1,336 Physics trainees in 2020/21: wishful thinking or realistic target?

Yesterday, the DfE released the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) information for England covering the academic year 2020 to 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2020-to-2021 There was also information on the methodology underlying the TSM that continues the trend towards more open government set by David Laws when he was Minister of State at the DfE.

Perhaps one of the strangest lines ever to appear in a government publication can be found on page 3 of yesterday’s key DfE publication, where it states reassuringly for ITT providers that ‘in reducing the 2020/21 TSM target, this does not mean there will necessarily be fewer trainees’. This is because the DfE has continued to uncap ITT recruitment in most secondary subjects, except PE, but has continued to cap primary numbers.

The DfE’s rationale for reducing targets, most of which haven’t been reached in recent years, are improvements in the methodology of the TSM, including the fact that NQTs entering through the assessment only route are now included in the calculations. Put simply, the DfE have found some more teachers not counted in previous versions of the TSM, and that has reduced the requirement for new teachers to be trained in 2020/21.

The problem the DfE civil servants face is that each September schools must be fully staffed, otherwise children would be sent home. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry forward unfilled places from previous years, as there are not vacancies in the system. Also, carrying forward unfilled places would eventually lead to targets that were ludicrous in size. Better to start afresh each year.

Rising pupil numbers, teacher retention rates and curriculum changes are among the key drivers of the targets that are set at a national level. Interestingly, business studies and physics are two subjects where targets have increased for 2020/2021. In the case of the latter, from 1,265 to 1,336, an increase of 71 possible trainees. As in 2018/19 only 575 physics trainees were recorded outside of Teach First, this increase might raise something of a hollow laugh among providers.

One might wonder why recruitment in Biology (reduction of 76 trainee numbers), history (291 fewer trainees) and geography (187 fewer trainees) isn’t capped in view of their over-recruitment in 2018. Could it be that by recruiting in these subjects the overall deficit will be smaller than it would otherwise be? Surely not, but trainees need to consider their job opportunities before undertaking training to become a teachers in some of these subjects. By 2020, the DfE should be able to tell them about job chances as part of the new DfE Apply System that ought to be operating at that time.

Next month, the ITT Census for 2019 will be published, and it will be possible to see whether, as I hope, the shortfall this year is smaller than the number of missing trainees last year.

Overall, the drop of 602 in secondary targets won’t have much effect on the ground. The reduction of more than 1,500 in the primary postgraduate target to just 11,467, may have more implications for some providers and their future, especially if this is not the end of the reductions resulting from the recent decline in the birth-rate.

Advertisements

Gifts may not be the same as presents

As many readers of this blog will know, the DfE is planning a new digital application service for prospective trainee teachers. Apart from being trendy, I am not sure what the word ‘digital’ adds to the title, as surely nobody would create a new paper-based application service these days.

You can read about the service at https://dfedigital.blog.gov.uk/2019/09/05/testing-apply/ The new service will eventually replace the existing service run by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), probably by the start of the application round for 2021 courses, if the trial stages go well.

Now, I have had my differences with UCAS over the present system, introduced when I sat on a Committee representing ITT interests as an independent member. Some of my concerns seems to be being replicated by the DfE in designing their system. However, I have a much more fundamental concern than the design of the system about the DfE’s proposal. UCAS isn’t a government body. Instead, it is owned by its members. The new system will transfer ownership of the postgraduate application process for teaching to the government.

Is that change of ownership a good idea? Certainly, it will directly save both candidates and the providers of courses money as, like the DfE teacher recruitment service, it will be free at the point of delivery. It am sure it will also be well designed.

However, ownership of the process will then be in the hands of politicians and not the providers. Imagine a future government that recognises the need to balance supply and demand for teachers across the country and closes off courses when sufficient applications have been received, but before providers have made their choice of applicants. This could force later applicants to choose from the remaining courses that are short of applicants. Now, in some ways this is similar to the recruitment controls imposed upon the sector a few years ago. Any such regulation might reduce the freedom of providers to select candidates. You could envisage other interventions.

The DfE team running the service will need to know a great deal about the complexities of the teacher preparation market. If it is an in-house set-up at the DfE, what oversight will there be? Is there to be an advisory board or some other form of governance structure or will the system just be run by a changing stream of civil servants, supervised by a senior policy officer and just keeping ‘in contact’ with the providers?

As a government function, the application service will always be subject to Ministerial oversight and direction. Whether that is a ‘good thing’ or not will depend upon your views about services run by government. Certainly, as a public service, there should be more data available than is currently the case with the UCAS service.

It is also worth recalling that the DfE ran the admissions process for School Direct in 2013 and allowed me to comment in May of that year about the state of applications in a post entitled Applications Good: Acceptances better. https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/applications-good-acceptances-better/

As Ed Dorrell of the Tes remarked at the NABTT Conference, during his talk on teacher supply, Ministers don’t like talking about a crisis, and my analysis of the data that year certainly landed me in hot water, as anyone that reads the August 2013 posts on this blog can discover.

Whatever I think, the DfE is presenting the new system to the sector. I just hope it is a gift worth receiving.

Change and Renewal: NASBTT’s key priorities for the year ahead

Earlier today I was the guest of The National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT) at their annual conference. I suspect the fact that TeachVac sponsored their Administrator of the Year Award in the summer may have had something to do with the invitation. Curiously, the Awards didn’t rate a mention in Emma Hollis the Executive’s Director’s Review of the Year.

Anyway, NASBTT has grown from a small organisation, representing a few SCITTs in an out of favour section of the teacher preparation sector, to a dynamic orgnaisation now commanding a growing influence in the market for training teachers.

At the conference, Emma Hollis outlined five key priorities for 2019-20, which includes NASBTT playing a pivotal role at the forefront of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) policy formation..

Emma Hollis told the more than 150 delegates attending the conference how “the world of education is ever shifting and the wider political upheaval has meant that, perhaps even more so than usual, there has been uncertainty about the future”.

Emma highlighted how NASBTT is represented on the Department for Education (DfE) Initial Teacher Education (ITE) curriculum content advisory group, which has drafted new guidance that will underpin the training programme for new teachers, starting with the core content for ITT and leading into the Early Career Framework (ECF).

Secondly, NASBTT is part of an ITE advisory group which is supporting Ofsted as it designs its new framework for the inspection of ITE, aligning it more closely with the Education Inspection Framework for schools. “

Thirdly, NASBTT is prioritising subject knowledge enhancement for trainee teachers – creating a Subject Knowledge and Curriculum Design toolkit, teaming up with a range of subject specialists including Vretta, and its innovative Elevate My Maths online programme.

However, Emma emphasised a wider issue. “NASBTT members remain concerned about the difficulty of training teachers ‘in depth’ in all subjects within the timeframe of teacher training,” she said. “It is particularly unclear exactly how much subject knowledge is expected of primary teachers. I would add especially as once QTS is granted a teacher may still be asked to teach anything to anyone regardless of their level of knowledge and expertise.

Fourthly, and linked directly to the need for ongoing professional development for subject knowledge enhancement, and other areas, is the ECF delivery mechanism. To this end, NASBTT has established a professional framework for teacher educators to be launched later this year through their new Teacher Educator Zone.

My thought was about the trainees that don’t take up a job until January, how will the ECF work for them? For, as this blog has pointed out in the past, if the market works properly, the most able trainees are employed before those that fared less well on their preparation courses, and they surely need support the most support, even if they start later in the year.

NASBTT’s fifth – but by no means least important – priority for the next 12 months is in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of trainee teachers. Emma pointed out that “The prominence and importance of mental health and wellbeing is growing in schools – both for pupils and school staff.”

I would add that both teacher preparation courses and the first years of teaching can be very stressful times. The courses demand a degree of concentration and effort not always recognised, and certainly not rewarded in the case of all trainees, especially those preparing to be primary school teachers.

Finally, I have watched NASBTT’s growth over the years, and wish it well for the future. As the organisation grows, so will both its confidence in dealing with government and the range of challenges it will face. I wish it well for the future.

 

Some reduction in workload, but not enough

The DfE has recently published the result of the 2019 Teacher Workload Survey, carried out on its behalf by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER). https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/838457/Teacher_workload_survey_2019_report.pdf

From the results, it seems as the high level of publicity given to the term-time workload of teachers has produced results, since teachers and middle leaders report working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016. Senior leaders also reported working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016.

Primary and secondary teachers and middle leaders reported spending broadly similar amounts of time on teaching in 2019 as they did in 2016. However, most primary and secondary teachers and middle leaders reported spending less time on lesson planning, marking and pupil supervision in 2019 than in 2016, so the reduction hasn’t come in face to face teaching but in all those other activities that make up the task of a teacher.

Primary teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders were less likely than those in the secondary phase to say that workload was a ‘very’ serious problem. I wonder whether this relates to the fact that secondary classroom teachers have to manage interactions with far more pupils than do their primary counterparts and many senior leaders.

Even with the reduced workload from the last survey in 2016, most respondents reported to the NfER that they could not complete their workload within their contracted hours, that they did not have an acceptable workload, and that they did not achieve a good work-life balance. So, the reduction reported is not enough to create a profession satisfied with its term-time workload.

Interestingly, most teachers, middle and senior leaders were positive about the professional development time and support they receive according to the Report. While I am pleased with this outcome, I do find it slightly surprising. Maybe the bar is set very low in the minds of many teachers these days.

Certainly there seems to be much less leadership development than there was in the past, and the abolition of the National College looks like a retrograde step that may still haunt the profession for years to come unless action is taken to properly develop future generations of school and system leaders. To a great extent, the profession is living on investment from the past, and not looking to the future.

As the report concludes:

with about seven out of ten primary respondents and nine out of ten secondary respondents still reporting workload is a ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ serious problem, it is also clear that there is more work to do to reduce unnecessary workload for teachers, middle leaders, and school leaders.

If the government is to solve the recruitment crisis facing schools, then it has to ensure teaching is a profession that offers not only a good salary, but also a satisfactory work-life balance. On the basis of this report, although progress has been made since 2016, the goal of profession satisfied with its lot has not yet been achieved.

Teacher Labour Market 2020 – current thoughts

While I was away, UCAS published the September data about applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Generally, any changes between these data and the end of cycle data are small. As a result, these data provide a guide to how many new teachers may be available in 2020.

The number of new teachers required is affected by the interplay of supply and demand. In the primary sector, although there may be local issues created by local circumstances, I do not think there will be any national problem over supply. This is because the birth rate is now lower than a few years ago and more teachers are working for longer, possibly as a result of changes to the pension age. Of course, any increase in departure rates might upset my calculations, but, for now, I don’t see the sort of issues the secondary and special school sectors will face confronting the primary sector in 2020.

The secondary sector is facing the challenge of more pupils in 2020 than in 2019. This generally mean a requirement for more teachers. Sadly, many subjects do not appear to have reached the DfE’s estimate of trainee numbers, as set out in their Teach Supply Model (TSM). I am especially anxious for both mathematics and physics, where the UCAS data has likely outcomes below the numbers accepted in 2018. In both cases this was not enough to satisfy demand from schools, even before the increase in pupil numbers is factored into the equation. Fortunately, the number of biologists is likely to be at a record level, and this supply line will help offset any shortages of physical scientists.

The lack of mathematics teachers will need to be covered by trainees from subjects such as geography where trainee numbers remain healthy, as they do in history and physical education. Many history trainees will need to find a second subject, as there is unlikely to be enough vacancies to support this level of trainee numbers. From the DfE’s point of view record numbers in history help the overall total of trainees and will allow Ministers to use a more flattering headline number that disguises issues within particular subjects. But, hey, with QTS any teacher can be asked to teach any subject to any child, so who cares about the details?

Happily, Religious Education has had a good year, with offers coming close to its projected need identified by the TSM, assuming all those offered places actually turned up at the start of their courses. Design and Technology fared slightly better this year than last year’s disastrous recruitment round, but will still fall far short of requirements, as will Business Studies. IT also appears to have suffered from a poor recruitment round into courses in 2019.  Elsewhere, outcomes may be close to last year’s, so there should be enough teachers of modern languages overall, although whether with the combination of languages needed is not known. Similarly, the number of trainee teachers of English may cause problems in some parts of the country in 2020, most notably London and the Home Counties and any other areas where the school population is growing.

These predications will be validated later this autumn when the DfE publishes its annual ITT census. Until then they remain observations based upon more than 20 years of studying the trends in the teacher labour market in England.

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Recruiting Teachers – the cost effective option

I am delighted to announce that TeachVac will be adding the small number of vacancies from the DfE site that TeachVac doesn’t already carry to the TeachVac site. These vacancies are mostly either in new schools recruiting for the first time or primary schools in small MATs with a central recruitment page.

As TeachVac also includes vacancies from independent schools, this will make it the most comprehensive site for anyone interested in either applying for a teaching vacancy or interested in what is happening in the labour market for teachers.

As a result, I have written the following piece as an overview of recruitment in what remains a challenging labour market for teachers. You can sign up to Teachvac at http://www.teachvac.co.uk; it free and easy to do.

There are a number of different options for schools and academy trusts seeking to recruit teachers and school leaders. Put briefly, these are:

  • Free sites such as the DfE site and TeachVac (national coverage) and local authority job boards (local and in some cases regional coverage)
  • Traditional national paid for advertising sites such as The TES, eteach and The Guardian.
  • Local paid for advertising via local newspapers and their websites.
  • Recruitment Agencies of various types, including agencies focused on the supply teacher market.
  • Direct marketing to universities and other providers of teacher preparation courses as well as offering vacancies to teachers in schools during preparation courses.
  • School web sites, including the use of talent banking.

Each of these comes with different costs and benefits.

A single point of contact for free advertising of vacancies for teachers and school leaders has been identified by the National Audit Office; the Education Select Committee and in the 2017 Conservative Party election manifesto as the best way forward.

During 2018 and early 2019 the DfE developed and implemented such a product to operate alongside the already existing TeachVac site designed and operated by a company where Professor John Howson, a long-time authority on the labour market for teachers is the chair of the board.

The advantage of the DfE site is that it has the backing of the government. Potential disadvantages include the fact that it requires schools to upload vacancies and that it only handles vacancies from state funded schools and colleges. A minor distraction is that the site also handles non-teaching vacancies mixed in with the teaching posts. Requiring schools to upload vacancies can be both time consuming and also requires training for new staff to ensure that they can operate the system. The information is limited to that required by the site and isn’t easy to alter without informing all schools of the change.

TeachVac uses technology to collect vacancies every day from school websites and then eyeballing to verify their accuracy. The amount of information collected is greater than on the DfE web site.  A potential disadvantage of TeachVac is that it does not allow users to browse vacancies, but requires specification of a set of requirements for the vacancy sought. This approach has the advantage of also collecting data about the level of interest in specific types of vacancies in specific parts of the country. TeachVac covers both state funded and private schools so provides a one-stop shop for teachers seeking vacancies.

Both sites have the advantage of being free to use for both schools and teachers. The DfE site is subject to the need for government funding and TeachVac must fund itself.

All other approaches, save for schools own web sites and direct marketing by schools to teacher preparation courses, are subject to the profit motive and thus have a cost to schools.

The use of modern technology allows for the combination of approaches by schools, starting with the free options and allowing for the best paid-for alternative should the free option not provide an adequate response to a generated vacancy within a short period of time.

Do let me have your thoughts on how you see the future for the market? Will free sites reduce the ability of paid-for sites to attract vacancies? Will the DfE site become the default site or does it lack of breadth mean teachers will want a site offering all teaching vacancies in one place? Will recruitment agencies become the normal route for entry into the profession for newly qualified teachers and returners? Do the Local government Association and the teacher associations have a role to play in the marketing of vacancies to teachers and monitoring the labour market independent of government?

Let me know what you think?