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.



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.



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:



Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education



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.


Abolish tuition fees?

When I wrote back in April about the iniquity of the hike in repayments rates on student fee debt to 6.1% hardly anyone noticed https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/debt-hike-for-teachers/ That’s the price you pay for being ahead of the game. Then came Labour’s abolish fees pledge during the general election and there is now a growing groundswell on the issue, further fuelled by the fall in applicant numbers reported by UCAS this week.

So far, few have tried to put the debate in even the wider education funding agenda, let along government funding policy as a whole. As I argued in my earlier piece, cutting student fees might mean losing or postponing some other project either in education or society more widely unless the funds can be generated from an increase in taxation somewhere else. There might also be the unintended, or I assume unintended, consequence of reducing further social mobility if the abolition of fees and their replacement with direct payment for university places by the government led to a cap on places. Those that could afford to pay for extra tuition might scoop the bulk of available places, leaving others less well-off to claim only any reserved places under government mandated schemes or unfashionable subjects in unpopular universities.

Earlier in the century there were schemes to help young people save for expenses like tuition fees so that they would not be the burden they now are seen to be. I am not sure what happened to them? It is interesting that the insurance market also never saw saving for tuition fees as a necessary product, presumably because parents with young children were seen as not having the level of disposable income to fund such schemes in advance. As I said in April, at the present time it would be more cost effective for families to increase their mortgages than to incur student debt in terms of current repayment levels.

The risk is that in the present political climate judgements will be made on votes to be won rather than sound economic or social policy. But, then fees were increased to £9,000 probably without much thought for either issue and certainly no rationale as to why a classroom subject would cost that sum to deliver. Anyway, the concern must be that a Conservative strategist sees abolishing fees as spiking Labour’s guns with young voters and so worth doing ahead of sorting out the mess with funding social care or even the NHS.

Although there are many worthy articles written about the rationality of government financing, in the end it comes down to plain old horse trading and what works politically. With the number of eighteen year olds set to fall, part-time students numbers already having been decimated and no EU students to pay for, the government could well explore a deal with universities of fees paid for home students, but higher full-cost fees for overseas and non-government funded students. The government could also rebalance the subject offering so as to demonstrate to Conservative voters that they have wiped out subject that shouldn’t be degrees and moved them into the new apprenticeship sector. That might play well with those that think there are too many students wasting three years at university. So, whether fees survive looks increasingly like a political decision based on electoral strategy and the date of the next general election.


2% for all main scale teachers

Yesterday, the School Teachers Pay Review Body published its report and recommendations to the government. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/626156/59497_School_Teachers_Review_Accessible.pdf as expected, the STRB felt bound by the remit letter it had received from government. As a result, its conclusions didn’t breech the government’s stated policy of a one per cent cap on public sector pay: no real surprise there. However, the STRB’s recommendations did contain one suggestion for higher pay to the maximum and minimum of the main pay range.

STRB’s 2017 Recommendations

For September 2017, we recommend:

  • A 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range (MPR);
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the upper pay range (UPR), the unqualified teacher pay range and the leading practitioner pay range;
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the leadership group pay range and all head teacher group pay ranges; and,
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) allowance ranges.

If accepted, these recommendations will lead to some teachers receiving a higher pay rise than others, notably those on the top of the main scale, but not having progressed through to the higher pay scales. Now since many, if not most academies don’t have to stick to the national pay scales, this provides an interesting opportunity for the teacher associations to flex their muscle and demand a 2% rise on the main scale for all teachers not covered by the mandatory national pay scales. If achieved, it would put pressure on the government either to offer the same deal to other teachers across the sector or risk teacher recruitment and retention issues becoming worse outside the academy sector.

The data in the STRB Report suggests that most schools can carry an extra one per cent on their main scale teacher’s pay bill by dipping into reserves. Yes, a hoped for building project might be delayed by a year, but many teachers would feel that their financial situation is being taken seriously.

Is it in the interests of the teacher associations to take this line or to hold out for more for everyone at some point in the future? That’s their judgement call, but I think the two per cent for all main scale teachers demonstrates that they do more on the pay front than just argue the case with the STRB and are indeed prepared to take on a weak government playing a poor hand on public sector pay.

To compensate, I would argue for bringing MAT chief officers pay within the overall cap. It is surely wrong to cap the pay of workers but let the bosses set their own take from public money, albeit sanctioned by their boards.

There is plenty of evidence within the STRB report of recruitment problems, but having waited so long to publish the STRB might have updated some charts with the evidence from the 2016 School Workforce Census rather than relying on 2015 that charted the recruitment round for September two years ago.