UCAS Access allowed

Usually at this time of the month I would be commenting on the UCAS data about applications to graduate ITT courses. Curiously, this month access to the monthly data has been hidden behind a password access page on the day the data was released. Even more curiously, the daily updates that contain most of the same data, but in a slightly different format, are still available for all to see: very odd. I have emailed UCAS to ask for an explanation and the data is now available for all to see. I will post the new information after the end of the original post

So, what can be gleaned from the data that is in the public domain? Firstly it is for the state of play on the 25th July, whereas the monthly data only covered data up to 16th July 2018. As a result the 2019 data ought to show higher numbers due to the longer timescale covered.

Allowing for the time difference, and the difference in the data presentation by UCAS, it seems as if the recent TV campaign plus the publicity about the government’s recruitment and retention strategy might have made some difference to the numbers accepting offers of places on ITT courses, but any increase is not of any significant magnitude in many subjects that were on already on track to create an eight year of missed targets: mostly probably will still miss their target unless there is a late surge in applicants. It is probably too early for any change to the Skills Tests to have had any effect on these numbers.

With a new Secretary of State, a pay offer for teachers and a Prime Minister promising more money for schools, not to mention the risks of a recession as a result of the outcome of Brexit, is teaching going to see this rush of late applications? Frankly it is anyone’s guess, but my feeling is that 2020 is still going to be a challenge for schools recruiting classroom teacher, unless there is a drop in numbers leaving the profession and an increase in those seeking to return due to worsening economic conditions.

Those preparing teachers in September might still find themselves with many empty places on their courses across a range of subjects.

Reviewing the monthly data that represented the position at the 15th July, there seems to be good news for Design & Technology, where good news is baldy needed,  and in biology, history and religious education. The first two are not shortage subjects, although the biologists will plug the gaps left by fewer chemists and physicists if those numbers don’t improve. Business Studies, English, geography and Languages are at broadly similar levels to this point last year. Along with the two sciences already mentioned, IT, mathematics, music, art and PE are all below the level for offers at this comparison point last year and, apart from PE are heading for missed targets again.

Applicant numbers are marginally down on last July last year, on the most favourable measure, by around 600 to some 36,210. However, that’s some 2,000 below the number two years ago.  Younger career changes seem to be the group moving away from considering teaching as a career. There is a slight increase in applications from those 21 or under; new graduates. The other increase, of around 250, is in the age-group above the age of 40. The risk, as the performance profiles issued earlier this week demonstrated, is that this group has a lower success rate at reaching QTS than trainees from the youngest age group.

The trend towards fewer women applying is also evident in the figures for this month when compared with both last year and the year before. After a large decline between two years age and last year, the decline in male applicants is relatively modest this year, some 250 down from last year, to 12,430 of whom 8,200 have either been placed or are holding an offer.

Although there are more applications to providers in London than for any other region, the number has slipped below 20,000, about 750 applications below this point last year. The good news is that there are 800 ‘placed’ trainees in London compared with 750 in July last year. The less good news is that the number ‘conditionally placed’ is down on last year and the number ‘holding an offer’ is similar to last year.

Applications for primary courses continue to decline, down to 41,790 this July compared with 44,310 in July last year. Applications overall for secondary courses are up, from 58,830 to 59,440. However, these may not be in the subjects where they are most needed. Higher Education has seen the brunt in reductions of applicants, down from 52,350 to 47,700. Salaried School Direct courses and apprenticeships still seem out of favour with secondary schools, with only 710 placed or holding offers for such routes in the secondary sector this year, compared to 900 last year.

Overall, my comment at the end of the blog yesterday that Those preparing teachers in September might still find themselves with many empty places on their courses across a range of subjects still seems to hold good after reviewing the monthly published data from UCAS.

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Equal not fair: the new direction for education?

So Boris wants a ‘superb’ education for all children. His recipe for achieving this is to offer all primary and secondary schools the same cash amount per pupil of some £5,000. No mention of special education, further education or indeed higher education in that part of his speech.

As this blog has recorded in the past, post-16 and further education is seriously in need of a cash injection, probably even more than the schools sector. Although secondary schools will benefit from more cash for their Key Stage 3 & 4 pupils under Boris’s idea, this won’t help fully fund sixth forms and will leave further education colleges still drifting towards financial meltdown in some cases.

What is the future for the High Needs Block of funding and a ‘superb’ education for all our pupils with special educational needs? I guess much will depend upon how Mr Williamson, as the incoming Secretary of State for Education, interprets the words of his boss? Personally, I hope he reminds Boris that Eton doesn’t charge the same fees as many other private schools and asks whether he believes that what is right for public education should be applied to private schooling as well?

More seriously, the idea of the same cash for all is based upon a very simplistic notion of education, where equal means ‘the same’. In 2002, I wrote a paper for the Liberal Democrats espousing the ‘compensatory principle’. This is based upon funding the needs of a child to reach the outcome levels desired by the system: some children need more resources to achieve the desired outcome than others.

Such a principle recognises the need for additional funding for both specific children and particular areas within local government boundaries. The Coalition introduced the Pupil Premium to recognise this need, and the Mrs May’s government created additionally funded ‘Opportunity Areas’. What happens to these modification of £5,000 for all will be a real test of the values of this government.

Extensive research shows all children do not arrive at school with the same degree of development, whatever their innate capabilities. The system should recognise that fact and take it into account in funding. Furthermore, if the State mandates the same funding for all schools, should it allow schools in more affluent areas to top-up the State grant and once again create a funding differential?

The teacher associations have calculated that the headline £5,000 for all is relatively cheap to implement, costing only about £50 million a year according to the BBC. However, to restore funding levels to where the teacher associations would like them to be might cost close to £13 Billion rather than a few million pounds. Such a sum, even without the demands of the further education sector, is a different order of magnitude.

Sadly, for a Prime minister that likes headlines, the £5,000 is a good headline figure and seems like a lot of money: these days it isn’t. How schools are treated will reveal the true values off the new government.

STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-review-body-29th-report-2019 Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?

More wasted cash?

The DfE has today updated the list of academies (SATs and MATs, but possibly not MACs) where there has been a change in overall responsibility, either from a standalone academy (SAT) into a multi-academy Trust (MAT) or between MATs. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/academy-transfers-and-funding-england-financial-year-2018-to-2019

These changes are generally not cost free. They can take place for a variety of reasons including, ‘due to intervention’, usually after an inadequate rating by Ofsted; ‘initiated by the Trust’ and as a result of the fact that the Trust ‘sponsor closed’. The last of these reasons seems to have incurred costs of around £3 million in the 14 months from January 2018 to February 2019. The DfE can offset such costs against any balances held within the Trust, but that cash cannot then be spent on educating the pupils.

Now it has to be recognised that in the past costs were incurred in dealing with failing local authorities. Hackney in the early years of the Labour government was one example, and I think that Bradford was another. Indeed Commissioners are still sent into Children’s Services rated as ‘inadequate’. However, the ability of trustees to effectively close their Trust brings a new dimension to this issue. I suppose that some of these Trusts might have, so to speak, fallen on their sword before they were the subject of intervention by the Regional School Commissioner’s Office.

Nevertheless, the fact that trustee can voluntarily decide to abandon one or all of their schools at a cost to the system does raise questions about the best use of scarce resources, an issue highlighted in the previous post on this blog.

There also doesn’t seem to be any requirement on trustees to think of others when making decisions to close a SAT or a MAT. There are times of year when such actions might be allowed, but others where it should be banned. I recall a few years ago a MAT announcing the closure of a school a couple of weeks before the notification of places for the following September was to be relayed to parents. The local authority had to re-run the whole exercise for that area, with a waste of time and money. Those costs would presumably not be included in the figures provided by the DfE, and I suspect the local authority were not reimbursed for the time an effort of their officers in ensuring every pupil had a place at secondary school that September.

The DfE might also like to publish a list of ‘orphan’ schools, declared ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and requiring conversion to academy status but finding it a challenge to secure a MAT willing to embrace them.

I don’t know whether the Select Committee in their Inquiry into school funding looked into this sort of cost to the system, if not, then they might like to put such a study on their list for the future.

As I have written in previous blogs, there are some areas, such as pupil numbers increases, where costs cannot be avoided. There are other areas where reducing waste should be a real priority for the system. This looks like an example of the latter.

More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

Better identification or more pupils with SEN?

The DfE data on pupils with special education needs in schools at the January 2019 census data confirms what everyone has been saying about the absolute number of such pupils being on the increase, as might be expected when pupil numbers overall are increasing. However, the percentage of pupils with both SEN and the need for an Education and Health Care plan (EHCP) has also increased. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/special-educational-needs-in-england-january-2019

As the DfE puts it, across all schools, the number of pupils with special educational needs has risen for the third consecutive year, to 1,318,300 (14.9%) in January 2019. This follows a period of year on year decreases from January 2010 to 2016. Over this period, the overall decrease was driven by decrease in the proportion of pupils with SEN support, while the percentage of pupils with a statement or EHC plan remained stable at 2.8%.

The percentage of pupils with SEN Support, those with identified special educational needs, but no EHC plan, followed a similar pattern rising to 1,047,200 (11.9%).

271,200 school pupils had an EHC plan in place in January 2019. This is an increase of 17,500 since January 2018. The percentage of pupils with an EHC plan has risen to 3.1% of the total pupil population in January 2019, after remaining constant at 2.8% from 2007 to 2017.

These figures show why both the high Needs Block of funding is under such pressure and also why local authority SEN transport budgets are also costing local taxpayers more each year. Moe pupils means more schools and it is to be hoped that in parts of England where there are many small local authorities the forward planning by the ESFA is robust enough to deliver these places at the minimum additional travel costs to taxpayers.

Across all pupils with SEN, Speech, Language and Communications Needs is the most common primary type of need at 22% of pupils. This had previously been Moderate Learning Difficulty, which has decreased to 20%.

Among pupils on SEN support, Speech, Language and Communications Needs is also the most common type of need, at 23%. Of those with an EHC plan, Autistic Spectrum Disorder remains the most common primary type of need with 29% of pupils with an EHC plan having this primary type of need. This has increased from 28% in January 2018.

The number of pupils in state-funded special schools has increased by 6% to over 120,000. This represents 9% of all pupils with SEN. The former trend towards integration now seems to be a feature of the past as numbers of SEN pupils in independent schools has also increased. 7% of all SEN pupils are placed in an independent school.

Special educational needs remain more prevalent in boys than girls, 4.4% of boys and 1.7% of girls had an EHC plan, both small year-on-year increases. Similarly boys were almost twice as likely to be on SEN support – 15% compared to 8% of girls.

SEN is most prevalent among boys at age 9 (23% of all boys), and for girls at age 10 (13% of all girls). SEN support is most prevalent among primary age pupils, before decreasing as age increases through secondary ages.

For EHC plans however, as age increases the percentage of pupils with EHC plans also increases, up to age 16, where nearly 4% of pupils have an EHC plan. However, it is not clear how many pupils with identified needs have been flagged by the NHS before they enter into education. This would save schools both time and resources and ensure early help for some children.

With the new focus on mental health, something schools have always been acutely aware of as an issue, I would not be surprised to see the number of pupils with SEN continue to increase over the next few years. The DfE will also need to consider how to help teachers keep as many of those that can manage their learning in mainstream schools to do so.

 

 

Small schools: what’s their future?

Last Thursday, the DfE issued a raft of statistical information. The data about teachers has been covered by this blog in a number of different posts. As a result, the data from the January School Census that covers schools and their pupils has had to wait its turn. Happily, there is now time to reflect upon the data.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2019

In terms of public expenditure implications, the important news is that there are more pupils to be funded, as the rise in the birth rate of a few years ago starts to work its way through the system. Overall, there were 84,700 more pupils in education in England in January 2019 than in the previous January. This is despite any trend towards home schooling or off-rolling.

The bulk of the increase, 69,500, came in the secondary sector.  Assuming more of the increase to be in Year 7, then this probably required some 3,500 more teachers. Not all will have been recruited, as some schools will have falling rolls at sixteen and in a few cases still, at fourteen due to movement of pupils to UTCs and Studio Schools.

The number of primary pupils increased by 10,800; an insignificant increase on a pupil population of 4,730,000 pupils. This levelling off in the primary school population, and its possible reduction in a few years’ time, has implications for the system that will be discussed later.

It’s worth noting the increase in the number of pupils in special schools, of some 6,500. How far this is an awareness of extra need and how far schools looking to place pupils that cost more to educate than a school normally receives cannot be identified from the data. However, by January 2019, almost all pupils should have converted from a Statement of SEN to an EHCP.

It is worth noting the fall of 900 pupils in independent schools. It isn’t easy to identify where that trend is coming from, but some of it might be as a result of local authorities reassessing the cost of placing SEN pupils in such schools, and instead now using cheaper state funded provision and thus contributing to the increase in numbers in special schools.

The most concern in policy terms arising from this data are the future shape of the primary school system. While there are 13 primary schools with over 1,000 pupils, there are almost 2,000 primary schools with 100 or fewer pupils. Together these latter schools account for approaching one in eight primary schools. Some will be infant schools, where a merger with a junior school could create a primary school, as has already happened in many instances. However, where these small schools are already primary schools, how will their future be assessed? Does the present funding arrangements permit local authorities and academy chains to retain such schools, both for the good of their communities and to prevent very young children having to take bus journeys to and from school each day? Some counties with small communities that are widely distributed will certainly face this problem, even if they aren’t already doing so. So far, I haven’t heard anything from the Leadership contenders about this matter.