100: well almost

Congratulations to the DfE for reaching the 100 vacancies point on their web site for the first time. Sadly, once vacancies past their closing date and non-teaching posts are removed, the total slips just below the three figure mark, but it will make that level soon, I am sure. This on a day when TeachVac, the only other free site to both schools and teachers, has more than 50,000 vacancies for 2018. To be fair to the DfE, their site still doesn’t cover the whole of the country and has only really been in operation of three months, including the quiet month of August, so it has a way to go to catch up TeachVac, but it is running at about 5% of TeachVac’s total at present.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will also hit another key milestone and new record today. However, those details will keep for another post. Still, the team of six in Newport on the Isle of Wight have much to be proud of in developing TeachVac without a single penny of government money. This is compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DfE has spent on their site.

Rather tongue in cheek, I suggested to officials that the DfE buy the vacancies from TeachVac for a fraction of the cost it would cost the same number of schools to input the vacancies to the DfE site, especially using the DfE’s outdated methodology. The DfE could then work with TeachVac to ensure applicants were attracted to the one site. This is because, without spending on making sure teachers, trainees and returners use any vacancy site, it is valueless. TeachVac also has the added benefit of attracting teachers working overseas to teaching posts in England through its TeachVac Global site for international schools. www.teachvacglobal.com

Unlike the DfE, TeachVac also uses it data to provide schools with information on the local vacancy market and has established a new vacancy index for both primary and secondary classroom teachers that will track how recruitment is changing in a world where funding is a concern to schools, but so is the wastage of teachers with several years of experience in the profession.  The next crisis may well be trying to find sufficient middle leaders with experience and appropriate professional development to take on this demanding role.

The free sites, such as TeachVac and the DfE work alongside paid for advertising sites for teaching posts. As more and more teachers use the free sites, it will be interesting to chart the fate of the ‘paid for’ recruitment advertising market. TeachVac offers a service to the independent sector, although the DfE site doesn’t. At present it seems that Sixth Form Colleges are excluded for the DfE site, presumably as they aren’t technically schools. TeachVac is happy to accommodate such institutions as it also provides special arrangements for MATs, diocese and local authorities to handle both individual schools recruitment needs as well as those for all schools in the group.

Ideally, a jointly managed and badged recruitment site supported by the government, teacher associations, employers and teacher educators would be the best solution, provided that is, it offered the lowest cost solution using the best of modern technology.

 

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Isolation poor use of funding?

Regular readers of this blog will notice there has been something of an absence of posts during the first part of this month. This means that there has been no discussion of interesting reports such as the one by the Institute of Fiscal studies into how the distribution of funding has changed over time. https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN242.pdf That report makes for an interesting read, especially when compared with books about education funding written forty years ago, such as ‘depriving the deprived’ in which Prof Tony Travers took part as one of the team investigating education spending over the course of a year in Newham, in the context of the then government financing of education.

However, the education story that most moved me to return to this blog was the one from the BBC about how children can spend long periods in isolation  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46044394  There are a group of children that a decade ago would have been locked up under Labour’s draconian policy of the period. This was a policy whether it was articulated or not that took several thousand young people off the streets and out of education and into Young Offenders Institutions.

With fewer young people coming into the criminal justice system these days, despite the increase in knife crime, it stands to reason that schools will retain more of these young people and will find their behaviour challenging. Behaviour management has always been the top concern of many schools and the teachers that work within them, despite the shift in funding. As schools were forced to focus on outputs and achievements and less on their social responsibilities, it seems obvious that some schools will look to the greatest good for the greatest number and methods that will allow teachers to teach as many pupils as possible by removing disruptive influences on the learning process.

What was missing for the BBC article was whether isolation was really a room on the road to exclusion or whether pupils were either rehabilitated back into mainstream education or moved to more appropriate settings.  If I were a youngster forced to face the wall – albeit without the dunce’s cap of Victorian times – I might see rebelling further as a way to liberation and exclusion: anything might be better than such isolation.

With secondary schools often belonging to many different academy trusts or acting alone, it is difficult to see what body can manage the local solution to this problem. Next week at Oxfordshire’s Cabinet, I have a question – put before the BBC story – about how many pupils each secondary school has brought to the local Fair Access Panel over the past few years. This is to see how the balance of permanent exclusions is playing out across the county. I doubt that the measures announced recently by the DfE in relation to under-performing schools https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-support-underperforming-schools will help tackle this problem: what is needed is concerted local action managed by a body with the long-term interests of all young people in an area. Now, I wonder what they might be.

Cut tuition fees?

Should University Tuition Fees either be reduced to £6,500 as some think a Tory working group might suggest or even abolished at Jeremy Corbyn hinted at during the last election campaign? Whatever happen, it is true that ever since Labour introduced fees in 1997 they have been a source of debate and controversy.

The hike to £9,000 by the Coalition didn’t stop the number of eighteen year olds flocking to higher education and the removal of maintenance grants also didn’t seem to make much of a different in numbers applying.  Even punitive interest rates of more than six per cent haven’t proved a deterrent to would-be graduates.

Now it appears the government might be re-thinking their policy on fees and recognising the fact that arts and humanities students are paying more for their degree courses than universities are spending on their education.

When the hike in fees to £9,000 was proposed, I suggested a fee of around £6,500 might be more appropriate, with the government topping up the cost of STEM courses to encourage students to study those subjects, if there were going to be fees at all. I am less certain that is the direction to go now. Reintroducing a cap on numbers that would inevitably follow government intervention in the fee market would risk disadvantaging those with the least social capital to game the system. When the number of university places were limited, fewer teenagers for disadvantaged backgrounds went to university than at present.

I recall the late Prof. Halsey once saying that the gap in higher education entry rates between different groups would only be reduced once all middle class children that wanted to go to university were able to do so and there were still places available. Reintroducing a cap on places might seriously affect the opportunities for higher education in some communities.

However, there is evidence that attending a university and studying some subjects in the arts and humanities categories doesn’t bring significant financial benefits and many graduates don’t work in occupations that either pay well or use their graduate skills. Nevertheless, the alternative for the government might be having to pay out similar levels of cash, if youth unemployment rates increased and present undergraduate frozen out of higher education swelled the ranks of the unemployed. That would have a direct effect on government expenditure, unlike tuition fees that both have the possibility of clawing some of the expenditure back and also having a less direct effect upon government accounts.

Now that might be a risk worth taking in a tight labour market, and where some would-be undergraduates could be channeled into apprenticeships at a lower cost to the government. But, it would undoubtedly come at a price with regard to social mobility. Such a price might not be worth paying, especially if there is a downturn in the economy.

Better, to try to make degrees more beneficial for society while recognising that some courses may be high quality, but will lack high earning capacity. Such is the nature of higher education.

Teaching as a global career

Should the DfE set up a specific Unit to help teachers trained in England return from working overseas? They might want to work on this with the British Council. Recent data from research organisation ISC suggests that UK private schools are leading the charge into overseas markets, with several new schools established overseas this year alone by schools with headquarters in England. Many of these new schools will have a high percentage of UK trained teachers working in them.

In the past, the international school market was mainly a market serving expat communities, by providing a home country style education that allowed executives to take their families with them on overseas posting. This meant that they were secure both in the knowledge that their children’s education would be protected, and that their children would also benefit from a new set of cultural experiences, together with the opportunity to mix with others from a range of cultures in an increasingly global world.

However, in our increasingly global and digital world, the use of so-called international schools has changed. The pupils in such schools are now predominantly not the children of expats, according to ISC research, but mostly local children of parents than can afford to pay the fees in what are increasingly ‘for-profit’ schools. This raises the question, why should the UK, and England in particular, be supporting the staffing of these schools if we cannot provide enough teachers for our own schools? Making teaching in England more attractive as a career is an obvious way forward, but the DfE should also be examining how difficult it is for teachers that want to return from working overseas to find a job back home. Can more be done to assist these teachers in their quest to return and can more of them be helped and encouraged to return?

This is not an idle question, if the ISC research is correct. Such schools around the world are growing at a rate that will see the number of teachers working in them possibly approach the million mark before the end of the next decade. That’s double current numbers. I have long worried audiences at conferences by pointing out that an entrepreneur wanting to start a chain of new international schools could recruit the whole cohort of NQTs for a particular year. With India now expanding faster than China, and UK Education being highly valued in the sub-continent, the warning signs are there for all to see.

Maybe the DfE should now sponsor a return to teaching in England event in Dubai, a location where there are more than 300 English medium schools, many employing teachers from England. They might do the same event in China and even Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in India and Hong Kong.

I confess to an interest in this issue as TeachVac Global provides a recruitment service to these schools at www.teachvacglobal.com The TeachVac team has seen this growth in demand in the period that the service has been operating. At present TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment site for teachers and schools in England, is separate from the international site, but here is pressure from schools to be able to interact with the large number of teachers in England looking for jobs.

 

Improve teacher retention, but that’s not the whole solution

The NfER has produced its final comprehensive report into teacher supply and retention entitled, ‘Teacher Workforce Dynamics in England’. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/government-mustnt-lose-focus-tackling-teacher-supply-shortage

I have to confess that, as noted in the acknowledgements, I acted as a consultant to the team working on this project at NfER. During the various stages of the project the team issued research reports and the final documents brings all these together and amplifies them in a number of different ways not possible in the shorter documents. The Nuffield Foundation must be recognised for their help in funding the project.

At the launch last evening there were some interesting issues raised that may merit further analysis should funds be available. Firstly, the data on retention is presented in terms of the percentage of staff leaving the profession. This raises two issues: what is meant in terms of leaving the teaching profession is leaving maintained state funded schools as teachers – they may still be working in state funded Sixth Form Colleges or further education or as a teacher in the private sector. When comparing leaving rates with nursing it isn’t clear whether registration of nurses includes those working in non-NHS settings such as the private sector and as school nurse and thus affects how leaving rates are calculated. Additionally, for the police, there was a period where most police forces stopped recruitment, so departure rates may be depressed when there were no new entrants to create a pool of early leavers during part of the survey period.

However, the other issue with the data are the use of percentages of staff leaving. This can be problematic. Thus, in 2015, 20,700 leavers from the secondary sector were detected by the School Workforce Census – a rate of 9.2% for secondary teachers; in 2017 the rate increased to 10.4%, but the actual number decreased to 20,170.  There is no suggestion that the data used by NfER experienced this situation, but it highlights why I often prefer to use real numbers.

Leavers do so at different times in their careers in teaching. Much has been made by the National Audit Office in their study and in this NfER report on the advantages of retaining more teachers in state funded schools. To that end, there is an interesting chart on page 24 of the NfER Report showing where leavers typically may be going. Again, percentages are used, so let’s assume a hypothetical example based upon 40,000 leavers and how many might be persuaded to return at any point.

Since 30% are retiring, the pool can be reduced to 28,000 straightaway, assuming there aren’t a large pool of teacher taking early retirement. The 400 taking maternity leave, a somewhat low figure given the age profile of the profession, takes another 400 out of the total. Another 800 are removed because they are studying as students. I assume this will include future Educational Psychologists and those seeking extra qualifications, such as to teach children with special education needs. However, the biggest category of leavers are those teaching in the private sector; some 33% or another 13,200 off the total.

So, how many of the remaining 13,600 might be persuaded to return?  4,000 are employed in schools as teaching assistants or other non-teaching roles. Some of these might have decided teaching is not for them, but others may have left for other reasons and might be persuadable back into the classroom as a teacher: let’s say 50% or 2,000 could fit into that category, perhaps if better part-time teaching opportunities were available.

Of the remaining 9,600, the 1,200 unemployed might offer some possibilities if teaching didn’t run on a market based recruitment system. After all, if there are teacher shortages, and these teachers wanted to work, there must be an assumption that they are in areas where teaching posts are not available for those with their skills. The other big group worth exploring further are the 4,400 in our example listed as self-employed. Are they working as tutors or using their skills as musicians, artists, historians or scientists for positive reasons or because they gave up on teaching?

Let’s assume half might tempted back, at last part-time if offered better terms. We now have possibly 4,000 that might be enticed back. Add another 1,000 for all the other smaller categories NfER identified, and the total is some 12.5% of leavers. However, many might only be interested in part-time work, so that might only be half that in terms of full-time equivalent teachers, say 2.500. Working trying to recruit, but still not the absolute answer to the teacher shortage issue. Certainly it is worth exploring whether some of these leavers might have been persuaded to remain in the profession.

 

 

Lollipops and Déjà vu

Yesterday’s budget handout of £400 million to schools reminded me of Gordon Brown’s budget of 2000 after he had stopped following the Tory plans for the economy set out under John Major’s government. Those with long memories will recall both the 1997 decision by Blair and Brown to continue with government spending restraint and the spending spree after the Labour government changed direction.

One of Gordon Brown’s rabbits was to announce from the dispatch box in his 1999 and 2000 budgets extra funding for schools. This was great news for the schools, but less so for the orderly planning of teacher supply. As now, the extra cash came at a point in time when recruiting new entrants into teaching was proving quite a challenge: the cash make the situation far worse as schools went out seeking to hire teachers that just weren’t there. Eventually, the Education Department stopped the rot by upping the salaries of existing teachers in a way that prevented unchecked growth in teacher numbers. The result was a period where teachers were relatively better paid than for a generation. The end only came with the 2008 recession and the freeze on public sector pay.

So, yesterday felt like a sense of Déjà vu, with a Chancellor pulling a rabbit out of his budget red box and handing an average of £10,000 to each primary school and £50,000 to each secondary school: so much for a National Funding Formula. Of course, these numbers aren’t anywhere near the amount Gordon Brown had on offer in real terms in his 2000 budget when he announced that:

To support these reforms in our secondary schools he will now make a payment to every head teacher for books, equipment and staffing.

 Last year he was able to make an extra payment for books and equipment of 2,000 pounds.

 This April every one of these 3,500 secondary schools will receive a minimum payment of 30,000 pounds and the largest schools will receive 50,000 pounds.

 A total of 300 million in new investment through these measures alone, money paid direct to the school and to the head teacher for use in the classroom.   http://www.ukpol.co.uk/gordon-brown-2000-budget-speech/

but if used to recruit extra teachers, the new cash announced yesterday could seriously affect the plans announced only last week by the DfE for the ITT allocations in 2019/20. After 2000, schools went shopping for teachers. Perhaps, this time the cash will be used to pay for the unfunded Leadership pay increases, rather than extra teachers. But, it could distort the distribution of teachers in real shortage subjects, such as teachers of Physics, if some schools decided to offer recruitment and retention allowances to attract such teachers. However, the confusion over the use of the word ‘capital’ alongside ‘little extra’ is budgets where schools can spend money mostly as they see fit and the timescale for the cash arriving in school’s budgets will make understanding of how the cash is spent challenging, even should the DfE really want to know.

The £10,000 will certainly make a difference for many small primary schools, especially those losing pupils as the birth rate has slowed down. For some it may make the difference between possible closure and staying open that bit longer.

There must be a question about the purpose of a National Funding Formula if a Chancellor can override it on the one hand and an academy trust can ignore it on the other hand. As ever, it seems like back to the future.

 

Allocations for teacher preparation courses in 2019/20

The previous two posts on this blog have highlighted the fact that the DfE has recently published its annual datasets about teacher preparation in the coming years and specifically numbers for 2019/20, where recruitment is already underway. The DfE’s information can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020

Normally, the number of places allocated to each sector and the separate subjects in the secondary sector would be of great concern to those operating courses. However, with recruitment having been challenging over the past couple of years and no bar placed on numbers that can be recruited in most subjects, providers will be much more relaxed about these numbers. Whether schools should be is another matter.

Of greatest concern for the labour market in September 2020 will be the geographical distribution of recruitment into preparation courses. This is because there is considerable difference in retention rates across England. Teacher retention is high in the North and at its lowest in London and the Home Counties. That’s neither a new fact nor one that has suddenly been discovered. Old hands at this business have known it for many years and I well recall presenting the information to a House of Lords Committee investigating aspects of science teaching in the early years of this century.

The concern over differential retention rates has been at the heart of the debate about quality of course versus location of training providers that was important when recruitment was likely to be buoyant. Even so, training too many new teachers in the wrong parts of the country, and especially training those not flexible in where they can work, is at least as wasteful as the money spent on bursaries highlighted in The Times today and discussed in the previous post on this blog.

To reasons for the lower retention rates in and around London are probably the present of about 50% of the independent sector schools in England in this area, together with the fact that London represents the largest graduate labour market in the country. For almost all teachers there are other jobs they can apply for even if it means ditching their hard won expertise in teaching. After all, the transferable skill of managing the learning of young people and making many rapid decisions reinforced only by the strength of your personality is a set of skills many businesses are keen to pay good money to acquire in their staff.  This is a point government should not overlook when considering pay rates and teacher associations might want to press more ruthlessly while teachers are in short supply.

Anyway, back to the allocations for 2019/20 and the changes from the previous years. In the Teacher Supply Model outputs, Classics, Computing, Religious Education and Geography have seen drops in the number of places as have Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Food Technology and ‘Others’ although that is partly be down to a reallocation of Dance into PE for TSM purposes. These changes, plus the increases in other subjects, are reflected in Figure 1 of the DfE’s note on ITT allocations.  Of most concern is the increase from 1,600 to 2,241 in places for Modern Foreign Languages. This is to meet the expected increase in pupils studying a language at KS4 in line with the government’s aspirations of a 75% take-up by 2024.

Will the lack of restrictions on recruitment for all secondary subjects, except PE last? As I write this blog, stock markets around the world are following a well-trodden path downwards that has been seen in October many times before. Were the downward trend to affect the economy along with Brexit, not having any restrictions on applications might seem unwise in hindsight.

 

The message to potential applicants; apply now and don’t take the risk of waiting until the spring.