More post BREXIT confusion

This week the DfE announced a new tender for someone to recruit, train and support overseas teachers in England for the next four years, presumably up to 2022. The information was contained in the teacher Recruitment Bulletin for August put out by the National College.

The tender states that the NCTL are seeking a framework of suppliers to assist schools and academies in recruiting, supporting, training and acclimatising international teachers in shortage, priority subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages. The framework will be in place for up to 4 years and will be directly available to schools and academies. The subject list goes wider than that identified as Tier 2 subjects by the Migration Advisory Committee at the start of this year in their report, but does not specifically mention computer science or Mandarin, two subjects added to the list of shortage subjects by the MAC in January along with Science. Whether other language teachers will be able to obtain Tier 2 visas is not clear from the notice about the tender. Whether the use of ‘such as’ is meant to include other priority subjects not regarded as shortage subjects by the MAC also isn’t clear from the announcement.

The Recruitment Bulletin for August also gave further proof of how challenging this year’s recruitment round is into training, offering providers a reminder that:

“You can still request additional ITT allocations for a September 2017 start.

If you’ve already achieved 90% or above of your original allocation, you can request additional places up to 125%. Further requests beyond this increase will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This offer applies to higher education institutes (HEIs), school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITTs) and School Direct partnerships in all category one subjects (drama, history and primary, excluding PE and undergraduate courses); it applies to HEIs and SCITTs in all category 2 subjects (art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music), with School Direct partnerships continuing under the same methodology as before.

Please note the 10% tolerance in each subject remains for all allocated subjects, including PE and undergraduate courses, and is in addition to the subjects listed.”

No doubt the relaxation of recruitment rules has already lead to the reported surge in offers in history and geography: the latter reaching new record highs for offers.

In an attempt to keep up the pressure on the government the Sun newspaper has reported that the Labour Party has looked at the time series data in the School Workforce Census and discovered that teacher numbers in secondary schools fell by around 11,000 between 2011 and 2016. Had they probed a bit deeper they would also have noticed that the pupil teacher ratio worsened from 15.6 to 16.4 in the same period, with most of the deterioration being since 2014. How much of the worsening is due to increased pupil numbers not being fully funded and how much by the worsening funding situation is still partly a matter of conjecture but the evidence is mounting of school budgets under pressure.

This will be the sixth year in succession that some training targets are likely to have been missed unless there is a late surge in applications to train as a teacher.





Debt hike for teachers

PGCE students to pay 6.1% interest on loans from the day that their courses starts. That’s not what you want to hear, but what the government has announced as likely from September if there isn’t a loud and sustained public outcry starting at the teacher association conferences this Easter. If the same rate of interest also applies to those on the school-based fee routes as well as undergraduates training to be a teacher then BREXIT is seriously bad news for trainee teachers. The reason is the hike in inflation to 3.1% last month, an increase partly fuelled by the post referendum slump in Sterling as a currency. Add to the inflation increase the 3% fee on top that the government charges plus the fact that interest starts accumulating as soon as the loan is taken out and we are talking serious money and an annual rate of 6.1%.

Career changers would almost certainlybe better off raising an extra mortgage on their house than paying these rates and younger intending teachers not eligible for bursaries should probably consult their parents to see whether they will do the same. Those starting work as teachers in September may find that their take home pay is below what it would have been in earlier years due to the rise in interest rates.

Whether intending teachers wanting to work in state funded schools should be expected to pay for their training is a moot point. Readers of this blog will know I don’t believe any trainee teachers should pay for the privilege of training to be a teacher. Few others, except would-be journalists and possibly fashion models pay for their training; until recently nurses also benefited from a scheme created by Frank Dobson when Blair’s Labour government first introduced tuition fees. The scheme for graduate trainee teachers, introduced in the early 2000s, was expensive, but fair to all trainees. The present situation is confusing, and at these rates of interest and a public sector annual pay rise of probably just one per cent, potentially off-putting to trainees in many subjects. Whether it deters the best or just those most likely to find other work, I leave others to judge.

One solution would be to employ all graduate trainees as part of a national trainee pool that also provided for their pension contributions and with an agreement to pay-off their undergraduate students loans at the rate of 25% of the outstanding interest and principle from the end of year two of teaching. They would be employed form the central pool by schools, so that the schools didn’t have the extra cost of writing off the loans for new teachers. This should be a central cost if loans are to continue. By involving the State directly in the employment of teachers it would allow the DfE to understand directly what was happening with both recruitment and retention. It would also make the DfE responsible for the consequences of mistakes with the Teacher Supply Model. Some PE and maths trainees won’t find jobs in teaching this year, but will still be faced by the increase in interest rates on their loans.

For maths trainees, with bursaries, the pain will be slight: for PE teachers this is punishment for choosing the wrong subject to train in as a teacher.