Incentives to train as a teacher

There have been two recent announcements from the DfE that are of interest. Firstly, the support levels for postgraduate ITT students on courses in 2022-23. These bursaries are designed to encourage recruitment into subjects where targets are being missed. The DfE has made the following announcement:

For 2022 to 2023, we are offering bursaries of:

  • £24,000 in chemistry, computing, mathematics and physics
  • £15,000 in design and technology, geography and languages (including ancient languages)
  • £10,000 in biology

Applicants may be eligible for a bursary if they have 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s.

These bursaries sit alongside the scholarship programme that DfE persuaded the Learned Societies to offer some years ago.

Business Studies still doesn’t appear in the list. This is despite it being one of the subjects where schools can struggle to recruit teachers. However, it is encouraging to see design and technology back on the list, albeit not at the £24,000 level where the bursary really might make a difference.

Now that the DfE is managing recruitment, they will have nowhere to hide if the scheme doesn’t produce results. While there should always be sufficient trainees in history and physical education, some of the other subjects such as music and religious education may suffer from not being included in the bursary list. But, I guess, the bursary is a backward looking recruitment tool not one designed to prevent a possible future shortage.

The other announcement from the DfE was on the access to the National Professional Qualifications. These will now be available to all teachers and not just those in the originally designated areas. As the funding remains the same, there is a risk that the contribution that this scheme will make to the ‘levelling up’ agenda will be diluted by now being offered to all teachers. We won’t know until the curriculum and selection criteria and availability of courses are compared with the original objectives.

Whatever the outcome, it is good news to see attention being paid to professional development once again. Leaving professional development up to individual schools as employers at a time of financial constraint is a risky business as this is a budget line that can all too easily become a victim of cutbacks. Expecting schools to fund professional development that advances the career of a teacher and may well take them away from the school on promotion is always a big risk. Indeed, it is one reason for dealing with this funding stream on a regional or even national basis.

The news from the labour market is that across some parts of England vacancy levels have been higher than usual for the autumn in some subjects. Is this a catching-up exercise or are some teachers re-thinking their futures in the profession in a world where covid is likely to be endemic.

‘We need more black headteachers in our schools’

‘This blog was founded on the idea that data was important. Had the Labour government of Blair and Brown not abolished the mandatory qualification for headship, this issue of who becomes a head teacher would have been visible much earlier and more widely debated. Sadly, it has been relegated to regular research studies and the data that the DfE collects from the annual census of the workforce. The issue of ethnicity has been ignored for too long.

It may be the Workforce data that has convinced the Secretary of State to pay attention to the fact that of nearly 69,000 teachers recorded as from minority groups -including white minorities – only 1,530 were headteachers. Over the past few years, the number has barely altered.

yearEthnic minority Head teachers (including white minorities)
Ethnic Minority Headteacher Numbers- England

Derived from DfE School Workforce Data

Between the 205/16 school-year and the last school -year there were only 57 more headteachers from minority groups across all types of schools. The DfE data does allow evidence of where these headteachers are located.

Looking back at a Report that I wrote for the NAHT in 2001, I find that I said even then that:

it is of concern that in such a multi-cultural society as Britain has become, these posts are still so unrepresentative of the groups that make up that society.’

The same view appeared regularly in the future reports written for the NAHT during the remainder of that decade. It is, therefore, of interest that the secretary of State made his remarks to an NAHT Conference.

The Conference was told that less than 0.2% of school leaders were Black and female. Lack of black headteachers ‘not good enough’, says Education Secretary | Metro News

The data for appointments to headship in the first decade of the century can be found in Table 3 of The leadership aspirations and careers of black and minority ethnic teachers by Olwen Mcnamara, myself, Helen Gunter and Andrew Fryers. The research was conducted for the NASUWT and the then NCTL. The report still remains, along with the reports on entry to the profession conducted for the College, some of the most detailed research into the issues of ethnic minority teachers in England and their careers.

Most headteachers for ethnic minority backgrounds have been located in areas where there are higher concentrations of pupils with similar backgrounds. Thus, there are large areas of rural England where headteachers from ethnic minority backgrounds are rarely to be found, especially the further north and west from London the school is located.

To encourage headteachers from ethnic minority backgrounds there needs to be more teachers to fill the pipeline to leadership. The Secretary of State might like to consider the issue of recruitment into teaching now the DfE has full responsibility for managing the process.

Teaching must be representative of society as a whole. As I wrote in an article nearly 30 years ago, teaching must not become a profession that is ‘young, white and female’.

From porter to software engineer

I was interested in the Prime Minister’s conference speech today, so looked out this post from 7 years ago when the blog was still in its infancy. Absence rates were an issue even then as was teacher supply. I don’t think the maths and science teacher premium, an old policy re-invented will be the answer, not least because we need to solve the problem by creating a successful early years framework. Perhaps the cash might have been better invested in children’s Centres?

Anyway here is my previous post, like some government polices given a reprieve and a new title.

Posted on June 18, 2014

The Report on achievement by white working class boys published today by the Education Select Committee makes clear what educationalists have known for some time: this group underperform in school compared with almost all other groups except perhaps traveller children, and have been falling behind as other groups have improved at a faster rate. Why this is, and the solutions proposed by the Committee, reveals the complexity of the problem.

No doubt the one solution highlighted by many commentators will be the lengthening of the school day to provide both wraparound care and somewhere for older pupils to do their homework and participate in after-school activities. The homework facility is a good idea where pupils lack space and facilities at home. But, it will only work if pupils are motivated to learn, and there is a risk that this is too often not the case.

Absence rates for schools serving white working class communities are often above the national average, and it is well known that pupils falling behind early on in their education struggle to catch up. As a result, it might be worth exploring how we ensure the best quality teachers are working in the early years of schools serving these communities, and also how we create learning opportunities that cope with a less than perfect attendance pattern. This would be the opposite of the big stick, fine for non-attendance route that anyway doesn’t take into account the ability of a family to pay any fine.

With a looming teacher shortage in some parts of the country, addressing the problem of who teaches where is vital if the gap between white working class pupils and the rest of society isn’t to widen still further. Such school cannot be allowed to struggle to find teachers.

However, there is much to be done to motivate the parents, many of whom underachieved at school, and don’t see the reason for forcing a regular pattern of attendance on their offspring. But, society must engage with them, and offer help so their children can benefit from our future economic success as a nation.

With the structural changes to the labour market that have taken place over the past few decades many of the jobs that didn’t need much education have disappeared, and those that remain are often not well paid. Some years ago I noted an educationalist that had said that ‘the porter of yesterday had become the fork lift truck driver of today and the operator of a computer managed warehouse of tomorrow’. Well tomorrow has arrived. White working class boys with no qualifications sometimes have a choice between perhaps either window cleaning or driving white vans; and even window cleaning is becoming more skilled, and there are no jobs for van boys any longer.

Whatever society does to attack this problem of underachievement is likely to cost money, and reassessing how schools are funded, especially those offering the early years of schooling, remains an important consideration.

Now that schools are no longer the total responsibility of local authorities, the government must come forward with a programme to help address the underachievement: keeping schools open longer is only a small part of the solution; fining parents is no real solution, but ensuring the right teachers work in the schools where they will make the most difference is something worth trying. Achieving it will either cost money or mean a total rethink of how teachers are employed, and a challenge to school autonomy.

Few signals from Manchester

An extract from the Secretary of State’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference

Every child deserves a great teacher. And every teacher deserves great training.

I will bring forward a schools white paper in the new year outlining plans to tackle innumeracy and illiteracy “

So as the foundation of the next decade of reform during this parliament we will deliver 500,000 teacher training opportunities. We are carrying out a fundamental overhaul that will make this country the best in the world to train and learn as a teacher.’

50,000 training places a year will be hard to achieve under any regime, especially if some universities decide to pull out of ITT or ITE because of the government changes to the curriculum for preparing teahcers

.Interestingly, the Gatsby Foundation has published a pamphlet of essays on the topic of reforming teacher education in response to the government’s market review. itt-reform-expert-perspectives-2021.pdf ( I was especially taken by the essay by Ben Rogers of the Paradigm Trust about the distribution of ITT places, something that featured in the previous post on this blog

With a government now seemingly committed to a high wage; high skill level economy, education will be an important player in driving forward the success of that policy. Now, of course, the government having seen the outcome of the tutoring programme, might want to turn over the skills agenda to the private sector and leave schools with the basic curriculum centred around literacy and numeracy to teach. May be that will be the focus of the White Paper that seems to hark back to the Blair government’s education play book.

However, there are other problems facing the Secretary of State. This blog has recently reminded readers that the lorry driver shortage is as nothing compared to the shortage of design and technology teachers, not to mention business studies and physics teachers.

It is no use telling the private sector to ‘get its house in order’ when the public sector, where the Conservative Party has been in control of government for the past decade, has failed to deal with teacher shortages. The DfE site for teaching now explicitly shows whether a course provider will handle visa applications.

Ahead of the Spending Review, a Review that is unlikely to be kind to education, the Secretary of State would have been hard put to announce costly new policies, especially since he has little control over how schools actually spend their cash. There are saving to be made still in the school sector. These range from cutting recruitment costs that might save £40 million or so to a major rethink about the diseconomies of scale of the academy programme.

Now the Conservative Party has created a Labour style NHS model of central control for the school system, shorn of local democracy, it is surely time to look seriously at what the system now costs to administer. Local Authorities may have had their faults, but a high cost structure wasn’t generally one of them. Time for a savings task force?

DfE ITT courses site now viewable

Those that have looked at UCAS ITT site searches for postgraduate ITT courses in past years won’t be surprised by the new DfE site that opened for viewing earlier today of courses for 2022 entry. They might be disappointed, depending upon their point of view.

A search for physics courses in London with a salary attached produced results for 42 courses. However, some 20 of the course providers are located outside the 32 boroughs that make up the generally accepted definition of the capital. Now, those 20 providers, including the National physics provider may well have schools registered in London offering places.

There doesn’t seem to be a reminder of Teach First, presumably the site thinks viewers will already have researched that route if a salary is important. But, in my view, it is always worth reminding viewers of the other possible routes.

I was also struck by how few of the courses were run from schools within inner London. This is especially important as today Lewis Hamilton, the racing driver launched a campaign to train more Black teachers in STEM subjects. If, as the IFS study discussed in a previous post is right about mobility of trainee teachers this may be an issue worth considering.

Then there is the issue of multiple listings for what is in essence the same course. One version of a course has QTS; another version QTS plus a PGCE. As yet, it isn’t clear how many places are available on each course. I have always maintained this is a key piece of information for candidates.

Interestingly, in the year the DfE ran application process for the School Direct programme they included the information and how many places had been filled. The research from that data led to my suggesting we were heading for a teacher supply crisis in some subjects and the subsequent exchanges with the DfE via the media.

A search of the DfE site reveals some areas where there are few or even no courses available. Thus, there appears to be no provider in Oxfordshire of Computing ITT courses after a search on Computing with or without vacancies. Curiously, a search on Oxford by providers brings up four courses for Computing at the SCITT that didn’t appear in the previous search.

Each provider has a listing for whether they can sponsor visas for overseas applicants. Of the 8,000+ course combinations, just fewer than 1,300 sponsor visa applications. I assume that the government thinks this is a good idea, even if in the past that route has failed to ensure all ITT places required were filled.

Over the next few months this system will bed down and be the ‘go to’ place for those wanting to train as a teacher in our new high skill, high wage economy. Whether some applicants will be prepared to train without a salary, while other have that advantage and all it brings with it, will be an interesting discussion if the data is provided to measure any different rates of interest.

Thank You UCAS

Today marks the final set of monthly data from UCAS in relation to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. From Next month the DfE takes over the application process for all such postgraduate routes into teaching. The remaining undergraduate courses will still be part of the UCAS process.

Thirty years ago, in the days of PCAS, UCAS and the Clearing House for Teacher Training, I started monitoring the monthly data produced to study the implications for teacher supply of recruitment levels for courses starting each September. So, this may well be my final report on the subject. With readership of this blog falling away in recent months, that probably won’t be an issue. For many

At some point, I may write a blog about the highlights of thirty years of looking at the data, but enough of looking backward: what are the implications of today’s data? Primary courses should have more than sufficient trainees to meet demand in 2020. Applications were at their highest levels this September since the 2016/17 cycle.

Across the secondary sector, the picture is more mixed. Overall applications remained high, although some 10,000 below last year’s surge that was a result of the response to the covid pandemic and the shutting down of the economy. This year, subjects can be divided into three groups.

Firstly, those where applications are sufficient to ensure there should be no shortages of teachers in 2022. These subjects include, Art, PE, history and chemistry. Music may also be in this group, but might be on the cusp of the second group where applications are high by past standards, but may not be enough to meet demand in 2022 and will need watching when the ITT Census appears for the numbers that have actually made it onto courses. This group of subjects includes, RE, mathematics and business studies.

The final group is those subjects where the number of recorded acceptances will not be enough to meet likely demand next year. This group includes some regulars such as physics, IT and design and technology as well as biology, English, a subject that might also be in the second group depending upon demand in 2022, geography and modern foreign languages.

Many of these subjects are those thought important by the former Minister of State, although during his tenure at Sanctuary Buildings the supply crisis in these subjects was never solved.

Design and technology deserves especial mention as it is facing its worst crisis ever in terms of numbers offered places. The 320 recorded as placed or conditionally placed is half the number of September last year and the lowest level recorded since before 2010. No doubt the possible surplus of teachers of art and design will help stave off complete catastrophe in the staffing of the subject.

There is some evidence that bursaries do matter. Both biology and geography have seen numbers accepted drop sharply following changes in financial support. Chemistry has been a beneficiary in the sciences, suggesting that some possible biologist have switched subjects to chemistry and the more attractive finance package during training.

So, farewell and thank you to everyone at UCAS. We may not have seen eye to eye all the time, but I appreciate you work and the data you have produced.

Zero Carbon Schools

Despite the spate of school strikes a couple of years ago, demanding action on climate change, the school sector hasn’t received much attention as to how it is helping to tackle climate change. Perhaps everyone has just been too busy dealing with the more immediately urgent pandemic.

As a result, it was great news to come across this on the BBC website.

Hertfordshire County Council has granted planning permission for a 300-pupil primary school and nursery in Buntingford – the county’s first net-zero carbon school. The school’s windows will be triple-glazed, with solar panels installed to run electric vehicle charging points, while heating will be supplied by air-source heat pumps. Cllr Jeff Jones said he was “really pleased” that the “much-needed facility” would meet growing local demand, with around 1,500 new homes built in Buntingford since 2011.

However, I hope those triple-glazed windows can open since many years ago a Council near Heathrow built a new school with double glazing and sealed windows to reduce aircraft noise. The solar gain in the summer made the building a very uncomfortable place to work. Technology has no doubt ironed out that problem.

In 2019, I posted some suggestions for how schools could tackle the issue of climate change and there is a recent YouTube video discussing some of the strategies schools can adopt.

The simplest is for pupils, staff or governors to conduct an audit of energy use in their school. Straightforward and relatively cheap actions to take include ensuring all cooking is by electricity not gas and installing at least on EV charging point in the car park where the school has one.

Longer-term we need to make playgrounds dual use. For most of the year they lie idle but could double as generators of renewable energy with a bit of ingenuity. Time for a venture capitalist to work with technologists and some MATs and perhaps a diocese or two to set up a pilot scheme?

Then there is the issue of biodiversity that has moved up the agenda. Do schools grow flowers either in pots or in their grounds? The Jubilee Scheme for tree planting is starting soon, and schools not directly involved can see if they have space to plant a tree. I well recall, and it shows my age, the ‘Plant a tree in 73; plants some more in 74’ campaign.

Do primary schools still grow cress. On a larger scale could the new school in Hertfordshire have a green roof or even green walls to absorb Carbon? I hope the school will also have a ‘grey water’ recovery scheme to harness rainwater installed.

The education sector does need to take climate change seriously not just in the classroom but also in the building and operation of schools, colleges and our universities. Should those manicured lawns be cut just a bit longer and less frequently than in the past?

A timely reminder

In November 2019 I wrote a post on this blog headed ‘Firm but Understanding’ that recognised the challenges many pupils brought into school with them every day. Other posts have recognised the dramatic fall in numbers of young people entering the criminal justice system.

Firm but understanding | John Howson (

I was reminded of my earlier post by the following piece on the BBC News website that reaffirms my belief that those being prepared for teaching need to be aware of the backgrounds of all the children that they teach.

Swindon report shows fewer children entering criminal justice system – BBC News

Latest figures showed that there were 11,400 children entering the criminal justice system in England and Wales at the end of 2019, a drop of 84% since 2009.

During 2020, across 155 authorities in England and Wales there were 19,026 young people entering the criminal justice system averaging at around 122 per local authority.

Swindon’s Youth Justice Service had worked with 88 children in 2020 the Local Democracy Reporting Service was told. This compares to 188 in 2019 and 132 the year before.

Of the 88, some 63 had substance misuse issues, 55 mental health concerns and 40 were deemed vulnerable or at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation. There were also 25 who had needed child protection plans and 48 were considered to be, or had been, children in need.

Officers said that the figures showed the justice team were working with children with increasingly complex needs. “The low number of first-time entrants means those children still in the justice system are more complex where re-offending is more likely,” he said.

“Abuse trauma and neglect are likely to be in the life histories of children who offend.

“Simply punishing children who have experienced neglect or trauma or abuse simply doesn’t work, we have to be more sophisticated in working out how to get them to desist.”

There is food for thought here for those wishing to reform teacher preparation courses. Teachers need to be prepared to educate all children regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances. As I said in my 2019 post, the child in a foster placement that returns home to find their belongings in a bin bag and a social worker waiting to take them to a new placement and a new school mid-term may not be the best behaved child in the class at the new school. Teachers need to be alert to such circumstances and their training needs to prepare them for such events.

Cottage Industry or Modern Workplace

There has been a lot of chat about the resumption of Ofsted inspections of ITT settings following the suspension during the first year of the covid crisis. In the past, ofsted has tended to see ITT providers as reaching a high standard in preparing the next generation of teachers. However, the early inspection outcomes under the new framework have ruffled feathers with some providers being judged as either Requiring Improvement or even Inadequate.

Further education provision, often seen as the overlooked child of teacher/lecturer preparation, has come in for the most concern from inspectors, with two university curses flagged as Inadequate and two Further Education based courses seen as Requiring Improvement. As a former teacher educator that doesn’t surprise me. This area of preparation often doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves.

From these first round of inspections there has only been one Outstanding grade, for a provider in South West London. Three universities have received Requires Improvement grades for part of their provisions. All are post-1992 universities with a long tradition in teacher preparation. None are in areas where there is a teacher shortage. Two other providers of courses for teachers in the school sector have been graded as inadequate. Both in the North West, an area where there is no overall shortage of teacher supply.

Is there an agenda here? Data suggests that there are too many training places in the primary sector for future needs if the intention is to match training numbers with perceived need and not to regard the training of teachers are an open choice course not related to market need. With the shambles over lorry driver numbers and other shortages, matching need for workers to supply may move up the government’s agenda in the future.

In teaching, because the government has always met the initial costs of training, whether by grants in the past or now through student loans, the Teacher Supply Model has always attempted to match the supply of teachers with expected demand: not always successfully, as this blog has noted in the past.

Adverse inspection outcomes in areas where teacher supply is less of an issue, especially in the primary sector, could be a means of flagging up courses where accreditation might be removed. It will be interesting to watch the data as it emerges from further inspection reports.

Neither of the two providers with ‘national’ in their title were rated as Outstanding. Both the mathematics/physics course that involves a large number of independent schools, and the Modern Foreign Language course were rated as Good. Surely such specialist provision ought to be Outstanding in their preparation of new teachers? No doubt they will be at their next inspections.

How do small courses manage issues such as introducing trainees to recent research and creating a balance between generic teaching skills and subject knowledge acquisition where there may be only one or two trainees in a particular subject. Additionally, how do some schools handle an introduction to diversity issues in largely mono cultural locations? In respect of the levelling up agenda, this might be an issue for courses located only in schools with strong parental support or excellent outcomes.

These are early days, but there is much discussion about the landscape for initial teacher preparation courses as there was in the mid-1970s; late 1990s and no doubt will be again in the future when change is being mooted. This blog has been in existence long enough to contain a detailed submission to the Carter Review. I will watch the future with interest.

Prudent measure or wasted opportunity?

The DfE has recently published details of the revenue balances held by academies and Trusts. Academy trust revenue reserves 2019 to 2020 – GOV.UK ( Unlike maintained schools that follow the local government financial year, the academies financial year follows a September to August pattern, broadly in line with the annual cycle of school life. The different financial years would make comparisons between the two sectors difficult, but doesn’t prevent comment and analysis about the state of finances in either sector.

The DfE document contains this useful summary


At the end of the academic year 2019/20

• 95.9% of trusts had a cumulative surplus or a zero balance.

• 4.1% of trusts had a cumulative deficit.

• The average revenue reserve across all academy trusts was £1.15 million.

• The average surplus balance, of trusts with a surplus, was £1.22 million.

• The average deficit balance, of trusts with a deficit, was £376,000.

• The total cumulative surplus across all academy trusts was £3.17 billion.

• The total cumulative deficit across all academy trusts was £42.1 million.

• The total net financial position of all academy trusts was a cumulative surplus of £3.13 billion.

Trusts average reserves – In 2019/20 average revenue reserves across academy trusts were £1.15 million, compared to £0.96 million in 2018/19, an increase of 20%.

In 2019/20 the average surplus balance was £1.22 million, compared to £1.05 million in 2018/19, an increase of 16%.

The average deficit balance in 2019/20 was at £376,000, compared to £381,000 in 2018/19, a decrease of 1.3%.

Trusts average reserves as a percentage of income – average academy trust reserves as a percentage of a trust’s income stood at 11.4% in 2019/20, compared to 10.8% in 2018/19.

This last fact will no doubt raise some eyebrows, as putting more than one pound in every ten received into reserves doesn’t suggest a system in the financial crisis that is the regular message from the frontline in education. Of course, putting cash aside to pay auditors bills and other future expenditure is a prudent idea. However, saving across a Trust for a specific project benefiting only one school is somewhat against the spirit of budgets being devolved to schools, and one of the criticism that used to be levelled at local authorities when they were responsible for schools.

Removing local democratic accountability for schooling should not have allowed unelected bodies to either build up large reserves or to favour certain schools over others. I have always maintained that the concept of revenue funding is to provide the funds to educate the pupils of today and not to save for the future education of others. Perhaps it is time that the National Audit Office had another look at the nature and purpose of these reserves held by academies and the Trusts to which they belong?