable trio of education authorities with a range of different backgrounds. To discover more about them, visit the TeacherTapp web site and sign up.

Middle leaders were the first area I researched, way back in 1979, now forty years ago! I wrote an article asking whether they were dictators or democrats. Then, as now, they were very much in the middle, not really seen as leadership by some, but no longer just classroom teachers.

Of course their roles differ, from leading a large and complex science or design and technology department with heads of subject and often a head technician as part of the team to the middle leader in music where the leader might be the sole specialist supporting a team of part-time teachers and peripatetic instrument teachers.

Middle leadership is often, at least for many secondary school teachers, their first encounter with responsibility for other adults. Phase and Key Stage leaders in primary schools will often have had responsibility for classroom support staff from the start of their careers. Increasingly, secondary teachers may have encountered support staff for pupils with SEND, but may not have had any responsibility for them as staff.

Facing both ways at the same time is always a challenge. Telling the head that you need more resources for the department, while telling the staff in the department that they cannot have any more resources, requires both skill and tact and can be very wearing. There is still the teaching and marking to do, as well as the planning and administration of the department, phase or other responsibility and usually being a form tutor as well.

In 1979, the heads of department I surveyed leant towards the democratic end of a continuum, whereas more senior leaders, and especially deputy heads, were more inclined to take an authoritarian line on issues presented to them. It is, therefore, interesting to see in the TeacherTapp findings that middle leaders sought to avoid conformations, at least when asked how they would behave on holiday.

One thing that hasn’t changed since 1979 is the general lack of preparedness for middle leader roles. Teachers are expected to step up from the classroom to this new additional role with, in many cases, little or no preparation. I suspect that many middle leaders are keen supporters of their subject or other professional associations as a means of support and training. Teaching Schools also have a role to play in the career development of this vital group of school leaders.

My first head of department role came after just two terms in teaching when the existing head of department was appointed to a deputy headship on the 31st May. Not even secure in my teaching, it was a steep learning curve. Those of you that are middle leaders have my highest regard for the work you undertake in our schools.


1p on Income Tax for Education?

Are school underfunded? To politicians the question is probably more one of, ‘do parents perceive schools as being underfunded and will that affect how they vote?’ Despite a campaign ahead of the 2017 general election on this topic, my sense was that education wasn’t a major topic during that election. Would it be now? Has the growing campaign by some schools to ask parents for cash to fund their running costs pushed the issue up the political agenda for any post-Brexit era?

My genuine answer is that I am not sure. We have been here before. As this blog has pointed out in the past, the post-1979 period was one of financial hardship for public services that last through most of the 1980s. Indeed, I have looked back at my 1986 book on ‘Schools in London’s Commuterland’ to find that even then some schools in Surrey were asking parents for sum like £5 per term or £14 for new pupils.

Throughout the early 1990s the Liberal Democrats had a well-known policy of ‘1p on Income Tax for education’. The policy attracted voters, and was based upon a feeling that schools were under-funded. Could it be revived on the basis that the government has pledged more cash for the NHS, but not for education, and it seems likely that the present financial support from the public purse will not be sufficient to fund increases in all public services at present levels of taxation.

The alternative to public funding, schools going cap in hand to parents, lacks any real support for a social justice agenda. Parents in my Division in North Oxford, where I am the county councillor, can certainly afford to part with a small sum from their disposable income for the school their child attends. The same isn’t true for many other parts of the city, where parents live on much narrow margins between income and expenditure.

If you believe, as I do, in the philosophy that a state education system should provide a standard of education necessary to create a high level of outcomes for all pupils, encouraging parents to pay towards a school’s funds creates an unfair advantage for those with the cash to help.

The funding debate is often mentioned in relation to the issue of staffing. Ever since schools gained control of their budgets in the 1990s, head teachers and governing bodies have been free to decide how to reward teachers in a system where central direction and control has become increasingly weaker.

Few now understand that the Group Size of a school once controlled not only the head teacher’s salary, but also the number of promoted posts a school could deploy. As a result, since school control of budgets came into force, the government has only ever funded schools on the average cost of a teachers: schools with lots of young teachers often did well, but those with lots of teachers on the top of the pay spine and with TLRs had a salary bill in excess of what their funding would be each year. Should these schools be allowed to top up their funding from parents? Then there is the question of reserves. Any parent asked for cash should require the school to display their latest set of accounts so the actual financial position can be determined.  Finally, ought there to be benchmarks in terms of issues such as pupil-teacher ratios and class sizes that identify funding levels. But, there is still the issue of how to compensate for the fact that older more experienced teachers cost more than younger less experienced ones?

One solution is to even out the costs by increasing the CPD allocation to young teachers so the actual cost of a teacher to a school is the same wherever they are in their career.

Increasing Science Teacher Capacity

The Gatsby Foundation has continued its contribution to the debate about how to solve the shortage of science teachers with a new pamphlet entitled: ‘Increasing the Quantity and Quality of Science Teachers in Schools: Eight evidence-based principles’. The on-line version can be found at: http://www.gatsby.org.uk/uploads/education/increasingscienceteachers-web.pdf

Although the document is primarily about science teachers, it has some generally applicable points that can apply to some other subjects as well. However, it is a bit potentially limited in its application in places, in that it doesn’t seemingly put the points into any order and it doesn’t discuss what might be the best scenario if some of the suggestions are impossible to implement. Take the second suggestion of ‘Providing Stable Teaching Assignments’ where the document suggests that:

‘Heads of Science should consider increasing the stability with which teachers are assigned to specific year groups. This may be particularly valuable in science departments that do not have enough staff to specialise across the three sciences. Assignment to specific key-stages is particularly important for early-career teachers, who are still gaining fluency in planning (Ost & Schiman, 2015). Where staffing pressures make it necessary to add new year groups to a teacher’s timetable, departments should provide additional support such as materials and mentoring.’

Ost, B., & Schiman, J. C. (2015). Grade-specific experience, grade reassignments, and teacher turnover. Economics of Education Review, 46, 112-126

There is good sense here, but how do you protect the only qualified physics teacher if that is what the school has?

Teachers in other subjects where staffing levels do not permit this type of approach; religious education, music and often the humanities, for instance, might well ask how any school will compensate for the necessity of teaching across all year groups. Should non-contact time differ by subject and the amount of lesson preparation and marking required of a teacher?

In science, we seem to be returning, if indeed we ever left, to a situation where there are far more teachers in training with a background in biology than in the other sciences. The House of Commons Education Select Committee recently discussed the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the needs for the future of British Society. If there is a lack of balance in the abilities of teachers of science to cover the whole gamut of the science curriculum, how might the needs of the future influence how the skills of those teachers the system does possess are most effectively utilised?

The Gatsby pamphlet also suggests flattening the pay gradient in the early years of a teacher’s career. However, if every school did this it might nullify the effects. There is an argument for looking at pay differentials and calculating the cost of turnover of staff and recruitment challenges against paying part of the recruitment costs to the existing workforce. Recruitment and Retention allowances make this a possible strategy for schools with the available cash. However, many schools would say that at present they do not have the cash to take such an approach to solving their staffing issues.