Requiem for an Agency

This week saw the final rites for the National College of Teaching and Leadership with the publication on the 5TH December of their final annual report and accounts before the College disappeared from the scene and its functions were re-absorbed into the Department for Education. You can read the report at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nctl-annual-report-and-accounts-2017-to-2018

Thus ends an era that started with the Teacher Training Agency in the mid-1990s, when QUANGOs were fashionable (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations for those that don’t remember the initials). Tony Blair created a National College and for a period of time mandated that all new head teachers should hold the National Professional Qualification for headship (NPQH). Then came a period of amalgamation and eventually a change in attitude to how government is run. While Regional School Commissions became fashionable, the arm’s length body for the teaching profession that the NCTL was becoming after the demise of the General Teaching Council didn’t fit in with the emerging agenda of the control of schools from Westminster.

As someone that worked at the then Teacher Training Agency for 1997-1998, I can see that the relationship between the Department and its satellite bodies was always fraught with problems. Teach First was a Department creation and for many years the employment-based routes were administered from Sanctuary Buildings or its Manchester outpost rather than by the TTA or its successors.

The quasi arm’s length functions that remain are now under the auspices of the Teacher Regulation Agency. However, even that agency has to see its decisions on disciplining teachers signed-off by a civil servant on behalf of the Secretary of State.

So what did the NCTL do in its final year? The list of tasks in the annual report covered:

  • provided over £286 million funding in the form of bursaries and grants, in order to incentivise recruitment to initial teacher training;
  • ensured that most of the teacher trainees required to meet the needs of schools in England were recruited;
  • delivered a national teacher recruitment marketing campaign;
  • developed and funded a range of routes into teaching;
  • improved National Professional Qualification (NPQ) provision;
  • continued to support participants still to be assessed on the previous NPQ programmes;
  • provided targeted support for continuing leadership professional development;
  • increased the number of teaching schools and system leaders;
  • managed the awarding of Qualified Teacher Status to individuals following an accredited ITT course in England & Wales and overseas; and
  • managed referrals of allegations of serious misconduct against teachers to consider whether individuals should be prohibited from teaching in any school in England.

On all these task, Minister will now have nowhere to hide. This will be especially true if recruitment into the profession falls short of targets set by the Teacher Supply Model. Ministers will now have nobody else to blame but themselves for any shortfall.

In the accounts at the back of the report is the figure spent on advertising and publicity by the NCTL. In the 2016/17 financial year, this was £14.4 million. In 2017/18, the expenditure had increased to £20.4 million, and increase almost £6 million. So, at least one industry is benefiting from the teacher recruitment crisis.

 

Advertisements

Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.

 

Leavers, remainers and entrants – new data from the DfE

Last week, the DfE published the snappily titled Teacher Analysis Compendium 4 that brought together a series of notes about the state of recruitment, retention and training within the state-sector teacher workforce. The link to the document is: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4

I am highly delighted to recommend the new tool that analyses the data relating to entrants; leavers and remainers. Regular readers will know that I have complained regularly that the percentage of the cohort remaining wasn’t backed by the actual numbers of the cohort remaining. Now everyone can see both sets of data: a great improvement and one worth saying thank you to civil servants for taking the time and effort to create.

If you have an interest in teaching take time to drill down into the data for say, secondary remainers by government region and compare inner London with the North East. I won’t put a spoiler alert here. There are many different combinations that interested researchers can create from the data and I am sure that it won’t be long before research papers and conference talks start using this data.

The one drawback is the historical nature of the data. Sadly, it cannot tell anything about whether the direction of travel has changed since the latest year in the tables – now two years ago – and that can be important information when there are changes in the labour market and alterations in the direction of the size of the school population. Fortunately, job boards such as TeachVac, and presumably the DfE’s own site, can provide up to the minute information of the operation of the job market.

Another shortcoming of the DfE data it that it cannot tell anything either about the crossover between the state funded and private sectors or between schools and further education. Both are useful pieces of data for policy makers. Job boards can advise on trends in recruitment in the private sector and it ought to be possible to link schools and further education data together at least at a high level.

University teacher trainers will no doubt be pleased with what the data says about retention over both the longer and shorter terms of their trainees in non-LA maintained schools. However, it would be helpful to have definitions of reference groups such as EBITT and where non LA Maintained schools refers to the school only when it was a non-maintained school or all data for that school during the time period by linking URNs together where a school has changed status?

Perhaps the most frightening of the tables is the one showing an age breakdown of teachers leaving the state sector. The table identifies three age groupings that might be described as; younger; mid-career and approaching retirement age. The increase across many of the subjects in departure percentages among the younger age group and also the actual numbers must be of concern, especially against the background of a rising secondary school population. These young teachers are the leaders for tomorrow. To provide but one example: the number of female teachers of English under the age of 35 leaving increased from 770 in 2011 to 1,123 in 2017 and that must be a concern.

For anyone interested in teacher recruitment and retention this is an invaluable resource. Thanks again to the DfE.

TeachVac or the DfE site?  

Which free site offers the best approach to finding a teaching job?

There are the only 2 sites for teaching vacancies in England with national coverage that are free to both schools and teachers. One is offered by TeachVac the other is the developing DfE site.

I would add that I have been chair of the group operating TeachVac since its inception over four years ago. TeachVac like the new DfE site came about because of the high cost to schools of recruitment advertising.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk uses a defined request approach. Users register and can specify their preferences for phase, location and other key criteria. As vacancies enter the system they are matched and each day details of new matches are sent to registered users to decide whether to take time in finding out more about the school and the vacancy.

This method does not require users to do any searching of the site and preferences can be changed if not enough matches are found in a particular area. The system is simple to use and in periods of the year when there are many jobs on offer – specifically from March to June for classroom teacher posts – applicants do not need to waste time searching through lots of unsuitable vacancies.

The DfE offering is at https://teaching-jobs.service.gov.uk/ and is based around a more traditional open search system that requires teachers to specify filters. A click through on a vacancy also doesn’t take you directly to the school site, but to a more detailed analysis of the vacancy with a link in a sidebar to the vacancy page.

At present, the coverage of the DfE’s site is limited and applicants will have to keep checking to see if the area that they are interested in now live on the DfE site. TeachVac has coverage of the whole of England.

TeachVac includes both independent and all types of state funded primary and secondary schools in its coverage, whereas the DfE only handles state funded schools.

Let’s leave aside the concept of the State taking over from the market in providing a service; something odd to see from a Conservative government.

The DfE, like TeachVac, is trying to save schools money in these straightened financial times, but costs more to operate than TeachVac.

So, register with TeachVac. If it doesn’t meet your requirements, you can easily deregister and be forgotten by the site, then visit the DfE site and see how they compare?

If you like the TeachVac approach – no nonsense, no marketing and daily alerts if new jobs arise, then let me know and tell your friends and colleagues. Please also make suggestions for improvements and possible marketing routes.

TeachVac also tells schools that register with the site about the state of the market when they post a vacancy and has special arrangements for both diocese and multi-academy trusts wanting to list vacancies at several different schools.

To finish with a reminder. TeachVac is free to use for both teachers, returners and schools. It is offered as a service to the education community.

 

 

 

Shooting the messenger

My sympathies are more with Ofsted than the PAC after the publication today of their Report by the Public Accounts Committee. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/1029/102902.htm

It is disappointing that so few PAC members were able to attend for both the two witness sessions and the subsequent approval of the draft report. How can anyone that didn’t attend the witness session really be expected to vote on the report, especially one so critical?

What really matters, and both the National Audit Office that reports to the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee itself should now focus upon, is how are critical reports from Ofsted are acted upon. There are widely different outcomes, even across the government controlled academy and free school sector, with Regional School Commissioners acting promptly on Ofsted reports in some cases and doing nothing in public in other cases. Even the Secretary of State’s speech in May, promising prompt action, doesn’t seem to have changed the landscape very much, if at all.

Ofsted surely isn’t perfect, but it has had budget cuts far greater than most schools have suffered and seen the local inspection and advisory services that used to provide important intelligence almost completely wiped out across large swathes of the country.

Layla Moran MP, the Lib Dem on the PAC and an opponent of Ofsted since her election to parliament in 2017 has said today that:

… the problems with Ofsted are not just operational. Ofsted’s judgements lack reliability and validity. Their inspections heap pressure on to teachers that far outweighs any benefits they provide.

“Rather than focusing narrowly on results, our education system should value long-term success and the wellbeing of our children and teachers.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats would abolish Ofsted and replace it with a new system for school inspections which would take into account pupil and parent feedback and teacher workload. We must work with struggling schools to help them improve, rather than simply writing them off.”

Writing schools off after an inspection isn’t the fault of Ofsted, although they could be more forceful in some follow up monitoring visits, by laying the blame on other agencies for not intervening appropriately. The system needs to help schools improve, not just the inspection service. That is why a continued monitoring of schools and action, where necessary at a local level, is important. Since that isn’t possible under the present funding regime, this looks a bit like the PAC trying to shoot the messenger.

Are parents and students not listened to in the course of Ofsted inspections? I frequently read comments inspectors have included from parents and indeed pupils about issue such as bullying and behaviour. No doubt more could be done to increase feedback from just a minority, but as evidence it also needs evaluating against other data and observations.

The issue of teacher workload and an objective measure of whether or not a school is using its staffing resources wisely should be part of the on-going monitoring of schools at a system level. Here Ofsted is still hampered in respect of academy trusts and the oversight of other groups of schools.

We do need a system that is more quality assurance than quality control, but above all we need to ensure enough properly trained and qualified teachers for each and every school, otherwise any inspection regime will always continue to uncover under-performing schools.

Welcome for BERA Bites series

BERA, The British Educational Research Association today publishes the second in its series of BERA Bites https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publications/issue-2-educational-leadership-are-our-schools-fit-for-the-future

The BERA Bites series presents selected articles from the BERA Blog on key topics in education, presented in an easily printable and digestible format to serve as teaching and learning resources for students and professionals in education. Each collection features an introduction by editors with expertise in the field, and each article includes questions for discussion, composed by the authors, prompting readers to further explore the ideas and arguments put forward in the original articles.

This second BERA Bite is especially of interest to this blog as it contains a post from almost exactly two years ago. The post appeared on this blog on the 7th September 2016 and you can read it be either downloading the BERA bits of searching the archive on this blog for September 2016. The post was entitledRecruitment, Retention and Region The three ‘R’s’ challenging school performance in England’.

I am grateful to BERA for putting this series together. It is a new form of peer review to have blog posts reviewed as well as more formal articles and the BITES series can become useful teaching aids for particular topics if kept regularly up to date. The issue of relevance is key. I turned to writing a blog, partly because for 11 years I wrote a variety of weekly columns for the TES and partly because, in a fast moving area such as the labour marker for teachers, writing academic articles is fine and dandy, but by the time they appear they are often only of historical interest in terms of policy development.

This is best seen in the series of posts on this blog during August 2013, when I wrote a post on the 7th August predicting a teacher supply crisis in London starting in 2014. The subsequent posts show the government reacted to my conclusions. Had I written an article for an academic journal about a possible teacher supply crisis and submitted it in August 2013, some reviewers might have rejected it as lacking sufficient evidence and, even if sufficiently articulate and scholarly, neither outcomes I can guarantee to produce, it would have bene sometime in 2014 before it saw the light of day.

This is not to argue for the demise of academic journals, there place is firmly established in the academic discourses but to welcome the move BERA and others are making to recognise that some areas of education policy move at a different pace to other and may need different forms of discourse and that there is a need for teaching materials prompting readers to further explore the discussions put forward in the original articles.

So, please do read the BERA Bites both 1 & 2 and let BERA know what you think of the new series. If you are not a BERA member, but a regular reader of this blog, then you might want to consider whether it would be worth joining BERA, even if only for the access to the range research and information it provides to those interested in education.

How has teacher expertise changed recently?

Following on from the previous post about today’s EPI study, I thought that I would update the Table from the Migration Advisory Committee report on teacher expertise, with the findings of the 2016 and 2017 School Workforce Census.

The percentage of hours taught in a typical week to pupils in years 7 to 13 by teachers with no subject relevant post A-level qualification
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Maths 16 16 18 17 20 18 12.8 12.9
Physics 21 24 26 26 28 25 24.6 24.8
D&T 11 15 18 17 19 17 14.2 14.1
ICT 48   44 41 39 44 38 30.6 31.3
English 12 13 15 15 17 13 9.6   9.8
Geography 11 16 18 18 17 14 12.5 12.9
History 10 13 15 15 15 11 8.6   8.8
PE   9 11 12 11 11   7    4   3.8
Source School Workforce Census as included in the Report of the Migration Advisory Committee with 2016 & 2017 data added.

Now, there is a teacher shortage and this blog had a spot of bother back in the summer of 2014 when it first revealed a possible teacher supply crisis. It is also accepted that teacher shortages overall and of those most appropriately qualified are likely to be most significant in schools with higher levels of deprivation than in areas of affluence. It is also worth recalling that pupil numbers in secondary schools were falling in the years up to 2016, and that budget pressures can also play a part in determining class sizes as well as availability of qualified teachers.

In further posts today, I will examine the UCAS data both for August this year, as a predictor of the 2019 supply side of the teacher labour market and then consider how 2019 compares with the previous two years for August’s in relation to the expectation of trainee numbers.

There is room for a genuine debate about how the teacher stock can be best used to provide the best outcomes for all pupils. But, that may require a degree of intervention by government not acceptable in a capitalist economy: hence, presumably, EPI’s suggestion of market based solutions. The failure of the attempts by the coalition government, of which David Laws the head of EPI was a serving Minister in the DfE, to create either a National Teaching Service or a method of providing head teachers to challenging schools, shows how complicated the labour market in teaching can be when no one body has overall control and budgets are allocated to individual schools. But, that debate has been well-rehearsed already on this blog.

There is also the issue of where increasing recruitment into training would mean more teacher unemployment? Can the system absorb more trainees? Evidence from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk suggest that in mathematics that might be a challenge to employ increased numbers of trainees as there are unlikely to be many suppressed vacancies and increased supply might not be met be increased demand, unless those already teaching maths and regarded as under-qualified were either redeployed or made redundant in some way. Could making someone redundant to replace them with someone doing the same job, but with different qualifications, see some employment law challenges?

Fortunately, rising pupil numbers offers a way out of that dilemma, as does harnessing modern technology effectively to assist the teaching and learning process.