DfE backs free vacancy sites

The Secretary of State has provided a big push for the DfE’s vacancy site and other free job sites such as TeachVac https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-teacher-recruitment-service-set-to-save-schools-millions

It is always interesting to see a Conservative government trying to stifle legitimate competition by using its millions to drive TeachVac out of business www.teachvac.co.uk  However, the government won’t succeed. As the DfE notice acknowledges, only 38% of schools have signed up to the DfE service after nine months of testing. They only cite Cambridgeshire as an authority where all schools have signed up to their service.

As I have written before, the DfE would have saved money, something they urge schools to do, by either working with existing job boards or taking a feed from TeachVac at a much lower cost that designing their own service.

The DfE site has one flaw for teachers looking for posts in a particular area and not bothered whether they work in the private or public sectors: the DfE site only contains state funded schools. TeachVac contain details of vacancies in both sectors.

Will the DfE now instruct local authorities to abandon their own local job boards on the basis that this duplication of service is wasting taxpayer’s money? The DfE could provide a feed for all schools with vacancies in the local authority area, as TeachVac can do. If the DfE doesn’t do this, one must ask why not?

I assume that ASCL and NAHT along with the NGA will come out in support of the DfE’s site, something that haven’t felt able to do with TeachVac, despite it being free for schools and teachers.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

With every school in the country now having access to this completely free site, I am calling on schools to ditch platforms that charge a fee. Why spend £1,000 on a service you can get for free?

Why indeed, and why go to the trouble of placing your vacancy on the DfE web site when TeachVac will collect it from your own web site for free, saving schools even more time and money.

So, will this be bad news for the TES and its new American owners? Much will depend upon how much in the way of resources the DfE is prepared to put into creating a state run monopoly? The vacancy part of the acquisition and its income stream certainly looks more risky this morning than it did on Friday. Will it be worth the £195 million that they seem to have paid for it?

Had I not helped invent TeachVac nearly six years ago, I would no doubt be more enthusiastic about the DfE’s attempt to drive down costs for schools. For now, we shall see what happens, and how schools, MATs and local authorities respond to today’s announcement.

For the sake of interest, I have compiled a table showing the DfE’s vacancy numbers – including non-teaching posts – as a percentage of TeachVac’s numbers. However, TeachVac includes independent secondary schools, but the DfE site sometimes contains non-teaching posts..

04/01/2019 11.26
11/01/2019 13.22
18/01/2019 17.57
25/01/2019 17.69
01/02/2019 21.44
08/02/2019 22.72
15/02/2019 24.46
22/02/2019 11.71
01/03/2019 31.25
08/03/2019 25.11
15/03/2019 25.20
22/03/2019 25.10
29/03/2019 28.20
05/04/2019 29.10

 

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Harry Judge: a tribute

Harry Judge was Director of the then Oxford Department of Educational Studies when I arrived in Oxford in September 1979 to read for a higher degree. As a teacher with nearly a decade of teaching in a comprehensive school in Tottenham behind me, Oxford was a culture shock. However, Harry Judge was one of those that helped make my time at Norham Gardens memorable. He also inspired much of my interest in both teacher education and the careers of teachers that has continued to this day.

I especially recall his lectures on both the McNair Report and the James Report, where he had been a member of the Committee chaired by Lord James. Although the oil crisis of 1972 scuppered much of what James had recommended for in-service professional development for the teaching profession, the need for a sound education before becoming a teacher was accepted, along with the fact that a teacher preparation course was necessary for all by way of both pre-service training and induction. Not for James and Harry Judge the notion of Michael Gove that anyone with a good education can become a teacher.

Although much has changed in the period of approaching half a century since the James Committee was set up, this paragraph can still strike a cord, especially with those trainees not able to find a job immediately after completing their teacher preparation course.

“The probationary teacher, in fact, leaves his [sic] college on the last day of term and never hears of or from it again. Nor does the school to which he goes communicate with the college, even if difficulties arise. He is pleasantly received at his school (as would be any newly appointed member of staff, whether or not in a first appointment) and introduced, formally or informally, to the ways of the place. No one suggests to him that he is in a special situation, or entitled to unusual help. He may be invited by the LEA to attend a tea party but will probably not go and, if he does, that will be his last meeting with its officers or advisers. He teaches a full timetable including one or two of the notoriously difficult groups of pupils. No one goes near him in the mistaken belief that to do so would be to interfere with his professional integrity. At the end of the year he receives a note informing him that the probationary year has been satisfactorily completed, and he is now a fully qualified teacher. This gap between theory and practice reflects an equally alarming gap between the interpretation of the probationary year by colleges and departments on the one hand and schools on the other. Colleges rightly insist that a profession should accept a major responsibility in incorporating its own members and, in any case, they cannot themselves do everything, and cannot produce a standard and universally valid form of training which will enable everyone to do everything everywhere. The schools rightly insist that ‘the system’ does in fact presuppose that a new teacher is fully trained, and they are given neither resources nor encouragement to become effective partners in the training.”   James Report paragraph 3.9

School-based training, SCITTs and partnerships have helped eradicate the worst of the problems mentioned above, but a market system and a weakened third cycle of professional development can still leave too many new teachers without an ideal introduction to the profession: hence the unnecessary wastage rates for new teachers.

Harry Judge helped pioneer the successful partnership model for the PGCE at Oxford, as well as inspiring many teachers and leaders in the field of education. I am glad to have known and studied on courses that he taught. He was a major influence on my life in the field of education. Thank you Harry.

 

 

 

A parent in prison is not a crime

Although this blog is mostly about education, it does from time to time mention other issues. For the past five years I have been a trustee of the charity Children Heard and Seen, founded in Oxford by an inspirational former social worker, Sarah Burrows. http://childrenheardandseen.co.uk/ This charity works to mitigate the effects of parental imprisonment on children, young people and their families, aiming to provide quality services for children with a family member in prison.

For far too long these children have been ignored. Next month, a new book will be published by the Waterside Press https://www.watersidepress.co.uk/acatalog/Seen-Heard-Poems-Prisons-9781909976429.html#SID=34

The book is a collection of poems and drawings by parents and children affected by imprisonment in the UK and abroad. The poems and images are all original and from open competitions begun in 2018. They address the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of the authors as they express themselves concerning their emotions and experiences. Over a million children and family members are affected by imprisonment in the UK alone and the poems seek to emphasise the sense of loss, deprivation and isolation involved. They also show resilience—and how enforced separation impacts each and every day of the writer’s life.

The joint editors of the collection are, Lucy Baldwin is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at De Montfort University Leicester. She specialises in research surrounding mothering in and after prison and families affected by imprisonment. Ben Raikes is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Huddersfield University. He also works at the Centre for Applied Childhood, Youth and Family Research. Ben has experience as a social worker and probation officer. He runs writing groups in prisons and is a co-founder of the International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP).

The book will cost just £14.95 and comes with free delivery in the United Kingdom.

Latest research suggests that there may be more than 300,000 children of prisoners across the United Kingdom. Earlier this year, Children Heard and Seen was mentioned in evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights at Westminster. The mention is at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/human-rights-committee/the-right-to-family-life-children-whose-mothers-are-in-prison/oral/96667.html as part of Q3.

Sarah from Children Heard and Seen used to be a social worker, and I will ring her up and panic, when I have nothing to panic over. I honestly believe it has stemmed from that.

 Back then, if I had had a charity like Children Heard and Seen, I would not be suffering as I am now. I can give you an example. Unfortunately, my children have recently gone through a similar situation with the father receiving a custodial. Because of Children Heard and Seen, my children were not alienated. They did not know the difference. They did not know that he had gone. They were with a bunch of other children and it felt normal—not that it was normal for a parent to go to prison, but it was normal to feel human and be accepted as a human. It was not so taboo. You are not living their punishment, really. I honestly believe that I and my brother served a bigger sentence than my mum ever received.

I believe these children need support that Society has not offered them. Should you wish to help with the work of the charity, please visit its web site and donate either cash or your time.

 

 

Register your child’s education

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the State requiring parents to educate their children new proposals are emerging for consultation that would potentially alter the nature of the contract between individuals and the State over the education of children between the ages of five and sixteen (and possibly eighteen).

As I noted in a post in June 2016

Parents are not required to send children to school to be educated, but if they do so it must be ‘regularly’. There seems to be no similar legal penalty that appears to be enforced for those that decide to home school or educate their children in some other way than sending them to school.

So, the requirement on parents has been to ‘educate’ their children, and the state school was always the default option if no other action has been taken by parents. I suspect that parliament either thought schooling generally a ‘good thing’, so most would take up the option or that it didn’t want to interfere in family life any more than necessary. As stated, the law also allowed private schools to continue with minimal state interference.

Fast forward 150 years and we live in a different set of circumstances, where family rights can be challenged by the rights of individual members of the family. In these circumstances, the right of the child to a ‘good’, ‘satisfactory’ and even’ appropriate’ education may top the right of a family to educate their children as they see fit. At some point the courts will have to rule on this issue.

In order to reach a decision on the education a child is receiving the state needs to know about that education and that the child is indeed being educated. This latter point is, I think, the reasoning behind the current move by the DfE to consult on a register of all children’s education.

Is this a sledgehammer to crack a nut? Realistically, the State wants to know children at risk either because parents are deliberately hiding them from the State or because state providers have made attendance at a school so challenging parents have withdrawn their offspring with no other adequate education in place.

A compromise might be that if a child is entered into a school, and receives a unique pupil number, it becomes eligible for tracking until the end of compulsory schooling. This would allow parents of genuine home schooling that never interact with the State to continue unhindered in their way of life. But, pupils excluded, off-rolled or otherwise removed, perhaps because of bullying or poor SEND provision, would remain open to checking on their education.

Apart from anything else, this might help local authorities recognise where provision has broken down for some children and argue for better resources. The risk is that, at least in the short-term, some schools might exclude more pupils since they would no longer disappear from the system. However, that risk is part of the debate society must have about schools and their place in communities: exam factories or education for whole communities?

This proposal doesn’t deal with those that want a different form of education. But, rules about what is a ‘school’ and the inspection of all schools with severe penalties for unregistered schools might deal with that issue.

 

 

Funding thoughts

In an ofsted report published this week I found the following paragraph

Only a very small proportion of pupils benefit from routinely good teaching. Senior leaders’ attempts to improve the quality of teaching have been hampered by the school’s difficult financial situation. Most significantly, this means that too many pupils are being taught by non-specialist subject teachers.

Now, I am not sure why non-specialist can cost less than specialists, and ofsted don’t elaborate further.

According to today’s Yorkshire Post the Head of Education at North Yorkshire County Council, has urged the Government to “wake up to the plight of rural communities, and to the costs of delivering education in sparse rural areas.”
https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/education/financial-danger-mounting-for-yorkshire-dales-secondary-schools-amid-primary-clo

He also added that “We have real worries about small rural secondary schools. We aren’t, at the moment, looking at any closures, but we are seriously concerned about their financial position. There are no alternatives for these areas. We cannot afford for these schools to close because of the sheer distances pupils would have to travel.”

No doubt North Yorkshire will be responding to the government’s consultation on post-16 bursary funding and rural travel costs, highlighted in my previous post on Friday.

Both these reports highlight the shortcomings of an entirely pupil driven funding system, with little room for local flexibility. The F40 Group of local authorities remain concerned about how the funding system for schools is working.

Tomorrow, at 4pm the NEU and partners campaigning for fairer school funding will present a letter to the Department for Education at Sanctuary Buildings. The letter was signed by 1,115 councillors from authorities across the country.

Hopefully, funding will be one of the issues Layla Moran’s independent commission on education will consider. It does now seem that driving the school bus from Westminster may have unintended financial consequences for some parts of the country that traditionally elect Conservative Party MPs and councillors.

Closing rural schools was made more difficult during the time of the Blair government, so local authorities, academies and MATs with rural schools are between a rock and a hard place. For instance, heating costs may be higher than in city schools that especially in London can benefit from the heat island created by large urban areas.

But, the real issue is still, how we fund schools where costs may be very different, and in rural areas pupil numbers may just not be sufficient to ensure that funds are sufficient to cover outgoings. At least, schools don’t have to meet the travel costs as that cost still falls upon the local authority and the council tax payers.

Realistically, local authorities may need to be able to vire some cash between schools in the same way that MATs are allowed to do.

But, if the overall amount is insufficient to fund quality education, then the system needs to be looked at again. For a start, schools with historic deficits that are impeding good teaching might have them written off for the benefit of the present school population.