Is the level of Free School Meals (FSM) recorded by a school reflected in the level of staff turnover? Do secondary schools with the highest FSM percentages record more staff turnover than schools with relatively low percentage of pupils on Free School Meals?
TeachVac can compare its data on vacancies to date in 2021 with the DfE’s published information on Free School Meals. The end of May normally marks the point where most schools have completed their staffing for September, and existing staff have reached the point where they may resign at the endo of this school year.
As a result, it was relatively easy to look at TeachVac’s vacancy data for the period form 1st January up to Friday 28th May and compare staff turnover against the percentage of pupils on Free School Meals. However, staff turnover is affected by a number of features. A new school may have relatively few pupils, but be adding staff as the school grows in size. Schools in different areas vary in size, with some schools of over 2,000 pupils and some schools in rural areas with only around 500 pupils, and no post-16 provision.
In order to take account of school size, the number of pupils on roll was divided by the recorded number of vacancies recorded by TeachVac. Thus, a school with 1,000 pupils and 5 vacancies between January and May would create an index figure of 200, whereas a similar size school with 10 vacancies would have recorded an index figure of 100. The lower the index number, the greater the turnover of staff.
This method doesn’t take account of growing schools, so it could be possible for a school with few pupils on Free School meals to still record a low index score if it was growing in size. The absence of a vacancy identifying number also complicated the issue because repeat advertisements may possibly being recorded. TeachVac does its best to eliminate such adverts.
An analysis was conducted into the outcomes in terms of recorded vacancies during the first five months of 2021 for secondary schools across the West Midlands region whose data was captured by TeachVac. The region contains rural areas such as most of the county of Herefordshire and urban areas such as Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry.
The first look at the TeachVac data suggests that for schools with a Free School Meal percentage of less than 20% there is little difference in the index score. The majority of schools had a score of 300 or less, suggesting relatively high levels of vacancies regardless of the percentage of pupils on Free School Meals.
For schools with Free School Meals above 20% of the school population there was a trend towards schools with higher FSM percentages having a higher turnover index score. 16 of the 20 schools recorded with a FSM percentage above 40% had turnover indexes below 250 per pupil, and most of these schools had an index of below 200 per pupil.
One caveat must be that 2021 is not a ‘normal’ recruitment cycle. In some schools there has been an element of ‘catch-up’ in recruitment following the period between March and September 2020 when most teacher recruitment slowed to almost a complete halt. It would be possible to compare the 2021 data with that for 2018 and 2019 in order to see whether there has been a ‘covid’ effect and if certain schools have been more affected? There may also be both a rural and small school effect. As some parts of the West Midlands still have selective schools that is another variable that needs consideration.
Nevertheless, this quick first look at the data from one region does raise questions about teacher supply and the issue of policy towards ‘leveling up’. Can a market-based approach to teacher supply create the improvements in outcomes for pupils if schools with high levels of Free School Meals if such schools are finding staff recruitment more of a challenge than their neighbours with lower percentages of Free School Meals?