Some subjects may still be short of teachers in 2021

The covid-19 pandemic has come too late in the recruitment round to ensure that all teacher preparation courses for graduates in all subjects will recruit enough students for September 2020 in order to ensure enough teachers for September 2021 vacancies.

On the basis of the July data from UCAS, the number of ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ applications were sufficient in biology; Business Studies; English; history; music; physical education; religious education; art and modern languages to reasonably expect the DfE’s Teacher Supply Number to be reached. The percentage in art and design is the highest number recorded for more than a decade. The primary sector should also exceed its target set by the DfE.

On the other hand, computing and geography might meet the target with a few more acceptable applicants during the summer. However, it seems unlikely that chemistry; design & technology; mathematics and physics will meet the desired number this year. There simply haven’t been enough time to attract applicants, unless that is there is a stream of highly qualified applicants between early July and the start of September.

Interestingly, 24% of applications in physics were in the ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ categories by mid-July 2020. This was the same percentage as in 2019. The figure for mathematics was also 24% in both July 2019 and July 2020. In Chemistry it had dropped from 25% in 2019, to 23% this year, although there were nearly 600 more applications for providers to process, so the final percentage might be higher.

In music, the percentage in the ‘Placed’, ‘Conditionally Placed’ and ‘Holding an Offer’ categories by mid-July 2020 was 32%, one of the highest for any subject, and up from 26% in July 2019. Physical education, not a shortage subject, has seen their percentage increase from 20% in July 2019 to 24% in July 2020.

So, 2020 looks like being the best year for recruitment into training for teaching for five or six years, but it seems unlikely that all subjects will meet their targets. However, there may well be a glut of both physical education and history teachers entering the market in 2021, unless all the vacancies lost this year by schools either retrenching or not needing to recruit appear again for September 2021.

Would I take on the extra debt to train as either a PE or a history teacher? Well, I would certainly look at the employment record of the course offering me a place this year and check with TeachVac what the job situation is like in these subjects, especially in view of any debt to the government that will be incurred by joining the course. After all, we don’t know what might happen to interest rates and repayment terms as the government seeks to manage the economy over the next few years.

Support school leaders

One of the more interesting aspects of the labour market in education at this time is the number of head teacher vacancies on offer. A quick search on the DfE’s web site revealed that 15% of the 168 vacancies listed today were for head teachers. To verify that number, it is necessary to remove all non-teaching posts – of which there are still quite a few- and separate out the genuine head teacher vacancies from other leadership posts that include not only other senior leadership posts, at deputy and assistant head teacher level, but also head of department vacancies.

This number of head teacher vacancies in late July is not exceptional, but normally one would have expected schools to have made arrangements for leadership during the next school-year that all too soon will be upon us.

However, recognising the huge strain that has been placed upon head teachers since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, and the universal lockdown of society, it would not be surprising if some head teachers were now starting to think of their future.

It is essential that head teachers, and indeed all staff in schools, can take a genuine break over the next six to seven weeks. The long autumn term is always a strain for everyone, even after a normal summer break. To start September not fully refreshed is to risk an education system that will just not function properly.

My concern about staffing in the autumn, following the collapse in vacancies since March, has led me to call for a scheme to provide support for newly qualified teachers unable to secure a teaching job. These new teachers are a resource we cannot afford to squander.

We have seen them invest in their training through the student loan programme. They entered into training as teachers in good faith. In some case making the decision to train as a teacher in the autumn of 2018, when applications opened. Dumping these individuals on the growing pile of the unemployed, while the interest payments on their student loans continues to mount up, is not fair.

As I have said in the past, we don’t treat trainee members of the armed forces or many other public services, including new recruits to the civil service, in this way.

If we lose even 20% of this year’s class of new teachers from the profession that will have a profound effect on middle and senior leadership recruitment in the years to come.

Should we see a surge in departures of head teachers, either in the autumn or more likely next January, then we do need to have the candidates in the system to step up and fill the roles that underpin the supply of new head teachers.

We might also start by looking at how many Executive Head Teachers there are overseeing MATs, and whether there is room for rationalisation, and some cost saving as a result.

This has been a challenging year for school leaders, and those responsible for policy must ensure that one of the consequences of covid-19 is not a breakdown in the leadership of any of our schools.

Swallows and summer

If there is one thing more certain than swallows appearing in summer then it is that during a recession private schools will go bust, either on the first day or the summer holidays or the last. The actual day will depend upon how close to the line the fee income is in meeting the bills, and especially the wage bill for the following year.

The present recession is even more challenging for these schools, since the furlough scheme has muddied the waters on exactly how many people will be made redundant, and when. Even though most redundancies will be among the population that cannot afford private education, some managers and higher paid staff will lose their jobs.

Today, I learnt of a variant of the closure approach. A private school cannot recruit enough pupils for the infant years and, as a result, has closed just that section of the school. Parents are incensed, as expected. The local authority will have to find places for these children if approached by the parents, and, because the children include some than come from some distance to the school, this may add the transport bill footed by local Council Taxpayers. Parents may not have a choice of schools and will feel aggrieved. However, other local private schools may also offer to help if they have spare places.

There will be calls for politicos to help fund the school as a business. I don’t support that approach. Private education was the choice of parents when deciding how to educate their children. To  fund schooling for these parents would be to risk either a charge of discrimination if, for instance, classes are smaller than in local state schools or the start of a voucher system for all, a policy option sometimes advocated by those that believe that parental choice should be backed by the cash to make it possible for all.

Some private schools with considerable numbers of boarders, often from overseas, are looking to put their teaching and learning experience completely on-line for the autumn. This will reveal the extent to which parents are paying for the school name as much as the education they receive. Such an approach may well help these schools to weather the covid-19 storm until, hopefully, a return to normal in September 2021.

Private education has become big business in Britain, and an earner of foreign currency, especially in the higher education sector. Some universities will be hard hit if foreign student stay away. It won’t necessarily be those universities attractive to home students, but those that cannot fit the gaps left. Closures and amalgamations are as likely in the higher education sector as in the private school sector.

Ironically, after years of under-funding, perhaps the further education sector might just see a renaissance if there really is a focus on vocational courses and apprenticeships.

What’s happened to our young teachers?

Last week the publication of the DfE’s School Workforce Census data revealed the lowest number of Qualified Entrants into the profession in England since 2011/12. The number given for 2019/20 was 43,405 and for 2011/12 42,434. In 2014.15m the number was just over 50,000.

Now, there may be several possible reasons for the low number this year. There might be more unqualified teachers in classrooms. Although possible, the decline in School Direct Salaried route into the profession and an absence of significant growth from Teach First makes this unlikely to be the reason. Are school rolls falling, meaning less demand for teachers. Well, they are at the bottom end of the primary school, in Reception, but not elsewhere and, in the secondary sector, intakes were higher in September 2019 than the previous year.

Perhaps existing teachers were staying put? It is certainly true that fewer teachers retired or left the service than in the previous year, so that might possibly have produced less demand for new teachers. Of course, that is a complex picture, especially in the secondary sector, where demand may alter by subject.

Another reason might be that there was a demand for teachers, not met because of insufficient trainees. It is true that entry into training in 2018, the new entrants into schools in 2019, didn’t meet the expectations of the Teacher Supply Model across the board, but it wasn’t an especially poor year for recruitment on to teacher preparation courses.

Worth considering as a reason is that pressures on school funding reduced the demand for teachers and, as a result, there were fewer entrants. A quick look at changes in Pupil Teacher Ratios over time suggests that this may well be part of the reason.

Schools, especially secondary schools, are also remodelling their workforce and may be employing fewer Qualified Teachers. A glance at the DfE’s vacancy web site now shows a range of tutor and other job titles not paid on the Teachers Pay Scales. Indeed, last week, some 24% of vacancies listed by the DfE didn’t require ‘Qualified’ teachers to fill them.

A significant proportion of the reduction in entrants is among those aged under 25. These will mostly be newly qualified teachers either entering directly from their preparation course or after a short time.

Entrants to Teaching Under 25 and Qualified Teachers2011/1211,253
Entrants to Teaching – Qualified Teachers

Source DfE School Workforce data abstracted by author on 6th July 2020

Since 2015/16 the number of Under-25s that are Qualified Teachers entering the profession according to the DfE data has declined by around 3,700. A drop of some 20% from the peak in the past nine years. Since this is the age-group from which will come future school leaders, such a decline must be viewed with concern.

In the current world of reduced vacancies, this data, if correct, should start a conversation about the teachers schools are choosing to employ for the vacancies that there are? NQTs or experienced staff?

I have written elsewhere about the idea of a supernumerary scheme to ensure the profession doesn’t lose large numbers of new entrants, especially if many of the Class of 2020 cannot find teaching roles. They are a valuable resource and should not be overlooked. Without their services, schools might not be able to survive a second wave of teachers taking time out due to the need to self-isolate following local lockdowns during the autumn and winter.

Not enough ‘Black’ school leaders

The data released by the DfE last week, on the School Workforce at Census day in November 2019, updated the information on the ethnicity of the teaching workforce. Although some progress has been made in creating a teaching force that reflects society as a whole, progress is still not good enough, especially t the headteacher level.

Taking two geographical areas at random: Brent in North West London and Cornwall, it is possible to review the changes in the ethnic make-up of the teaching force over the period between November 2014 and November 2019; a period of five years.

2014/152019/20 014/152019/20
Any other ethnic group8211855
Any other mixed background74991420
Asian or Asian British40147775
Black or black British33732865
Information not yet obtained170275117211

Now, admittedly, over this five year period the number of teachers in both authorities hasn’t altered very much, but it is depressing to see that the quality of the data has declined. The number of teachers where information has not yet been obtained increased, while the number refusing to provide the information declined in Brent quite significantly.

The best that can be said is that there was increases in Brent in the non-Black groups with the BAME community and the Black group remained relatively stable in numbers. In Cornwall, the numbers of BAME remained staggeringly low; increasing from 32 to 35 over the five years.

As I have been interested in Leadership data for nearly 40 years i thought it helpful to look at the number of headteachers in the categories classified as black or black British. This information is buried in the School Workforce data for anyone interested.

All ‘Black or Black British’
All Headteachers169169225219217213219 
Secondary Headteachers32274239403744 

I have excluded some years to make the table more manageable. The disappointment is the stagnation in the totals over the past five years. Probably, less than two per cent of headteachers in all state-funded schools are defined as from the Black ethnic group. As the definitions of ethnicity expand, there will be some that should be added to this group, but using the Black or Black British definition, the headteachers constitute less than two per cent of state schools in England.

When the qualification for headship was mandatory, it was possible to track the progress of specific groups and to identify under-represented groups and how they might be attracted to headships. Abolishing the requirement for headteachers to possess an NPQH was not one of the Labour government’s finest moves.  As a result, we now have to rely upon the market, and a profession with little in the way of career development for individuals.

Surely, it is time for action, since school leaders can be powerful role models for their communities and can help inspire future generations.  

Can a mean be mean?

When I first moved from teaching in a Tottenham secondary school to higher education in Oxford I brought with me an interest in the disparity of funding for schools. Partly this was because working in Haringey, and having been brought up right on the border with the London County Council – by then the Inner London Education Authority – I was aware of the disparity of funding for schools in Haringey compared with those just across the border in Hackney.

One of the early books I read on the subject was by John Pratt and his co-authors and was entitled ‘Depriving the Deprived’. Published in 1979 by what was then, Kogan Page. The book was based upon research that looked at school funding in one London borough over the course of a single year.

I was reminded of this when looking at the latest Free School Meals data for England, published by the DfE last Thursday. As a measure of potential deprivation it as good as it goes. If you consider Oxfordshire, generally rightly regarded as an affluent part of South East England, by the data on Free School Meals taken on census day for the six parliamentary constituencies, you find the following

% of children on Free School Meals on Census day Oxfordshire’s constituencies ranks

Oxford West

& Abingdon                           8th lowest out of 534 

Henley                                   28th lowest

Witney                                  35th lowest

Wantage                               55th lowest

Banbury                                94th lowest

Oxford East                        237th lowest -.i.e. about halfway 

Within Oxford East, some wards will be even worse ranked than others. Now this shouldn’t matter with a National Funding Formula for schools. But it does, because not all the funding calculations take into account differences between schools, rather than between local authorities. Indeed, if each district council area was a unitary council with education responsibility their funding might be different. But, none of the districts are large enough to ‘go it alone’ in the present funding regime.

As a result of the general affluence of Oxfordshire, the nine most deprived council wards in the county; five of which are in Oxford East constituency; three in Banbury and the other one in Oxford West and Abingdon constituency, probably lose out on funding compared to if they were part of a urban area. Such funding arrangements do not help close the achievement gap between high performing areas and the lowest performing schools in the county.

Now, of course, if all secondary schools in the county were in a single Multi-Academy Trust, the Trust could move funds around to mean the extra need of schools in deprived area, albeit by reducing the amount some schools received. However, with many different Trusts, and one remaining maintained secondary school, this option isn’t possible.

Another option of creating an ‘Opportunity Area’, used by Conservative governments in some other parts of the country, mostly in the North of England, doesn’t seem to be open to East Oxford, even though it has been suggested as an option.

So, taking the mean as a measure of funding may really mean depriving those living in some areas 40 years after the issue was exposed in one London borough.

Teachers not tutors

Is the DfE helping dumb down the teaching profession? I ask this question, not because I think there is a deliberate policy to do so, but because, having studied the 372 jobs on the DfE vacancy site this morning, I find that 20% of the jobs listed are not for teachers. Now, if the majority of these non-teacher vacancies were administrative posts, I wouldn’t worry, and would just make the point that TeachVac has more than 1,200 teaching posts in England, so why would anyone use the DfE site?

However, I am more troubled that in a buyer’s market, schools may be creating tutoring, mentoring and other roles, at either hourly rates or below the main scale for teachers, and seeking to recruit teachers to these positions. Now, I accept that a job is better than no job in the present climate, and that schools must not waste public money, but is this the way forward?

In a post on the blog on 19th May, I suggested the idea of using newly qualified teachers without posts for September as supernumerary teachers under a government scheme that ensured schools would be fully staffed and both have spare capacity to cope with a second wave of the virus and also high rick staff not working directly with pupils. This still seems to me a better idea than hiring coaches at £20 per hour, with no national determination of standards and experience.

The two big associations of teacher preparation provides, NASBTT and UCET should by now have an idea of how many trainees are currently unemployed for September. With the job market having ground to a halt, not many are likely to find jobs in England now for the autumn. Do we want to risk them going overseas in large numbers as their only source of teaching jobs? I hope not.

The DfE issued its annual teacher workforce data for 2019 last week. As it is in a new form, I have taken time to consider the data before posting any blogs about the latest data, but retention in teaching was still a big issue up to last November’s census point.

The new form the DfE is using to present the data marks a radical rethink of the presentation of data that up to now was only just the transfer of the print based approach on-line with little by way of search capacity. This new approach is more helpful for the casual user, but less so for those looking at a range of the data collected.

Note: The author of this blog is the Chair at TeachVac the largest free vacancy site for teachers and schools.

Initial surge, but no follow through?

Yesterday, the DfE announced that

New teachers are set to receive a boost to their training and development amid a surge in applications to join the classroom since the outbreak of coronavirus.

While others will comment upon the first part of the announcement, it is interesting to note that the data released by UCAS today is not as straightforward as the DfE announcement would suggest.

Firstly, much of the surge in applications came between April and May, and was not continued into June. Now this may well be because there were fewer courses left to apply to by early June, as many had closed their doors. Thus, the total increase in applicants over June last year in the order of 2,500 or less than 10%. Of these, the majority of new applicants would seem to be for secondary subjects rather than in the primary sector. The basis for this statement is an interpretation of applications data and, if true, would be helpful.

The second thing to note is that not all secondary subjects have benefited to the same degree. Arts subjects, have seemingly seen lots more offers to applicants, but both physics and design and technology seem unlikely to meet the Teacher Supply Model number unless there are many more applicants over the next two months. The same is true for modern languages. The arts subjects also have more applications in the pipeline, so offers may rise further over the next month or so.

Not surprisingly, the increase in applicants have mainly come from career changers. New graduates don’t yet seem to have switched to teaching in a big way. Thus, applicants aged 22 or under have increased by just over 500 on a base number of over 9,000 whereas there are 550 more applicants in the 25-29 age bracket. This looks especially true for male applicants, where numbers of those 21 and under have increased by around 50 applicants, but the 25-29 age-group has increased by nearly 200 applicants.

Traditional routes into teaching seem to have benefitted the most. There are new additional applications for either apprenticeships or for School Direct Salaried routes with fewer applications for the latter route in the primary sector than in June last year and barely 100 more in the secondary sector. Higher education has attracted 3,000 more applications for secondary courses compared with June last year and now attracts not far from half or all applications for secondary courses.  

It is not clear whether the furlough scheme has helped restrain possible applicants to teaching from applying in large numbers while they discover what will happen once the support scheme comes to an end. If there is mass unemployment then the opening months of the 2020/2021 recruitment round should witness some very large numbers. Later in the summer we will review what happened in the period 2008-201, last time applications grew rapidly.

Not the APPG June 2020 paper

Not the APPG Teaching Profession June 2020

The Labour Market for Teachers – some observations for the informal meeting 15th June 2020

When I last prepared a piece for the January meeting of the APPG, I thought 2020 would be a challenging year for some teachers looking for posts in the primary sector, but many teachers seeking a post in a secondary school would have more choice.

The rest of January and February saw more vacancies in the secondary sector than in any recent year, but similar vacancy levels in the primary sector to the past two years, although leadership positions remained weaker than in recent times.

And then came the coronavirus; lockdown, and schools talking only vulnerable pupils and those of of key workers; and not many of those. Vacancies slumped. By the end of May, the number of recorded vacancies across both primary and secondary sectors was almost half the number recorded in the same period in 2019. So far, June, usually a month when vacancies start declining towards their August lows, hasn’t shown any upturn in vacancies. As a result, 2020 is on track to look similar to 2019 for the secondary sector overall, whereas the primary sector will almost certainly record fewer opportunities for jobseekers than in 2019, unless there is a big upturn in the autumn in vacancy levels.

This begs two questions are now: how does the sector respond to a very different environment, where jobs are scarce, but applicants more plentiful? Secondly, how will this situation affect school spending patterns?

The APPG might like to establish an independent review of the recruitment market and what constitutes value for money in this new environment. As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be happy to provide evidence to such an inquiry.

TeachVac is now offering webinars about job hunting skills as a service to teachers, as are others. This recognises the balance in the market has shifted, at least for the next recruitment round and probably beyond September 2021.

NfER have provided their own recent assessment but as they note this was written before the recent change in the labour market post March. The TES, SchoolsWeek, and other publications have also commented on what is happening, based on evidence from various sources including TeacherTapp

The loss in vacancies across the secondary sector was in the order of 5,000 between March and end of May compared with 2019. In the primary sector, it was nearer 2,500. What cannot be computed is the level of interest in teaching from ‘returners’ either made redundant or furloughed. Then there is the effects on the supply market and home tutoring to consider. An independent review by the APPG could consider the whole market and how it has changed. Such a Review could also look at what is happening to interest in teaching as a career. Is the fact the ONS classify teaching as a high contact activity putting off would-be teachers? Early evidence suggests not in terms of applications to become a primary school teacher.

For graphs place a comment or visit my page on LinkedIn search John Howson TeachVac

Coherent planning needed: not directives

Earlier this week, I offered this action plan for providing education for all in Oxfordshire by September, in some way or another. Such a position needs to be the objective. It would need cooperation from all groups coordinated by Schools Forum and the Local Authority. Like NHS and the economy, it will need extra funds

The aim to ensure teaching and learning is available to all 5-18 year olds in the county by September will be a challenge, but one we should embrace..

Creating learning for all needs strategic planning on a large scale. It should involve school leaders; teacher associations; governors and trustees of schools; administrative services of both local and national government and dioceses with responsibility for schools, as well as parents and politicians.

On the assumption that ‘normal’ schooling won’t restart until January 2021 at the earliest, there are a number of key areas where information is needed before effective planning can take place.

These are based upon assumptions of classes of no more than 15 pupils– how many attend may be another matter.

Teaching spaces – how many extra spaces are needed by each school –

What community assets might be available to help? Teaching A level arts and humanities groups in church halls and empty office space might be easier than relocating some other year groups. But, could a village primary school adjacent to the village hall make use of its facilities. Each school needs to know its needs and what the community might be able to offer. There are risks, but there are risks leaving children in the community without any formal education arrangements.

Staff teaching and non-teaching

Oxfordshire is lucky to have three initial teacher education locations. The first need is to discover how any extra staff would be needed for all children to return to school on a maximum class size of 15. This is different to a Pupil Teacher Ratio of 15.

Assuming staffing costs at the top of the main scale for both teaching and non-teaching staff, some idea of the cost of the exercise can be calculated once the number of teaching units is known. Additional teachers could be employed on a termly basis, if necessary with emergency certification. Academies already have the right to employ anyone as a teacher and other school are allowed to do so ‘in extremis’. Retired teachers could be in high risks groups so not recommended as a main source of extra staff


All pupils need access to technology and there needs to be an audit of those without the technology and those without access to an internet connection. These problems need solving at a local level, using what government support is available, but not relying upon it.

Creating coherent learning packages is the role of the teaching force. The loss of a local advisory service makes this harder than it would have been in the past, but schools can identify where there are gaps and how we can best work to help drive learning forward., especially as some young people will not be able to attend school sites because of their own health or the health of others.

Support services

Bringing back all children requires full support services from transport to meals to health and welfare support.

We can sit back and wait for events or we can all work together to make things happen.