Education around the world: but not from an OECD perspective

Last Friday was World Teachers’ Day. Not something you might have noticed in the United Kingdom. To celebrate the occasion a new report was published that reviews the concerns and attitudes of over 400 leaders of teacher unions and associations. The data was gathered in late 2107 and the report was compiled by Prof. Nelly. P Stromquist of the University of Maryland. The Report is entitled, ‘The global Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession’. It can be accessed on line at: https://eiie.sharepoint.com/sites/researching/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx?id=%2Fsites%2Fresearching%2FShared%20Documents%2FStatus%20of%20Teachers%2Ffinal%20report%2F2018_EI_Research_StatusOfTeachers_ENG_final%2Epdf&parent=%2Fsites%2Fresearching%2FShared%20Documents%2FStatus%20of%20Teachers%2Ffinal%20report&p=true&slrid=1f9d969e-d00d-7000-f5a8-bc9f11329c8f

Some of the conclusions will be familiar to readers from the United Kingdom; most teachers associated with unions or teacher associations working in schools are some form of civil servant, by which I take it to mean that they are paid and employed by an arm of the State, either a national government or some form of more local administration.

Teachers are seen as middle ranking professionals, behind doctors and engineers but ahead of the police and on a par with nursing. Not all teachers are seen as of the same ranking, with university lecturers accorded a higher ranking than those working with young children. This is despite the really valuable work the educators of young children do in laying the foundations for what comes later.

Dissatisfaction with pay and conditions appears widespread around the world, according to the survey that underpins this report. Some teachers face issues unknown in this country, such as the teachers in Africa that have to travel long distances to collect their pay. One hopes that the development of mobile banking across that continent will help alleviate such an additional chore. Surely something where unions can push for a quick win and, as the report notes, it might help reduce teacher absence as well.

With large numbers of people moving around the world, either voluntarily or because of forced migration, there must be a considerable number of teachers among this group. However, few figures of the occupational history of migrants, and especially forced migrants is known. However the report on page 30 does state that ’UK Unions estimate that there are 34,000 immigrant teachers in their country’.  Can some of these help solve out teacher recruitment issues?

Around the world the picture of teacher supply is a complicated one. Attracting young people to the profession is a global challenge, especially where pay and conditions haven’t kept pace with those elsewhere in a society for positions requiring a similar level of education. However, 2017 was a period when most of the world was in a state of relative economic growth and public services often find recruitment a challenge in such circumstances. Across the world the attrition of maths and science teachers is much greater than for teachers of subjects such as history: something we would recognise in the UK.

There is an interesting section on trends in the privatisation of schooling. Unions still seem wedded to the notion of State education services, although the right of parents to choose is recognised. The concerns are as much about the welfare and service conditions of teachers as anything else: a legitimate concern for teacher unions and associations that work to protect their members as their primary function.

There is a lot more in this report than this piece can do justice to, so do take a look. Personally, I think splitting higher education and schooling into two separate reports might have made for a more focused outcome, but that is a minor criticism of an interesting and thought provoking report.

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Governors warn of teacher recruitment crisis

Tell us something we didn’t know, might be the first reaction to this headline from today’s Times newspaper. Indeed, October is a slightly odd time to publish such a survey, as it is well after the start of the school year and at a point where teacher recruitment is heading towards its autumn low point before picking up again in January.

However, I guess it took the TES some time to put together the answers from the National Governance Association members that completed the survey. Anyway, a survey of this type does help to keep the pressure on government, lest they try and bury concerns about teacher recruitment.

The figure for the extra number of teachers needed by the mid-2020s is also not really news, since the DfE has been publishing the forward planning associated with the Teacher Supply Model for the past couple of years. We have David Laws to thank for opening up this key planning tool to general visibility when he was Minister of State.  The next iteration of the Model is due to be published in a couple of weeks, towards the end of the month and will confirm future needs as the school population increases. No doubt this blog will comment on the DfE’s views at that time.

I was surprised that the NGA/TES Survey didn’t highlight the issues many schools have had this year trying to recruit a teacher of English. Indeed, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk  where I am the chair of the board, surveys key subjects on a daily basis and across the whole of England and we would rate English as more of a problem subject in 2018 than mathematics. As I pointed out last week on this blog, that might not be the case in 2019.

The report in the Times article didn’t mention regional recruitment issues. At TeachVac, we believe that the recruitment situation is generally at its worst in and around London. That’s not to say school elsewhere don’t face problems for specific reasons, but that a higher proportion of school in London and the Home Counties may expect to find recruitment difficult.

The Times newspaper article also ignored the challenges in vocational subjects such as business studies and parts of the design and technology curriculum. That’s probably not surprising, as the DfE shows a complete lack of interest in these subjects, not even offering a bursary to business studies students despite the real challenges schools face in recruiting these teachers.

With the government’s school-based training scheme, School Direct, having stalled this year, the NGA ought to be asking what can be done to ensure teachers that train through higher education courses end up in the schools where they are needed. It is absolutely no use attracting more mature entrants on the back of the BBC Radio 4 series with Lucy Kellaway, if they are in the wrong place and wrong subjects. The Treasury ought to be asking why so many teachers of history are being trained at £9,250 a head. Wasting money training too many teachers is as much of an issue as not training enough, but receives fewer headlines.

 

Vision and not just rhetoric needed

As you might expect, Angela Rayner’s speech to the Labour Party Conference was strong on rhetoric, but short on real substance.

Take the following extract:

Our National Education Service will not only reverse the cuts but tackle the inefficiency of the Tories’ school system and take power from corporations and hand it to communities.

Might there be just the hint of an ambiguity there? What will be national and what will be returned to communities?

A promise of a national supply agency to extend the Conservative’s National Vacancy Service that is already competing with the market.

For local authorities, … we will allow them to build schools, create new places and take back control of admissions from academy trusts. But, nothing there about funds for local inspection and advice services and local coordination of teacher training places to ensure sufficient supply. Presumably, that will remain a national function not delegated to local authorities.

Then there is a bit of a muddle

So we’ll allow academies to return to local authority control. We’ll end the scandal of individuals and companies profiting from schools they are involved in, stopping fat cat pay for bosses and restoring fair pay for staff.

And we will use our time in government to bring all publicly funded schools back into the mainstream public sector, with a common rulebook and under local democratic control.

Will Labour create a fully locally governed system of schooling and at what level of government? Why create new cooperative schools, except that it sounds good, when a reshaping of the system with just two classes of state funded schools; maintained and voluntary. The latter being able to form groups of schools, along the model of diocesan schools. What happens to control of post-16 further education. Will colleges remain under national control or be integrated into a more local framework?

Missing was anything about the future of selective schools. Will Labour plan to reform them if it came to power?

Curiously, given the fact that Labour want to offer seats on the board to workers, there was no pledge to ensure staff could sit on governing bodies and no suggestion of how local policy development would need to involve governors, teachers and voluntary school operators. Is the old Education Committee model the way forward, or does Labour have any fresh ideas for local governance of education? Not yet clear, at least from this speech. Presumably, a work in progress?

Where does Labour stand on the curriculum, on testing and on inspection? Or aren’t these important enough matters to highlight in a speech aimed at applause rather than a blueprint for the future.

Missing also was any reference to how education will need to help young people face a world that will be very different from that of today. I know how important structures are, but I want an Education Secretary that can deal with those issues in a paragraph at the start of a speech and then provide a vision for the future that is more than a return to a ‘national service locally administered’ that is what yesterday’s speech seemed to promise.

(For readers that don’t know, it is right that I declare an interest as a Liberal Democrat Councillor on Oxfordshire County Council with the spokesperson role for education.)

UK Music Talent pipeline concerns

UK Music, is the industry-funded body established in October 2008 to represent the collective interests of the recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry.

To quote from their website, UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies through collective representation. https://www.ukmusic.org/about/

At the Liberal Democrat Conference this week UK Music published a pamphlet entitled ‘Securing our talent pipeline’ https://www.ukmusic.org/news/securing-our-talent-pipeline

As they acknowledge, the UK music industry is doing well at present. It grew by 6 per cent last year and is now worth £4.4 billion to the economy with the live music industry contributing around £1 billion. However, that is exactly the time to reflect on the future.

UK Music say that while the immediate outlook is promising, there is growing evidence of a looming crisis in the music industry’s talent pipeline – a pipeline that they rely on for future stars and one that is a vital part of their industry’s eco-system.

Schools form an important part of developing that talent pipeline, so I thought I would take a look at the evidence from TeachVac, the vacancy site for teachers where I am chair of the board. www.teachvac.co.uk about recruitment and the supply of teachers of music.

The headline statistic is that music in our schools, as a classroom taught subject, is more of a shortage subject than mathematics. Sadly, TeachVac doesn’t keep data on instrumental and other specialist music teaching at this point in time.

Despite cuts to the curriculum in state funded schools, there have been more than 600 vacancies for main scale classroom teachers recorded so far in 2018 by TeachVac. This is slightly down on the 632 vacancies recorded by this point in 2017, but not significantly so. The previous two years, 2015 and 2016 recorded around the 550 vacancies mark by this point in September.

Allowing for better coverage in 2017 and 2018 by TeachVac, there doesn’t seem yet to have been a collapse in demand for classroom teachers of music. However, there are significant regional differences. Around half of the vacancies recorded in 2018 were from secondary schools in either London or the South East, the regions with the largest concentration of independent schools and the best funded state schools. Relatively few vacancies have been recorded from schools in the North East so far in 2018.

The real cause of any shortage of teachers of music is the failure of the DfE to attract enough trainee teachers of music over the past few years, and especially for entry into teacher preparation courses in 2017. Last September, the DfE estimate in the Teacher Supply Model was for 409 music teachers; 295 were recruited according to their census of trainees. This year, by the middle of August, potential trainee numbers were slightly below the same period in 2017 and on target for around 280 trainees overall.

Allowing for failure to complete for various reasons, this means the number of new entrants in 2019 could be in the range of 250-275 for the 4,000 or so secondary schools across England. Turnover would need to be as low as five per cent to ensure sufficient new entrants, even assuming the distribution across the country was as required: an unlikely situation.

So, music may well be a subject of concern in 2019 and UK Music are right to worry about the long-term consequences for their industry and the UK Economy.

 

 

 

Will teacher supply worsen in 2019?

The problem with reports like the one published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) yesterday is that they don’t help policy makers very much. Headlines of a teacher shortage are nothing new and looking at the position in 2016 doesn’t tell anyone what is happening now and will happen in the 2019 labour market. As I said in yesterday’s blog post, knowing where the hot spots are is a useful piece of extra knowledge, but is that really what the leading think tank on education sees as the best use of its resources?

I promised in my blog about the UCAS data, also published yesterday, to look at trends in August offer numbers. The following table looks at key subjects for this August and the previous two years, as well as the change between 2016 and 2018.

Subject 2016 offers Number of Placed and conditional firm 2017 Number of Placed and conditional firm 2018 Difference 2018 on 2016
ART & DESIGN 635 505 460 -175
BIOLOGY 1305 965 920 -385
BUSINESS STUDIES 205 165 150 -55
CHEMISTRY 965 855 830 -135
CLASSICS 50 55 70 20
COMPUTING 520 520 590 70
DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY 465 315 460 -5
DRAMA 375 350 300 -75
ENGLISH 1825 1855 1890 65
GEOGRAPHY 875 1175 1150 275
HISTORY 920 1135 1070 150
MATHEMATICS 2395 2335 2380 -15
MFL 4470 4530 3850 -620
MUSIC 360 310 280 -80
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 1225 1195 1120 -105
PHYSICS 830 690 680 -150
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION 470 430 380 -90
17890 17385 16580 -1310

Source: UCAS monthly reports, August 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Despite the upward trend in pupil numbers, the trend in the number of offers has been downwards over the past two years. This suggests an even greater ‘crisis’ for schools in the 2019 labour market across some subjects, although the science numbers must be treated with  degree of discretion until the census appears in November due to a change in the method of recording offers by UCAS this year for applications. I doubt that Teach First will be riding to the rescue this year, although we must wait until November to find out their recruitment figures.

We don’t need more geography and history teachers, or last not as many more as have been recruited over the past two years. These offers don’t relate to the Teacher Supply model estimates of numbers needed, but many subjects will again fall short of that number. We will analyses the shortfall when the census appears. For a look at recent years, it is worth consulting the School Teachers’ Review Body’s latest report issued in July or you could look back through the posts on this blog. However, it is also worth remembering that EPI only looked at new entrants and didn’t fully factor in what might be happening with returner numbers, something NfER have been considering in their studies.

Might it be time to revive the posts of regional recruitment managers, used by the Labour government nearly 20 years ago during a previous recruitment crisis? Alternatively, do we need to make the most of the resources available by moving away from a free market? If it is acceptable for academy trusts to move teachers between schools should it not be acceptable to do so on a more national scale?

 

Marketing matters

TeachVac, the free recruitment site for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk is having a bumper August in terms of visitors. That’s not really a surprise, as Teachvac has upped the marketing budget to widen our reach even further than the record numbers of teachers reached during the recent peak recruitment season. The months between March and June witnessed records being broken every month.

August is a good time to market to teachers as they are often interacting with social media and may have more time than at other points in the year, apart from that week between Christmas and New Year.

TeachVac staff are also busy working away at updating all our information about schools. What was Edubase – now GIAS, ‘Government Information About Schools’ – seems to contain a proportion of errors. Most are trivial, names not yet updated or re-brokered academies were the data hasn’t caught up with the change. But, there are a small number of more serious issues, such as the primary school listed as a post-16 establishment and the multi-academy trusts where all schools are listed under the central office site, making it difficult for parents to know where each school is located and possibly skewing the data associated with the school that can affect the results for several different geographical areas.

Once TeachVac’s staff have completed their update, we will see if the DfE is interested in knowing of these issues? As it is a free service to schools and teachers, should TeachVac make a charge for such a service to the DfE?

On a different but not unrelated front, BERA, the British Education Research Association will publish a blog from 2016 posted on this site that I wrote about school recruitment differences across the country. This will form part of a new series BERA is promoting. I will provide the link to their site on the 5th September when it becomes active. It may also be possible to provide an update on the situation in 2018 to compare with the outcomes in 2016 what I wrote two years’ ago.

Next week will also see the August data from UCAS about recruitment to postgraduate teacher preparation courses starting this September. Although not the final figures, the August numbers do provide a clear direction of travel for the 2019 recruitment round. I hope to publish a three-year comparison of the August figures along with the regular monthly commentary.

 

Welcome -U- turn on EdTech

Readers with long memories, or at least those who were around in 2010, will recall the Tories famous bonfire of the QUANGOs. Michael Gove was an enthusiastic supporter of the movement, axing the GTCE and BECTA and starting the process that lead to the disappearance of the NCTL and all the good work it had undertaken in both leadership and initial teacher education. There were other less visible casualties of which some survived in the private sector whilst others disappeared.

Axing rather than reforming BECTA, the long-standing QUANGO (Quasi Autonomous Non-Government Organisation) on EdTech was a short-sighted move that has back fired on the government. As a result, I welcome today’s announcement that the government has once again recognised the importance of technology in education.

Throughout my career, this is an area I have championed, from the early use of video cameras to record both PE lessons for skills development and rehearsals of plays to improve the schools’ entry into one-act play festivals in the 1970s, through both my time at a teachers’ centre – sadly missed professional development hubs much more engaging that the teaching schools of today – to my time in a School of Education in the 1980s where student were required to create a tape-slide presentation for one of their assignments.

Even during my brief stay at the TTA in the 1990s, I helped commission the famous internet café stand at careers’ fairs that replaced the coffee table and a couple of armchairs plus a few posters that was the staple fare before then as the main means of selling teaching to graduates..

Sadly, as the whiteboard programme showed, there has often been a tendency to put the phone before the mast (to update the cart before the horse metaphor) when it came to new technology in education. How many boring presentations on OHPs in the old days and PowerPoint these days have you say through by educators that ought to know they needed a bit of training to make best use of the technology. Still, this was the profession that axed voice coaching as not academic enough for education degree courses, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of understanding of technology in teaching and learning by policy makers.

I would start with requiring all those that work with teachers in training to have a qualification in the use and development of education technology. As a geographer, I would have interactive earthquake and volcano sites open on a whiteboard in my classroom and challenge pupils to indicate anything unusual. Do that with Key Stage 2 pupils, and I guess many would soon know more about earthquakes and volcanoes than their teachers.

I think that Caroline Wright, Director General at the British Educational Suppliers Association summed my view up perfectly when she said:

I am delighted that the Department for Education’s plans place teacher training and support at the heart and soul of their future approach to EdTech and recognises that EdTech, when introduced as part of a whole school strategy, has the power to help improve pupil outcomes, save teacher time and reduce workload burdens.

As TeachVac has demonstrated in the field of teacher vacancies, technology can be very disruptive to existing orthodoxies, but that is not an excuse to do nothing and cling on to the past. –U- turns are never easy, but this one is both necessary and long overdue.