Supernumerary teachers?

Some commentators are suggesting that schools might not want to employ NQTs for September, preferring rather to take on more experienced classroom practitioners to fill any vacancies. I can understand this view, but leaving aside the issue of whether existing teachers will want or be able to change jobs at this time, there is the more basic question about whether or not such teachers will be available even now in some subjects?

I quite understand the view that trainee teachers, especially whose long practice wasn’t completed before the closure of schools came into effect, have less experience than might be expected at the point a school would recruit them. Nevertheless, they still have more time on task than a school Direct Salaried recruit and, I suspect, in most case someone starting the Teach First programme.

For undergraduate trainee primary teachers, they almost certainly will have had the full time in schools, and should not be over-looked. After all, they started training when demand for primary school teachers was buoyant and now find themselves in a very different world.

With significant amounts of student loan debt, the most recent graduates training to be a teacher are in the worst position. Those career changes, with lower levels of loans, already partially or fully paid off, are in a somewhat better position.

So, what is to be done? With smaller classes, schools will need more teachers.  Should the government fund a scheme to allow for all trainees without a post for September to be allocated to a school, at least until the end of the autumn term?

How much more would it cost for such a scheme than paying and administering benefits to these trainees that started their programmes in a time when most could have had an expectation of a teaching role at the end of their courses.

Making them supernumerary would ensure that they can keep developing their skills and practicing in schools while the job market sorts itself out. New entrants have advantages in terms of their degree knowledge, if straight from university, and may be equipped to understand the best in new technology and learning strategies.

Using these trainees as supernumerary staff also has the benefit of ensuring that if there is a second wave of the virus in the autumn, schools may have the staff to cover for absences due to other staff members self-isolating for whatever reason.

Such a scheme might also be a way of encouraging schools to re-open where there are currently concerns for the future.

Whatever the way forward, we must not abandon the current class of trainees to their fate in an uncertain world.

TeachVac is doing its bit by offering a low price webinar about how to succeed in the job market. Details at https://www.careeradviceforteachers.co.uk/

IFS highlight what was expected

It is interesting to look back at what I wrote on this blog on the 29th February, using my experiences of other school closures, especially that of Haringey’s schools in 1979, during the Winter of Discontent.

All this is ‘obiter’ by way of approaching the main question as to what schools should do now, and is there anything we can learn from 1979? Two things standout; some schools, usually those subject to most parental pressure, were better organised than others, especially in respect of examination groups, and we live in a vastly changed world in relation to technology.

Schools that don’t already do so can explore the use of uploaded video lesson segments for revision classes, where limited new material remains to be introduced. Skype or video conferencing software might even allow virtual lessons in some subjects where teachers are available. Indeed, a pandemic, as it would likely affect teachers as well as other school staff, should be the final nail in the coffin of schools competing with each other, rather than collaborating for the good of all learners.

Specific thought will also need to be given to pupils, especially those in special schools that are transported to schools. Will there be sufficient taxis and other vehicles to bring them to school?

These thoughts chime with the report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies about who has lost out from the lockdown, in terms of learning. I haven’t had time to read their research in full yet, but I wonder whether they also computed the attendance rates in normal times for the different groups they identified? There is also differential rates of private tutoring even in normal times

None of this invalidates the IFS’s verdict, with which I agree, and was supported by the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission on the radio yesterday. Social Class and access to both funds for technology and space to learn can make a big difference.

Should we be looking to press new spaces into use as schools? Church and community halls as extra classroom; theatres; cinemas and even places of worship? Because, if we cut class sizes we won’t have enough space to bring everyone back in the present buildings.

We certainly need cooperation and not conflict between those responsible for the education of the nation’s children and young people.

Whatever the strategies finally deployed, we do need to see how we can work with parents to ensure children falling behind can make-up the essentials of learning without being stigmatised as either failures or willful for not having the resources and space at home that makes such a difference to learning. This will not be an easy task, but one we must aspire to achieve as a Society.

 

 

 

Webinar for Job Seekers

TeachVac is collaborating with Marketing Advice for Schools to offer a webinar for teaching either currently job hunting or thinking of doing so. You can find the details at https://www.careeradviceforteachers.co.uk/ With a new section on on-line interviews and how to deal with them, this webinar is based around a successful seminar created for teachers during the last recession when there were more teachers than jobs.

The first webinar will be next Monday evening.

Places are limited and participants will receive a copy of the sides. If you know someone that might find the webinar useful, please do pass this on to them.

A new world in recruitment

There is a saying that ‘necessity is the parent of invention’. So it has proved to be during this pandemic. Video conferencing may come to be the next big breakthrough. Not perhaps on the scale of email or mobile phones, but, as the technology is refined, becoming something that will alter both our private and public lives in a way society wouldn’t have believed just two months ago. For instance, how soon before clothes retailers ensure garments will fit the wearer when viewed on-line and cannot then be returned as ‘the wrong size’?

There will also be profound effects on teaching and learning at all levels. In England, the responsibility for education has always remained with the parent or parents, and schooling by the State has been the default offering if a parent chose no other method of education. How that contract between the State and its citizens will develop in this, the 150th year of state supplied schooling, is yet to be determined, but a heck of a lot of invention has been taking place very rapidly.

All this came to mind as I reflected upon the future for TeachVac, the free matching service for teaching jobs and those looking for such a vacancy. Launched six years ago next month, the aim was then, as it still is, to demonstrate that technology could create a viable and low cost platform to bring together schools wanting teachers and teachers looking for jobs.

Well, TeachVac has proved that it can be done for little more than £2 per vacancy. Of course, schools still don’t believe that is possible and spend large amount of money with paid for platforms because they have offered the largest number of visitors to their sites. During a period of teacher shortages, such an approach made some sense, although it would probably have been cheaper to persuade those looking for jobs to move to the free platform that required the least amount of effort on the part of schools.

However, we are now in a different world. With predictions of mass unemployment and future funding for public services unlikely to be as generous as we would wish, especially if the government has to bail out the economy, schools may see a rush of applicants for any vacancy. So, why pay for an advert that attracts so many applicants that it wastes time and costs money short-listing?

A premium site, in terms of quality that is free at the point of use and requires as little efforts as possible, at least for a first advert is a much better proposition. Schools that have the cash to spare can continue to use paid-for services, but others might choose between sites such as the DfE’s, where some effort is required to upload a job, and those, such as TeachVac, where all that is required is to put the vacancy on the school’s own web site.

Of course, teachers and, especially trainees are now in a different position. Instead of having the pick of jobs, they might be competing with many more candidates for fewer vacancies, especially if teachers in post stay put. TeachVac can be tailored to meet the needs of the training sector. Perhaps by offering a 24 hour period of exclusivity for classroom teacher posts before matching them all potential candidates?

As a bonus, we are also dusting off our course on how to apply for a job’ and turning it into an on-line version ready for those that need a bit of support in this new world. Watch out for details of our first webinar next week.

 

Government response to crisis predicted?

The Insight team’s article about the handling of the present emergency, written up in yesterday’s Sunday Times, must have made uncomfortable reading for some. However, a visitor to this blog this morning also reminded me of Dominic Cumming’s famous essay in the autumn of 2013 about the education system in England.

To quote just one paragraph:

The education of the majority even in rich countries is between awful and mediocre. A tiny number, less than 1 percent, are educated in the basics of how the ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’ provides the ‘language of nature’ and a foundation for our scientific civilisation and  only a small subset of that <1% then study trans-disciplinary issues concerning the understanding, prediction and control of complex nonlinear systems. Unavoidably, the level of one’s mathematical understanding imposes limits on the depth to which one can explore many subjects. For example, it is impossible to follow academic debates about IQ unless one knows roughly what ‘normal distribution’ and ‘standard deviation’ mean, and many political decisions, concerning issues such as risk, cannot be wisely taken without at least knowing of the existence of mathematical tools such as conditional probability. Only a few aspects of this problem will be mentioned.

I first used this in a blog post on the 13th October 2013. I especially wonder whether the comment that

…. and many political decisions, concerning issues such as risk, cannot be wisely taken without at least knowing of the existence of mathematical tools such as conditional probability …

Might have come home to roost as the present outbreak bites ever deeper into national life? Why, for instance, is the government not commissioning the BBC to create a single on-line learning tool instead of setting up a competing organisation? All it needed was to ensure the BBC used UK technology to create the platform rather than to waste scare resources when we should be saving every penny we can.

On the same subject, those that have viewed my LinkedIn page will know of the graph demonstrating TeachVac is still well ahead of the DfE vacancy site in terms of teaching posts on offer. Why waste school staff time uploading to the DfE site when we can offer a more comprehensive solution.

Indeed, as Chair of TeachVac’s parent company, I would be willing to approve a free feed to the DfE site for the summer term to show what can be done.

Schools will need to cut costs in the future, and recruitment is not one that they should be expecting to spend lots of money on from now onward. However, until there is a single site carrying most teaching vacancies, schools will still want to try other methods.

The full text of Dominic Cummings essay was located at:   http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/804396/some-thoughts-on-education-and-political.pdf

 

 

 

Is the Sunday Times correct on schools re-opening?

What seems like a lifetime ago; but in reality was just a month ago on the 20th March, I published a piece on this blog with the following first paragraph:

COVID-19 PM’s Suez?

How a Prime minister deals with a crisis sometimes seals their fate. Chamberlain did not survive the switch from phoney war to Blitzkrieg, and Eden paid for the shambles of Suez with his job. How our current Prime Minister handles the next few weeks will seal his fate.  I never thought I would be writing these lines, especially in a situation where the current government has such a large majority. But even a large majority cannot protect someone in Number 10 Downing Street if both the opposition and significant parts of his own Party want a change of leadership.

Since then our prime Minister has caught the virus; been in hospital and is now recovering. During the past month, schools have managed a rapid re-assessment of their role and the manner in which pupils can learn. This wasn’t the way anyone envisaged celebrating the 150th anniversary of state schooling, but it has fundamentally challenged the traditional classroom-based method of learning.

However, it has also revealed that whatever method of instruction or learning is in operation,  some pupils won’t or cannot benefit from the basic structure that works for the majority. Some have special needs and some are disadvantaged socially; some have both challenges. How a Society deals with this issue is, for me, a mark of its inclusiveness. I would also add that the present situation in which we find ourselves gives the lie to those that thought there was no such thing as Society any more.

Strategic thinking is still in short supply. There are group of Year 13 students, now to be assessed on their work before the outbreak that could form a useful coordinated volunteer force organised by their Sixth Form Tutor and reporting to the local hubs.

Apart from the obvious use of their talents to produce PPE on the schools’ 3D printers; sowing machines and other D&T resources they could be reducing the traffic jam of delivery vehicles clogging up suburban streets by trialing last mile cycle delivery from transshipment points to see how this would work. If petrol pumps are a transfer risk for the virus, we could use some as pump attendants, at least for vulnerable customers so that they could avoid touching the pumps and know that only the person serving them had handled the filling mechanism.

I am sure that readers could think of other such tasks that might then be offered to unemployed workers as the school system re-opens, and these Year 13 students head for higher education in the autumn.

The talents of the population are not in doubt, but what is to me challenging is how effectively the government is managing the strategy. At least, here in Oxfordshire, the reports of the functioning of the school system under lockdown are good. But there may still be looming challenges around the future of some schools within the private school sector if the forthcoming economic winter is as harsh as we are being told that it might become.

 

Working smarter not harder

In a previous post I alluded to the need the government to be put on a war footing in order to fight the present COVID-19 outbreak. Every day, all I hear is ‘we are working flat out’ to deal with the situation.

Well, perhaps, as the headline suggests, we don’t need so much to work flat out, but rather to use our heads a bit more. I am reminded by re-reading Churchill’s wartime memories that he took aircraft production and design away from the Air Ministry in 1940, and passed it to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. He asked Lord Beaverbrook to be the Minister in charge. He added that the air Ministry didn’t like this arrangement but that ‘our life depended upon the flow of new aircraft’. The point was well made.

Do we need to do something similar for testing? There are more than 4,000 school chemistry labs sitting idle at present. Every community in the country has one, with a technician and graduate teachers that could be retrained to undertake the anti-body tests when they are ready. Perhaps some might even be used to test for the virus if suitable cleaned and sterile?

Schools have 3D printers. Can we use them to create parks of face protectors and raid DIY and builders’ merchants for the face covering to fix to them? Task then to produce equipment for front-line pharmacy staff in the first instance since there are suggestions that they are well down the line in the PPE stakes.

This weekend a letter from the PM will be delivered, taking up Post Office resources that might be better used elsewhere. It will be accompanied by a booklet with all the current advice from government. However, I haven’t seen where this is available in large print; braille or even other languages for those not fully conversant in English. Is this a good use of resources at this time, especially if the government changes the rules on things such as business loans? Also, it doesn’t seem to remind those with bus passes of the change in use times during the crisis.

For those without cars and not in the key vulnerable groups, and living alone, this can be a tough time. Should more local stores offer ‘click and collect’ to reduce the numbers needing to browse shelves? Surely, one sanitised volunteer picker may spread less infection than a group of customers to a store, however well-spaced out they are.

I gather than some private schools are asking for either full or part fees for the summer term. It will be interesting to see how parents respond to these requests. I suspect that without fee income and the summer income many schools will struggle to cope with a six month break. We should be planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

Keep safe and well and my best wishes to all readers.