Bad news on closing the gap

The Education Policy Institute’s 2019 Report on Education (EPI Report) has largely been noticed for the comments about social mobility and the stalling of attempts to close the gaps between disadvantaged and other pupils as this is a key feature of its findings  https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/epi-annual-report-2019-the-education-disadvantage-gap-in-your-area/ Reasons for this ending of the reduction in the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and other pupils as noted by EPI are the decline in funding for schools and the challenges some schools face in both recruiting and retaining teachers.

This latter explanation is one that has been regularly championed by this blog as likely to have an adverse effect on outcomes. So, it would seem that money matters, and the idea of just providing cash to under-funded local authorities, as seemingly suggested by the new Prime Minister, might not necessarily be the way forward.

However, I do have some concerns about parts of the methodology used by EPI as it relates to the presentation of the data. A focus on local authorities as the key determinant does tend to ignore areas, whether urban or rural that have wide variations in levels of disadvantage within the same local authority boundary. For the two tier shire and district council areas, it would have been better to use the data at a district council level, but that doesn’t help in cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and boroughs where there may be wide variations between different parts of the authority. To some extent the data for an authority doesn’t reveal the whole picture and can provide results that might mis-lead the casual reader.

EPI avoids this issue to some extent by producing tables using parliamentary constituencies as the basis for the data. Thus the gap in months at the secondary level relative to non-disadvantaged pupils nationally can differ widely within one authority by looking at data at the level of the parliamentary constituency. For Birmingham, it is 13.6 in Selly Oak, but 19.6 in Ladywood; in Kent it differs between 27.0 for the Dover constituency and 13.8 in Tunbridge Wells.

This is not to say that drawing attention to the gap between where pupils start their education journeys and where they complete them isn’t vitally important at a local authority level. But, providing everyone with equal shares of the cake is not an answer for anyone that wants anything other than administrative simplicity, important though it is to ensure that base funding levels are sufficient for the task in hand.

EPI do make the point in their report that despite no progress in narrowing the disadvantage gap, overall pupil attainment has continued to rise. This suggests that an overall rise in standards does not guarantee a reduction in the disadvantage gap. (Their emphasis).

The Report also highlights the fact that the post-16 education routes taken by young people are becoming increasingly segregated by socio-economic status, with disadvantaged pupils disproportionately represented in certain routes. In particular, the increased segregation is driven by an over-representation of disadvantaged students in further education. These trends may damage the government’s ambition of rectifying imbalances between further and higher education. (Their emphasis).

 

 

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Education is a fundamental Human Right

Last week there was a report from the Ombudsman (sic) about the management of the process of to the admission of a pupil to a school. This report was of especial interest to me as it involved Oxfordshire, where I am a county councillor.

Long-time readers of this blog will know of my concerns over the time required for some children taken into care to be offered a school place, despite their vulnerability. I have written about that issue several times, but probably most tellingly in April last year at https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/educating-children-taken-into-care/

The fact that other children are also being affected is very disappointing, and disheartening when it is happening so close to home.

I firmly believe this is a basic right of children to be provided with education by the State, if asked to do so. To leave a child for 14 months, as in the case highlighted in the report from the Ombudsman, with either less than full-time education or no education at all is unacceptable.

We now fine parents for taking children on holiday in term time, so we cannot accept, even in these times of cuts to public services, a child facing long periods without education as a result of administrative issues.

Indeed, I am reminded that the first Protocol of Article 2 of the 1998 Human Rights Act reads as follows:

Right to education

No person shall be denied a right to an education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-2-first-protocol-right-education

The fault is not entirely that of Oxfordshire, the power of academies to dictate their own in-year admissions and the failure of government to act quickly when asked to rule on the issue don’t help.

Indeed, the 2016 White Paper that suggested that in-year admissions be returned to local authority control would be a good start.

If Mr Williamson wanted an early win for parents, pending time for legislation, he could gain voluntary acceptance for academies and their Trusts to agree to work with local authorities on admissions and not to opt out of local arrangements.

However, all Oxfordshire’s children already have Oxfordshire County Council as their first line of defence when there are problems, as the Ombudsman pointed out at paragraph 60 of their Report:

Section 19 of the Education Act 1996 states councils have a duty to make arrangements to ensure the provision of suitable education at school or otherwise for each child of compulsory school age who for reasons of illness, exclusion or otherwise may not for any period receive suitable education unless arrangements are made for them. This duty is binding.

https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2019/jul/oxfordshire-teen-left-out-of-school-for-14-months-because-of-council-delay

Young people only have one chance of education alongside their peers, and we have to provide the resources to take care of challenging cases as much as for the majority of pupils that cause no issues for the State, and the schools it funds.

 

 

20,000 fewer teachers?

The news that the Home Office are going to oversee the recruitment of either 20,000 new graduate police officers or people capable of earning a vocational degree must prompt the question; in the current labour market, where are these new police officers going to come from? Of course, it might be a preemptive strike by the government against a possible recession and the associated increase in unemployment. This must be on the assumption that any recession will hit the graduate end of the labour market at least as hard as it hits those with no qualifications.

After seven years of a failure to recruit enough new teachers into training – a back door cut – and facing an increasing pupil population, teaching also need more entrants than it has at present. Indeed, it seems likely that when the ITT Census for 2019 is published in November, this will be the eighth year of missed targets in some subjects. I recorded the disturbing decline of design and technology trainee numbers in one of yesterday’s posts, if anyone is interested.

So, might teachers switch to become police officers? I doubt it will be 20,000, but the loss of any experienced teachers will be a blow to the profession that has also seen retention rates worsen for teachers we might have expected to have reached the stage where they had become what one person described to me this week as ‘lifers’.

Potential teachers, especially those keen to be in London and not eligible for Teach First, might well weigh up the starting salary of a constable against the fees to be paid as a trainee teacher and the absence of any guarantee of a teaching post on completion of training.

I certainly think that this move to increase police numbers will reinforce the need for a review of the former training grant for all teachers, and not just payments to those lucky enough to be on Teach First or the School Direct Salaried routes or receiving a bursary. Of course, the government could wait and see, but that must be deemed a risk unless graduate unemployment rises both quickly and fast.

If the new Secretary of State for Defence wants more graduates in the armed forces and the NHS more nurses, then those actions will place more pressure on the teaching profession to be competitive in a labour market where it clearly isn’t competitive at present.

Do we really want a system that produces just enough qualified teachers of Physics to meet the needs of private schools, Sixth Form Colleges and the selective schools? Do we want a system that fails to produce enough teachers of design and technology; of music; even of art? According to head teachers that I meet, this isn’t even the complete list of subjects where recruitment is currently a challenge.

The other salvation is that a slowing down of the global economy might reduce demand from ‘overseas schools’ for teachers trained in England. Such a situation is possible, but with the switch of many of these schools to educating not the children of expat business families, but locals dissatisfied with their State system or unable to access it, not too much hope should be placed on this solution, at least for now.

Are marginal trainee teachers more likely to fail?

The latest ITT performance profiles were published this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2017-to-2018 These include data for individual providers as well as general figures for the whole undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts gaining QTS in 2017/18 – last summer’s output of new teachers.

Generally, the picture isn’t much changed from the previous year. Headline percentage gaining QTS for the postgraduate cohort remained at 91%, with happily some 734 more trainees that gained QTS for a total of 25,490, up from 24,764 the previous year. Sadly, these were not always in the subjects where there was the most needed.

The total of those on undergraduate courses continued to fall; down by nearly 300 to just 4,733 gaining QTS. The new Secretary of State might care to reflect that the 30,000 new teachers last summer isn’t far short of the whole establishment of the Royal Navy he was responsible for as Defence Secretary. Imagine if ITT had the same revenue budget as the Royal Navy to train teachers. Hopefully, some of the new cash promised by Boris will come in the direction of both teacher preparation and CPD.

It is interesting that Physics, where recruitment onto teacher preparation courses has been challenging for a number of years, is bottom of the list of secondary subjects in terms of trainees awarded QTS. Some of this may be down to early departure from the course, and clearly some did not complete the course to QTS in time, with some 5% ‘yet to complete’ when the numbers were compiled.

Physical Education, a non-bursary subject, and one where demand for places exceed supply, turned in a percentage of 97% of trainees being awarded QTS. However, not all bursary subjects with few recruitment challenges managed to turn out such a high level of trainees with QTS. History and English both only managed to see 95% and 93% respectively of their trainees awarded QTS.

The groups with lower than hoped for percentages being awarded QTS against the overall postgraduate average of 91% included men (88%); those from an ethnic minority background (88%) – although 13% did not declare on this measure and that may have affected the outcome. Those with a declared disability and with lower academic performance as measured by degree class were also groups with lower than average percentages gaining QTS as were older trainees that were switching careers. The highest identified percentage (94%) was for those with First Class degrees

The saddest statistic is the number of trainees gaining QTS in design and technology:

2009/10                1159

2010/11                1118

2011/12                  808

2012/13                  500

2013/14                  383

2014/15                  433

2015/16                  493

2016/17                  399

2017/18                  288

This is not enough to provide for future middle leaders in the subject, let alone to staff the subject effectively. This is something else for the new team in Sanctuary Building to discuss.

I hope in future posts to discuss the differences between the different postgraduate routes. However, they can be small and accounted for in terms of attitudes to recruiting groups that achieve lower rates of QTS.

UCAS Access allowed

Usually at this time of the month I would be commenting on the UCAS data about applications to graduate ITT courses. Curiously, this month access to the monthly data has been hidden behind a password access page on the day the data was released. Even more curiously, the daily updates that contain most of the same data, but in a slightly different format, are still available for all to see: very odd. I have emailed UCAS to ask for an explanation and the data is now available for all to see. I will post the new information after the end of the original post

So, what can be gleaned from the data that is in the public domain? Firstly it is for the state of play on the 25th July, whereas the monthly data only covered data up to 16th July 2018. As a result the 2019 data ought to show higher numbers due to the longer timescale covered.

Allowing for the time difference, and the difference in the data presentation by UCAS, it seems as if the recent TV campaign plus the publicity about the government’s recruitment and retention strategy might have made some difference to the numbers accepting offers of places on ITT courses, but any increase is not of any significant magnitude in many subjects that were on already on track to create an eight year of missed targets: mostly probably will still miss their target unless there is a late surge in applicants. It is probably too early for any change to the Skills Tests to have had any effect on these numbers.

With a new Secretary of State, a pay offer for teachers and a Prime Minister promising more money for schools, not to mention the risks of a recession as a result of the outcome of Brexit, is teaching going to see this rush of late applications? Frankly it is anyone’s guess, but my feeling is that 2020 is still going to be a challenge for schools recruiting classroom teacher, unless there is a drop in numbers leaving the profession and an increase in those seeking to return due to worsening economic conditions.

Those preparing teachers in September might still find themselves with many empty places on their courses across a range of subjects.

Reviewing the monthly data that represented the position at the 15th July, there seems to be good news for Design & Technology, where good news is baldy needed,  and in biology, history and religious education. The first two are not shortage subjects, although the biologists will plug the gaps left by fewer chemists and physicists if those numbers don’t improve. Business Studies, English, geography and Languages are at broadly similar levels to this point last year. Along with the two sciences already mentioned, IT, mathematics, music, art and PE are all below the level for offers at this comparison point last year and, apart from PE are heading for missed targets again.

Applicant numbers are marginally down on last July last year, on the most favourable measure, by around 600 to some 36,210. However, that’s some 2,000 below the number two years ago.  Younger career changes seem to be the group moving away from considering teaching as a career. There is a slight increase in applications from those 21 or under; new graduates. The other increase, of around 250, is in the age-group above the age of 40. The risk, as the performance profiles issued earlier this week demonstrated, is that this group has a lower success rate at reaching QTS than trainees from the youngest age group.

The trend towards fewer women applying is also evident in the figures for this month when compared with both last year and the year before. After a large decline between two years age and last year, the decline in male applicants is relatively modest this year, some 250 down from last year, to 12,430 of whom 8,200 have either been placed or are holding an offer.

Although there are more applications to providers in London than for any other region, the number has slipped below 20,000, about 750 applications below this point last year. The good news is that there are 800 ‘placed’ trainees in London compared with 750 in July last year. The less good news is that the number ‘conditionally placed’ is down on last year and the number ‘holding an offer’ is similar to last year.

Applications for primary courses continue to decline, down to 41,790 this July compared with 44,310 in July last year. Applications overall for secondary courses are up, from 58,830 to 59,440. However, these may not be in the subjects where they are most needed. Higher Education has seen the brunt in reductions of applicants, down from 52,350 to 47,700. Salaried School Direct courses and apprenticeships still seem out of favour with secondary schools, with only 710 placed or holding offers for such routes in the secondary sector this year, compared to 900 last year.

Overall, my comment at the end of the blog yesterday that Those preparing teachers in September might still find themselves with many empty places on their courses across a range of subjects still seems to hold good after reviewing the monthly published data from UCAS.

Equal not fair: the new direction for education?

So Boris wants a ‘superb’ education for all children. His recipe for achieving this is to offer all primary and secondary schools the same cash amount per pupil of some £5,000. No mention of special education, further education or indeed higher education in that part of his speech.

As this blog has recorded in the past, post-16 and further education is seriously in need of a cash injection, probably even more than the schools sector. Although secondary schools will benefit from more cash for their Key Stage 3 & 4 pupils under Boris’s idea, this won’t help fully fund sixth forms and will leave further education colleges still drifting towards financial meltdown in some cases.

What is the future for the High Needs Block of funding and a ‘superb’ education for all our pupils with special educational needs? I guess much will depend upon how Mr Williamson, as the incoming Secretary of State for Education, interprets the words of his boss? Personally, I hope he reminds Boris that Eton doesn’t charge the same fees as many other private schools and asks whether he believes that what is right for public education should be applied to private schooling as well?

More seriously, the idea of the same cash for all is based upon a very simplistic notion of education, where equal means ‘the same’. In 2002, I wrote a paper for the Liberal Democrats espousing the ‘compensatory principle’. This is based upon funding the needs of a child to reach the outcome levels desired by the system: some children need more resources to achieve the desired outcome than others.

Such a principle recognises the need for additional funding for both specific children and particular areas within local government boundaries. The Coalition introduced the Pupil Premium to recognise this need, and the Mrs May’s government created additionally funded ‘Opportunity Areas’. What happens to these modification of £5,000 for all will be a real test of the values of this government.

Extensive research shows all children do not arrive at school with the same degree of development, whatever their innate capabilities. The system should recognise that fact and take it into account in funding. Furthermore, if the State mandates the same funding for all schools, should it allow schools in more affluent areas to top-up the State grant and once again create a funding differential?

The teacher associations have calculated that the headline £5,000 for all is relatively cheap to implement, costing only about £50 million a year according to the BBC. However, to restore funding levels to where the teacher associations would like them to be might cost close to £13 Billion rather than a few million pounds. Such a sum, even without the demands of the further education sector, is a different order of magnitude.

Sadly, for a Prime minister that likes headlines, the £5,000 is a good headline figure and seems like a lot of money: these days it isn’t. How schools are treated will reveal the true values off the new government.

STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-review-body-29th-report-2019 Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?