Is business studies a shortage subject?

On the face of it, business studies isn’t a subject that can be classified as one of the really problem subjects for the government to have to deal with in 2019. The percentage of trainees recruited against the Teacher Supply Model has hovered around the 75-80% mark apart from in 2015/16 when it dropped into the mid-60s. The 80% mark isn’t especially low compared with some other subjects.

However, with Brexit looming in 2019, the government would do well to ensure there are sufficient teachers of the subject to help create future generations of both the managers and leaders of enterprises; not to mention entrepreneurs as well.

In 2018, the ITT census recorded 180 trainees in business studies. If the same rules were applied as in the previous post regarding the shortage of design and technology teachers, then that number is reduced finally from 180 to 128 trainees, after the removal of those on Teach First, School Direct salaried route and a five per cent figure for non-completion or not entering teaching in a school after the end of the course.

How does this figure of 128 possible new entrants to the teaching labour market in September 2019 and required for January 2020 vacancies match up against perceived need over recent years? TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use job site for teachers and schools, now has data stretching back over more than four years.

Recorded vacancies for business studies teachers – these vacancies may include an element of another subject as well as business studies – were around the 750-850 mark in the three years from 2015-17. However, possibly due to even better recording by TeachVac in 2018, the number of vacancies recorded in 2018 was just over the 1,100 mark.

Interestingly, 29% of the recorded vacancies during 2018 were placed by schools located in the London area. If the schools in the South East region are added in, the percentage of the total vacancies recorded by these two regions reaches 53%. It would be helpful to know how this squares with the distribution of ITT places, especially as the London vacancy total must be reduced by the effects of the Teach First trainees. Without them, the vacancy total would, presumably, have been even greater.

Even if 2018 has been a rogue year, then even allowing for re-advertisements of 25% – surely a high percentage – in a total of 800 vacancies – that would mean some 600 teaching posts were advertised in an average year.

Applying a rule of thumb of 50% vacancies being taken by new entrants and the other 50% by returners and teachers moving schools, the requirement would be for 300 trainees or more than double the 128 that might enter the labour market. Even if re-advertisements comprised 50% of the total of advertisements, there would still not be enough trainees to satisfy the demand across the country and London and the South East would continue to face shortages.

Should the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations concerned with the health of our economy and the nurturing of enterprise be worried by these numbers? Probably, but it depends upon your view of what should be taught at school? One view is that all we need is EBacc: another that starting an understanding of business early in life can inspire future leaders.

Well, with these number of trainees, even allowing for late entrants, those switching from the further education sector and teachers from overseas, if allowed, then some schools are going to struggle to recruit a business studies teacher during 2019. As I wrote in the post on design and technology teachers; if you have a business studies teacher already, it will pay to look after them.

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Road safety campaign to help cut child deaths

The Government has launched a new road safety campaign aimed at teachers and schools to help cut child fatalities. A recent survey revealed that 67% of children get fewer than 2 hours of road safety education in their whole time at school and the aim of the new THINK! Campaign is to help schools and teachers highlight the dangers of roads and encourage best practice for children.

I welcome this announcement as coincidentally I attended the Oxfordshire Sixth Form Road Safety event last week. This takes the form of a hard hitting video of a group of young people involved in a two car road incident that leads to the death of one passenger and the paralysis of another. The video is interspersed with testimony from emergency service personnel; medical staff; a parent that had a child killed in a car crash; someone paralysed as a teenager after a night out and finally, a teenage driver serving a long prison sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. All their testimony is moving and some sixth formers are so affected that they leave in tears. Watching it for the second year was no less moving that the first time around, even though I knew what was to come.

Even if the driver is sober, the combination of a full car of teenagers; rural roads with lots of bends and trees and often loud music is a very high risk situation. A careless shout at the wrong moment or some other distraction and the result is a tragedy that could have been prevented.

The new THINK! Campaign from the Department for transport will feature a wide range of new education resources, including easy to follow lesson plans, 2 new films co-created with school children and a song in a bid to make teaching road safety lessons easier and more accessible. The first documentary-style film follows a group of school children as they act out how to cross the road safely after learning to use the Stop, Look, Listen, Think code. The second film follows another 6 children on their different journeys to school, including walking, cycling and scooting. The children explain their top tips for getting to school safely in the form of a new road safety song. The first phase of resources, aimed at 3 to 6-year-olds, are already on the Think! Web site. The next 2 phases for ages 7 to 12 and 13 to 16 will follow in the New Year. I hope that they will be interactive and make use of modern technology to engage with this tech savvy generation.

The importance of this work means that Ministers at the DfE should be aware of the needs of the whole child and not just their academic requirements. Schooling is for life not for just passing examinations however welcome today’s news on reading levels may be.

Finally, road safety also means training in cycling and, as we encourage more young people to cycle to and from school, we need to ensure that they are especially aware of how to stay safe.

 

New curriculum not a threat but rather an opportunity

New curriculum not a threat but rather an opportunity

When I first saw that the humanities curriculum would feature a return to a hero and heroine approach to history, and a ‘capes and bays’ knowledge of geography my heart sank. Here was a return to Victorian values espoused by a Secretary of State anxious to enhance his credibility with the Tory right wing. However, his espousal of modern technology allows me to consider how the two might be put together to good effect. Take a lesson on the movers and shakers of British history. Half a century ago a teacher would have stood at the front of their classroom and lectured the class about whoever they thought was important, probably at the primary stage Alfred the Great, Nelson, Florence Nightingale and a few others where the tale to tell was inspiring enough to capture the attention of the class. As the school wouldn’t have a library, and the children’s section of pupil libraries were few and far apart, there was little alternative. Perhaps, some children would read comics or come from homes where books like Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia could be found that would have widened their knowledge, as would the daily newspaper that many households still read.

The first decade of this century provides a very different picture. If anything, it is one of information overload. As Mr Gove also wants debating and public speaking to be a part of schooling to improve self-confidence I can see a Key Stage 2 humanities programme following a programme something like this. Teacher: our topics this week is heroes and heroines. Firstly, how do we define what is meant by such a person. Then pick both a period on the timeline and a card from the pack containing terms like military, arts, invention, politics, religion, business, education, law and so on and go away and find someone who meets the criteria you have selected. Come back prepared to get the class to vote for your candidate, and to cross-examine everyone else on why you should vote for their candidate.

If some key candidates aren’t covered, the next lesson can be about testing those well known individuals against the ones selected in order to see who has stood the test of time, and more importantly why?

The same approach can work with geography. You can play a game of ‘fill in the blanks’ for rivers, mountains, volcanoes, countries, towns or whatever. I am sure that most schools used the Olympics to increase their pupils’ knowledge of the world, and how to find out about the other lands they see every day on their televisions. And that is the other great change from Mr Gove’s view of the world. School is not longer the only, and probably not the main, supplier of knowledge about history and geography to the modern generation.

However, we can all agree that access to knowledge remains the key to power, so the vital necessity of success in the early years is still paramount. Rather than worrying just about how England fares in PISA tables, and it should do better next time because of the better staffing of all schools with qualified teachers than when the tests were last collated, the aim should be to focus on under-performance against expectations, and to be ruthless in eradicating its causes.

All political parties pay lip service to the link between deprivation and under-achievement or even failure at schools. The real test is whether the coalition government can do something to break this cycle. The Pupil Premium is a good start, but success cannot be bought by money alone. Perhaps the text for this year’s Education Sunday might be the Parable of the Talents. Those heads and governing bodies who are just banking the money certainly need to be called to account.