To educate: To draw out not to kick out

I am delighted that the governors of St Olaf’s have reversed their policy about those that their school is there to serve. Might this be one case where the diocese has played an important role in changing hearts and minds?

Could this be one of the turning points in education history? Might all state schools now consider the purpose for which they are funded: to educate all and not just promote the seeming best. The quote from C S Lewis, cited in my previous post, really does look like it belongs to a previous age. His Narnia chronicles may still resonate with children and parents, but his views on education certainly shouldn’t. There was an inkling of the national mood last year when the idea of more selective schools was doing the rounds in the more old-fashioned segments of the Conservative Party.

Now is also the time to ditch the culture of league table schooling. Those with a good understanding of the revolution caused by the 1987 Education Reform Act will recall that alongside financial devolution and the National Curriculum ran the concept of ten levels of achievement. This allowed every child to have another level to aspire to achieve. Even a child at level one had a goal and the school could work to help them achieve it. Sadly, somewhere along the line, we ditched the ‘every child has a goal’ for the measure of the gaol achieved by the school as a collective. Naturally, this led to a desire to remove those that weren’t helping the school maximise its potential.

Now, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that helped create schooling for all, it is time to redefine our beliefs in the role of education. We should no longer be looking for reasons to exclude, but for methods to challenge our pupils to succeed. Such a change will reinforce the great work already undertaken by many teachers and could even help to attract more entrants into the profession.

As a next step, the government might like to evaluate whether the over-insistence on the English Baccalaureate is actually hindering the aim of all pupils achieving both personal goals and goals of use to society? As a geographer by background, I welcome pupils studying the subject through to Year 11, but not at the expense of subjects such as design and technology. That subject has been so decimated by government actions that it is suggested that only 315 trainees had taken up offers of places on teacher preparation courses by late August. This is compared with more than 1,100 a few years ago.

Yet, a love of technology, or design and certainly of food can become an important motivator for life after school. Yes, homes and even TV programmes can play their part, but the motivation and support provided by schools remains critical in the development of a child’s education and their future progress as an adult.

The Secretary of State should now reaffirm the purpose of state education as developing the potential of every child entrusted to the State by their families. Those that want to enter a high stakes risk form of education, where lack of success mean exclusion, can still use the private sector.

Advertisements

More news from TeachVac

As we start a new school year, TeachVac, the national vacancy service for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk has introduced the first of its new suite of developments that marks its continued growth. TeachVac is now the largest single source of free teaching vacancies for both schools and teachers in England across both state-funded and private schools.

Supporting the public face of the platform, where schools place vacancies for free and teachers can receive daily notification of vacancies meeting their requirements, is an important back office of statistical information. From today, TeachVac has widened the range of subjects where we collect more than the basic data on vacancies, to include both languages and English. These new subjects join mathematics, the sciences, design and technology, and computing in the list of subjects where additional data about every recorded vacancy is now being recorded.

For many of these subjects, such as the design and technology, the sciences and languages, it allows TeachVac to understand the real aims of schools when advertising generically for a teacher of science or languages. What sciences or combination of languages are these schools really seeking? How much are they willing to pay for particular specialisms? Is there really a growing demand for teachers of Mandarin? Up until now such information hasn’t been easily available. TeachVac now codifies the information on a daily basis. If you are interested in knowing more about the project and exactly what data are being collected then contact the team at TeachVac via the web site. Sadly, unlike the free to use basic vacancy matching service, data requests are not provided free of charge, but involve a small fee.

In addition to data about teaching vacancies at all levels, and in both primary and secondary schools, TeachVac also collects data about technician posts in secondary schools. This can be a good guide to how funding issues are affecting schools, since turnover among these posts tends to be higher than for teachers and resignations are not fixed to the same termly cycle as for most teaching vacancies. This can make them more sensitive to changes in funding an act as a barometer for the market.

As August is the holiday month, TeachVac is delighted to have welcomed visitors from more than 70 countries to the site so far this month; another new record. Overall visits to the TeachVac site have once again doubled over the past year and the trend continues to be upward. In January 2018, TeachVac will publish its first look at trends in the labour market for head teachers. This will continue a trend of such reports first started in the mid-1980s.

Over recent months there has been intense interest in how vacancies are communicated to teachers by schools and how the cost of recruitment can be reduced. TeachVac has a credible free service that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use and has the capacity to save millions of pounds for schools, especially those with large recruitment budgets as a result of both the growth in pupil numbers or increasing teacher turnover as recorded by the DfE in their annual School Workforce Censuses.

 

TeachVac continues to grow

As many readers of this blog know, I am chair of the company that operates TeachVac – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers. Once seen by some as a concept that wouldn’t survive, TeachVac is now starting its fourth cycle of free, unpaid, recruitment advertising for teaching posts. Covering teaching vacancies across the whole of England, with plans to expand further in the autumn, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk offers a free service to both schools and applicants looking for a teaching post and has doubled in size yet again over the last twelve months.

In addition to handling vacancies for individual schools, TeachVac also handles organisations placing multiple vacancies at the same time and has special arrangements for both dioceses and MATs that help those with decentralised recruitment policies track what is happening in their schools.

With coverage of all 151 local authority areas in England, TeachVac includes vacancies in both state-funded schools of all descriptions as well as private schools and from the start of 2017, state funded-primary schools throughout the whole of England. TeachVac is now the largest site for teaching vacancies in England and, of course is free to both schools posting vacancies as well as those seeking a teaching post.

Vacancies are shown to registered job seekers at one of three different levels, classroom teacher; promoted post and leadership positions. Job seekers may specify either a geographical area based a radius of a postcode or a specific local authority area for the larger rural counties. New matches are sent to candidates every day and allow the potential applicant to decide whether to apply for the vacancy. TeachVac makes it possible to track how many applicants are interested in each vacancy.

Over the course of a year, new entrants to the profession can see something of the frequency of vacancies in the subject they are preparing to teach and the location where they wish to teach. This also applies to teachers overseas wishing to return to England to teach and, indeed, any teacher considering either a change of school or a promotion. TeachVac regularly receives visits from those located in over 100 countries around the world each year.

With its wealth of real-time data, TeachVac monitors the recruitment round as it is taking place. This, along with saving money for schools was the reason for creating TeachVac in the first place.

TeachVac is also uniquely placed to match numbers in training with vacancies across the recruitment cycle providing early warnings of shortages both in specific subjects or geographical areas so that schools can make the necessary adjustments to their recruitment campaigns. As hinted in previous posts, although 2017 was not the worst recruitment round of recent years, 2018 is shaping up to be a real challenge for many schools.

If you want to recruit a teacher, find a new teaching post or understand what is actually happening the teacher recruitment marketplace then visit www.teachvac.co.uk  – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers.

Confusion over future pay

The confusion over the future of the public sector 1% pay cap that apparently highlighted differences between the Treasury and other ministers yesterday is but one symptom of the malaise at the heart of the present government. We are used to hearing of –U- turns, but what do we call a double reversal of intent since the term spin has already been appropriated in the political landscape?

Nevertheless, it is clear that pay and associated conditions of service for teachers cannot for ever avoid the effects of competition in a labour market while we live in a society where the State doesn’t direct the job you have to take.

While the labour market remains buoyant, and especially the graduate labour market, it does seem inevitable that any ceiling on pay will have adverse effects. Later today, the June data on recruitment to teacher preparation courses starting this autumn will be published and that will be another straw in the wind. Regular readers will know that I don’t expect the data to be very encouraging in terms of meeting the government’s modelling over numbers needed to be recruited.

Eventually, the pay cap in education will have to go. The government can fudge the change by making changes to the overall structure through, for instance, initiatives such as loan forgiveness schemes that reduce a new entrant’s monthly outgoings by taking over their student debt. However, that won’t help older teachers and encouraging experienced teachers to remain in the profession may be as important as attracting new entrants, if you want a balanced age profile in the profession reflecting both experience and new ideas.

Then there is the question of regional pay. Should London pay rates go up faster than those elsewhere in the country because the London area is where the problem of recruitment is most severe? The data in a previous post about percentages of unqualified teachers might support this thesis, but it could also be down to academies in London looking for a different mix of skills not adequately provided by the subjects identified in the Teacher Supply Model? Should we pay more to secondary school teachers than those that work in primary schools? Traditionally that hasn’t been the case and there seems little evidence that freeing academies form national pay rates has altered the pay landscape very much, except in one specific area.

Senior staff pay in schools, as much as elsewhere in society, doesn’t seem to have been subject to the same degree of pay restraint as classroom teachers have experienced over the past decade. I don’t buy the view that adding one or two schools to a Multi Academy Trust requires the Chief Executive to receive a pay rise to compensate for extra responsibilities.

Since academies are national schools, the government should look at whether chief officer pay in MATs is governed by any specific restrictions and whether there is at least a moral obligation to follow the government’s line on pay restraint while it is still in force.

Perhaps a learned body or a university research team could produce some pay guidelines for chief officers of MATs that relate their pay and conditions to those of chief officers in local authority Children’s Services? They might even be included in the Top Salaries Review Body since these staff in MATs are paid from government funds.

 

 

Class rules: not OK

The Social Mobility Commission is an advisory, non-departmental public body established under the Life Chances Act 2010. It has a duty to assess progress in improving social mobility in the United Kingdom and to promote social mobility in England. Today it has published a report which finds that nearly half of people (48 per cent) believe that where you end up in society today is mainly determined by your background and who your parents are. This compares to 32 per cent who believe everyone has a fair chance to get on regardless of their background.

The Social Mobility Barometer uncovers feelings of deep social pessimism among young people with half (51 per cent) of 18-24 year olds agreeing with this statement compared with 40 per cent of those aged 65 and over. The full report can be accessed at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/social-mobility-commission and is based upon data collected in March, well before the announcement of the general election, although during the period when campaigning in the shire counties for the county council elections was already underway in some parts of the country.

Although the report makes depressing reading in many aspects of its conclusions, there are some interesting and more optimistic observations on which those that believe in greater social mobility can use to build. It is clear that the country almost certainly did feel at the time the data was collected for this report that austerity had gone too far in hitting the poor. 49% thought that those ‘who are the least well off’ did not receive enough government support and this rose to 61% for ‘those just managing’, whereas 58% thought that ‘those who are the most well off’ received too much government support. I am sure that those sentiments played out in the voting patterns in the general election. What, because of my age, I call the 1945 effect. That was the election when the population was finally able to express an opinion on the 1930s decade of hardship and ignored the win in the war voted for Labour and social justice.

Anyway, back to the Social Mobility Commission’s report and a few other interesting nuggets. There are clear regional divides, with London and the South East being seen as the area of opportunity and the North East being seen as a part of the country where you may have to leave to seek opportunities elsewhere. Wales and Northern Ireland are also seen as ‘go from’ areas, something the DUP will no doubt be discussing with the Prime Minister in terms of the price for supporting her government.

The fact that 64% of respondents said that they had received a better education that their parents is encouraging and something we do need to preserve for the future. The supply and recruitment of teachers is absolutely key to achieving this goal. Respondents placed education as the future outcome where prospects were brightest over the next ten years with 40% expecting the next generation to receive a better education. There is a lot of trust being placed in us as educators by society.

It was also interesting to listen to the Oxford Dictionary representative on the radio this morning talking about the level of understanding of the use of language among primary school children. The fact that ‘Trump’ is their word of the year is also very reflective of how engaged young people generally are in what is going on around them.

Of most concern in the report is the fact that there is still general acceptance that educational opportunity is still shaped by background, with those from poor backgrounds having least opportunities and that the level of opportunity deteriorates between school and university.

I have written about the education divides locally in Oxfordshire in previous posts, this report reaffirms what we need to do. Recruit the best teachers and properly fund the schools in areas of least affluence and motive the parents to understand and support the benefits of education.

For government, spread the wealth from London and South East by opening up opportunities elsewhere or continue to see a southward shift in the population that could be accelerated after Brexit.

 

 

 

Low cost private schools: any appetite?

Some of you may have come across the magazine that exists for those interested in investing in education. From time to time its journalists ring me up to ask about issues relating to the private sector in education As a business operator, albeit with TeachVac (www.teachvac.co.uk) using disruptive modern technology, I understand their need to assess opportunities and I happily share my thinking with them.

Recently, the magazine hosted a conference in London. Mostly, the topics discussed were in the higher education realm, an area of less direct interest to me at present than schools. However, there was a session about low cost private sectors schools and possible opportunities in England. Now that’s a topic of more direct interest to me, although they may not know that fact. Many years ago I undertook a piece of research for a client about the possible opportunities in the private school market for a low cost model at a time when school fees were rising sharply. My conclusion was that such a school might well struggle as it offered neither exclusivity nor the small classes that were both the trademarks of many private schools.

Has my judgement changed? Well, I haven’t done any in-depth analysis, so this is very much my first thoughts, but my hunch is that if anything the market is less propitious for new entrants than twenty years ago. With an expansion of selective state schools on the horizon, there may be opportunities in the primary sector, but less so in the secondary. Why pay for what you can achieve for nothing? Paying for tuition is also a cheaper option than paying for a school with some parts you won’t need.

Much could depend upon where the bar for entry to selective schools is set if the Conservative were to go down that path where they to be re-elected. Too selective and they will have little overall impact on existing comprehensive schools in most areas. Too low and we really have a return to the two-tier system of yesteryear. In that case, there might be an appetite in urban areas for fee-paying schools for those pupils that just missed out on a selective school, especially in a period of growth in pupil numbers. However, the existing fee-paying schools should be able to cope with that demand, especially if there were the transfer of some traditional entrants from these schools to the selective schools as parents feel they no longer have to shell out on school fees. You only have to look at what happens in areas with sixth form colleges with a high reputation and the distribution of fee-paying schools.

So, I think that I would be wary of thinking the future holds significant opportunities for the low-cost private school market. There might be some specific groups of parents still wanting to exit the state system but, while there is the chance of a free school paid for by the State, surely that would seem like a cheaper option for them.

Where I have always thought there might be a market is in the vocational skills area for the 14-18 age-group, especially if an institution is closely linked to the local job or apprenticeship markets. Even better, if you can persuade employers to subsidise the cost of the school in return for a fast track into the challenging sections of the labour market. The armed forces have historically understood this section of the market with their apprentice training colleges of yesteryear.

A school offering direct entry into the hospitality or travel industries, where the local further education college isn’t doing a good job, is one possibility. This section of the market also comes with less need for expensive building requirements associated with teaching the full range of curriculum subjects. So, find a niche that can be taught in traditional office type accommodation near a park or other outside space and in an urban area with good transport links and it might be worth creating a business plan; especially if the wages for lecturers can be low, but still better than when working as an experienced professional in the sector and you might have something worth taking further. But, there may well be some other opportunities in the education world for many investors.

Reflections

There were two interesting stories this past week that in other circumstances might have gained more attention; the report into the future of work from PwC and the report to the DfE on behaviour in schools. However, along with the UCAS end of cycle report on ITT recruitment in 2015/16, the year of recruitment controls, they were overshadowed by the terrible events at Westminster.

The report on the future of work was good news for education and those that choose to educate future generations. However, I am not sure that I fully subscribe to the notion of a largely unchanged balance between people and capital in the form of technology in the learning process, but education, at least at the school level, will continue to be a people centred area of work. The understanding that further education has a key role to play post BREXIT is really good news but, after years of funding cuts, it will need to see a serious resource boost. No doubt the new Apprenticeship Ley will help, even as it sucks money out of schools in a merry-go-round of government money that does little for anyone, except the accountants.

The Bennett Report on behaviour says many sensible things, as I would expect from someone I once hired as a seminar presenter on the topic of managing behaviour. My own experience, many years ago, of teaching in a school where discipline needed firm management for learning to take place, is that creating order out of potential chaos is a prerequisite for any formal learning to take place. Informal learning takes place whatever the state of the environment, but it may not be what society wants and expects of its schools. I recall when Mike Tomlinson was sent into take control of a West Yorkshire school in the 1990s, he started by suspending a large number of pupils for a short time. Once control was regained, learning could restart effectively.

If we are moving away from the era of naked competition between schools, where it could be assumed at Westminster that schools with poor behaviour would be shunned by parents and eventually close, to a more realistic appraisal of the use of public assets, then investing in overcoming problems such a schools with challenging behaviour and lots of exclusions, as we now term suspensions, is a sensible way forward. How these funds are managed is still an interesting debate. How long before someone suggests funding local behaviour consultants? Could we start to see the re-birth of advisory and support services for local schools? Of course, MATs can provide these services, but many are too small and lack geographical coherence to tackle the issues in any one locality. Someone needs to coordinate the advice from good quality research with the training and development for teachers at all levels from classroom to the head’s study and the governor’s meeting.

This is a far more important issue that grammar schools. If the Prime Minister wanted to create a real and lasting legacy for herself in education, she would recognise the need to create a school system where all can learn together at all ages in an environment that meets the need of a post BREXIT world, where technology is changing the life chances of future generations.