About john howson

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

Unqualified ‘teachers’

Let me start by stating my position on this important issue raised today by the opposition. In my view, the term teacher should be a reserved occupation term only allowed to be used by those appropriately qualified. Those on an approved training programme aimed at achieving licensed status could be designated as trainee teachers. Everyone else should use terms such as instructor; tutor; lecturer or any other similar term, but not be able to call themselves a teacher.

The data on unqualified teachers that has fuelled today’s discussions comes from the school level information collected through the School Workforce Census (SWC) by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 There are two sets of tables in the regional dataset of the SWC for 2016 that are of interest; the percentage of teachers with Qualified Teacher Status and the percentage of unqualified teachers on a route to QTS: presumably either Teach First or School Direct Salaried route, plus a small number of overseas trained teachers or those on other accreditation only routes to QTS.

REGION Teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (%) Unqualified Teachers on a QTS Route as a Proportion of the Total Number of Unqualified Teachers (%)
 
North East 97.6 15.3
North West 97.4 10.3
South West 96.9 10.3
Yorkshire and the Humber 96.0 9.3
West Midlands 96.0 10.1
East Midlands 95.0 4.4
South East 94.8 14.1
East of England 93.9 9.9
Outer London 92.5 19.0
Inner London 92.4 18.1
 
ENGLAND 95.3 12.6

The SWC data show as strong correlation between the percentages of unqualified teachers employed by a schools in a region and the difficulty of recruiting teachers in that region. There is a 5.2% difference between schools in Inner London and schools in the North East in terms of the percentage of unqualified teachers employed. If one buys the argument that such staff are employed because of their special skills, then presumably their distribution would be similar across the country rather than showing this marked difference between regions. In London around 6-7% of teachers, and presumably more in terms of classroom teachers, don’t have QTS.

Part of the difference can be explained by the percentage of trainee teachers employed in schools. The range is between 4.4% of unqualified teachers on a QTS route in the East Midlands and 19% in the Outer London boroughs. This goes some way to explain why, in the SWC, 66 secondary schools in London revealed a measurable percentage of unqualified teachers on routes to QTS compared with just 98 in the rest of England. However, these figures obviously underestimate the number of schools involved in QTS preparation. This is due to the suppression of the data in many schools where such trainees were present, but not in sufficient numbers to be reported publically. There are also a number of secondary schools where the data was not reported.

Clearly, with recruitment being an issue, it is always going to be a challenge to recruit enough qualified teachers to staff schools, especially where the school population is growing fast. I am sure that parents expect pupils to be taught by those who understand the job at hand and have been prepared for it by achieving QTS.

There is, of course, a much larger issue that isn’t being addressed by the discussion about qualified teachers and that relates to the degree of subject knowledge required to teach any particular subject. This blog has raised that issue as matter for concern on several occasions. In some subjects, such as mathematics, steps are now being taken by the DfE to ensure post-entry subject knowledge enhancement for those teaching the subject. This may offer a better way forward than just trying to achieve sufficient subject knowledge from all entrants. However, ensuring all entrants are properly trained in the skills associated with teaching and learning should not be negotiable whatever their role in the process might be.

 

 

Making education greener not Greening

The government’s change of heart on renewable energy production, one might call it a –U- turn in some respects, is obviously welcome news. But, what part can schools play in this new order of local power generation and the regulation of consumption at source?

I have long argued that many outside spaces in schools are the least used public asset in the country. Playgrounds are barely used in term-time in most schools and in most cases lie entirely dormant during the holiday periods. A national scheme to use these for ground source heating and other power and heating sources would surely be cost effective. Such a scheme, allied to battery storage and other possible renewable technologies, where applicable, could be funded through a community bond scheme where the returns were shared between the investors and the school on a sliding scale agreed in advance.

Brokering a national scheme with set costs and the most effective construction methods taking the least amount of time is a responsible role for the DfE, although they could offer it out to tender for all academies and free schools as a start. It could also include retrofitting rainwater collection and even green roofs, where they were possible.

I always thought this type of initiative would have been a vote winner for the Lib Dems in the coalition. They should have pushed small scale public works during the aftermath of the recession rather than big schemes such as Swansea Bay tidal power project, where finding the money was always going to be a challenge. But, the Ministers didn’t seem to agree with my view.

An even more radical scheme would be to encourage teachers and other employees in schools to purchase electric cars or cycles and to offer free re-charging at the school site, powered by the renewable energy wherever possible. Perhaps we could start with a scheme for school minibuses?

An audit of school freezer electricity consumption would be an interesting starting point to assess how much money could be saved by fitting an in-line interruptible electricity supply that turned off during peak power demand periods. If filled in-line, the freezers themselves wouldn’t need to be changed until the time came for them to be updated.

All these ideas require Ministers with a degree of vision beyond the normal scope of such officeholders. That’s why local authorities are so important for education. They offer a more manageable geographical area where ideas can be tried and tested and then expanded to cover the country as a whole. Centralising innovation, as has been the principle method of operation for the past forty years may work, as with the national strategies, but can also lead to disasters, such as making the teaching profession feel undervalued, with all the inevitable consequences for recruitment and retention.

The Secretary of State should embrace the announcement from the Business Secretary and use it as means to show she has the best intentions for the education service at heart. It would certainly be more popular than the decision this time last year to focus on selective education as the way forward.

Most women earn less than men in teaching

With the revelation of top salaries at the BBC showing such large differences between what is paid to men and women in the best paid positions in the corporation I thought it worth looking at the data about salaries for teachers in state-funded schools in England. The details can be found in the School Workforce Census taken every November. The latest information is from November 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 The data is only as good as that submitted by schools and tends to lump part-time and full-time workers together in the same table. As there are probably more women working part-time in the older age-groups this may have some effect on the average salary in some age groups. In total, there were around 110,000 part-time teachers and school leaders working in schools in November 2016, not counting short-term supply teachers that are excluded from the data.

Young women under the age of 30 earn on average more than their male compatriots. The exact amount of the difference varies between sectors and type of school, but overall, women under 25 average £400 more per year than men and those between 25-29 £500 more in salary. That is the point where the picture changes and men start earning more on average than women. By their late 40s, women are, on average, earning some £5,400 per year less than men. Men average £46,700 and women £41,300 per year. Neither group is earning enough to support a mortgage on a house or flat in many parts of the country, even if you were to add in the London salary uplift.

Interestingly, there is a similar differential in favour of men among head teachers. Although there are more than 10,000 women head teachers in primary non-academies, compared with fewer than 4,000 men, their average salary is £1,800 lower than for men. The median difference in head teacher salary is even greater at £2,100. However, as salary is usually linked to school size this may mean more women are heads of the many small primary schools still to be found across England. Whether the National Funding Formula will make many of these small schools financially unviable and affect the promotion opportunities of women teachers is an interesting question.

Among heads of secondary academies, there are 1,600 men compared with 1,000 women. Men earn more in all age groups with average salaries for male head teachers in their 50s exceeding £100,000 and peaking at £109,800 for those in the 55-59 age group. Women in this age group average £105,300, when serving as a head of a secondary academy.

Somewhere around 1,300 head teachers were earning more than £100,000 in November 2016, with another 800 where the salary was unreported that might contain additional high earners. Of these high earners, there were 600 teachers earning in a range from £110,000-£200,000. Salaries above this upper level were regarded as mis-reported. Some might be executive heads of Multi-Academy Trusts that also combined that role with head teacher of a particular school. More clarity on this point would be helpful in encouraging schools to complete the census correctly.

 

 

Rising number of exclusions: a worrying trend

The DfE has published the data for exclusions during the 2015/16 school year. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16.  The number of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 1,790 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from around 1,590 per day in 2014/15.

These figures are not good news for the government, as it appears that the improvement seem over the last few years is now being undone. The DfE does need to look behind the headline numbers at the schools responsible for the increase and also if the increase has also continued on into 2016/17, where data for the first term should be available.

The problems of this type that affect a relatively small number of schools raise questions about the use of a national funding formula. In Medway, for instance, virtually all the exclusions are in non-selective schools, with many of the local selective schools not excluding any pupils at all. But, if each type of school receives the same funding component to spend on behaviour management, is that balanced off by adjustments in the other direction elsewhere in the budget.

It is these sorts of issues that create the debate about both hypothecation and unrestricted budgets on the one hand and our notions of equality on the other hand. Put both strands together and you have an interesting debate that despite the Pupil Premium does seem to me to be skewed towards a simplistic notion of equality mitigated only by the traditional view that London is an expensive place to live and work in.

Persistent disruptive behaviour remains by far and away the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions: schools have just come to the end of their tether with the pupil. How long the tether is may differ from school to school, as might the attitude to what is unacceptable behaviour, as schools try to raise the bar on standards of acceptable behaviour. There is a worrying high figure of around 20% where the reason for an exclusion is coded as ‘other’. This is not really acceptable. It may mean there is more than one reasons such as a pupil with generally persistent disruptive behaviour, but the actual exclusion is triggered by another event such as verbal or physical abuse to another pupil or staff member.

As ever, having special need, being on Free School Meals, or from a non-majority ethnic background are all additional risk factors in the likelihood of being excluded. This is despite several years where teacher preparation schemes were supposed to support teachers in schools with large numbers of likely at risk pupils.

Despite concerns in the press and elsewhere, exclusions for either bullying or racist abuse are minimal in the overall totals, although some exclusions may be coded under other headings even where pupils have exhibited this type of anti-social behaviour.

Years 8-10 still account for around 40% of all exclusions, so it is good to see the recent statement about slowing down the timetable for all to study the EBacc. I am sure a better look at the curriculum for this age group can help reduce exclusions where students are being forced to study subjects they no longer value. As ever, more boys are being excluded than girls, especially in terms of permanent exclusions.

Grade inflation or more hard work

Last summer 29.6% of students taking A level Physics gained an A* or A grade in the examination. However, just 10.6% of students taking Media, Film and TV Studies that achieved the same grades. It’s worth recalling these figures when reading the reports of grade inflation in universities with more students than ever achieving First class honours degrees. (source for A level data: http://www.bstubbs.co.uk/a-lev.htm Source for University data: HESA) Agreed, the extra 4,000 student studying Physics at A level in 2016 compared with 2010 may be partly responsible for the decline of 3.5% in the number of A* and A grades during the same period, but that is to be expected with a widening of the pool of entrants into the examination. However, the top grade is open to all. Maybe there is some degree of selection here with only those needing the subject for university traditionally taking it at A level.

So, does the increase in student numbers at universities mean there is grade inflation and more should mean greater numbers of lower grades? In the end it depends upon what you want the marking system to achieve. Traditionalists, may want a normal distribution curve of outcomes with a bunching around the middle grades and only limited numbers expected to achieve the highest grades or to fail. This system is great for identifying the really high flyers, but does it disincentive everyone else? Should degree class reward hard work and are students working harder now that have to bear the cost of their university education through the fee system? Has a competitive job market through the years of the recession also signalled to students that outcomes rather than just the university experience matters? This takes us back to the A level results. Are there too many A* and A grades in Physics? Of course not.

Perhaps students are becoming pickier at both choosing courses and even modules within courses with a view to outcomes? To what effect does ‘drop out’ among student affect the outcomes of those that remain. Do students realising they selected the wrong course, perhaps during clearing, quit in larger numbers. We know students from poorer backgrounds are more likely to quit. Is this because they received poorer advice about which course to pick at what university and ended up doing the wrong subject?

There is lots more to explore behind the simple headline data. But, maybe there has been some grade inflation and university quality control mechanisms need to ensure that outcomes keep pace with learning. After all, that is what the external examiner system was supposed to achieve. What do these figures also say about the claim that A levels were being dumbed down and students were arriving at university knowing less and less well equipped for university life? Interestingly I had a conversation on LinkedIn about this point with a teacher in Essex recently.

Personally, I think the outcomes are a tribute to our students, but universities do need to ensure that they monitor their learning outcomes to keep pace with changes elsewhere.

TeachVac issues end of term warning

Schools across England will find recruiting staff for unexpected vacancies in January 2018 challenging. This is the message from TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher vacancies across all schools in England that is already saving schools large sums of money in line with the DfE policy of reducing unnecessary expenditure by schools.

TeachVac is celebrating entering its fourth year of operation. At the end of the summer term of 2017, TeachVac have rated 7 of the 13 secondary subjects it tracks as in a critical state for recruitment. This means that TeachVac is warning schools of recruitment difficulties in these subjects that might occur anywhere in the country and not just in the traditional high risk areas for recruitment.

The high risk subjects are:

English

IT/Computing

Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education

Music

Geography

In the other six subjects tracked in detail by TeachVac, most schools will still find recruitment easier, although any specific demands such as subject knowledge in, for example, a specific period of history will always make recruitment more of a challenge. On the basis of current evidence, TeachVac expects schools will face the least problems in Physical Education and Art where, if anything, there is still some local over-supply against need in some parts of the country.

In Science overall, – but not in Physics and possible Chemistry – Mathematics; Modern Languages overall, but not in certain language combinations, and in History, supply should still be adequate to meet expected demand between now and January 2018.  Because most schools still advertise for teachers of languages and science and only specify within the advert the more detailed requirements it takes longer to analyse the data on vacancies in these subjects and that information is not yet fully available beyond the headline figures.

TeachVac can provide the data in a form useful to schools facing Ofsted inspection where recruitment may be an issue for the inspection team. For local authorities and others interested in the recruitment patterns over the past three years in specific locations and between different types of school such as academies and free schools, TeachVac now has a wealth of data available. TeachVac is also now looking in detail as senior staff appointments and especially leadership posts in the primary sector and the challenges some schools face in replacing a head teacher when they leave. The outcome of that research will form the basis of a further detailed report to follow the posts already written on the topic.

With recruitment to training for courses starting this September still below the level achieved last year, 2018 is also beginning to look as if it will be a challenging recruitment round, especially for schools not involved in training teachers either directly or through tie-ins with other training providers. This blog will update the situation regarding numbers offered places for September at the end of this month and again at the end of August.

 

 

Bursaries, fee remission or a training salary for all?

Why is paying a bursary to a trainee teacher seem as potentially having a deadweight cost attached to it, but paying a salary to a trainee army or navy officer does not seem to be regarded in the same way? The Education Policy Institute, where ex-Lib Dem Minister David Laws is Chief Executive, has just published at short review paper on teacher recruitment into training and other teacher supply issues https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EPI-Analysis-Teacher_Supply.pdf  The Review say that bursaries are not efficient because, when they are increased in amount, this extra has to be paid to everyone and not just to those extra trainees it would entice into the profession. I seem to recall a parable In Chapter 20 of St Matthew’s Gospel that deals with an analogous situation.

As might be expected by a body whose chief executive was associated with the famous Orange book, this issue of paying the same to everyone reads as if it may be troubling for the authors of the review and they discuss alternative and more efficient scenarios to bursaries, including the student fee forgiveness package promoted in the Conservative Manifesto, but presumably a casualty of yesterday’s funding announcement.

Personally, I favour the situation that brings trainee graduate teachers nearest to their colleagues in other public services, many of whom are paid during training. The EPI review doesn’t address the issue of fairness between the different routes into teaching; indeed it is very thin on a discussion of why higher education is still proving so attractive to applicants and it is the school-based routes that seem to be bearing the brunt of the fall in applications this year.

The other interesting observation in the review is that the pupil teacher ratio in secondary schools will worsen from 14.5:1 in 2016/17 to 16.0:1 by 2026/27. Much of this apparent deterioration will just be a reversal of an improvement achieved while pupil numbers were in decline in the secondary sector and some of the change can be brought about by relatively small changes in group sizes and Key Stages 4 & 5 where periods of generous funding always allow for smaller classes to be operated than in less generous periods for funding. Nevertheless, an expectation of a deteriorating pupil teacher ratio is not a great selling point for attracting new entrants into the profession or retaining those already there.

To me it reads as if the unidentified writer of the EPI review would have liked a real free market in salaries, both between schools and within schools between teachers, as if this had never been the case in the past. Within the tightly managed central control of salaries, (even though funding of schools was at the direction of local authorities), that existed in the post-war period up to the introduction of local management of schools after the great Education Reform Act of the late 1980s, there were marked differentials between promotion opportunities in the primary and secondary sectors and it was easier for teachers in some subjects to achieve additional payments if the school know that they would be difficult to replace. To that extent the market principles of supply and demand probably worked at least as effectively as they do at present.

Indeed, one interesting question is why there hasn’t been a return to the use of recruitment and retention allowances by schools, a favoured device during an earlier recruitment crisis.