Clime change: proposals for schools

I heard about this report from SSE on energy on the BBC this morning:

https://sse.com/media/623847/SSE-Sustainability-report-2019-FINAL-spreads.pdf

There doesn’t seem to be enough of a challenge for education, so I have reworked my earlier post into a series of challenges for schools. Do feel free to share it with others and send me additional challenges to raise with schools.

Climate Change 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.

My proposals:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 of government schemes for domestic properties,
  3. 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? 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.
  4. 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, can help challenge the traditional notion of power creation and distribution we are all familiar with.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 for all schools.
  8. Address the journey pupils take every day to and from school. We should aim to promote and reward such actions and discuss how to incentivise both schools and pupils to achieve a significant reduction in car journeys to and from school. I especially challenge the independent school 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.
Advertisements

1,336 Physics trainees in 2020/21: wishful thinking or realistic target?

Yesterday, the DfE released the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) information for England covering the academic year 2020 to 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2020-to-2021 There was also information on the methodology underlying the TSM that continues the trend towards more open government set by David Laws when he was Minister of State at the DfE.

Perhaps one of the strangest lines ever to appear in a government publication can be found on page 3 of yesterday’s key DfE publication, where it states reassuringly for ITT providers that ‘in reducing the 2020/21 TSM target, this does not mean there will necessarily be fewer trainees’. This is because the DfE has continued to uncap ITT recruitment in most secondary subjects, except PE, but has continued to cap primary numbers.

The DfE’s rationale for reducing targets, most of which haven’t been reached in recent years, are improvements in the methodology of the TSM, including the fact that NQTs entering through the assessment only route are now included in the calculations. Put simply, the DfE have found some more teachers not counted in previous versions of the TSM, and that has reduced the requirement for new teachers to be trained in 2020/21.

The problem the DfE civil servants face is that each September schools must be fully staffed, otherwise children would be sent home. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry forward unfilled places from previous years, as there are not vacancies in the system. Also, carrying forward unfilled places would eventually lead to targets that were ludicrous in size. Better to start afresh each year.

Rising pupil numbers, teacher retention rates and curriculum changes are among the key drivers of the targets that are set at a national level. Interestingly, business studies and physics are two subjects where targets have increased for 2020/2021. In the case of the latter, from 1,265 to 1,336, an increase of 71 possible trainees. As in 2018/19 only 575 physics trainees were recorded outside of Teach First, this increase might raise something of a hollow laugh among providers.

One might wonder why recruitment in Biology (reduction of 76 trainee numbers), history (291 fewer trainees) and geography (187 fewer trainees) isn’t capped in view of their over-recruitment in 2018. Could it be that by recruiting in these subjects the overall deficit will be smaller than it would otherwise be? Surely not, but trainees need to consider their job opportunities before undertaking training to become a teachers in some of these subjects. By 2020, the DfE should be able to tell them about job chances as part of the new DfE Apply System that ought to be operating at that time.

Next month, the ITT Census for 2019 will be published, and it will be possible to see whether, as I hope, the shortfall this year is smaller than the number of missing trainees last year.

Overall, the drop of 602 in secondary targets won’t have much effect on the ground. The reduction of more than 1,500 in the primary postgraduate target to just 11,467, may have more implications for some providers and their future, especially if this is not the end of the reductions resulting from the recent decline in the birth-rate.

A weak economy won’t help school funding

According to information contained in a House of Commons Library research Report on Education Funding, the government is either shooting itself in the foot or presenting statistics in a manner that makes already challenging comparisons difficult, if not impossible.

The Library Research Paper, BRIEFING PAPER Number 1078, 9th October 2019 entitled: Education spending in the UK, states on page 11 that

the Department for Education currently records all spending on academies under secondary education. Secondary schools account for most of the spending on academies, but there are also include large numbers of primary and special academies. They are looking to improve the separation of spending across the education categories in the future. This skews the primary/secondary breakdown somewhat and limits the comparisons of primary and secondary spending between the home countries of the UK.” (Their emphasis, not mine)

As the number of academies in the primary and secondary sector increases, this method or recording allied to the fact that academies and free schools have a different financial year to maintained schools makes comparisons even harder than before.

Nevertheless, the Report is able to demonstrate how closely funding follows two key influences; demography and the state of the economy.  For the past few years, both of these have been negative in the sense that the economy took a hit after the banking crisis at just the time when the birth rate was rising to higher levels than previously. Both factors created an almost perfect storm, not least because rising pupil numbers means a greater percentage of education expenditure has to be used for capital projects rather than revenue spending. Add in the laudable decision to raise the learning leaving age to 18 from 16, and another funding pressure was added to the equation.

The cuts facing schools would undoubtedly have been worse, unless taxes had risen, if the contribution of participants to the funding of higher education had not been increased by the raising of tuition fees and also the manner in which these loans were accounted for on the government’s balance sheet.

The Report also notes that “In 2017 an estimated £23 billion was spent privately on education.” Citing Consumer trends, ONS, as the source of the figure. Now, I assume this will include all the funds parents spend on private tutoring ahead of exams, and on Maths Centres that have sprung up around the country, as well as what the Labour Party includes in its definition of private education that it would seek to abolish.

Apart from probably driving at least part of that provision of schooling offshore, where the export income would be lost to the National Exchequer, there would obviously be the cost of educating such pupils as needed to be educated by the State.  I don’t know how many billions that would cost, but it would have to be found from somewhere.

However, I understand the feeling that education is so important that it cannot be left to personal choice, but only offered by the State. From there it is but a short step to mandating only one type of state school that parents have to send their children to attend. As a Liberal, this is not a road that I would want to go along.

 

Is the teacher job market changing?

Earlier this week Will Hazell, the relatively new education reporter for the i newspaper and a former TES journalist, produced a piece about agencies charging schools a ‘recruitment fee’ after signing up teachers looking for jobs. Since governments of all complexions have been happy to leave teacher recruitment as a free market activity, why wouldn’t commercial organisations aim to help schools solve a recruitment issues for a price. After all, schools have been paying local authorities, the TES and other newspapers to place job adverts for many years. Indeed,  even search agencies are also not a new phenomenon in the marketplace. In addition, there are other new approaches to recruitment as schools seek direct marketing and MATs use central recruitment pages for all their schools.

However, what might be acceptable as a fringe activity affecting only a small number of schools can become a matter of public concern if a greater number of schools are involved and the sums being made reach significant amounts.

As I have written before on this blog, why wouldn’t busy teachers and trainees take the bait offered by agencies if it makes their life easier? Selling yourself on every application form you complete takes far more time compared with filling out just one registration form per agency you register with and is a no brainer, especially with the amount of work teachers and trainees face during term-times.

Even where jobs are easy to find, because the supply exceeds demand, teachers can benefit from a system that reduces their need to complete a series of application forms on the off chance they might come second in an interview. But all this costs schools money. Even so, advertising hasn’t traditionally be free, and can take up more time an effort if there either isn’t much interest and either a re-advertisement is necessary or there are lots of applications and time has to be spent by a group of staff short-listing candidates for interview. These costs need to be set against any finders fee.

In the past, I have pointed out that knowing the state of the job market helps schools to choose the most cost-effective path to recruitment. Want a business studies teacher in London or the Home Counties, then paying an agency on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis might be cost effective from the end of February onwards. Want a PE teacher or a historian at the same time of year, and agencies might still be cost effective in saving staff time sorting through lots of applications, especially with the risk of ensuring there is no discrimination in your short-listing process.

So, should there be a public sector registration point where candidates must register if they want a teaching post, and that can manage supply and demand more effectively than the market?

TeachVac already knows where the bulk of the jobs are and can offer schools a service telling them how many potential applicants have been match with a vacancy. TeachVac can also tell candidates how many jobs in a selected area meet their parameters in a given time period, and also advise when a candidate’s search area is not wide enough for them to expect to have a good chance of securing a teaching post. This data changes as the school-year progresses.

At present, TeachVac offers its service free to both schools and those seeking teaching jobs. Providing the data about jobs to both schools and teachers has a cost, but it wouldn’t be very high; perhaps £5 per search. Let me know what you think?

 

£26,000 for some trainee teachers in 2020

Why should a new teacher of mathematics starting work at one of the best selective schools in England receive a £1,000 a year bonus for staying in the school for up to five years, while a similar teacher starting in a non-selective school anywhere in South East Essex won’t receive this salary boost?

Are house prices higher in Reading than in Southend on Sea? Is the level of deprivation far greater in Reading than on Canvey Island or in Thurrock? Teachers in Bracknell Forest will also be favoured with this extra cash, while their compatriots working in Slough won’t be so lucky.

The government’s recent announcement on support for trainees and new teachers reveals an ever yet more complex scheme as Ministers and officials try to stem the teacher recruitment crisis now entering its sixth year https://www.gov.uk/government/news/up-to-35k-bursary-and-early-career-payments-for-new-teachers

Long gone are the days when DfE officials and Ministers tried to deny there was a crisis building in teacher recruitment and retention. Now, the answer seems to be ‘throw money at the perceived problem’, but still favour EBacc subjects over the more vocationally orientated areas of the curriculum.

Thus, the announcement for trainees being recruited to start training in September 2020 of the following postgraduate bursaries and scholarship.

Postgraduate bursaries and scholarships

Scholarship Bursary (Trainee with 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s)
Chemistry, computing, languages, mathematics and physics £28,000 £26,000
Biology and classics No scholarship available £26,000
Geography £17,000 £15,000
Design and technology No scholarship available £15,000
English No scholarship available £12,000
Art and design, business studies, history, music and religious education No scholarship available £9,000
Primary with mathematics No scholarship available £6,000

Almost the only subjects missing from the list are physical education and drama. Why classics should merit a bursary of £26,000 when art and design and business studies only merit £9,000 is for Ministers to explain. The level of payment to geography trainees also seems out of line with demand unless the DfE is expecting these trainees to help fill gaps elsewhere, such as a shortage of mathematics teachers.

The School Teachers’ Review Body needs to consider evidence as to how these schemes have been working over the past few years? Is the School Direct Salaried route now ‘dead in the water’ for secondary trainees in the face of bursaries and scholarships that cost schools nothing like the School Direct Scheme?

On the evidence of recruitment into training in 2019, discussed in a previous post, the fact that both mathematics and physics are recording some of their lowest levels of new entrants into training for many years suggests that it isn’t just cash incentives that are needed to attract talent into teaching.

Teacher workload and morale are as important as pay in a labour market where many other employers can offer better conditions of service and more flexible working conditions. Yes, teachers still have a better pension scheme than many, although not as good as when I entered the profession. But, how much of an attraction is this to the average 20-30 year old seeking a career?

By Christmas, it will start to become clear whether these levels of support for trainee teachers are working or whether yet another recruitment strategy might need to be developed in 2020?

 

Teacher Labour Market 2020 – current thoughts

While I was away, UCAS published the September data about applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Generally, any changes between these data and the end of cycle data are small. As a result, these data provide a guide to how many new teachers may be available in 2020.

The number of new teachers required is affected by the interplay of supply and demand. In the primary sector, although there may be local issues created by local circumstances, I do not think there will be any national problem over supply. This is because the birth rate is now lower than a few years ago and more teachers are working for longer, possibly as a result of changes to the pension age. Of course, any increase in departure rates might upset my calculations, but, for now, I don’t see the sort of issues the secondary and special school sectors will face confronting the primary sector in 2020.

The secondary sector is facing the challenge of more pupils in 2020 than in 2019. This generally mean a requirement for more teachers. Sadly, many subjects do not appear to have reached the DfE’s estimate of trainee numbers, as set out in their Teach Supply Model (TSM). I am especially anxious for both mathematics and physics, where the UCAS data has likely outcomes below the numbers accepted in 2018. In both cases this was not enough to satisfy demand from schools, even before the increase in pupil numbers is factored into the equation. Fortunately, the number of biologists is likely to be at a record level, and this supply line will help offset any shortages of physical scientists.

The lack of mathematics teachers will need to be covered by trainees from subjects such as geography where trainee numbers remain healthy, as they do in history and physical education. Many history trainees will need to find a second subject, as there is unlikely to be enough vacancies to support this level of trainee numbers. From the DfE’s point of view record numbers in history help the overall total of trainees and will allow Ministers to use a more flattering headline number that disguises issues within particular subjects. But, hey, with QTS any teacher can be asked to teach any subject to any child, so who cares about the details?

Happily, Religious Education has had a good year, with offers coming close to its projected need identified by the TSM, assuming all those offered places actually turned up at the start of their courses. Design and Technology fared slightly better this year than last year’s disastrous recruitment round, but will still fall far short of requirements, as will Business Studies. IT also appears to have suffered from a poor recruitment round into courses in 2019.  Elsewhere, outcomes may be close to last year’s, so there should be enough teachers of modern languages overall, although whether with the combination of languages needed is not known. Similarly, the number of trainee teachers of English may cause problems in some parts of the country in 2020, most notably London and the Home Counties and any other areas where the school population is growing.

These predications will be validated later this autumn when the DfE publishes its annual ITT census. Until then they remain observations based upon more than 20 years of studying the trends in the teacher labour market in England.

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.