About john howson

Chairman of TeachVac, the free to use recruitment matching service for schools, teachers and trainees www.teachvac.co.uk

Social mobility require teachers

Living and working as I do in Oxford, I am not surprised about the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission findings, published today, about the importance of private schools in the education of those at the top of many career ladders. These universities, and others in disciplines not addressed by Oxford and Cambridge, will always turn out those likely to become the leaders in their chosen fields.

The debate sparked by this fairly commonplace research, but nevertheless worthwhile as a reminder of the real world, has been mostly about how to create access to these universities for a wider group of students? Both Oxford and Cambridge are now creating schemes to take more pupils from a wider range of backgrounds than when the present leaders in society were heading for university all those years ago.

However, for me, the key issue remains the need to provide enough teachers all of whom are inspiring for all pupils in our schools. To further the Oxford theme, BMW don’t want to produce any sub-standard cars at their Cowley plant, and they put in place quality assurance mechanisms to prevent that happening. Politicians on the other hand don’t view schooling in the same way. Parents are required to educate their children, but if they trust the State to undertake that education, there is no guarantee of quality or even, as recent data about pupils with special education needs has revealed, a guarantee of a school place.

One issue that I have raised consistently over the past two decades is that of the credentials that teachers need in order to teach. For teachers in the secondary sector, subject knowledge, a knowledge of pedagogy, and the ability to marry the two together, are, in my view, vital in allowing teachers to teach their subject, especially as it become more complex to understand and explain.

However, governments of all persuasions have continued to remain satisfied with a minimum standard that allows those with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) to teach anything to anyone of any age in schools. Indeed, thanks to Michael Gove, you don’t even need to have that basic qualification to teach in most state-funded secondary schools these days, and teachers trained in a range of different countries have automatic right to obtain QTS.

Is this minimum standard, with no requirement to keep it up to date during a teacher’s career, still acceptable in the 21st century? Well, it allows Ministers to talk of record teacher numbers, not of record shortages of teachers equipped to teach physics, business studies or many aspects of design and technology.

This lack of respect for parents and children by a state system that is not staffed by teachers knowledgeable in their subject lies behind a large part of why some children, however able, cannot reach our top universities.

A labour market based upon open competition, with schools increasingly setting their own pay rates, favours schools with access to more funds. These nearly always aren’t the schools in the most deprived areas: those schools also lack access to the same degree of parental funding and support, whether through direct monthly cash payments or by parents paying for private tuition that help keep up a school’s outcomes.

Advertisements

More about Middle Leaders

In the previous post, I discussed the issue of how many new entrants to teaching this September were likely to end up as a middle leader, and whether the supply pipeline was sufficient to meet the likely needs of schools. Since the DfE now provide a useful compendium of statistics from the Teacher Workforce Census, it is possible to look back and compare the data in the previous post with what might be happening this year, based upon the number of NQTs entering service from the 2014 cohort, including late entrants.

ITT 2014 ITT 2018
Subject Revised % as HoDs Revised % as HoDs
Design & Technology 16% 75%
Art & Design 28% 57%
Business Studies 33% 153%
Drama 38% 72%
Religious Education 53% 85%
Computing 72% 89%
Music 83% 126%

Source: TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk

The cohort of 2014 were the first cohort where real evidence of a potential teacher supply crisis was beginning to emerge during the period when they were applying for teacher preparation courses , during 2013 and the first nine months of 2014.

As the table reveals, the number of new entrants in 2104 was generally sufficient to provide for a pipeline of middle leaders for 2019. However, even in music and to a certain extent in computing, that had a poor year for recruitment that year, there would have been signs of possible difficulties, had anyone wanted to look for them. Music is an interesting subject, since most departments are small and many teachers are forced into leadership roles as middle leaders quite early in their careers, as well as conducting orchestras, managing jazz ensembles and probably handling one or more choirs.

The real turnaround is in the vocational subject areas, such as business studies and design and technology, where recruitment into teaching has really fallen away since the end of the recession and the downward trend in unemployment rates. Whereas just 16% of the 2014 design and technology NQTs might be expected to be a middle leader after five years, this has increased to 75% of the 2018 trainees that are likely to be expected to take on middle leadership roles.

Fortunately, there were a few years of good to adequate recruitment that will allow some slack from which to provide the necessary supply of heads of department. However, the longer the crisis in ITT recruitment continues, the more there will be a crisis in middle leadership at some point in the 2020s.

As the IAC said in 1991, and I quoted in an earlier post, remuneration in teaching does need to keep pace with the rest of the economy if there are to be enough teachers. It is not good enough just for some head teachers and officers in some MATs to pay themselves market competitive salaries and for the government to ignore the pay and conditions of everyone else in teaching and other jobs in schools.

Also, as I warned in an earlier post, if potential applicants expect lower tuition fees, and don’t see that happening in the autumn, will they hold back their application this autumn in an expectation of lower fees at some point in the future?

Retention deserves more attention

The issue of teacher retention has been steadily climbing up the agenda, so that for many observers it now ranks alongside worries about recruitment into the teaching profession as a major area of concern. Taken together, the two factors are set to leave a lasting legacy in our schools that will have an effect, not only classroom teaching, but also middle leadership, for many years to come. A shortage of teachers, and especially of middle leaders, also hampers actions towards improving the schools were staff need both stable and high quality teachers to ensure the best outcomes for their pupils.

So, how bad might middle leadership recruitment become over the next few years? In theory, since the required number of middle leaders is a fairly fixed quantity, each school needs roughly similar numbers regardless of size, it is only the creation of new schools that should increase demand for middle leaders. The other reason for increased demand is as a result of greater departure rates than normal. The demographic upturn currently working its way through the secondary sector is creating new schools across many parts of the country: so that is a concern as more posts are being created.

On the demand side, the growing loss of teachers with five to seven years of experience from employment in state schools, as revealed by the School Workforce Census data that will be updated for 2018 later this week, is a major worry, as these are the very teachers the system might expect to be taking on middle leadership positions at that stage of their careers.

Finally, of course, the relationship between the number of new entrants to the profession and the indicative Teacher Supply Model figure for supply requirements is an important predictor of trouble ahead, especially where the ITT census number is substantially below the indicative TSM figure, as it has been for some years now in certain subjects.

Subject ITT census 2018 TLR vacancies 2019 to end June % ITT census 50% remain after 5 years Revised % as HoDs
Business Studies 175 134 77% 87.5 153%
Music 295 186 63% 147.5 126%
Computing 530 237 45% 265 89%
Religious Education 375 160 43% 187.5 85%
Design & Technology 285 107 38% 142.5 75%
Drama 300 108 36% 150 72%
Art & Design 475 135 28% 237.5 57%

Source TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk

This table takes some subjects where the award of a TLR is likely to mean a substantial degree of middle leadership responsibilities, due to the size of the subject department. Mathematics, English and the Sciences are not included, as they often offer TLR posts below head of department level.  While science departments may struggle to recruit particular types of scientists to offer a broad curriculum, they should be less of an issue finding sufficient candidates to lead science as an overall subject.

Assuming that only 50% of those identified in the ITT census last November are still in teaching in five years, i.e. September 2024, and the TLRs on offer are similar to the situation so far in 2019, up to 21st June, then even in art and design, half of remaining teachers in the cohort entering teaching this year might expect to become middle leaders. For business studies and music, either there will need to be a drop in demand from schools, or teachers are likely to be promoted earlier in their careers to become middle leaders, sometimes before they are ready to do so.

This issue, and the concerns about ensuring middle leaders have the appropriate preparation for the role, deserves more attention than it has received. Indeed, this is one cogent reason why abolishing the National College was a strategic mistake, and detrimental to the progress of school improvement across all schools in England.

 

 

 

Muddled governance doesn’t help teacher development and retention

The publication of the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) study on teachers   https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/teacher-recruitment-progression-and-retention-in-multi-academy-trusts/ – based mostly around those in MATs – has coincided with the OECD’s TALIS report. I am not sure whether that is coincidence or a deliberate decision by David Laws and his team? Either way, there is some interesting information and some disturbing issues in the EPI document.

EPI divide the world into two, local authorities and MATs. The MAT group is then further sub-divided and, I assume, includes stand-alone academies? Both groups are considered by primary and secondary phase.

Given that academies were created to bring the free market into education, the notion of a governance system that requires such schools and groups to collaborate for the good of all is an interesting development.

At present, there are three parallel governance system with little overlap, maintained schools; stand-alone academies and MATs. This can produce either diverse policies in a local area or no policy at all. Indeed, it is significant that EPI avoided discussing the special school sector; as do so many commentators and think tanks. Planning for that system is shambolic at present and our most vulnerable learners are losing out, as the BBC revealed earlier today. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48663873 Local Authorities need to either be allowed to plan places properly for this sector or the DfE should take over the responsibility. The lack of geographical proximity may be one of the reasons for this MAT highlighted by the BBC is having problems in the SEN sector https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-48691736

As the period that EPI reviewed was one when many schools transferred to academy status, the findings on turnover and promotion might not be the same once the system has settled down. However, the ages of appointment to senior leadership don’t look very different to the longitudinal study of leadership appointments I conducted for the NAHT during the first decade of this century. These figures are still bad news for late entrants to teaching seeking a career beyond middle leadership.

On the issue of central recruitment by MATs, TeachVac has seen evidence of a return to individual school recruitment sites; presumably candidates don’t identify with MATs as a source of vacancies and, apart from TeachVac, many recruitment sites might not pick up these vacancies if candidates aren’t looking for them.

EPI ducks the central question of geography in its recommendations, focusing instead on what MATs might do, perfectly sensible as suggestions go, but not addressing the key issue. If there is a shortage of cash for education, why are we wasting it creating lots of min-school system without democratic accountability: has nothing be learnt from the NHS that has operated on such a model for all the time it has been in existence.

Even more than the NHS schools, and especially primary schools, are rooted in their communities. As Oxfordshire’s Education Scrutiny Committee members discussed with the RSC officials earlier this week the issue of who takes the lead if rural primary schools are financially nonviable. If the consequence of school closures is higher transport bills, paid for by council tax payers, can a policy that keeps the schools open for less overall cost be agreed between local authorities, MATs, diocese and the DfE. If not, not only is government inefficient, but also lacking in coherent strategic planning.

OECD’s Bill of health on teachers

Today the OECD publishes their latest TALIS report. (Teaching and Learning International Study) This report is about teachers and school leaders as lifelong learners. In addition to the full report, there are digests of the evidence from particular countries produced as separate country reports. It is important to note that the country report is headed England (UK). I assume that it is just schools in England included. This is important since education is a devolved activity.

When reading the report it is also of importance to start from the end and to note that the response rate from teachers and school leaders in England was generally only regarded as ‘fair’. Indeed, in some aspects the response wasn’t very far above the level regarded as too low to use in the survey. The other caveat, as far as I am concerned, is around the term ‘lower secondary’. This is not a discrete phase in England except in Central Bedfordshire, Northumberland and a few other towns around the country where 9-13 middle schools still exist, and, of course, in the independent sector where many ‘prep’ schools can be regarded as partly covering the lower secondary age range.  This may especially affect views on the nature of principals as, presumably most replying from the state sector in England were head teachers of secondary schools.

Almost all secondary teachers are trained through the post-degree professional training route, whether that training is in universities, SCITTs or schools. That is not the model throughout much of the OECD, where teacher preparation often still occurs alongside the acquisition of subject knowledge.

What is interesting is the relatively small degree of change recorded on a number of the items between the 2013 and 2018 TALIS studies, at least as far as England is concerned.

As the retirement boom of the first decade of this century fades into history, it is clear that the teaching force in England is generally younger than in many OECD countries. There is a slightly higher proportion of men in the workforce than across the OECD at 36% compared to 34% as the OECD average, but fewer women are principals – 41% against the OECD average of 47%. As a result of the age profile, the average length of service of a teacher in England is 13 years, compared to the OECD average of 17 years and more than 20 years in the small Baltic States.

Length of service is important in how it can affect attitudes to professional development. Older more experienced teachers may take a different attitude to professional development than that of teachers in the first few years of their careers; I dislike the TALIS term of ‘novice teacher’.

The BBC have chosen to highlight the issue of cyber-bullying and the fact that head teachers in England are more likely to face problems with pupils bullying online and misusing social media than in any other developed country. However, there seems to have been little change in classroom behaviour faced by teachers in England between the 2013 and 2018 studies.

Finally, although teachers saw the need for more funding and resources, the response of teachers to increasing their salaries was below the OECD average. This is despite teachers in England not being as well paid as those in many other OECD countries.

Treasury woes

Teacher recruitment crises are not a new phenomenon in England. Indeed, almost 30 years ago, at the start of the 1990s, the country was experiencing a very similar sort of teacher recruitment and retention crisis to that seen now. As a result, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by the then Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, the forerunner of the present School Teachers’ Review Body, and the successor to the Burnham Committee.

In Chapter 6 of their 1991 report, at paragraph 7.13 the IAC said:

Our final key principle has been to support the provision of proper rewards for additional responsibilities and high performance. Put, bluntly, the teaching profession is no different from any other in needing to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people. Whatever the details of the pay structure, it seems self-evident to us that if adequate levels of differential rewards are not available, as they increasingly are elsewhere, then there will be serious difficulties in tackling the recruitment and retention problems we have highlighted.

(IAC, 4th Report January 1991 para 7.13 page 49)

I found this comment of interest, as I discovered it when I was trying to determine whether more teachers had access to allowances now than at that time before devolved budgets and the total freedom for schools to decide how to pay their teachers. At that time, in the early 1990s, although the pay scales were different and local management of schools was on the horizon, there was still a national structure for responsibility payments, and schools had little choice over the number of such posts that they could create. School size, as determined by the number and age of the pupils, was the key source factor affecting the chance of promotion for a teacher.

Interestingly, a quick look at DfE statistics for both 1989 and 2013, suggests that far more teachers in secondary schools than in primary schools had access to payments above their main scale salary in 1989, and that in both sectors the percentage of teachers paid above the main scale was higher in 1989 than in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, you were less likely to receive a TLR if you worked in an academy than if you worked in a maintained school.

Since 2013, the DfE has changed how it reports teachers’ pay, and it now uses cash amounts in bands as the reporting measure that doesn’t allow an easy identification of the percentage of teachers paid a TLR in addition to their main salary.

Of course, a few teachers have benefited from an opening up of extra posts on the Leadership Scale. But, could this lack of incentives, suggested as important by the IAC in 1991, be partly responsible for the problems with retention in years five to seven of a teacher’s career that have become a feature of recent years?

Conservative politicians, as the previous post on this blog has noted, are aware that current funding for schools is not only insufficient to pay support staff their pay award but also to reward and retain teachers in many parts of the country. The problem is, where to find the cash to pay for schools to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people, the same requirement as the IAC pointed out all those years ago.

 

 

Too little: too late?

First it was Boris; then Mrs May and finally some of the other leadership contenders. What were they talking about? Not Brexit, although of course all the contenders for the Conservative Party leadership have been trying themselves up in knots of various tightness on that issue, but rather funding for schools.

Reading the runes of what was being outlined, it seems cuts to tuition fees might be some way down the track. If funding for schools and further education is back on the Tory Party agenda, it is difficult to see how the Treasury would be willing to spend more on higher education funding in the immediate future, especially once other Ministers put out their begging bowls. Sure, funding for International Development might be cut to below the level currently agreed to make some savings. This might be justified by citing Donald Trump and the USA level of aid. There might also be some cash to allow higher spending because of better tax revenues, but the police and Ministry of Justice have a real claim on extra cash to fight the rise in certain types of crime, including knife crime and the NHS can always do with more cash.

How much of the suggested increase in funding for education is real, and how much merely determined by the fact that pupil numbers will continue to increase over the next few years, is difficult to determine from the level of the pronouncements made so far, except for Boris’s statement on secondary schools. Not recognising the needs of further education and 16-18 funding might make Boris’s statement about £5,000 per pupil in the secondary sector look like vote catching idea, rather than a serious analysis of where the Tory Party’s current school funding policy has made a mistake. At least in the TV debate, FE, apprenticeships, and skills did receive a mention and, unless I missed, it selective education didn’t.

Any talk about increasing education funding by Conservative may be a case of too little and too late. The warning signs have been there for some time, and the fact that school funding didn’t play much of a part in either of the last two general elections was a bit of a surprise, although the effects on the ground were less obvious than the reductions in school reserves and the consequences of changes to come that are obvious to those that manage budgets, but were not then visible to parents.

For me the funding priorities are: 16-18 funding; early years and children’s centres; SEND funding and protecting rural schools facing falling rolls as the birth rate declines and the housing market stalls. There are other priorities, including metal health, although some cash has been allocated for this, and teacher preparation and career development. All staff will need competitive pay increases if the wider labour market remains as it currently is, but that will be true for the whole of the public sector and might reduce the amount specifically available for education; hence my earlier comment about the challenge in trying to reduce tuition fees.

Unless there is an emergency budget, any changes are not likely to reach schools before April or September 2021 at the earliest.