Teachers always needed in London

Four out of every ten teaching vacancies in England, advertised between January and the end of July this year, were placed by schools located either in London or the South East. Add in vacancies from the northern and eastern Home Counties, including Essex, Hertfordshire and schools located in a clutch of unitary local authorities and the figure for vacancies comes close to half of all teaching posts. This data come from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the company where I am Chair of the Board.

By contrast, the North East and North West together account for only 12% of vacancies. This increases to 20% if the Yorkshire and The Humber Region is added into the total. Of course, these are smaller regions than London and the South East, but that doesn’t account for all of the difference.

Undoubtedly, the school population is rising faster in London and the Home Counties than elsewhere, both because of the birth rate increase a few years ago and also because of the amount of house building, especially in parts of the South East. Oxfordshire has had three new secondary schools over the past few years, with more to come. This after a period when no new secondary schools were built in the county.

Although Teach First is now a programme spread across England, its influence in London can still be seen. Schools in the Capital generally topped the list for percentage of vacancies recorded by region, but were in second place in terms of the percentage of demand for teachers of English and only in joint first place with the South East in demand for teachers of mathematics, both accounting for 19% of the national total of advertised vacancies.

Another reason demand may be high in London and the South East is the significant number of private schools located in these regions.

Interestingly, ‘business’ in is various forms was the subject where London was further ahead of the rest of the country; accounting for a third of all vacancies advertised so far in 2019. Add in the percentage for the South East and the total for the two regions is more than half the total for the whole of England.

In business, as in a range of other subjects, schools needing to recruit for vacancies that arise for January 2020 are going to find filing those vacancies something of a challenge. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit and the state of the world economy, there won’t be a reserve of newly qualified teachers still looking for work in many subjects. Languages, history and geography within the EBacc being exceptions, although even here there are likely to be local shortages, regardless of the national picture.

Recruiting returners and persuading teachers to switch schools may be the best options for schools suddenly faced with a vacancy, for whatever reason. There will be some teachers coming back from overseas and TeachVac has seen more ‘hits’ on the web site from Southern Hemisphere counties over the past few weeks. But such numbers may only be of marginal help unless there is a really deep global recession.

One option the government might consider is offering teacher preparation courses starting and ending in January as well as September. The Open University used to be very good at offering courses that graduate teachers in time to meet the needs of schools looking to fill their January vacancies.  It might be worth considering such an option again.

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Both women and men needed in teaching

The government’s evidence to the Teachers’ Pay Review body (STRB) is a mine of useful information, as this blog has already pointed out, especially in respect of the teacher supply situation in London.

There was one other paragraph in the DfE’s evidence that caught my eye. The second half of paragraph 83 of the DfE’s evidence reads as follows;

“We have also worked with the sector to revise recruitment guidance for schools and have appointed nine Women Leading in Education (WLE) regional networks to raise the profile of women in education and to support career progression.” DfE Evidence to STRB, 2019, para 83.

This paragraph appears in the section about headteachers and other teachers in leadership positions and there is a helpful chart later in the section, which I have reproduced as the following Table.

Percentage of the workforce Female Male
Head Teachers 66 34
Deputy Head Teachers 70 30
Assistant Head Teachers 68 32
Classroom Teachers 75 25
Unqualified Teachers 69 31
All Teachers 74 26

Source: School Workforce Census 2017

The percentage of classroom teachers that are women is higher than for the three leadership grades. However, unfortunately, in their evidence, the DfE don’t further breakdown the data between the different sectors. And that breakdown may be important in understanding more about where the difference between the percentage of classroom teachers and heads is greatest, I suspect it is in the secondary sector.

Clearly, more remains to be done to achieve parity. I looked back at the first ever report of the STRB in 1992 where there is a table about the gender breakdown of the teaching profession as a whole.

Based upon what was then DES data, from the Database of Teacher Records in March 1990, the split overall in the profession was 67% female: 37% male. So, in the following 27 years, women have increased their share of the overall teacher workforce from 67% to 74%.

Interestingly, in 1990, the split among those under 25 at that time was 84% women and 16% male – (STRB 1992 1st Report Table 2). So, probably, disproportionally more of the men that were teachers in this age group in 1990 have become heads than have the women. Thus, the DfE are correct to try “to raise the profile of women in education and to support career progression.”

However, it is harder to find any comment in the DfE’s evidence this year to the STRB about the overall balance in the profession between men and women. Now what can and cannot be done by government is defined, as paragraph 83 of the evidence noted, by the Equality Act of 2010.

Promoting women’s career progression, where they are an under-represented group, is what the 2010 Act was about. Should there also be a duty to the DfE to try to even up the balance between the genders in teaching? In the past 27 years the percentage of men in the teaching force has declined by around a third from 37% to 26%. The opposite would not have passed unnoticed.

My concern about this issue, as anyone that reads this blog regularly will understand, comes from the fact that, in the past two years interest in teaching among women graduates has wavered, at best, or declined at worst. If the teaching profession loses the interest of women in any numbers, without attracting more men, then there really might be a supply crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher Shortages in the USA

The issue of teacher supply, and more specifically increases in the number of teachers quitting their jobs, featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal last week https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-quit-jobs-at-highest-rate-on-record-11545993052 It seems that the issue of teacher supply isn’t just a problem this side of the Atlantic, but one that has now hit the headlines in the USA. As a result, I am slightly surprised not to have seen a tweet from Donald Trump on the subject, perhaps stating that anyone can be a teacher.

A tight labor market, years of uncompetitive salary increases and a challenging job are all familiar reasons for the departure of experienced teachers cited in the article and known to those of us that study the labour market for teachers in England.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal didn’t mention a possible move overseas, in order to teach in an international school, as another reason teachers might be quitting. The article also didn’t mention whether there was also an issue of recruiting potential teachers into training courses in parts of the USA. However, it did raise the spectre of an increase in the number of unqualified teachers. I don’t think that the article mentioned Teach for America, one of the original alternative certification programs created during an earlier teacher supply crisis around the turn of the century. It also didn’t reflect upon whether technology might help overcome a shortage of teachers.

Education in the USA is generally a local activity managed by School Boards and largely overseen by the individual States. Some States have traditionally had good teacher planning mechanisms, such as we enjoy in England, but others have been less concerned with planning and more interested in a market-based approach.

One question, if the shortage continues and even worsens, is whether some States might go shopping for teachers overseas in order to help fill their vacancies in the same way that heads in England turn to Canada, Australia and New Zealand for potential recruits when the pipeline dries up at home.

Some US States have turned to the Caribbean countries in the past, but might they look further afield if the supply problem deteriorates further. Could we see competition between US and UK schools for the same teachers and could there even be attempts to entice UK teachers to take up work in the USA? I don’t think that is especially likely, but it is worth recalling that Michael Gove, when Education Secretary, did grant QTS to all teachers in the USA that are qualified, to allow them to teach in England without any need for further qualifications.

I will look at the agenda for this spring’s AERA Conference to see whether teacher supply is once again back on the radar of academics, as well as of journalists. I might just also delve into the archives and dust off some of the articles from conferences 20 years ago to see whether this is a case of history repeating itself or whether there is a new twist to the tale this time around.

 

Teacher Preparation data – Part 2

Normally, that is for most of the past twenty years, I would have commented on the data provided by UCAS about applications and acceptances to the different subjects and between primary and secondary phases on the day it has appeared.

This month I refrained from doing so that I could look further into the data provided over the past three months. For some reason there appears to have been a glitch in the data I was looking at for Report B Table 10 of the data in August. I assume this was my mistake, and the data has now been corrected in my spreadsheets to conform to the published data currently on the UCAS web site.

The mistake slightly over-estimated the number of ‘offers’ to applicants, by using the end of cycle data for 2017 rather than the actual August data. Inputting the September data revealed the discrepancy and has allowed the changes to be made retrospectively. I can now say how I think the outcome will look compared with both last year and the DfE’s estimate of need, as calculated through the Teacher Supply Model.

So, on the evidence of the total ‘Placed’, Conditional Place’ and ‘holding offer’ numbers from the UCAS data, the 2018 round for secondary subjects should be slightly better overall than 2017, with biology, English, PE, art and languages exceeding the TSM number and IT/Computer Studies and history being at the required level. This leaves Chemistry, design and technology, mathematics, music, Physics and Religious Education unlikely to meet their TSM number unless Teach First can made up the shortfall.

As hinted yesterday, it may be that potential trainees on Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses (SKE Courses) don’t become ‘Placed’ until the end of these courses, and some may be added to the ‘Placed’ totals over the summer, creating the increases seem this year.

Interestingly, in April, before the growth in applications, I prepared a table for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Teaching with a prediction for the outcome of the recruitment round in terms of meeting the TSM number. How good were my predictions?

Subject Meet 2018 TSM Meets 2018 TSM CHANGE From April prediction?
April view Sept view on meeting TSM
RE NO BELOW no
PE YES ABOVE no
Music NO BELOW no
Mathematics NO BELOW no
History ? AT  
Geography ? BELOW  
English NO ABOVE Yes
D&T NO BELOW no
Computer Studies + IT NO AT Yes
Business Studies NO BELOW no
Art NO ABOVE Yes
Languages NO ABOVE Yes
Biology YES ABOVE no
Chemistry NO BELOW no
Physics NO BELOW no

In four subjects, English, IT/Computer Studies, Art and languages, the prediction has changed for the better. In April, the situation on the humanities was unclear, but it now seems as if history might just miss the TSM number and geography certainly will, partly because the number was so high.

Physics remains the real worry, although the better situation in Biology means recruiting science teachers in 2019 may be no more of a challenge overall than it was this year. After a good year this year, mathematics teachers may be harder to find in 2019, whereas recruiting teachers of English in 2019 might be an easier proposition than it was in 2018.

However, we won’t be able to assess the full position until the ITT Census in late November when the Teach First numbers are added to the totals and it is revealed how many of those that were placed through UCAS actually made it on to courses.

 

 

 

 

Law of unintended consequences

The news that Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars is long overdue recognition for her part in this research. Her decision to use the award to donate her £2.3m winnings is a noble gesture, to be applauded and hopefully recognised in other ways by a grateful nation.

The money will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. Such a use for a scheme, to be administered by the Institute of Physics, is also an inspiring use of the cash from the award, especially if it attracts additional funds from other sources, since by itself even £2.3 million won’t go very far these days. If it generates £150,000 of annual interest at current rates it will be doing well.

So a good idea but, if the scheme is to fund undergraduates in Physics to conduct graduate research that they currently cannot afford to undertake, who will be the loser. Keen readers of this blog can anticipate what will come next. Assuming the stock of undergraduates remains the same, at least in the short-term, and the number undertaking research increases, rather than just substituting under-represented groups for existing entrants into research, then some other post-degree employment routes will find a reduction in the supply of Physics graduates. Might this affect the numbers going into teaching? Of course, if the pool of research places remains the same and we substitute under-represented groups for those currently taking the places that won’t be the outcome.

Much may come down to how the Institute of Physics designs the scheme and works with providers of research places to implement it, especially in the early days of the scheme.

There is a need for more undergraduate places in Physics, again to facilitate more entrants from under-represented groups in society, and from those where the teaching they receive isn’t at the highest level.

The DfE calculates that the state-funded school sector will need around 1300-1350 new entrants in each of the next few years, to maintain the required teaching stock of teachers of Physics. Fortunately, the age distribution of the present Physics teacher workforce seems unlikely to create a retirement boom anytime soon.

However, the last few years have seen insufficient new entrants to meet the DfE number for the expressed need. As a result, any further diversion away from teaching and into research would potentially affect some schools ability to recruit teachers of Physics, even if only for a few years, if these researchers then chose to enter teaching at a later date. If they didn’t, having been provided the opportunity to conduct research, then there would be further pressure on teacher supply. Of course, a recession either resulting for problems in emerging markets of because of Breixt might create a new cadre of potential Physics teachers. However, is that a risk worth taking? The DfE could try to import Physics teachers, but it is not clear how well such schemes have progressed in the recent past. Creating more university undergraduate places linked to teaching as a career might well be worth exploring further. The only other suggestion on the table seems to be paying Physics teachers more than those in subjects where there is no shortage. I discussed that idea in an earlier post.

 

School transfer costs

Once you move from a placed base system for the governance of schools, to one where a market model is the preferred choice, it is probably inevitable that each year schools will move between Multi- Academy Trusts for a variety of different reasons. Today, the DfE has published a note on their statistic pages about the number of such moves and the financial implications. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/academy-transfers-and-funding-england-financial-year-2017-to-2018

In the five years between 2013-14 and 2017-18, some 628 academies moved between MATs or MACs or moved from being single entities into a multi-school trust. Even though the overall number of academies managed as national schools has been increasing year by year, the percentage of academies moving has also been increasing. In 2013-14 the percentage of academies moving between or into Trusts was 0.5% of the overall total. By 2017-18, schools moving or joining Trusts accounted for 3.3% of the overall total of academies. It would have been helpful if the term financial year had been defined in the document. It must be assumed that it refers to the DfE’s financial year and not that of academies: they are not the same, and that has caused issues with the DfE’s accounts in the past.

In the days before the academy programme it is difficult to think of any local authority school being moved to another authority’s control, although whole authorities were broken up for a variety of reasons. Northamptonshire will be the next authority to see its remaining maintained schools split between two new unitary councils, after the financial problems that beset the county council earlier this yar. The DfE might like to publish data on the costs of such restructuring alongside these costs in the academy sector, just for comparison.

2017-18 was the first year that the number of schools receiving grant funding on moving between Trusts fell; from 60 schools the previous year to 49 in 2017-18. However, the savings were proportionally not as significant, as the bill over the two years such cash payments may be spread was only £370,000 less. Hopefully, there will be a larger decline in such expenditure in 2018-19.

Over the five year period, the cost to the system has been some £22 million. The DfE note explains what has been covered by this grant funding.

As the DfE explains, an academy can change trust arrangements only on the agreement of the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) acting on behalf of the Secretary of State (prior to 2014 decisions were taken by the Secretary of State).  It may apply to do so voluntarily – for example, a single academy may apply because it wants to benefit from the greater capacity (eg school improvement) from being part of a multi-academy trust; or the transfer may be initiated by the RSC because of concerns about the performance of the academy or the trust responsible for it.  The latter scenario is sometimes referred to as re-brokerage and is similar to intervention in local authority maintained schools, which sees them transformed into sponsored academies. Of course, before academies the local authority either had to solve the problems with the school or opt to close or amalgamate it with another school.

The largest sum identified in 2017-18 was for an academy in Stockport, where the cost identified was in excess of half a million pounds. Think what that cash might have done if used in other ways.

 

What’s happening to apprenticeships?

This blog doesn’t often venture into the world of further education and training. It is a specialist area that is generally best left to those that know more about it that myself. However, I was struck by the data on apprenticeships published by the DfE yesterday, amid a range of other statistics. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/apprenticeships-and-traineeships-july-2018 We are not, of course at the end of the statistical year for this dataset, but the fourth quarter is usually the quietist. As a result, the August to April data can be regarded as a relatively safe verdict on the direction of travel for apprenticeships.

It might have been thought that the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 would have provided a boost for the number of new apprentices, as firms and public bodies sought to access their contributions to the Levy and the additional government support on offer. Sadly, that doesn’t seem always to have been the case. I know this from my continual questions to Oxfordshire County Council about the use, or lack of use, of the approaching half a million pounds collected from schools within the county. Sadly, if not used after two years the money goes to the Treasury coffers and not back to the schools from whose budgets it was collected: it is not as if schools have cash to spare and taxing them like this is bad government on a big scale.

Anyway, back to the data. In the period August 2017 to April 2018, some 753,300 apprenticeships were recorded. This is down from the 870,000 recorded in August t2016 to April 2017. The fall in under nineteens was from 689,300 to 592,700. Even accepting the fall in the size of the age cohort, this looks like quite a large fall in the number of young people on apprenticeships since the Levy was first raised in April 2017.

This fall is conformed in the data on new starts to apprenticeship, where the numbers seem even more dramatic, even after allowing for the possible late registration of some apprenticeships. As the DfE Bulletin notes: 290,500 apprenticeship starts have been reported so far in 2017/18, compared with 440,300 and 384,500 at this time in 2016/17 and 2015/16, a decrease of 34.0 and 24.5 per cent respectively. This doesn’t seem like a very good testimony to the creation of the Apprenticeship Levy. Surely, it was designed to increase participation and offer a route for young people that might want to earn and learn rather than pay and study at university. Under 19 starts are down in the nine month period from 122,800 to 90,300 across all of the apprenticeship routes. Even allowing for the change in size of the cohort, this is a disappointing statistic.

The drive to increase apprentice numbers has stalled. The 2017/18 numbers look being the lowest yearly total since the present record set was first collected in 2011/12. At a time when skilled labour is needed across the economy, either young people are turning their backs on apprenticeships in favour of higher education or the new system isn’t working, but is acting as a re-run of the Selective Employment Tax of the 1960s and sucking cash out of employers ad their business to eventually provide a windfall gain for the Treasury. Either way, a rethink seems necessary.