Swallows and summer

If there is one thing more certain than swallows appearing in summer then it is that during a recession private schools will go bust, either on the first day or the summer holidays or the last. The actual day will depend upon how close to the line the fee income is in meeting the bills, and especially the wage bill for the following year.

The present recession is even more challenging for these schools, since the furlough scheme has muddied the waters on exactly how many people will be made redundant, and when. Even though most redundancies will be among the population that cannot afford private education, some managers and higher paid staff will lose their jobs.

Today, I learnt of a variant of the closure approach. A private school cannot recruit enough pupils for the infant years and, as a result, has closed just that section of the school. Parents are incensed, as expected. The local authority will have to find places for these children if approached by the parents, and, because the children include some than come from some distance to the school, this may add the transport bill footed by local Council Taxpayers. Parents may not have a choice of schools and will feel aggrieved. However, other local private schools may also offer to help if they have spare places.

There will be calls for politicos to help fund the school as a business. I don’t support that approach. Private education was the choice of parents when deciding how to educate their children. To  fund schooling for these parents would be to risk either a charge of discrimination if, for instance, classes are smaller than in local state schools or the start of a voucher system for all, a policy option sometimes advocated by those that believe that parental choice should be backed by the cash to make it possible for all.

Some private schools with considerable numbers of boarders, often from overseas, are looking to put their teaching and learning experience completely on-line for the autumn. This will reveal the extent to which parents are paying for the school name as much as the education they receive. Such an approach may well help these schools to weather the covid-19 storm until, hopefully, a return to normal in September 2021.

Private education has become big business in Britain, and an earner of foreign currency, especially in the higher education sector. Some universities will be hard hit if foreign student stay away. It won’t necessarily be those universities attractive to home students, but those that cannot fit the gaps left. Closures and amalgamations are as likely in the higher education sector as in the private school sector.

Ironically, after years of under-funding, perhaps the further education sector might just see a renaissance if there really is a focus on vocational courses and apprenticeships.

What’s happened to our young teachers?

Last week the publication of the DfE’s School Workforce Census data revealed the lowest number of Qualified Entrants into the profession in England since 2011/12. The number given for 2019/20 was 43,405 and for 2011/12 42,434. In 2014.15m the number was just over 50,000.

Now, there may be several possible reasons for the low number this year. There might be more unqualified teachers in classrooms. Although possible, the decline in School Direct Salaried route into the profession and an absence of significant growth from Teach First makes this unlikely to be the reason. Are school rolls falling, meaning less demand for teachers. Well, they are at the bottom end of the primary school, in Reception, but not elsewhere and, in the secondary sector, intakes were higher in September 2019 than the previous year.

Perhaps existing teachers were staying put? It is certainly true that fewer teachers retired or left the service than in the previous year, so that might possibly have produced less demand for new teachers. Of course, that is a complex picture, especially in the secondary sector, where demand may alter by subject.

Another reason might be that there was a demand for teachers, not met because of insufficient trainees. It is true that entry into training in 2018, the new entrants into schools in 2019, didn’t meet the expectations of the Teacher Supply Model across the board, but it wasn’t an especially poor year for recruitment on to teacher preparation courses.

Worth considering as a reason is that pressures on school funding reduced the demand for teachers and, as a result, there were fewer entrants. A quick look at changes in Pupil Teacher Ratios over time suggests that this may well be part of the reason.

Schools, especially secondary schools, are also remodelling their workforce and may be employing fewer Qualified Teachers. A glance at the DfE’s vacancy web site now shows a range of tutor and other job titles not paid on the Teachers Pay Scales. Indeed, last week, some 24% of vacancies listed by the DfE didn’t require ‘Qualified’ teachers to fill them.

A significant proportion of the reduction in entrants is among those aged under 25. These will mostly be newly qualified teachers either entering directly from their preparation course or after a short time.

Entrants to Teaching Under 25 and Qualified Teachers2011/1211,253
Entrants to Teaching – Qualified Teachers

Source DfE School Workforce data abstracted by author on 6th July 2020

Since 2015/16 the number of Under-25s that are Qualified Teachers entering the profession according to the DfE data has declined by around 3,700. A drop of some 20% from the peak in the past nine years. Since this is the age-group from which will come future school leaders, such a decline must be viewed with concern.

In the current world of reduced vacancies, this data, if correct, should start a conversation about the teachers schools are choosing to employ for the vacancies that there are? NQTs or experienced staff?

I have written elsewhere about the idea of a supernumerary scheme to ensure the profession doesn’t lose large numbers of new entrants, especially if many of the Class of 2020 cannot find teaching roles. They are a valuable resource and should not be overlooked. Without their services, schools might not be able to survive a second wave of teachers taking time out due to the need to self-isolate following local lockdowns during the autumn and winter.

Not enough ‘Black’ school leaders

The data released by the DfE last week, on the School Workforce at Census day in November 2019, updated the information on the ethnicity of the teaching workforce. Although some progress has been made in creating a teaching force that reflects society as a whole, progress is still not good enough, especially t the headteacher level.

Taking two geographical areas at random: Brent in North West London and Cornwall, it is possible to review the changes in the ethnic make-up of the teaching force over the period between November 2014 and November 2019; a period of five years.

2014/152019/20 014/152019/20
Any other ethnic group8211855
Any other mixed background74991420
Asian or Asian British40147775
Black or black British33732865
Information not yet obtained170275117211

Now, admittedly, over this five year period the number of teachers in both authorities hasn’t altered very much, but it is depressing to see that the quality of the data has declined. The number of teachers where information has not yet been obtained increased, while the number refusing to provide the information declined in Brent quite significantly.

The best that can be said is that there was increases in Brent in the non-Black groups with the BAME community and the Black group remained relatively stable in numbers. In Cornwall, the numbers of BAME remained staggeringly low; increasing from 32 to 35 over the five years.

As I have been interested in Leadership data for nearly 40 years i thought it helpful to look at the number of headteachers in the categories classified as black or black British. This information is buried in the School Workforce data for anyone interested.

All ‘Black or Black British’
All Headteachers169169225219217213219 
Secondary Headteachers32274239403744 

I have excluded some years to make the table more manageable. The disappointment is the stagnation in the totals over the past five years. Probably, less than two per cent of headteachers in all state-funded schools are defined as from the Black ethnic group. As the definitions of ethnicity expand, there will be some that should be added to this group, but using the Black or Black British definition, the headteachers constitute less than two per cent of state schools in England.

When the qualification for headship was mandatory, it was possible to track the progress of specific groups and to identify under-represented groups and how they might be attracted to headships. Abolishing the requirement for headteachers to possess an NPQH was not one of the Labour government’s finest moves.  As a result, we now have to rely upon the market, and a profession with little in the way of career development for individuals.

Surely, it is time for action, since school leaders can be powerful role models for their communities and can help inspire future generations.  

Can a mean be mean?

When I first moved from teaching in a Tottenham secondary school to higher education in Oxford I brought with me an interest in the disparity of funding for schools. Partly this was because working in Haringey, and having been brought up right on the border with the London County Council – by then the Inner London Education Authority – I was aware of the disparity of funding for schools in Haringey compared with those just across the border in Hackney.

One of the early books I read on the subject was by John Pratt and his co-authors and was entitled ‘Depriving the Deprived’. Published in 1979 by what was then, Kogan Page. The book was based upon research that looked at school funding in one London borough over the course of a single year.

I was reminded of this when looking at the latest Free School Meals data for England, published by the DfE last Thursday. As a measure of potential deprivation it as good as it goes. If you consider Oxfordshire, generally rightly regarded as an affluent part of South East England, by the data on Free School Meals taken on census day for the six parliamentary constituencies, you find the following

% of children on Free School Meals on Census day Oxfordshire’s constituencies ranks

Oxford West

& Abingdon                           8th lowest out of 534 

Henley                                   28th lowest

Witney                                  35th lowest

Wantage                               55th lowest

Banbury                                94th lowest

Oxford East                        237th lowest -.i.e. about halfway 

Within Oxford East, some wards will be even worse ranked than others. Now this shouldn’t matter with a National Funding Formula for schools. But it does, because not all the funding calculations take into account differences between schools, rather than between local authorities. Indeed, if each district council area was a unitary council with education responsibility their funding might be different. But, none of the districts are large enough to ‘go it alone’ in the present funding regime.

As a result of the general affluence of Oxfordshire, the nine most deprived council wards in the county; five of which are in Oxford East constituency; three in Banbury and the other one in Oxford West and Abingdon constituency, probably lose out on funding compared to if they were part of a urban area. Such funding arrangements do not help close the achievement gap between high performing areas and the lowest performing schools in the county.

Now, of course, if all secondary schools in the county were in a single Multi-Academy Trust, the Trust could move funds around to mean the extra need of schools in deprived area, albeit by reducing the amount some schools received. However, with many different Trusts, and one remaining maintained secondary school, this option isn’t possible.

Another option of creating an ‘Opportunity Area’, used by Conservative governments in some other parts of the country, mostly in the North of England, doesn’t seem to be open to East Oxford, even though it has been suggested as an option.

So, taking the mean as a measure of funding may really mean depriving those living in some areas 40 years after the issue was exposed in one London borough.

Teachers not tutors

Is the DfE helping dumb down the teaching profession? I ask this question, not because I think there is a deliberate policy to do so, but because, having studied the 372 jobs on the DfE vacancy site this morning, I find that 20% of the jobs listed are not for teachers. Now, if the majority of these non-teacher vacancies were administrative posts, I wouldn’t worry, and would just make the point that TeachVac has more than 1,200 teaching posts in England, so why would anyone use the DfE site?

However, I am more troubled that in a buyer’s market, schools may be creating tutoring, mentoring and other roles, at either hourly rates or below the main scale for teachers, and seeking to recruit teachers to these positions. Now, I accept that a job is better than no job in the present climate, and that schools must not waste public money, but is this the way forward?

In a post on the blog on 19th May, I suggested the idea of using newly qualified teachers without posts for September as supernumerary teachers under a government scheme that ensured schools would be fully staffed and both have spare capacity to cope with a second wave of the virus and also high rick staff not working directly with pupils. This still seems to me a better idea than hiring coaches at £20 per hour, with no national determination of standards and experience.

The two big associations of teacher preparation provides, NASBTT and UCET should by now have an idea of how many trainees are currently unemployed for September. With the job market having ground to a halt, not many are likely to find jobs in England now for the autumn. Do we want to risk them going overseas in large numbers as their only source of teaching jobs? I hope not.

The DfE issued its annual teacher workforce data for 2019 last week. As it is in a new form, I have taken time to consider the data before posting any blogs about the latest data, but retention in teaching was still a big issue up to last November’s census point.

The new form the DfE is using to present the data marks a radical rethink of the presentation of data that up to now was only just the transfer of the print based approach on-line with little by way of search capacity. This new approach is more helpful for the casual user, but less so for those looking at a range of the data collected.

Note: The author of this blog is the Chair at TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the largest free vacancy site for teachers and schools.

Initial surge, but no follow through?

Yesterday, the DfE announced that

New teachers are set to receive a boost to their training and development amid a surge in applications to join the classroom since the outbreak of coronavirus.


While others will comment upon the first part of the announcement, it is interesting to note that the data released by UCAS today is not as straightforward as the DfE announcement would suggest.

Firstly, much of the surge in applications came between April and May, and was not continued into June. Now this may well be because there were fewer courses left to apply to by early June, as many had closed their doors. Thus, the total increase in applicants over June last year in the order of 2,500 or less than 10%. Of these, the majority of new applicants would seem to be for secondary subjects rather than in the primary sector. The basis for this statement is an interpretation of applications data and, if true, would be helpful.

The second thing to note is that not all secondary subjects have benefited to the same degree. Arts subjects, have seemingly seen lots more offers to applicants, but both physics and design and technology seem unlikely to meet the Teacher Supply Model number unless there are many more applicants over the next two months. The same is true for modern languages. The arts subjects also have more applications in the pipeline, so offers may rise further over the next month or so.

Not surprisingly, the increase in applicants have mainly come from career changers. New graduates don’t yet seem to have switched to teaching in a big way. Thus, applicants aged 22 or under have increased by just over 500 on a base number of over 9,000 whereas there are 550 more applicants in the 25-29 age bracket. This looks especially true for male applicants, where numbers of those 21 and under have increased by around 50 applicants, but the 25-29 age-group has increased by nearly 200 applicants.

Traditional routes into teaching seem to have benefitted the most. There are new additional applications for either apprenticeships or for School Direct Salaried routes with fewer applications for the latter route in the primary sector than in June last year and barely 100 more in the secondary sector. Higher education has attracted 3,000 more applications for secondary courses compared with June last year and now attracts not far from half or all applications for secondary courses.  

It is not clear whether the furlough scheme has helped restrain possible applicants to teaching from applying in large numbers while they discover what will happen once the support scheme comes to an end. If there is mass unemployment then the opening months of the 2020/2021 recruitment round should witness some very large numbers. Later in the summer we will review what happened in the period 2008-201, last time applications grew rapidly.

Not the APPG June 2020 paper

Not the APPG Teaching Profession June 2020

The Labour Market for Teachers – some observations for the informal meeting 15th June 2020

When I last prepared a piece for the January meeting of the APPG, I thought 2020 would be a challenging year for some teachers looking for posts in the primary sector, but many teachers seeking a post in a secondary school would have more choice.

The rest of January and February saw more vacancies in the secondary sector than in any recent year, but similar vacancy levels in the primary sector to the past two years, although leadership positions remained weaker than in recent times.

And then came the coronavirus; lockdown, and schools talking only vulnerable pupils and those of of key workers; and not many of those. Vacancies slumped. By the end of May, the number of recorded vacancies across both primary and secondary sectors was almost half the number recorded in the same period in 2019. So far, June, usually a month when vacancies start declining towards their August lows, hasn’t shown any upturn in vacancies. As a result, 2020 is on track to look similar to 2019 for the secondary sector overall, whereas the primary sector will almost certainly record fewer opportunities for jobseekers than in 2019, unless there is a big upturn in the autumn in vacancy levels.

This begs two questions are now: how does the sector respond to a very different environment, where jobs are scarce, but applicants more plentiful? Secondly, how will this situation affect school spending patterns?

The APPG might like to establish an independent review of the recruitment market and what constitutes value for money in this new environment. As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be happy to provide evidence to such an inquiry.

TeachVac is now offering webinars about job hunting skills as a service to teachers, as are others. This recognises the balance in the market has shifted, at least for the next recruitment round and probably beyond September 2021.

NfER have provided their own recent assessment https://www.nfer.ac.uk/teacher-labour-market-in-england-annual-report-2020/ but as they note this was written before the recent change in the labour market post March. The TES, SchoolsWeek, and other publications have also commented on what is happening, based on evidence from various sources including TeacherTapp https://teachertapp.co.uk/

The loss in vacancies across the secondary sector was in the order of 5,000 between March and end of May compared with 2019. In the primary sector, it was nearer 2,500. What cannot be computed is the level of interest in teaching from ‘returners’ either made redundant or furloughed. Then there is the effects on the supply market and home tutoring to consider. An independent review by the APPG could consider the whole market and how it has changed. Such a Review could also look at what is happening to interest in teaching as a career. Is the fact the ONS classify teaching as a high contact activity putting off would-be teachers? Early evidence suggests not in terms of applications to become a primary school teacher.

For graphs place a comment or visit my page on LinkedIn search John Howson TeachVac

Coherent planning needed: not directives

Earlier this week, I offered this action plan for providing education for all in Oxfordshire by September, in some way or another. Such a position needs to be the objective. It would need cooperation from all groups coordinated by Schools Forum and the Local Authority. Like NHS and the economy, it will need extra funds

The aim to ensure teaching and learning is available to all 5-18 year olds in the county by September will be a challenge, but one we should embrace..

Creating learning for all needs strategic planning on a large scale. It should involve school leaders; teacher associations; governors and trustees of schools; administrative services of both local and national government and dioceses with responsibility for schools, as well as parents and politicians.

On the assumption that ‘normal’ schooling won’t restart until January 2021 at the earliest, there are a number of key areas where information is needed before effective planning can take place.

These are based upon assumptions of classes of no more than 15 pupils– how many attend may be another matter.

Teaching spaces – how many extra spaces are needed by each school –

What community assets might be available to help? Teaching A level arts and humanities groups in church halls and empty office space might be easier than relocating some other year groups. But, could a village primary school adjacent to the village hall make use of its facilities. Each school needs to know its needs and what the community might be able to offer. There are risks, but there are risks leaving children in the community without any formal education arrangements.

Staff teaching and non-teaching

Oxfordshire is lucky to have three initial teacher education locations. The first need is to discover how any extra staff would be needed for all children to return to school on a maximum class size of 15. This is different to a Pupil Teacher Ratio of 15.

Assuming staffing costs at the top of the main scale for both teaching and non-teaching staff, some idea of the cost of the exercise can be calculated once the number of teaching units is known. Additional teachers could be employed on a termly basis, if necessary with emergency certification. Academies already have the right to employ anyone as a teacher and other school are allowed to do so ‘in extremis’. Retired teachers could be in high risks groups so not recommended as a main source of extra staff


All pupils need access to technology and there needs to be an audit of those without the technology and those without access to an internet connection. These problems need solving at a local level, using what government support is available, but not relying upon it.

Creating coherent learning packages is the role of the teaching force. The loss of a local advisory service makes this harder than it would have been in the past, but schools can identify where there are gaps and how we can best work to help drive learning forward., especially as some young people will not be able to attend school sites because of their own health or the health of others.

Support services

Bringing back all children requires full support services from transport to meals to health and welfare support.

We can sit back and wait for events or we can all work together to make things happen.

All Lives Matter: But some need to matter more

Readers of this blog will know that in April I revisited an article I first wrote in 1996 about Equal Opportunities in Education.

In the 1996 article, I wrote that:

“It is clear that members of some ethnic groups are less likely to find places on PGCE courses than white applicants.” I added that “These figures are alarming” and that “If graduates with appropriate degrees are being denied places on teacher training courses in such numbers, much more needs to be known about the reasons why.” During the period 2008-2011, I was asked to conduct two, unpublished, studies for the government agency responsible for training teachers. Sadly, the conclusion of both studies was that little had changed in this respect.

In the April article that also considered the issue of gender and ageism in the training of graduates to become teachers I made the following points.

Fortunately, it seems as if more graduates from ethnic minority groups are now entering teaching. Data from the government’s annual census of teacher training reveals that between 2014/15 and 2018/19 the percentage of trainees from a minority ethnic group increased from 13% to 19% of the total cohort.

Table 5: Minority Ethnic Groups as a Percentage of Postgraduate Trainees

 Postgraduate new entrantsPostgraduate percentages
Trainee CohortTotalMinority ethnic groupNon-minority ethnic group Minority ethnic groupNon-minority ethnic group

Source: DfE Initial Teacher Training Censuses

In numeric terms, this mean an increase of some 2,000 trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds during this period.

Although UCAS no longer provides in-year data about ethnicity of applicants, there is some data in their end of year reporting about the level of acceptances for different ethnic groups.

In the 1996 article, there was a Table showing the percentage of unplaced applicants to PGCE courses by ethnic groups in the three recruitment rounds from 1993 to 1995. What is striking about both that table, and the table below for the four years between 2014-2017 that presents the data on the percentages of ethnic groups accepted rather than unplaced, is that in both of the tables, graduates from the Black ethnic group fare less well than do White or Asian applicants. Indeed, the overwhelmingly large White group of applicants had the lowest percentage of unplaced applicants in the 1990s, and the highest rate of placed applicants in the four years from 2014-2017.

In the original article I noted that “39% of the Black Caribbean group [of applicants] accepted were offered places at three of the 85 institutions that received applications form members of this ethnic group. Thirty-nine out of the 85 institutions accepted none of the applicants from this group that applied to them.” Although we no longer have the fine grain detail of sub-groups within this ethnic grouping, nothing seems to have significantly changed during the intervening period.

Table 6: Percentage Rate of Acceptances for Postgraduate trainee Teachers


Source: UCAS End of Cycle reports.

Using the data from the government performance tables for postgraduate trainees, it seems that a smaller percentage of trainees from ethnic minorities received QTS at the standard time when compared to those from the non-minority community, with the percentages of those trainees both not awarded or not yet completing being greater for the trainees from the minority ethnic groups.

Table 7: Success of Postgraduate Trainee Teachers by Ethnicity

2017/18 TraineesPercentage awarded QTSPercentage yet to completePercentage not awarded QTSTeaching in a state schoolPercentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state school
EthnicityMinority4,31188%6%6% 3,01480%
 Non-minority22,86192%3%4% 17,02281%
 Unknown70690%4%6% 50379%

Source: DfE database of trainee teachers and providers and school Workforce Census

However, the percentage reported as working in a state school was similar at 80% for ethnic minority trainees and 81% for non-ethnic minority trainees. As there are no data for trainees working in either the independent sector or further education institutions including most Sixth Form Colleges, it isn’t clear whether the overall percentage in teaching is the same of whether or not there is a greater difference?

So what has changed in the profile of graduates training to be a teacher during the twenty years or so between 1997 and 2019? The percentage of trainees from minority ethnic groups within the cohort has increased. However we know their chances of becoming a teacher are still lower than for applicants from the large group of applicants classified as White as their ethnic group.

Ethnicity and Leadership

For some twenty years I compiled an annual report on the labour market for senior staff in schools. At the turn of the century questions about the ethnicity of candidates were included. In the report on the 2005-06 school year I wrote:

Two other issues we have highlighted over the past few years, where we believe urgent steps need to be taken are the recruitment of senior staff from ethnic minorities and for faith schools. We are especially concerned about the almost complete absence of appointments in the Special school Sector of any staff from amongst the ethnic minorities. … although the position seems to be a little better in the Primary and Secondary School Sectors, we are not convinced that enough is being done to recruit senior staff from amongst these groups.

12th Report Labour Market for Senior Staff in schools 2005-06 prepared for NAHT and ASCL.

That was a typical comment of the period.

The NASUWT also commissioned a report into Black and Ethnic Minority Teachers from a team at the University of Manchester that was published as The Leadership Aspirations and Careers of Black and Minority Ethnic Teachers in January 2009. The text is available on Researchgate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242575423_The_Leadership_Aspirations_and_Careers_of_Black_and_Minority_Ethnic_Teachers The key message from that study was that at that time ethnic minority staff did not perceive the teaching profession to be inclusive.  It would be interesting to know whether such feeling were still prevalent today.

The is no doubt that progress differs across the country, with some areas more forward in both understanding and tackling the issues that other areas where they have been seen of as less concern. Hopefully, the issue will once again see discussion and action to ensure all teachers are treated equally. However, that begs the question of what is meant by equally?

Bring back the Star Chamber?

Bring back the Star Chamber? Head teachers retuned to schools on Monday to find that the simple form the DfE had be asking schools to complete about pupil attendance during lockdown had suddenly, and without warning, ballooned to one of over 19 pages in length.

Now, as someone that has made a career out of management information, I expect the required information is very useful to help Ministers answer the inevitable barrage of questions about their handling of the extension of the opening of schools. I nearly wrote re-opening, but of course, most schools never closed, and in some cases remained open during the Easter holiday period. As a result, it is wrong to talk of re-opening.

Anyway, in the past, it sometimes took up to two years to achieve a very small change in any data being collected from schools. I well recall the lead up to the introduction of the School Workforce Census, and the debates about what could and could not be collected.

Of course, the net result of imposing additional data collection on schools is that probably more schools will have thrown up their hands in horror and not returned anything, not even what they were returning by way of management information up to Friday of last week.

In one sense, I don’t suppose that Ministers will mind, assuming the demands originated from the political end of the DfE, since so long as they have some returns they can say ‘evidence suggests that …’ and nobody can gainsay the quality of the evidence, then they are satisfied. What ONS might make of this could be another matter.

I took part in a conference call on Tuesday with a hardworking set of local government officers, many of whom had been sending me emails over the weekend as they helped schools prepare for their new world order. So, this is the time and place to pay tribute to both the officers and the staff and governors of schools that have all worked so hard to keep the teaching and learning show on the road since lockdown was introduced.

Local authorities have had a hard time of it over the past thirty years, but those that have preserved a functioning education section have shown the value of a tier at this level to help the DfE manage the system. I don’t see all academies or MATs working with their Regional School Commissioners, but I do hear of them joining in with the local authority. And, as a politician, I know that parents turn to local politicians if they have any questions about what is happening. I wonder how many contact either RSCs or the DfE.

Issues of the span of control dominate structures in all organisations, and in the review of how the pandemic has been handled, the role of local authorities and education should be properly assessed and compared with the NHS and social care sectors, one of which has little or no local accountability these days and the other is a hybrid. Which works well and for what tasks?