More cash likely; but please don’t forget the FE sector

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has today published the report of their inquiry into funding in schools and further education. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/969/96903.htm#_idTextAnchor000

It is worth reporting their key proposals in full in the light of the excellence of the Report.

  • urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760 (amounting to around £970 million per year), rising in line with inflation;
  • increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value;
  • increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected deficit of at least £1.2 billion, and ensure any funding uplift takes proper account of the costs of providing Education, Health and Care plans up to the age of 25;
  • implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible; make the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors; and investigate how best to account for the individual circumstances of outliers;
  • develop an official statistics publication for school and college funding to provide greater clarity on the data and trends;
  • grant Ofsted the powers to conduct inspections at MAT level, and require MATs to publish more detailed data on their financing structures;
  • ensure all eligible students attract Pupil Premium and overcome existing barriers to automatic enrolment as a matter of priority;
  • secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated Pupil Premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children;
  • extend Pupil Premium to provide for 16–19 year olds; and
  • set out the timetable for providing apprenticeship transport subsidies, as per the Government’s manifesto commitments.

It is good that further education tops the list, even though it is school funding that has made the headlines. The Committee concluded that

… total school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18. Per pupil funding for 2019–20 is expected to be similar to 2011–12 levels. Teachers, unions and parents have described to us in detail the scale of the impact this has had on children and young people, and on those working in the education sector.

Further education has been hit the hardest. Participation in full time further education has more than doubled since the 1980s, yet post-16 budgets have seen the most significant pressures of all education stages. Per student funding fell by 16% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2018–19 – twice as much as the 8% school funding fall over a similar period. This funding gap is the result of policy choices that now need to be addressed urgently. The social justice implications of the squeeze on further education colleges are particularly troubling, given the high proportion of disadvantaged students in these institutions.

It is a shame that these two paragraphs were not reversed in order, to ensure that FE funding issues were fully recognised. This is not to belittle the crisis in school funding, but to emphasise that funding in FE, and for the 16-8 age group that affects both sectors is in a state of real crisis.

The idea from the Committee for a ten year plan for funding, while headline grabbing, is unlikely to find favour with The Treasury, and would seem to be unrealistic in the context of a government that cannot even manage a three year financial settlement this year.

Finally, it is interesting that this report appeared on the same day that ministers appear to have accepted the evidence of a need to increase public sector workers’ pay, at least where they are review bodies. Noise in the media that schools may also receive extra funding also suggests a degree of realism now inhabit Sanctuary Buildings but, please ministers, don’t forget the FE sector: their needs should be first in the queue for additional funds.

 

 

Advertisements

The importance of soft skills and those that miss out

The report from the Social Mobility Commission on extra-curricular activities, soft skills and social mobility published today  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/extra-curricular-activities-soft-skills-and-social-mobility comes a decade after similar research, by the then DCSF, (Department of Children, Schools and Families) about schools that offered extended services, both before and after school. This research was conducted in the period before the age of austerity, and any large-scale use of breakfast clubs and food banks. I reported on the DCSF evidence for the TES in the ‘Stat of the Week’ column of 10th April 2009.

There are some striking similarities between the two reports. Today’s Social Mobility Commission report that is entitled ‘An Unequal Playing field’, and is based upon research conducted by the University of Bath, shows according to the press notice:

huge disparities in children’s participation rates across a wide range of extra-curricular activities depending on their social background. Children aged 10 to 15 from wealthier families are much more likely to take part in every type of activity especially music and sport.

The report looks at activities such as arts, music, sport, dance, voluntary work, and youth clubs. It shows that children’s participation in extra-curricular activities depends on the schools they attend; the area they are growing up and their socio-economic background.

As household income rises so does increased participation. Those from better-off families are also more likely to engage in a greater number of out of school activities. Children from the poorest families are 3 times more likely to not participate in any extra-curricular activities compared to those from wealthier families.

Some classes are expensive but there are other barriers for the less affluent. In some areas there are access difficulties – schools don’t provide the activities and local councils have cut back on their provisions for children and young people. Sometimes, however, children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not take part because they lack confidence or fear they will not fit in.

A decade ago, I wrote of the DCSF research that ‘pupils least likely to be using the facilities provided by extended schools are those from the more deprived groups.’ Seems little has changed here.

A decade ago the majority of activities offered through the extended school programme were after school activities, and I suspect that is this is still the case today. However, where before school activities were offered a decade ago, pupils were more likely to make use of them on more days of the week.

In 2009, I concluded that ‘the activities relating to having fun and socialising are the key activities of out-of-school activities’. The Social Mobility Commission chairman has concluded that

“It is shocking that so many children from poorer backgrounds never get the chance to join a football team, learn to dance or play music. The activity either costs too much, isn’t available or children just feel they won’t fit in. As a result they miss out on important benefits – a sense of belonging, increased confidence and social skills which are invaluable to employers. It is high time to level the playing field.”

But, how to level that playing field will be the challenge for the DfE, just as it was for DCSF a decade ago. Seems like not much progress, if any, has been made during the intervening years, and this is another casualty of austerity.

 

More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

NASBTT Awards 2019

Last evening I attended the first ever awards ceremony to celebrate excellence in school-based teacher education and to recognise the exceptionally hard-working and talented staff that make school-based teacher education a success.

This was an evening of meetings with old friends, including someone who I help tutor on their Master course more than twenty years ago and who is now a senior education official. Such meetings are just as joyful as when teachers meet former pupils. There was also the opportunity for great conversations about education and, hopefully, the start of new friendship within the education community.

Much of my career in education since the 1980s has been involved with teacher preparation in one way or another, and it is wonderful to see how NASBTT has developed and flourished into the important organisation it has now become.

TeachVac, the organisation where I am chairman, was especially delighted to be able to sponsor the award for the Administrator of the Year at last night’s ceremony, as throughout my career I have been lucky to work with some splendid administrative staff at all levels. Entrepreneurs probably miss the support of a good administrator more than anything else when starting up a new business: well, I know that I certainly have.

Below is an extract of the short speech I gave when introducing the finalists and then presenting the award.

Full details of this award and all the others, including the successful nominees can be found at https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/nasbtt-awards-2019/

“As many of you know, we started TeachVac five years ago to save schools time and money by using the best that modern technology can offer, coupled with an extensive understanding of the education scene.

TeachVac has listed 47,000 jobs since the start of January, well 47,003 to be precise up to when the office closed this afternoon, all at no cost to schools in either money or time.

TeachVac doesn’t want to waste administrator’s time, but please do ask your teachers to check when they cut and paste information about jobs. The number of times either a maths job contains the word English all the way through the job description or the closing date is after the starting date: well TeachVac’s staff have stopped counting.

Administrators are busy people, indeed I salute their ability to multi-task; dealing with the panic on the phone while at the same time reassuring the student about an assignment date, and simultaneously filling in that DfE form requiring the number of left-handed trainees over the age of thirty and with naturally curly hair; while thinking, whatever next.

When I set up a SCITT in 1995, I appointed the administrator before the course leader. Good teachers are not yet commonplace, but they can be found; good administrators are like gold dust.

I was reminded of all this when reading through the excellent submissions for this award: hardworking, sensitive, forward thinking, tea and tissues were just some of the terms that would feature in a wordle of the description of the qualities of an administrator. I would add, approachable, friendly and all-knowing to that list

As a result, it is with really genuine pleasure that TeachVac sponsors this award.”

NASBTT has come a long way from its early days to its current format as a leading player in the teacher training, education and development market. Good luck for the future

 

More pay for teachers?

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for teachers’ pay? The latest update on projected pupil numbers through to 2027, issued by the DfE earlier today, suggest that the Treasury might now be able to see the point where teacher numbers will stabilise and, thus, the pay bill can be estimated with a greater degree of accuracy than when pupil numbers are on a rising curve.  The data is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-pupil-projections-july-2018

Civil servants will probably have had access to this data for some time, and it is possible to at least theorise that recent indications of more cash for schools, and specifically for teachers’ pay, might be as a result of an awareness of these numbers. I haven’t heard anything about the pay of other workers in schools, many of whom are far less highly paid than teachers, and don’t have the advantage of a Pay Review Body to provide oversight and guidance. Hopefully, they won’t be forgotten.

So, what are the latest numbers suggesting? In the primary sector the annual rate of increase is expected to fall gradually to NIL for 2020 and 2021, before decreases are projected (between 0.3% and 0.7% each year) until the end of the projection period. This is principally due to the lower birth projections in Office of National Statistics new population projections. The overall population in state-funded primary schools was 4,607,000 in 2018, and is projected to be 112,000 lower in 2027 at 4,494,000. Depending upon how class sizes are affected and the future for smaller schools under the present funding arrangements, this decline might mean 5,000 to 6,000 fewer teaching posts if cash goes into increase pay for existing teachers rather than reducing class sizes. As the teaching force gains more experience it also costs more to employ, so the level of retention is also important in determining the number of teachers that can be employed, especially once the decline in pupil numbers reaches Key Stage 2 where class sizes are not controlled by law.

In the secondary sector up to the end of Key Stage 4, the rate of increase in pupil numbers is expected to reach around 3.1% for the next two years before slowly dropping to NIL by the end of the projection period in 2027. As a result of these increases, the overall population in secondary schools is projected to reach 3,267,000 in 2027, some 418,000 higher than it was in 2018 and a 14.7% increase over the whole projection period. The increases will continue to feed through to the Key Stage 5 school population until at least the end of the 2020s. These numbers suggest that over the time period under discussion there might be a need for between 20,000 to 25,000 extra teachers, and possibly even more depending on the shape of the curriculum and any changes in teaching methods.

As the DfE points out, ‘There are inherent uncertainties in projecting the future size of the pupil population. This is particularly true for early age cohorts, which are the most immediately dependent on projections of future birth rates.’ Higher fertility rates and lower than expected migration could mean a difference of around 100,000 either way on the central projection. As the time period shorten, then the level of certainty can become greater and projections on teacher numbers also become firmer.

However, teaching might once more start looking like an attractive career, if you take the long-term view.

 

Design Matters again

I heard on the Today programme this morning about the initiative by the V&A Museum in London to boost the status of design and technology as a subject in our schools. Looking back over the posts on this blog, it seems several years now since the subject generated a post on its own. Maybe this is because of the overwhelming narrative that the only subjects of worth are those in the EBacc, so beloved of Ministers.

This blog has never accepted the view that the EBAcc represented a broad and balanced curriculum, and has certainly made the point that subjects more related to real life and the working world of many millions of citizens deserves more appreciation in our schools. Can our schools currently help produce the next generation of designers to power future companies that will rise to the heights of Apple?

The recent commemorations of D-Day reminded me both of the part played by Hobart’s funnies in the landings and of the importance of the Bailey bridge, an early example of which can still be found on Port Meadow, just down the road from where I live in Oxford. Both are examples of good design fitting a purpose.

However, there will be a problem teaching design and technology as a subject to everyone in our schools unless there is a real push on recruitment into teacher training.

Design and Technology currently languishes as the subject at the foot of the recruitment table, with the worst record on the percentage of required places on ITT courses being filled. The V&A could help to inspire a scholarship scheme such as for physics, chemistry and some other subjects, as part of the conference it is hosting today. If design and technology is so important, then so are those that teach it.

There is a lot of information around, not least on TeachVac, about where the schools trying to recruit design and technology teachers are located, but it requires more forensic analysis of the School Workforce Census to discover those schools where the subject has either been eliminated from the curriculum or severely curtailed. I also suspect that in some cases art and design and technology have become merged into a single department or faculty with consequent effects on both curriculum areas.

I am sure that toy manufacturers can also play a part in awakening more interest in the subject by creating making toys rather than playing screen-based games. If in order to progress and win a game you needed to demonstrate making skills that might prove an incentive for the learning how to make and mend rather than use and throw that so characterises many areas in our consumer society from fashion to food. If we make our meals, are we less likely to waste the food?

Design and technology needs a series of champions to raise the profile of the subject in our schools. I hope that the conference as the V&A, a wonderful repository and showcase for the applied arts, design and technology will be the start of the revival in the fortunes for the subject in our schools.

London is a different country

Among the more detailed numbers published yesterday by the DfE in the plethora of statistics about the school workforce in November 2018 was a breakdowns of the data by individual school; by local authority and by region of the country, with London further subdivided into Inner and Outer London, thus making ten regions in all.

In many respects the teacher workforce in London, and especially Inner London, is very different to the workforce in the rest of England. London is often regarded, along with New York, and a few other places, as a mega-city that is substantially different to its surrounding areas. To allow for comparison purposes, I have included data on the teacher workforce for Oxfordshire and the average for England as a whole in a table shown below.

  Inner London Inner London rank Outer London Outer London

rank

England

(Average)

Oxfordshire
% Male teachers 28.2% 1 25.6% 6 25.9% 24.3%
% Ethnic minority teachers 44.4% 1 37.8% 2 14.0% 9.6%
PTR (Overall) 15.7 1 17.7 =2 18.0 18.3
% part-time teachers 15.2% 10 19.8 8 23.7% 33.3%
% teachers 50+ 15.8% 10 18.2% 8 17.6% 20.7%
Average salary £45,285 1 £42,647 2 £39,504 £38,372
% of teachers with an allowance 43.6% 1 40.% 2 35.8% 31.7%
% teachers with one period of sickness 57.8% 1 56.4% 2 54.4% 52.3%
% schools reporting a vacancy 20.7% 2 23.1% 1 11.1% 10.7%

Source: DfE School Workforce Census tables. Note there are ten region including two for London.

Inner London is at the extreme in all aspect considered in the table, only ceding first or last place to Outer London in respect of the percentage of schools reporting a vacancy. With separate distinct pay rates, it is not surprising to find London toping the average salary figures, but it is perhaps more surprising to find it the top region for male teachers, with more than a quarter of teachers being men, compared to only just over 24% in Oxfordshire.

The other outstanding percentage is for the percentage of non-White teachers employed. Approaching one in two teachers in Inner London, and more than a third in Outer London, are from ethnic minority non-white backgrounds. This compares to less than 10% of teachers with such backgrounds in Oxfordshire.

Despite paying higher salaries, London schools also manage to have the most favourable Pupil Teacher Ratios in England, some three pupils per teacher better in Inner London than in Oxfordshire. This is despite the many small schools in Oxfordshire, and does indicate the funding difference between London schools and those in much of the rest of England.

Additionally, it may well be that as a result of better funding teachers in London are more likely to receive an allowance than those elsewhere in England. However, this may also be part of a drive to ensure schools are fully staffed. If so, it is only working to some degree, as London schools, and especially those in Outer London, are more likely to report a vacancy than schools anywhere else in England.

Based upon these figures, it is imperative that Ministers and civil servants look beyond London when assessing information about the teacher workforce, and especially when reviewing claims about the funding of schools.