Young carers

What follows is the text of a speech I gave in a debate about Young Carers at the recent Lib Dem Party Conference. You can find how it was delivered on YouTube if you are especially interested. However, the main reason for viewing the YouTube video is to listen to the testimony of the young carers that spoke in the debate. I was humbled by their accounts of experiences that most of us would find challenging as adults, let alone as children.

As a Councillor you are invited to lots of different events. This summer I witnessed a group of young people taking part in the National Citizen Service programme champion the needs of young carers. This is an important motion about an often overlooked group in society. A group that has been hit by the cuts to local government and to schools and especially the social care budgets..

We need to ensure that both academy chains and other schools have plans in place to help young carers and not to treat them as a nuisance. I call on Layla Moran as our Education spokesperson to further the needs of this group of pupils to ensure that their education is not endangered. Please ask schools to support and encourage, not complain and punish young carers for being inconvenient to school procedures.

I was only a young carer for a short period before going to university when my grandmother came out of hospital. That was many years ago and for a short period of time. Now for many young carers it is for years and is also a challenge to their education.

This motion recognises their needs. I would also say to university admissions tutors, including those in the 2 universities in Oxford where I am a councillor, please interview anyone that tells you they are a carer. Their grades may not represent their ability. The same is true for employers: make young carers feel valued.

I hope everyone will fully support this motion.

They did, and it was passed. You can find the text of the motion at: https://www.libdems.org.uk/a19-young-carers

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Education and Climate Change

We now have a generation of young people that are fully aware of the need for urgent action on climate change. We saw this through the determination of many young people to go on strike during the summer term. These strikes by students and school pupils across the country, inspired as so many campaigns are, by the action of just a single student in Sweden, have changed the landscape for ever. There is no going back.

But, equally, striking is not enough. Strikes draw attention to an issue, but after time they lose their impact and can damage the very cause they seek to champion, by creating a familiarity of protest.

Following the motion passed by the Lib Dems at their Conference, I have devised a set of priorities for the education sector. These actions will help to start the fight by the education sector against the harmful effects of climate change. These are just a start, but they offer the chance to inspire and encourage each and every schools to play its part in the better use of our planet and its finite resources.

This is a challenge for the education sector as a whole, not just for state schools. Climate change challenges all education providers, from primary schools to higher education, and from small village schools to our chains of international private schools with campuses across the globe.

But let’s start by ensuring that by the end of this school-year every school has at least one charging point for an electric vehicle. This should be simple to achieve as it needs no new technology and a network of suppliers is in place to fit these points, either wall or column mounted. Of course, more than one point would be better, but let’s start the ball rolling with a simple and achievable target.

To supply the electricity of these charging points, schools need a new incentive to use their roof space for the installation of photo-voltaic panels. Such a scheme would also provide a boost to this industry as it suffers from the ending government schemes for domestic properties.

But, the obvious use of roofs is not enough. School playgrounds are the most under-used of our public spaces. How can we make better use of them during the hours of daylight when they are empty of children and achieving nothing?

More research is needed for cost effective solutions, but I am inspired by the work being undertaken in car parks to design column-based PV panels. Earlier this year we celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Hobart’s ‘funnies’ played an important part in the success of that day; creating tanks that flailed minefields; bridged gullies and even swam through the sea. Such ingenuity in respect of playgrounds can create panels that are vertical when playgrounds are in use, but spread out horizontally to generate electricity when children are not about.

This technology can be allied to the desire by the current government to create a world-leading battery technology industry. Schools are at the hub of their communities, so local generation of energy stored when created and released when needed help challenge the notion of power creation and distribution we are all familiar with.

Many of our schools are still badly insulated. So we need a scheme to use a portion of the cash for education to reduce heat loss in schools through an insulation scheme for walls and ceilings.

I started with a simple initiative that would be obvious to pupils concerned to see action locally. Another such initiative is to require schools to replace all gas cooking in their kitchen by electric ovens, hobs and other appliances. I would also ask the design and technology departments to consider the use of gas in their home economics departments.

On a bigger scale is the replacement of gas-fired boilers by other forms of heating. This is a big ask and we need to discuss with industry leaders how this might be achieved.

Up until now, education has not lead the charge in fighting the battle to save our planet. The younger generation has rightly challenged us to change that approach, from one of passive reluctance to an active demonstration of what can be achieved.

Let me end on a challenge to those very students that have been striking for action on climate change and their other classmates that support them, but have not taken direct action. Now is the time for you to do something; each and every one of you.

Let’s start by addressing the journey you take every day to and from school. I am  fortunate to have within my county division The Cherwell School.

As well as being an outstanding secondary school, this school actively promotes the benefits of cycling and walking to school, with impressive results. Their Transport Action Group ensures the issue remains top of the agenda and is not seen as a one-off tick box exercise. We should aim to promote and reward such actions and will discuss how we might incentivise both schools and pupils to achieve a significant reduction in car journeys to and from school. I especially challenge the independent sector to work with us on this task, as I know it is a real issue for many of those schools that draw pupils from a wide distance.

For a sector where the pupils took the issue of climate change seriously, but the establishment too often didn’t do more than pay lip service to the issue, let us move to one inspired by the strikes to create the action necessary to say that in both England and across the whole of the United Kingdom we have an education system we can be proud of in terms of its forward thinking contribution to decisive action on climate change.

 

 

Trade Unionist honoured by Labour

Education will have a new voice in the House of Lords following the announcement of the creation of Christine Blower, the former head of the NUT, as a peer in the dissolution honours list announced today. Christine was proposed by the Labour Party, and will join a distinguished bench of Labour peers with a deep understanding of the state education system. Sadly, the same cannot be said for either of the other two main parties, and there are not enough cross-bench peers with an education background.

The House of Lords has always had more to say about universities and higher education than schools or further education, although some peers have sat on the governing bodies of both colleges and schools.

The Lib Dems Education team in the upper Chamber has been fronted in recent years by Mike Story, an ex-headteacher from Liverpool. Lord Storey has done an excellent job in difficult conditions. Indeed, over the years, despite the Lib Dems being strong on education as a policy area right back to the ’Penny on income Tax’ in the 1990s and the work of Don Foster, Phil Willis, David Laws in government and even Ed Davey for a short period of time, the Party has never had an large team in the Lords. However, for a long while it did have Baroness Williams with her experience as a former Secretary of State, and Margaret Sharp to speak on higher education.

No doubt Baroness Blower will want to address the government’s announcement of the wish to create more free schools, a policy that doesn’t solve the pupil place problem many local authorities are facing and seem more ideological than practical in its nature.

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Who wants to be a teacher: changes over time

As we approach the end of the current recruitment round for entry to postgraduate teacher preparation courses, I thought it might be worth looking back at some of the data on the gender of applicants that I have collected over the years.

In 1996, I wrote an article for the then NUT journal, Education Review, in its special number on re-asserting equal opportunities. This coincided with celebration for the 125 years of the NUT. For anyone with access to a library, it was Volume 10 Issue Number 1 of Summer 1996.

It is interesting to see the data about the gender of applicants to postgraduate courses. In 1983, men made up 43% of applicants to PGCE courses. By 1986, the figure had fallen to 36% ,and was also at that level in 1996. By 2018, the UCAS end of year data shows that male applicants accounted for 32% of applicants. This August, in the most recent monthly data available, men accounted for 31% of applicants. By the end of the round it seems likely that the percentage will be similar to that of last year, since men have more of a tendency, at least in many years, to apply towards the end of the recruitment round than do women.

As men have formed a smaller proportion of the applicant pool, so their chance of being offered a place has increased. In 1989, 53% of male applicants were offered a place. By 2018, this had increased to some 62% of male applicants and by August this year the figure for the current recruitment round was standing at 66%. This percentage may drop by the final analysis of the recruitment round as it might include a small proportion of applicants holding or having been ‘offered’ a place by more than one course provider. Still, it shows an interesting trend.

In the days when I wrote the 1996 article, there was considerable data in the public domain about both the ethnicity of applicants and their ages, as well as their gender. Sadly, little is now in the public domain about ethnicity, so we don’t know if some ethnic groups are still being rejected in greater numbers than those from other groups?

We do still know about the age profile of applicants. It is interesting to look at the age profile of applicants in 1993, and the age profile of those applying 25 years later in the 2018 round. (The 1993 data are for England and Wales and the 2018 are for England alone.)

1993                       2018

Under 22             9598                       8060

23-24                     7396                       5510

25-29                     9387                       6050

30-39                     5778                       4640

40+                         2929                       3660

It would appear that teaching still holds attractions as a career for those straight from university, and also those older career switchers in the second half of their working lives. But, teaching seems less attractive to those in their mid to late-20s, now settled into working life. Of course, picking a different year to 1993 might have produced a different result, but this data does provide some food for thought.

 

A new source of teachers?

How much appetite do teaching assistants have to become a teacher? Might this be a way of solving our current teacher supply crisis? The DfE has just published some research it commissioned to answer the first question. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exploring-teaching-assistants-appetite-to-become-teachers

Some 64 people, mostly women, working in 51 schools, and with various job titles, were interviewed for the research. Most didn’t already have a degree although a small number that took part did have a degree. Most were also working full-time, and this may have been a factor in their answers.

Some, took on their current role wanting to progress to become a teacher. Most of the others hadn’t started out with that intention, but some were open to the possibility. Not surprisingly, how to train without losing income was a factor in the responses. How big a factor isn’t clear, as respondents don’t seem to have been asked to weight or rank the various factors that might prevent them training as a teacher?  That seems a drawback with the research.

Those with a long memory will recall that there has always been a route from the role of assistant to that of a teacher. Indeed, there is a post on this blog from 2015 https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/congratulations-mrs-clarke/ congratulating a head teacher on her appointment. Mrs Clarke had started as a as a volunteer and worked through a range of posts including lunch-time supervisor, teacher, deputy head and twice acting head teacher before becoming the substantive head teacher of a first school.

When I was leading a School of Education, in the early 1990s, there were courses at the local further education colleges that provided a foundation route for undergraduate teaching degrees: some attendees were already working in schools.

In this research, commissioned by the DfE, the participants were broadly split between primary and secondary schools, with a small number working in the special school sector. I am not aware of any major teacher supply issues in the primary sector at present, so it would have been interesting to know whether interest in becoming a teacher differed between those working in the different sectors. At least the sample was weighted towards the parts of the country where there is more of a teacher supply issue, but less so among those working in the secondary sector than those working in the primary sector.

Perhaps the DfE might want to push the apprenticeship route and possibly even recreate the Queen’s Scholar title for such trainees, to provide a sense of status. It would also help if the DfE would make the term teacher a ‘reserved occupation’ term as this would also enhance the status of the profession, but cost nothing.

At the same time as commissioning this research, I hope the DfE is also looking at ‘keep in touch’ schemes for teachers that leave for a career break and also making sure teachers working overseas can access teaching vacancies through a single site. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has lots of visitors from around the world.

 

Recruiting Teachers – the cost effective option

I am delighted to announce that TeachVac will be adding the small number of vacancies from the DfE site that TeachVac doesn’t already carry to the TeachVac site. These vacancies are mostly either in new schools recruiting for the first time or primary schools in small MATs with a central recruitment page.

As TeachVac also includes vacancies from independent schools, this will make it the most comprehensive site for anyone interested in either applying for a teaching vacancy or interested in what is happening in the labour market for teachers.

As a result, I have written the following piece as an overview of recruitment in what remains a challenging labour market for teachers. You can sign up to Teachvac at http://www.teachvac.co.uk; it free and easy to do.

There are a number of different options for schools and academy trusts seeking to recruit teachers and school leaders. Put briefly, these are:

  • Free sites such as the DfE site and TeachVac (national coverage) and local authority job boards (local and in some cases regional coverage)
  • Traditional national paid for advertising sites such as The TES, eteach and The Guardian.
  • Local paid for advertising via local newspapers and their websites.
  • Recruitment Agencies of various types, including agencies focused on the supply teacher market.
  • Direct marketing to universities and other providers of teacher preparation courses as well as offering vacancies to teachers in schools during preparation courses.
  • School web sites, including the use of talent banking.

Each of these comes with different costs and benefits.

A single point of contact for free advertising of vacancies for teachers and school leaders has been identified by the National Audit Office; the Education Select Committee and in the 2017 Conservative Party election manifesto as the best way forward.

During 2018 and early 2019 the DfE developed and implemented such a product to operate alongside the already existing TeachVac site designed and operated by a company where Professor John Howson, a long-time authority on the labour market for teachers is the chair of the board.

The advantage of the DfE site is that it has the backing of the government. Potential disadvantages include the fact that it requires schools to upload vacancies and that it only handles vacancies from state funded schools and colleges. A minor distraction is that the site also handles non-teaching vacancies mixed in with the teaching posts. Requiring schools to upload vacancies can be both time consuming and also requires training for new staff to ensure that they can operate the system. The information is limited to that required by the site and isn’t easy to alter without informing all schools of the change.

TeachVac uses technology to collect vacancies every day from school websites and then eyeballing to verify their accuracy. The amount of information collected is greater than on the DfE web site.  A potential disadvantage of TeachVac is that it does not allow users to browse vacancies, but requires specification of a set of requirements for the vacancy sought. This approach has the advantage of also collecting data about the level of interest in specific types of vacancies in specific parts of the country. TeachVac covers both state funded and private schools so provides a one-stop shop for teachers seeking vacancies.

Both sites have the advantage of being free to use for both schools and teachers. The DfE site is subject to the need for government funding and TeachVac must fund itself.

All other approaches, save for schools own web sites and direct marketing by schools to teacher preparation courses, are subject to the profit motive and thus have a cost to schools.

The use of modern technology allows for the combination of approaches by schools, starting with the free options and allowing for the best paid-for alternative should the free option not provide an adequate response to a generated vacancy within a short period of time.

Do let me have your thoughts on how you see the future for the market? Will free sites reduce the ability of paid-for sites to attract vacancies? Will the DfE site become the default site or does it lack of breadth mean teachers will want a site offering all teaching vacancies in one place? Will recruitment agencies become the normal route for entry into the profession for newly qualified teachers and returners? Do the Local government Association and the teacher associations have a role to play in the marketing of vacancies to teachers and monitoring the labour market independent of government?

Let me know what you think?