A new source of teachers?

How much appetite do teaching assistants have to become a teacher? Might this be a way of solving our current teacher supply crisis? The DfE has just published some research it commissioned to answer the first question. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exploring-teaching-assistants-appetite-to-become-teachers

Some 64 people, mostly women, working in 51 schools, and with various job titles, were interviewed for the research. Most didn’t already have a degree although a small number that took part did have a degree. Most were also working full-time, and this may have been a factor in their answers.

Some, took on their current role wanting to progress to become a teacher. Most of the others hadn’t started out with that intention, but some were open to the possibility. Not surprisingly, how to train without losing income was a factor in the responses. How big a factor isn’t clear, as respondents don’t seem to have been asked to weight or rank the various factors that might prevent them training as a teacher?  That seems a drawback with the research.

Those with a long memory will recall that there has always been a route from the role of assistant to that of a teacher. Indeed, there is a post on this blog from 2015 https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/congratulations-mrs-clarke/ congratulating a head teacher on her appointment. Mrs Clarke had started as a as a volunteer and worked through a range of posts including lunch-time supervisor, teacher, deputy head and twice acting head teacher before becoming the substantive head teacher of a first school.

When I was leading a School of Education, in the early 1990s, there were courses at the local further education colleges that provided a foundation route for undergraduate teaching degrees: some attendees were already working in schools.

In this research, commissioned by the DfE, the participants were broadly split between primary and secondary schools, with a small number working in the special school sector. I am not aware of any major teacher supply issues in the primary sector at present, so it would have been interesting to know whether interest in becoming a teacher differed between those working in the different sectors. At least the sample was weighted towards the parts of the country where there is more of a teacher supply issue, but less so among those working in the secondary sector than those working in the primary sector.

Perhaps the DfE might want to push the apprenticeship route and possibly even recreate the Queen’s Scholar title for such trainees, to provide a sense of status. It would also help if the DfE would make the term teacher a ‘reserved occupation’ term as this would also enhance the status of the profession, but cost nothing.

At the same time as commissioning this research, I hope the DfE is also looking at ‘keep in touch’ schemes for teachers that leave for a career break and also making sure teachers working overseas can access teaching vacancies through a single site. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has lots of visitors from around the world.



Are marginal trainee teachers more likely to fail?

The latest ITT performance profiles were published this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2017-to-2018 These include data for individual providers as well as general figures for the whole undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts gaining QTS in 2017/18 – last summer’s output of new teachers.

Generally, the picture isn’t much changed from the previous year. Headline percentage gaining QTS for the postgraduate cohort remained at 91%, with happily some 734 more trainees that gained QTS for a total of 25,490, up from 24,764 the previous year. Sadly, these were not always in the subjects where there was the most needed.

The total of those on undergraduate courses continued to fall; down by nearly 300 to just 4,733 gaining QTS. The new Secretary of State might care to reflect that the 30,000 new teachers last summer isn’t far short of the whole establishment of the Royal Navy he was responsible for as Defence Secretary. Imagine if ITT had the same revenue budget as the Royal Navy to train teachers. Hopefully, some of the new cash promised by Boris will come in the direction of both teacher preparation and CPD.

It is interesting that Physics, where recruitment onto teacher preparation courses has been challenging for a number of years, is bottom of the list of secondary subjects in terms of trainees awarded QTS. Some of this may be down to early departure from the course, and clearly some did not complete the course to QTS in time, with some 5% ‘yet to complete’ when the numbers were compiled.

Physical Education, a non-bursary subject, and one where demand for places exceed supply, turned in a percentage of 97% of trainees being awarded QTS. However, not all bursary subjects with few recruitment challenges managed to turn out such a high level of trainees with QTS. History and English both only managed to see 95% and 93% respectively of their trainees awarded QTS.

The groups with lower than hoped for percentages being awarded QTS against the overall postgraduate average of 91% included men (88%); those from an ethnic minority background (88%) – although 13% did not declare on this measure and that may have affected the outcome. Those with a declared disability and with lower academic performance as measured by degree class were also groups with lower than average percentages gaining QTS as were older trainees that were switching careers. The highest identified percentage (94%) was for those with First Class degrees

The saddest statistic is the number of trainees gaining QTS in design and technology:

2009/10                1159

2010/11                1118

2011/12                  808

2012/13                  500

2013/14                  383

2014/15                  433

2015/16                  493

2016/17                  399

2017/18                  288

This is not enough to provide for future middle leaders in the subject, let alone to staff the subject effectively. This is something else for the new team in Sanctuary Building to discuss.

I hope in future posts to discuss the differences between the different postgraduate routes. However, they can be small and accounted for in terms of attitudes to recruiting groups that achieve lower rates of QTS.

Participation in higher education

The DfE recently reported on the time series regarding entry into higher education. The data was updated for 2016/17 starts and can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/participation-rates-in-higher-education-2006-to-2017 There are a number of useful tables that show the continued growth in participation by eighteen to twenty one year old either directly from another education establishment or after a gap. In the latest year that data are available for, 28% of the 652,000 eighteen year olds went straight into higher education. They were joined by 11.9% of nineteen year olds and 3.2% of those aged 20.

All the percentages up for all age groups and the percentage comes to 49.8% that is described as the initial participation rate (IPR). As might be expected, a greater percentage of eighteen year old women than men go directly into higher education; some 32.1% of women compared with 24.1% of men. As might be expected, the IPR for women is much higher overall at 56.1% compared with 43.1% for men. However, the gap tails off with age as numbers form the year group starting in 2016/17 tailed away. The IPR is still below that of many other G7 countries.

Sadly, the IPR for part-time students has yet to regain the percentages seen before the fee increase to more than £9,000. Some of this potential group of students may have transferred to degree level apprenticeships, but it is to be feared that part-time higher education at least at the undergraduate level, remains out of favour and is not being marketed by the higher education sector.

A small percentage of those entering higher education do so through the further education sector rather than at a university. The further Education sector accounts for just less than four percent of IPR for higher education and seems to be growing slowly. There is also no gender gap amongst those taking the FE route into higher education.

I couldn’t find a comment yet from HEPI, The Higher Education Policy Institute, about these data from the DfE. However, the concern for the higher education sector must be that they are facing a few years when the number of eighteen year olds in the cohort will be falling. If the IPR of the age group remains flat, then that actually means fewer students looking to enrol. This might partly account for the rash of unconditional offers as institutions seeks to plan their numbers, and hence their income, as far ahead as possible. The 17-19 age group in 2106/17 was around 20,000 smaller as a cohort than the previous year.

No doubt, if there is also a loss of interest from EU or other overseas students, then some courses and indeed faculties might find their cash position under pressure during the next few years. How legitimate is it to use tuition fee cash from popular subjects to support less financially viable departments? This is an interesting question that students as consumers might well ask. If you put a philosophy and ethics of business course in the business studies degree it may well be necessary to support the continuation of the philosophy department. If you don’t why should a future business mogul pay to support the department if it has no impact on his course?

One answer is, you are buying a university experience and not that of your course alone.