To educate: To draw out not to kick out

I am delighted that the governors of St Olaf’s have reversed their policy about those that their school is there to serve. Might this be one case where the diocese has played an important role in changing hearts and minds?

Could this be one of the turning points in education history? Might all state schools now consider the purpose for which they are funded: to educate all and not just promote the seeming best. The quote from C S Lewis, cited in my previous post, really does look like it belongs to a previous age. His Narnia chronicles may still resonate with children and parents, but his views on education certainly shouldn’t. There was an inkling of the national mood last year when the idea of more selective schools was doing the rounds in the more old-fashioned segments of the Conservative Party.

Now is also the time to ditch the culture of league table schooling. Those with a good understanding of the revolution caused by the 1987 Education Reform Act will recall that alongside financial devolution and the National Curriculum ran the concept of ten levels of achievement. This allowed every child to have another level to aspire to achieve. Even a child at level one had a goal and the school could work to help them achieve it. Sadly, somewhere along the line, we ditched the ‘every child has a goal’ for the measure of the gaol achieved by the school as a collective. Naturally, this led to a desire to remove those that weren’t helping the school maximise its potential.

Now, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that helped create schooling for all, it is time to redefine our beliefs in the role of education. We should no longer be looking for reasons to exclude, but for methods to challenge our pupils to succeed. Such a change will reinforce the great work already undertaken by many teachers and could even help to attract more entrants into the profession.

As a next step, the government might like to evaluate whether the over-insistence on the English Baccalaureate is actually hindering the aim of all pupils achieving both personal goals and goals of use to society? As a geographer by background, I welcome pupils studying the subject through to Year 11, but not at the expense of subjects such as design and technology. That subject has been so decimated by government actions that it is suggested that only 315 trainees had taken up offers of places on teacher preparation courses by late August. This is compared with more than 1,100 a few years ago.

Yet, a love of technology, or design and certainly of food can become an important motivator for life after school. Yes, homes and even TV programmes can play their part, but the motivation and support provided by schools remains critical in the development of a child’s education and their future progress as an adult.

The Secretary of State should now reaffirm the purpose of state education as developing the potential of every child entrusted to the State by their families. Those that want to enter a high stakes risk form of education, where lack of success mean exclusion, can still use the private sector.

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Not a good year for ITT

The final set of UCAS numbers for ITT before most course start next month were published today. Earlier in the week, in preparation for the today’s publication, I took a look at the daily figures for a date in late August 2017 and compared them with the same date in 2016. The comparison didn’t make for encouraging reading.

Subject Difference between 2017 on 2016 offers Number of Placed and conditional firm 2017
ART & DESIGN -130 505
BIOLOGY -340 965
BUSINESS STUDIES -40 165
CHEMISTRY -110 855
CLASSICS 5 55
COMPUTING 0 520
DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY -150 315
DRAMA -25 350
ENGLISH 30 1855
GEOGRAPHY 300 1175
HISTORY 215 1135
MATHEMATICS -60 2335
MFL -50 1420
MUSIC -50 310
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 30 1195
PHYSICS -140 690
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION -40 430
OTHERS -95 500

In the table I have reproduced two sets of the data; the difference between the number of ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ offers made in 2017 compared with on the same date in 2016 and the actual number of place and conditional firm offers recorded across all four types of courses (higher education, SCITTs, and the two School Direct routes).  Now a couple of caveats; numbers are rounded, so are not exact, but indicative, and some people offed places may not turn up or stay when they do start the course. These decisions will affect the number in the published ITT census to be released in November. These changes could be balanced or, we live in hope, exceeded by those still in the system being processed at this time. However, in many subjects, the numbers awaiting offers and otherwise in the process of having their application considered is also lower than in 2016.

The good news is in Geography, history and physical education, where, in these subject, offers are up on 2016. In English and computing there are smaller improvements and certainly not enough to mean these subjects will hit their Teacher Supply Model number. Elsewhere, there is gloom with fewer offers than last year even when the ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ numbers have been added together.

On the basis of these figures, as this blog has been reporting since the start of the year, 2018 is likely to be a more challenging recruitment round for schools seeking teachers than 2017 has been, unless either funding cuts significantly reduce the demand for teachers or existing teachers receive a pay rise that absorbs more of school funds so reducing recruitment of teachers. TeachVac will report on those trends as the 2018 recruitment round unfolds from January 2018 onwards.

As this blog has reported consistently over the past few months, the key loss is from women in the 21-22 age groups, where offers are down by several hundred compared with recorded numbers last year. This is a very worrying trend and needs further investigation to see which subjects are especially affected as the increases in history and geography offers may be masking some quite large declines in other subjects. The DfE may wish to ask their advertising agency why the marketing campaign is not attracting this age group in the same numbers as in the past.

The other policy issue for the DfE to consider is where School Direct is heading? There are fewer offers for both the fee and salaried routes in secondary subjects this year, with English particularly badly affected. The decline in numbers on these routes will mean more schools competing for the trainees prepared through the higher education and SCITT routes where offers seem to have held up much better.

Now it may be that schools are switching from School Direct to consider an apprenticeship approach. If so, that change cannot be captured in this data but does need to be monitored somehow. If not, then the future direction of allocations will need consideration as to how to maximise entrants into the profession for 2019 onwards when secondary pupil numbers will be rising rapidly.

 

More news from TeachVac

As we start a new school year, TeachVac, the national vacancy service for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk has introduced the first of its new suite of developments that marks its continued growth. TeachVac is now the largest single source of free teaching vacancies for both schools and teachers in England across both state-funded and private schools.

Supporting the public face of the platform, where schools place vacancies for free and teachers can receive daily notification of vacancies meeting their requirements, is an important back office of statistical information. From today, TeachVac has widened the range of subjects where we collect more than the basic data on vacancies, to include both languages and English. These new subjects join mathematics, the sciences, design and technology, and computing in the list of subjects where additional data about every recorded vacancy is now being recorded.

For many of these subjects, such as the design and technology, the sciences and languages, it allows TeachVac to understand the real aims of schools when advertising generically for a teacher of science or languages. What sciences or combination of languages are these schools really seeking? How much are they willing to pay for particular specialisms? Is there really a growing demand for teachers of Mandarin? Up until now such information hasn’t been easily available. TeachVac now codifies the information on a daily basis. If you are interested in knowing more about the project and exactly what data are being collected then contact the team at TeachVac via the web site. Sadly, unlike the free to use basic vacancy matching service, data requests are not provided free of charge, but involve a small fee.

In addition to data about teaching vacancies at all levels, and in both primary and secondary schools, TeachVac also collects data about technician posts in secondary schools. This can be a good guide to how funding issues are affecting schools, since turnover among these posts tends to be higher than for teachers and resignations are not fixed to the same termly cycle as for most teaching vacancies. This can make them more sensitive to changes in funding an act as a barometer for the market.

As August is the holiday month, TeachVac is delighted to have welcomed visitors from more than 70 countries to the site so far this month; another new record. Overall visits to the TeachVac site have once again doubled over the past year and the trend continues to be upward. In January 2018, TeachVac will publish its first look at trends in the labour market for head teachers. This will continue a trend of such reports first started in the mid-1980s.

Over recent months there has been intense interest in how vacancies are communicated to teachers by schools and how the cost of recruitment can be reduced. TeachVac has a credible free service that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use and has the capacity to save millions of pounds for schools, especially those with large recruitment budgets as a result of both the growth in pupil numbers or increasing teacher turnover as recorded by the DfE in their annual School Workforce Censuses.

 

Who was right?

Four years ago, in August 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘STEM subjects lead retreat from teaching’. Shortly afterwards a DfE spokesperson, helpfully anonymous, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying of my delving into the then current teacher training position that there was no teacher shortage, adding ‘This is scaremongering and based on incomplete evidence.’ Well, four years on and the sixth year some training numbers are going to be missed, I wonder how we might view that exchange in the light of subsequent events.

Of course, in some ways, the newspaper article said more about journalists and the need to identify both sides of a story than about the real situation regarding recruitment into training at that time. Did the Daily Mail journalist check whether the DfE spokesperson was doing anything more than trying to put the government in a good light? Did they ask what the complete evidence showed or did they just print the DfE line? I cannot now recall exactly what happened, but I don’t remember being presented with any DfE evidence and asked how it challenged my thoughts and comments.

Making statements about teacher supply that show governments up in anything but a perfect light is never going to make one popular, even with the Party you belong to, and especially when it is in a coalition government. However, to be fair to officials at the DfE, the press office line was replaced by the only Statistical Bulletin ever issued in August containing the final allocations into training through the various routes, although at that time Teach First was still being excluded from the overall totals, much as employment based routes had been earlier in the century. Happily, Teach First totals now appear in the national data sources with regard to numbers being prepared to achieve qualified teacher status. I hesitate to say, prepared to teach since they are in classroom from September, albeit after an extensive and demanding summer school. The publication of those allocations allowed a debate about the number of offers identified through the recruitment process and the decisions about how the training place totals were reached that probably helped David Laws to agree to publish the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model and its working for debate when he was the Minister responsible for that aspect of the DfE’s work. We now live in a much more open culture, although the UCAS data is still being presented in what might be regarded as a less than helpful manner.

As I write this blog, a second journalist has been in contact with me this summer about the position schools will face this September with regard to staffing: editors are clearly looking for the start of term story for 2017 after the examination outcomes have been fully discussed. As I have made clear for some time, 2017 is likely to have been an easier recruitment round than last year, partly due to funding pressures, but also because recruitment into training was higher than in the previous year.

As I have also made clear, 2018 looks as if it will be a more challenging recruitment round for schools if teacher preparation numbers turn out as I expect this autumn. Of course, the current advertising campaign and the millions of pounds being invested in recruiting teachers from overseas might tip the balance and, suddenly, there will be a surfeit of Physics teachers, but then teachers might also be paid more than 1% in a pay rise. We can always hope.

 

 

 

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:

English

IT/Computing

Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education

Music

Geography

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.

 

 

Who remembers the OHP now?

The Centre for Education Economics has produced an interesting research digest on the ‘Evidence on uses of technology in education’.  http://www.cfee.org.uk/sites/default/files/CfEE%20Annual%20Research%20Digest%202016-17%20-%20web%20version.pdf?mc_cid=9c5c208670&mc_eid=11bc2206a8

Now, the use of technology isn’t new in education and much technology, such as the cassette tape-recorder, banda copiers and the OHP has come, gone and faded into the memories of those of us of certain ages. Throughout the whole of my life, the problem all too often isn’t the technology, but rather the way teachers and others are taught to make use of it in helping the learning process.

If I was still teaching geography, I guess I would have a string of web sites open on my interactive whiteboard to let pupils watch for a magnitude 6 earthquake; a volcanic eruption and at this time of year the development of hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, all so as to engage all my classes in knowing the dynamics of these natural events and possibly encouraging them to find out more. Today, I would have a web cam streaming live from somewhere in the USA celebrating the 4th July. All this is low level motivational use of technology.

I am convinced that data recording can help play an important part in pinpointing where resources are needed, although all too often teachers are required to create and input the data. The next generation of learning technology should address that issue. Indeed, I wonder whether we should be spending the cash currently expended on research into driverless cars into improving the learning process for those we fail at present in our education system. I always wonder whether, with the development of technology we need, those preparing the next generation of teachers are as open to new possibilities and to enthusing the next generation of teachers to be aware of the way the world is changing as I would like them to be.

I first used a word processor in 1979; it revolutionised the work I could undertake for the dissertation I was researching and eventually writing at that time. From mail merging the letters accompanying my questionnaire, to changing spelling mistakes the day before submission, there were lots of small advantages. However, the real benefit was longer to arrange and rearrange my thoughts and analysis to produce a higher standard of writing that would have been much more challenging to achieve with just pen and ink or that other disappeared piece of technology, the typewriter.

This blog would not be possible without the developments in technology and I would only be able to communicate with the outside world if someone, as the TES did in 1998, offered me the opportunity to write a column for their magazine.

Indeed, TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk our free to schools and teachers job board is the product of disruptive new technology that has driven down the cost of communicating teaching posts to the audience seeking them out.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education act, I remain an optimist that technology can improve our lives for the better and reduce the learning deficit some many children still experience, especially at the start of their formal education.

Immediately after writing this post I came across the following BBC video posted today that raises many of the same issues about technology and learning

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-40485293/the-futuristic-school-where-you-re-always-on-camera

Well worth a view.

Job Done Mrs May

We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.                                                         Conservative Party Manifesto page 51

Good news for the Conservatives: this already exists and is free – TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk is now the largest teacher job site in England and is free to all users; schools to place vacancies and teachers and returners to locate jobs that meet their needs.

So, Mrs May, pick up the phone and call the team in Newport Isle of Wight and we will happily show you how the service operates. We are already saving schools millions of pounds in recruitment advertising and with government support, such as is envisaged for the supply sector, we can channel probably another £50 million into teaching and learning while providing accurate and up to the minute management information for civil servants and ministers.

This is one area where you can say, job done, even before the election.