A new source of teachers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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More lows than highs

Schools are going to have to rely upon reducing wastage rates among serving teachers and encouraging returners back into teaching in order to survive the 2020 recruitment round, if the data released by UCAS today about offers for teacher training courses starting this September don’t show dramatic improvements over the next couple of weeks. The DfE is doing a valiant job fast tracking enquiries received by their ‘get into teaching’ site, but so far it isn’t enough to prevent another potential year of problems for schools.

Let’s start with the good news: history has more offers than ever before, and languages; religious education and design and technology have recorded more offers than in August last year. However, design and technology is still way below target numbers needed to meet the Teacher Supply Model number for this year.

Biology, English, geography and physical education are at similar levels to this time last year in terms of recorded ‘offers’ and should produce sufficient teachers to meet needs next year on a national scale, even if there are local shortages because of where training is located. Chemistry is also at a similar level to last year, but that may not be sufficient to meet demand for teachers of the subject.

Now for the bad news: some subjects are recording lower offer levels than at this point in 2018. Business Studies and art, although lower than last year are not at their lowest levels for August during the past six recruitment rounds. However, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording offer levels that are lower than at any August during the recruitment rounds since 2013/14. Schools across England are likely to experience recruitment challenges in these subjects in 2020 that could be worse than this year unless supply is boosted in other ways.

This grim news, is backed by a depressing 500 fewer placed applicants in England and slightly fewer ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. The additional 30 applicants ‘holding an offer’ do not make up the difference. Overall, some 72% of applicants domiciled in England have been made an offer (73% at August 2018). The published monthly statistics don’t allow for easy comparison by subject for applicants as opposed to applications which, as I have pointed out in the past, is a disappointment.

Nevertheless, most of the reduction in offers is to male applicants, where ‘placed’ applicants are down from 9,250 in August 2018, to 8,800 this August; a reduction of around 450 or the majority of the reduction in offer numbers. It is career switchers that have disappeared, especially those between the age groups of 22-29. The youngest ‘new’ graduate numbers are very similar to last year, but there are more applicants in their 30s than last year.

The School Direct Salaried route continues to be the big loser in terms of offers, but not in terms of applications. Only 770 applications are shown as with offers of any sort compared to 990 last August for the secondary sector. In the primary sector the number is higher at 1,840, but last August the number was higher at 2,000.

There are still very many offers recorded as ‘conditional’ even at this late point in the cycle. Only in history, Mandarin, PE and Religious Education, among the larger subjects, are ‘placed’ numbers shown as higher this August than in August 2019.

Next month will mark the end of the monthly date for this recruitment round. I wish I could say that I was optimistic, but despite the potential turmoil faced by the country over the political situation, I cannot be anything other than concerned for the teacher labour market in 2020 based upon these data.

 

Uncertain Times

One of the consequences of the prorogation of parliament has been the cancellation of the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession that was scheduled for the 9th September. Below is the paper I would have presented to the APPG meeting. The text represents my first look at what might happen to the teacher labour market in 2020.

APPG Labour Market for Teachers: A first look at the outcome for September 2020.

In 2020, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that brought state schooling to the whole population for the first time in our history.

The job market at the start of September 2019 is probably facing another year where the supply of teachers will not meet the demand, especially in many secondary subjects, and most notably across the South of England. The further North and West in England you move away from London, and in much of the classroom teacher market in the primary sector, there is less pressure overall on supply, but shortages in specific subjects remain, especially for January 2020 appointments.

However, the picture might change quite radically post-Brexit on 31st October. If there is a general slowdown in the world economy in the autumn and through to the start of 2020, as many economists seem to be expecting, this may be good news for schools. Recessions in the past have meant fewer teachers leaving the profession and more seeking to either train as a teacher, as other career avenues recede, or return to teaching as a secure, if not well-paid, profession. Additionally, if demand internationally for teachers from England reduces that may help retain teachers and reduce wastage rates, especially amongst teachers with 5-7 years of experience.

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, the picture is still one of shortages. In mid-August 135 preparation courses in London had vacancies, compared with only five in the North East of England.

As a result of this analysis, there are three possible scenarios for the teacher labour market in 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population. This will make it the longest running supply crisis since the early 1970s.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. A worsening economic and geopolitical situation, especially in the Middle East and in China might be catalysts for such an outcome, as might less that fully funded salary increase for teachers used as an incentive to help attract more recruits in the future into teaching as a career. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is extremely unlikely scenario for 2020, unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.

 

 

Yong people being successful

This summer, I have been able to witness some amazing activities by young people from across Oxfordshire. In this blog I would like to mention three groups and the adults that have supported them. All have to a greater or lesser extent funding from official sources, but need to rely upon volunteers as well, including the goodwill of parents. They represent but the tip of an iceberg of what takes place.

At the end of the school summer term I attended various concerts put on by the County Music Service, and at the end of the month I will be attending a welcome back concert by the OSO. This orchestra is considered to be Oxfordshire’s “training” orchestra, with students going on to play in the OSSO, OYWO and OCYO. Next year the most senior of these orchestra is planning on playing Mahler’s First Symphony. That would be a magnificent achievement for the orchestra and the County Music Service. Their other achievement this year, of buddying children with SEND of all descriptions with other young people to create a truly memorable music experience, broke new boundaries.

The National Citizen Service hasn’t always had a good press, but the on the ground activities help create a sense of teamwork and allow young people to achieve more than they thought themselves capable. I was privileged to be asked to judge the projects by five of the teams from among the 700 young people taking part in the five discrete programmes this summer in Oxfordshire. These programmes also involved the use of 200 staff to support the courses. Included in the programme was supporting and fund-raising for charitable activities. Alongside support for the homeless and the local hospital charity were campaigns to support young carers; those with brain injuries and a project to map unisex toilets that can be used by those identifying as of transgender. I witnessed two of the teams staffing a stall in the local market place as a means of raising funds. In 2018, more than £43,000 was raised by NCS group activities. It is still early to say how much will be raised in 2109, but again young people came together to work on a project and learn a range of skills.

Yester, I attended the open day for the Oxfordshire Battalion of the Army Cadet Force summer camp. Despite atrocious weather, youngsters from 13 to 19 were participating in a range of activities albeit with a military theme. The dedication of all concerned was clear to see and the Battalion in Oxfordshire is clearly in good spirits. However, I wonder whether the MoD pays the same attention to the ACF s it does to the Combined Cadet Force or CCF that is mostly located in our independent schools? In this day and age youth activities by the MoD must not be organised so that one is the route for potential officers and the other for other ranks. That might have worked in the days after World War 2 when the tri-partite system of education prevailed, but would look extremely out of date these days. Bringing pupils from both sectors to work together, especially in a county lie Oxfordshire with so many intendent schools, might dispel any such notion. Larger numbers might also help attract those interested in understanding the range of activities of our defence forces and the skills they need.

So, my thanks to all that give up their time for these and other organisations working with young people. We just need to ensure that there is also a proper youth service that can support others, such as young carers that often cannot find the time to join in these types of activities.

Teachers always needed in London

Four out of every ten teaching vacancies in England, advertised between January and the end of July this year, were placed by schools located either in London or the South East. Add in vacancies from the northern and eastern Home Counties, including Essex, Hertfordshire and schools located in a clutch of unitary local authorities and the figure for vacancies comes close to half of all teaching posts. This data come from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the company where I am Chair of the Board.

By contrast, the North East and North West together account for only 12% of vacancies. This increases to 20% if the Yorkshire and The Humber Region is added into the total. Of course, these are smaller regions than London and the South East, but that doesn’t account for all of the difference.

Undoubtedly, the school population is rising faster in London and the Home Counties than elsewhere, both because of the birth rate increase a few years ago and also because of the amount of house building, especially in parts of the South East. Oxfordshire has had three new secondary schools over the past few years, with more to come. This after a period when no new secondary schools were built in the county.

Although Teach First is now a programme spread across England, its influence in London can still be seen. Schools in the Capital generally topped the list for percentage of vacancies recorded by region, but were in second place in terms of the percentage of demand for teachers of English and only in joint first place with the South East in demand for teachers of mathematics, both accounting for 19% of the national total of advertised vacancies.

Another reason demand may be high in London and the South East is the significant number of private schools located in these regions.

Interestingly, ‘business’ in is various forms was the subject where London was further ahead of the rest of the country; accounting for a third of all vacancies advertised so far in 2019. Add in the percentage for the South East and the total for the two regions is more than half the total for the whole of England.

In business, as in a range of other subjects, schools needing to recruit for vacancies that arise for January 2020 are going to find filing those vacancies something of a challenge. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit and the state of the world economy, there won’t be a reserve of newly qualified teachers still looking for work in many subjects. Languages, history and geography within the EBacc being exceptions, although even here there are likely to be local shortages, regardless of the national picture.

Recruiting returners and persuading teachers to switch schools may be the best options for schools suddenly faced with a vacancy, for whatever reason. There will be some teachers coming back from overseas and TeachVac has seen more ‘hits’ on the web site from Southern Hemisphere counties over the past few weeks. But such numbers may only be of marginal help unless there is a really deep global recession.

One option the government might consider is offering teacher preparation courses starting and ending in January as well as September. The Open University used to be very good at offering courses that graduate teachers in time to meet the needs of schools looking to fill their January vacancies.  It might be worth considering such an option again.

The importance of soft skills and those that miss out

The report from the Social Mobility Commission on extra-curricular activities, soft skills and social mobility published today  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/extra-curricular-activities-soft-skills-and-social-mobility comes a decade after similar research, by the then DCSF, (Department of Children, Schools and Families) about schools that offered extended services, both before and after school. This research was conducted in the period before the age of austerity, and any large-scale use of breakfast clubs and food banks. I reported on the DCSF evidence for the TES in the ‘Stat of the Week’ column of 10th April 2009.

There are some striking similarities between the two reports. Today’s Social Mobility Commission report that is entitled ‘An Unequal Playing field’, and is based upon research conducted by the University of Bath, shows according to the press notice:

huge disparities in children’s participation rates across a wide range of extra-curricular activities depending on their social background. Children aged 10 to 15 from wealthier families are much more likely to take part in every type of activity especially music and sport.

The report looks at activities such as arts, music, sport, dance, voluntary work, and youth clubs. It shows that children’s participation in extra-curricular activities depends on the schools they attend; the area they are growing up and their socio-economic background.

As household income rises so does increased participation. Those from better-off families are also more likely to engage in a greater number of out of school activities. Children from the poorest families are 3 times more likely to not participate in any extra-curricular activities compared to those from wealthier families.

Some classes are expensive but there are other barriers for the less affluent. In some areas there are access difficulties – schools don’t provide the activities and local councils have cut back on their provisions for children and young people. Sometimes, however, children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not take part because they lack confidence or fear they will not fit in.

A decade ago, I wrote of the DCSF research that ‘pupils least likely to be using the facilities provided by extended schools are those from the more deprived groups.’ Seems little has changed here.

A decade ago the majority of activities offered through the extended school programme were after school activities, and I suspect that is this is still the case today. However, where before school activities were offered a decade ago, pupils were more likely to make use of them on more days of the week.

In 2009, I concluded that ‘the activities relating to having fun and socialising are the key activities of out-of-school activities’. The Social Mobility Commission chairman has concluded that

“It is shocking that so many children from poorer backgrounds never get the chance to join a football team, learn to dance or play music. The activity either costs too much, isn’t available or children just feel they won’t fit in. As a result they miss out on important benefits – a sense of belonging, increased confidence and social skills which are invaluable to employers. It is high time to level the playing field.”

But, how to level that playing field will be the challenge for the DfE, just as it was for DCSF a decade ago. Seems like not much progress, if any, has been made during the intervening years, and this is another casualty of austerity.

 

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.