Bursary concerns

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned the data on bursary outcomes the DfE had published earlier in the day as a part of the raft of information about teacher supply matters. The Times newspaper has picked up on this aspect of the data published and made a calculation that some £44 million was spend on bursaries for those that either didn’t enter teaching or went on to teach elsewhere than in state funded schools. Some might have secured posts in Sixth Form College or Further Education; some might well be working in the independent sector and some might not have been able to find a teaching post in the area where they currently live, but the DfE doesn’t know how many fall into each category.

The DfE data is based on bursaries paid under a range of different schemes operating between 2009/10 and 2015/16. At the start of the period, in 2009/10, the training bursary was available to all postgraduate trainees; albeit at different rate. This was essentially the scheme announced in March 2000 during the recruitment problems teaching faced at that time. Some details of the scheme can be found at http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/6588.pdf

During the recession and when fees were increased to £9,000, the original scheme was replaced by a more nuanced set of payments totrainees. The DfE time series used in their latest publication might have been better if it had either taken data only from the start of the scheme that replaced a universal bursary or detailed the percentages teaching by each year of training.  Allowing The Times to claim that £44 million could have been wasted is a bit of an own goal for the DfE. A better explanation of the way the schemes operated might have deflected this criticism. After all, I don’t read of concerns over the salary paid to trainee army officers at Sandhurst if they don’t continue their careers after training. The same concerns might be levied at other public servants that draw a salary during training. In that respect, it is unfair to highlight just the teaching profession.

However, one might well ask about a subject like Classics, where the DfE data identified 120 trainees were paid a bursary, but only 40 have been located as teaching in a state school. With no link between training and employment on most routes into teaching – Teach First and School Direct Salaried route are exceptions – the leakage from training at public expense to the private sector is almost inevitable. Maybe the same happens in the NHS where there is a much more direct relationship between training and employment, since staff can always resign after appointment.

One solution is a return to a golden Hello type arrangements, where payments are made after entry into the profession and a tailored to the type of school a teacher is prepared to teach at. A challenging school, such as those supported by Teach First would attract more payment than a teacher working in a selective school in an area where there are no teacher supply issues. Such a scheme would need careful consideration, not least for possible effects on Teach First candidates remaining in the school after completing the Teach First programme.

Was the government wise to abolish a special unit dealing with teacher training and recruitment and to lose the expertise and knowledge contained within its staff? It’s not for me to say, but the presentation of the data on the bursary scheme might have been handled differently in the past.

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The Politics of Bursaries

Why should some people wanting to become a teacher receive help with their training costs and others not? We don’t discriminate between future tank commanders and those heading for the infantry or entrants to the civil service by the department they are going to be working in. But, teaching is different. Ever since the Coalition put up student fees and withdrew the right for graduates both to have their fees paid and receive a bursary regardless of the subject that they preparing to teach, the government has had to spend cash explaining to potential teachers what they might or might not receive by way of cash payments. Of course, the really lucky one receive a salary and a virtual guarantee of a teaching job at the end of training if they are on either a School Direct Salaried placement or the Teach First programme.

I took a look at the current bursaries and how the various subjects recruited to the Teacher Supply Model figures for last year  put out by the DfE and then added in the number of entries to GCSE or equivalent by pupils in state funded schools.

BURSARY ITT %  RECRUITED PUPILS ENTERED GCSE & EQUIVALENTS
PE 113 105,715
History SOME 102 235,396
Languages YES 93 247,375
English YES 90 513,746 Language
Biology YES 86 132,676
Chemistry YES 83 132,238
Geography YES 80 220,506
Business Studies 80 71,055
Mathematics YES 79 515,803
Music SOME 76 34,766
Art 74 143,904
Physics YES 68 131,894
Computer Studies + IT YES 66 127,025
RE SOME 63 105,715
D&T SOME 33 141,568
Any Science YES NA 509,329

Sources: ITT Census 2017; DfE get into teaching and SFR 01/2018 Table S2a

Although I don’t have a Teacher Supply Model number for Latin, those trainees do receive a bursary, even though only 2,279 pupils were entered for GCSE or an equivalent qualification by state funded schools in 2017.

The logic of excluding Physical Education is obvious, but excluding art and only offering reduced bursaries for Religious Education and Design and Technology seems harder to defend. Personally, I would add Business Studies to the list of bursary subjects because, as regular readers know, I think the DfE has underestimated demand for teachers of the subject. Perhaps, a rethink of the whole of that area of the curriculum and the needs of schools for teachers might be worth considering.

A Simple scheme for all graduate entrants, including to the primary sector, where yesterday’s blog post revealed the decline in applications, would be both easier to administer and easier to sell to would-be teachers. The present arrangements appear both haphazard and unjust.

Winds of change

Congratulations to NASBTT (National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers) and UCET (The University Council for the Education of Teachers) for setting up a joint venture. I am sure nobody will ask about whether they are now trainers or educators of new teachers, or perhaps a bit of both?

Anyway, closer working between these two bodies is to be welcomed, as was the speech by Emma Hollis, the new Executive Director of NASBTT. Addressing a reception this afternoon in the Thames Pavilion of the House of Commons, under an eerie sky clouded with dust dragged in by ex-hurricane Ophelia, Emma announced the formation of AATEP – The Association of Accredited Teacher Education Providers, the joint venture between NASBTT and UCT- so perhaps it is education after all. Both organisations are dedicated to quality provision and that’s what matters most. I wish the new organisation well and Emma a long and successful time as NABTT’s Executive Director.

Both when going to and on the way home from the NASBTT event, I came across the new advert of teaching as a career put out by the DfE. I wonder what you think of the text that reads as follows: ‘My bursary was actually like a salary. It covered things like living costs and childcare for my daughter.’

Leaving aside the use of the word ‘things’ when outgoings might have been more appropriate and in line with the government’s view of the use of English, I wonder what the message is to those that don’t qualify for a bursary? Your living costs don’t matter; you don’t deserve a salary during your training as a teacher – unless that is you are on Teach First. Perhaps it is that only trainees in bursary subjects have childcare costs?

In this advert there is no attempt at depicting teaching as a profession for anyone, regardless of race or gender. Rather it reinforced the view of the profession as dominated, as it, is by white females. Now there may be other advertisements, but this is the one I saw twice today in different newspapers. There also aren’t any pupils in the advert either, so I am also not sure what that says about encouraging new entrants into the profession.

All this on the day when the DfE came clean about their work on a new National Vacancy Service for teachers that could change the face of teacher recruitment for ever. The DfE’s approach so far seems methodical and in line with the government’s digital strategy. I wonder, how much it will worry those organisations offering the bulk of the paid for advertisements for teacher vacancies?

Should the DfE decide to develop a fully functional recruitment site in house, such a move could have a real effect on several organisations that make some of their profits from advertising teacher vacancies. At this stage, the DfE is still working through the process of where to go and I am sure the issue of cost will be important, especially after the admission last week that the DfE still has further savings to make to meet the announced funding for schools that both the two associations of heads and school leaders don’t think is enough.

 

A lesson in Economics

Earlier this week Education Ministers were reminded of one of the basic tenants of free market economics, namely that it is price that usually regulates supply and demand. Ministers, facing under-recruitment against the expected need for Mathematics and Physics teachers in the future, raised the price that they were prepared to pay trainees, and also widened the scope of those that would benefit by adding a class of graduates with a relevant degree and a good ‘A’ level. This re-opened the door to those with 3rd Class degrees in Mathematics to once again train as teachers rather than be hired by academies and free schools without the benefit of any training.

Nobody with an interest in the history of teacher supply should be surprised by this move. After all, Mathematics and Physics were the two subjects exempted from the original requirement for all graduates to be trained that was introduced in the late 1970s. The exemption was for the very same reason as now, a shortage of teachers in the subjects. Indeed, it wasn’t until well into Mrs Thatcher’s economic crisis that the rule was changed to bring these two subjects into the training fold. How bad the under-recruitment was this year will become apparent next month when the ITT census is published.

As there are to be no formal control targets for Mathematics and Physics this year, Ministers and officials clearly hope that the new scholarship and bursary arrangements will attract more applicants than for the training round that started this autumn. If it were to do so then, because many trainees will not be guaranteed a teaching job, candidates will need to assess whether the supply of trainees might exceed the ability of schools to offer them teaching posts in 2015. However, judging by my inbox, schools are already finding it a challenge to recruit teachers in these subjects, as I predicted would be the case in the Report I wrote during the summer of 2012 for the Pearson Think Tank.

Now I am sure that the Treasury, as guardians of public spending, won’t be pleased with the need to increase bursaries, and may wonder why more hasn’t been done to increase supply in other ways? The management of Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses has been poor over the past year, with the National College needing to do more to recognise that this is a potentially important route into teaching for many studying applied degree subjects. Indeed, there is a case for the government to be working with Vice-Chancellors in order to offer a constructive two-year course leading to qualified Teacher Status that would allow undergraduates to switch courses into a teacher preparation course at the end of year two of their degree but still be awarded both a foundation degree and a teacher preparation qualification. However, such a move would need to recognise the role that higher education can play in training teachers: not something Ministers are yet prepared to really accept.

Since it is likely that Ministers don’t know why, during the last recruitment round into training, schools generally had a lower success rate at converting applicants into trainees than higher education this is one area where urgent research is needed lest the outcome in 2014 be worse than this year if more places in some subjects are transferred to schools.

In reorganising the bursaries Ministers might at least have stuck to their own principles. The absence of anything but a national flat rate for bursaries suggests that recruitment into training is a national problem; it almost certainly, isn’t. Again the Treasury may ask, would it not have been cheaper to pay the extra premium just to those training in London and the South East this year, if that is where the largest amount of under-recruitment has occurred? After all, there can be no difference between a subject variation and a geographical variation in the amounts paid.