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.

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4 thoughts on “TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

    • No. Some years ago this was discussed and I am sure it is borne in mind. But, if you have an open market for course providers you match geography against quality of provision and the two have never seemingly been put together. Thus, lots of large providers of primary training in the North West of England and not enough in some secondary subjects in the East of England. In the long-distant past Wales used to train far more teachers than needed in Wales and some local authorities used to recruit the ones that couldn’t find jobs in Wales to work in London. I recall asking the Welsh Assembly government Education Committee why Barnett formula cash for Wales should be spent training teachers for London?

      John Howson

      • Thanks, John. It would be good if the government were fully aware of the difficulties of recruiting in areas on the outskirts of London which have house prices and costs of living to match London but not the London-weighting salary to go with it.

      • They should be. There have been a number of studies into this issue. In Oxfordshire, where the problem is compounded by there being nearly as many private secondary state-funded, the issue is even worse as those schools can pay more and sometimes offer housing as well. Oxfordshire’s Education Scrutiny Committee has reported on the problem and I am sure the Tory Cabinet has told their MPs, including Dc when he was Prime Minister.

        John Howson

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