Insufficient funding creates cost pressures

Over the past week the DfE has been using statistics about school spending in the time period from 2002-03 to 2016-17 to try to rebut the challenges from the two head teacher associations about a decline in school funding. This culminated in headteachers walking to Downing Street last Friday.

At the end of August the DfE published a paper on trends in school spending during this period at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/trends-in-school-spending-2002-to-2016 I confess that its publication had passed me by, but it was the Friday of bank holiday week when it first appeared.

The DfE acknowledge some issues with the times series, most notably the creation of a large number of academies in the secondary sector in 2011-12. Academies and maintained schools have different financial years, a complicating factor when compiling data of this type for all schools. The information also comes from two different sources.

However, the headline number was that total spending was 42% higher in 2016-17 compared with 2002-03. Spending on Non staff was 68% higher in 2016-17 than 2002-03. Staff spending was 33% higher.

Total spending per pupil has increased from £4,080 to £5,790 between 2002-03 and 2016-17 at 2016-17 price levels according to the DfE data.

Spending on Teaching Staff was 17% higher in 2016-17 than 2002- 03, whereas spending on Education Support Staff was 138% higher in 2016-17 than 2002-03. This partly reflect the large growth in this sector over the time period that included the introduction of non-contact time in the primary sector through the use of PPA time and the growth in support for pupils with SEN.

Part of the growth in Education Support Staff spending may be a reflection of the devolution of more and more back office functions to schools along with the decline in local authority support services, especially for academies. Whether or not the spending is always good value for money is for the National Audit office to decide. However much of those extra costs will have been absorbed in the extra spending on the back office was 105% higher in 2016-17 than 2002- 03, compared to a 42% increase in Total spending.

There is good news on both exam fees and energy costs. Both peaked at the end of the first decade and have bene reducing in cost since then. Even so, energy costs were some 75% higher in 2016-17 than at the start of the period.

Recent concerns over supply teacher costs are reflected in the fact that spending on agency supply teaching staff was 64% higher in 2016-17 than 2002-03, and no doubt explains why both main political parties have targeted this area of spending to work on reducing costs.

Missing is a breakdown of both recruitment costs across the sector and, a breakdown of leadership pay increases compared with the increase for classroom teachers. Now that might have been interesting to see last Friday. Also missing is a breakdown of transfer to either local authorities or MATs to show how central costs have changed over this period.

 

 

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Early Years are important for later life.

The Early Years Foundation Stage profiles (EYFSP) for 2016-17 were published earlier this week by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/early-years-foundation-stage-profile-results-2016-to-2017 interestingly, they show continued improvement in many areas.

The DfE noted that at a national level, 70.7% of children achieved a good level of development, an increase of 1.4 percentage points (ppts) on 2016. The same trend was seen in the percentage achieving at least the expected level across all early learning goals. This has increased by 1.7ppts from 2016. However, the average total point score has remained the same as 2016 at 34.5.

Girls continue to perform better in the profiles. However, the gender gap for the percentage of children achieving a good level of development has reduced from 14.7 ppts in 2016 to 13.7 ppts in 2017. Similarly, the gap for the percentage achieving at least the expected level in all early learning goals decreased from 15.7ppts in 2016 to 14.7 ppts in 2017. Both girls and boys have improved but boys have improved at a faster rate. The gap in the average total point score has decreased from 2.5 to 2.4 points. Nevertheless, there still remains a long way to go.

The Secretary of State has always been interested in social mobility. Indeed he helped found the All Party Parliamentary Group on the subject (APPG). In a speech this week he highlighted the importance of the home in both the pre-school years and the help and encouragement families can provide during the school years. He said the following, echoing a speech Nick Clegg made when he was deputy Prime Minister during the coalition;

On average, disadvantaged children are four months behind at age five. That grows by an additional six months by the age of 11, and a further nine months by the age of 16.

So, by the time they take their GCSEs they are, on average, 19 months behind their peers.

Then what? Well as I’ve said, your education stays with you.

Children with poor vocabulary at age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed when they are aged 34.

It’s command of language, being able to express ourselves effectively, that is the gateway to success in school – and later on into later life.

As I said earlier, more than a quarter – 28% – of children finish their reception year still without the early communication and reading skills they need to thrive. It’s not acceptable and tackling it must be our shared priority. My ambition is to cut that number in half over the next ten years.  https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/education-secretary-sets-vision-for-boosting-social-mobility

Now money and Opportunity Areas may help, but how about inviting the script writers from Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdate and the other soaps to a roundtable at Sanctuary Buildings to ask for some key plot lines. When did a school parent’s evening last feature in a soap? Indeed, how often do schools appear in soaps? More often they are relegated to their own genre. A national campaign using soft media such as the soaps to encourage families to support their children’s early and continued learning might help to shift attitudes to closing the gap the Secretary of State was highlighting in his speech.

As he said, the DfE has looked at the progress of children on free school meals early in the century and found that

Children eligible for Free School Meals when they are at school are 23% less likely to be in sustained employment at the age of 27, compared to their peers.

Now many of these adults are no doubt are in areas of high unemployment, but the more you make use of the education system, the greater it seems is your chance of employment as an adult. As Jack Tizard and his fellow researchers found in their study in Haringey in the 1970s, even parents that couldn’t read themselves could sit and help a child with their reading with better results than other more education related programmes. Their study showed a highly significant improvement by children who received extra practice at home in comparison with control groups, but no comparable improvement by children who received extra help at school. The gains were made consistently by children of all ability levels.*

*COLLABORATION BETWEEN TEACHERS AND PARENTS IN ASSISTING CHILDREN’S READING  J TIZARDW. N. SCHOFIELDJENNY HEWISON First published: February 1982 British Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 51 Issue 1.

 

 

 

Are all trainees equal in the job market?

There is quite a lot of other data in the ITT profiles that wasn’t discussed in the previous post on this blog. However, it also has to be said that there is a lot of data that isn’t in the profiles, notably for different secondary subjects and routes and regions. I assume the DFE uses that data when considering the bids from providers, but with largely open recruitment, in all except a small number of subjects, it is only meaningful data if it shows some regions are missing out on trainees. A breakdown of employment by region where QTS was obtained and region NQT is reported as teaching in would also be interesting. However, as some providers are close to regional boundaries maps showing the percentage of those with QTS teaching in each region by region of QTS award would be the best method of displaying such information.

Still, we must make do with what is on offer. I prefer the simple calculation for postgraduate trainees of the percentage of those that were recorded as final year trainees and the percentage in teaching six months after gaining QTS. This includes teaching in the private sector, so isn’t yet providing a picture of those that started an ITT course and ended up teaching in a state funded school. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before that data is available.

Anyway, what do we know? Women outweigh men at the start of the final year by more than 2:1. Women are also more likely to end up in teaching than men. 85% of women recorded as final year trainees were in teaching six months from being awarded QTS, compared with 79% of men.  Of the 8,525 men recorded as final year trainees in 2016, only 6,700 were in teaching by then end of 2017. There were 285 recorded as looking and a further 365 recorded as still to complete QTS, so the percentage could increase, but it could also increase for women as well for the same reasons.

Members of ethnic minorities, of whatever gender, fare less well than those from a non-minority ethnic group in the working as a teacher outcomes. Only 78% of the 3,875 that were recorded as final year trainees from an ethnic minority group were recorded as being in a teaching post six months after receiving QTS. Again, there may be late entrants yet to come from the pool of 120 trainee still looking and the 290 yet to complete QTS.

Recording a disability seems create an even greater hurdle. Of the 2,560 trainees recorded as declaring a disability at the start of their final year, only 1,960 or 77% were recorded as in teaching six months after receiving QTS. This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that 12% of final year trainees, a record percentage, declared a disability. More work needs to be done to discover the issues with this group finding work as a teacher.

Finally, I am interested in how trainees find their teaching jobs? Are more now offered jobs by the schools where they spend time and do fewer trainees need recourse to national jobs sites such as either TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk – where I am chair – or other recruitment sites? Do please let me know your thoughts.

 

Good news for Didcot

Well done to the Oxfordshire UTC. The 14-19 school received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted this week, after its first ever inspection. In the same week the UTC in Derby was placed in special measures.

You can read the Ofsted report on the Oxfordshire UTC at  https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/141111 Schools week had some interesting statistics on UTCs recently. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/derby-manufacturing-utc-placed-in-special-measures/ Apparently, according to the report by Schools Week

almost a quarter of the 33 UTCs inspected so far have received Ofsted’s bottom grade.

Sixty-one per cent of all UTCs inspected have been rated less than ‘good’.  Six, all grade three or four, have since closed.

 Of the remaining 27 that are still open, 14 are rated either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Most UTCs have struggled since they were established in 2010, mainly because of problems attracting enough pupils to stay financially viable. Eight have so far closed.

 In January, Schools Week revealed that almost every UTC missed its recruitment targets last year, leaving them with combined debts of over £11 million.”

The UTC in Didcot is clearly bucking the trend for UTCs as a whole and I am grateful to the person that emailed me last night after the Ofsted Report had appeared to draw it to my attention. However, I still have anxieties over its long-term future if it cannot fill all the places it has on offer.

What Ofsted have revealed is that although the Oxfordshire UTC is still a work in progress it has strong leadership and a clear vision of what it is seeking to achieve.  The school and its staff are also aware that a proportion of their pupils come to them at fourteen with a less than successful record of achievement in the school system. Unlike some 14-18 schools they are not only aware of this but also set out to change the relationship with these pupils and the education system. That’s a tough job, but like Meadowbrook, the alternative provision in Oxfordshire, where Ofsted also commented on the work with teenagers that have reacted against schooling, the Oxfordshire UTC is also winning the hearts and minds of these young people. As Ofsted commented in their summary:

Pupils, including some who had previously struggled to engage with education, are inspired by the UTC’s ethos.

The Inspector went on to add that:

Since the UTC opened, some pupils have arrived in Year 10 having had negative experiences of schooling. Staff quickly get to know the pupils well, and support and reassure any experiencing stress or anxiety. Pupils gain a sense of community, security and pride during their time at UTC Oxfordshire. This equips them with great confidence and maturity.

Inspection report: UTC Oxfordshire, 22–23 May 2018

Schools cannot succeed without strong and purposeful leadership and the Oxfordshire UTC certainly has a leader creating a successful school backed by a strong team and supportive sponsors.

My more general anxiety is how the next generation of leaders for the school system will be developed? Some MATs will ensure that they create leadership pathways, but how will the stand alone academies and the remaining maintained schools ensure a leadership pipeline that is sufficient to meet the needs of all schools. This question is especially pertinent at a time when the need for career pathways for teachers that doesn’t involve whole school leadership is once again being discussed.

There are other reasons why I have concerns about 14-18 schools, but in this case I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the Oxfordshire UTC.

How to run a National School

Recently Lord Agnew, the PUS for the School System wrote to firms that audit academies and their Trusts/Committees. Now a letter from a Minister carries with it both political and administrative weight when compared to one from a civil servant writing on behalf of their political masters. Lord Agnew’s letter can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-lord-theodore-agnew-to-academy-trust-auditors

In the letter, , in the words of the DfE website, Lord Agnew ‘shares across the audit sector several key points that will help boards govern more effectively and make best use of the freedoms they have.’

So what are the key points in the letter? General Annual Grant (GAG) pooling is the first point specified.

Lord Agnew reminds the auditors that ‘The opportunity to pool GAG is particularly valuable, in particular to simplify the provision of support to weaker schools in a MAT until they can grow their pupil numbers. It is worth remembering that a MAT is a single financial entity.

This isn’t a power generally available to local authorities in relation to maintained schools and typifies the different power arrangements between schools in MAT/MACs and those schools still in the maintained sector. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask the auditors for a time limit on taking money away from some schools to support others. Auditors might like to consider whether this cross-subsidy between schools should really be open-ended or in need for regular justification, since Regional School Commissioners seem to differ in their approach to such weak schools. Auditors can provide helpful national guidance by acting in concert on this point.

By the time Lord Agnew has reached Auditors’ management letters, he is telling audit firms that, ‘We would like to see the recommendations made by auditors being implemented in a timely manner with scrutiny at board level to ensure that this is the case.’ Now whether or not he sees it as a duty on the auditors to see that the contents of these letters are addressed is an interesting question. Of course, if the issue is really serious, then the auditors should quality the accounts. However, this is something auditors are generally reluctant to do, even though the DfE itself isn’t unfamiliar with the process in terms of its own accounts and their relationship with the academy sector.

Lord Agnew also hope his letter will open up debate between the auditors and their clients. His list of Operational Challenges is interesting. These include,

  1. Are your clients using a standard employment contract for all teaching staff so that they can be cross deployed to different schools?
  2. Are they using the same exam boards in all their schools to enable cross school marking and also to optimise the point above?
  3. Do they have a central electronic purchase order system to ensure strong controls on expenditure?
  4. Do they have a central bank account that simplifies bank reconciliations and ensures that there is constant, easy visibility of the cash position?
  5. Are they benchmarking their supply costs and if over a number of years the level is constant have they considered employing permanent staff to fill some of this requirement thereby improving the quality and removing agency charges?
  6. Are they accessing the Department’s procurement arrangements if they are providing better value than they can achieve on their own?

The first of these is highly interesting in the sense of moving back to controlling the lives of teachers. When I joined Haringey, in 1971, my contract specified a school but added that the council had the right to move me to another school. With all schools in the Authority in a tight geographical area this wouldn’t have had much to concern me, even if was in use, which by then it wasn’t. With MATs/MACs spread across large areas, it might be helpful to understand whether this policy, advocated by the DfE, is having any effects on recruitment and retention of teachers both at classroom level and, more specifically, in terms of promotion to middle leadership if it means a house move to a different area?

If these powers are to be enforced on academies, then presumably they are both important and useful for our school system. In that case, why aren’t local authorities allowed to create them for maintained schools and what is the future for stand-alone academies?

Perhaps Lord Agnew will write to Directors of Children’s Services explaining why these operational challenges don’t matter in the remaining maintained schools?

 

 

No relief in sight

Yesterday, I reflected upon the pamphlet by EPI about teacher supply matters. Their suggestion of differential pay for shortage subjects looks even more the wrong solution after looking at today’s data from UCAS. On the basis of applications and offers by mid-April, only physical education, history and possibly geography would probably be excluded from the need for some form of salary increases to aid recruitment and retention if both offers and the identified demand as calculated by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model are taken into account.

There are at least seven secondary subjects where the April combined total of ‘placed’ students plus those ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding an offer’ are the lowest seen for this point in the cycle since well before the 2013/14 cycle, when we still had the former GTTR recruitment system. As that system measured only applicants and not applications, it is something of a challenge to compare back into the period of 2006-08 when applications were last falling, ahead of the recession of 2008 that arrived just too late to help recruitment that year.

There is some good news today, English ‘offers’ are up compared to last year, when numbers were frankly dreadful. However, it looks unlikely that the Teacher Supply Model number will be met this year, thus making recruitment again a challenge for schools in 2019. Biology is doing well for placed applicants, but this may be down to a shift from those just shown under the science heading. Neither Chemistry nor Physics have seen similar increases, with both subjects recording new lows since the 2013/14 recruitment round.

Among the arts subjects, both music and art are faring especially badly this year. The stories about cuts to the arts curriculum may well be deterring possible applicants. The independent sector and schools with an arts focus might want to check with their local providers what is happening in their areas. Seemingly there was no change at all in the aggregate number of ‘placed’, ‘conditionally placed’ and ‘holding offer’ applicants in music between the March and April recording points: an almost unheard of state of affairs for any subject at this point in the recruitment round.

The EPI pamphlet reminded readers that offering places to a greater percentage of applicants was one way to meet the Teacher Supply numbers A quick look at the overall regional totals of offers – it would be helpful if UCAS would publish these separately for primary and secondary programmes by region and by secondary subject – suggests an overall ‘offer’ and ‘placed’ rate of 69%. Allowing for those in the early stages of their applications and those that have withdrawn, this means probably about 70% of applicants overall had had an offer or one sort or another. Interestingly, that percentage falls to just 62% for the London region, but is at 73% of applicants with one sort of offer or another in both the North West and Yorkshire and The Humber Regions.

Younger applicants have a much higher ratio of offers to overall applicant numbers than is the situation for older students – 77% of the 21 and 22 age groups had an offer. This may partly be due to this group applying earlier, so a higher percentage of older applicants may be at an early stage in the application process, while the youngest applicants are now busy with examinations and final degree outcomes. Nevertheless, only 58% of those over 40 have had offers, a difference of 19% with the youngest age groups. For men from the oldest age group of those over 40, only 48% have had an offer. This compares with 80% of women in the 22 or under age group. However, it should be noted that men and women have different offer rates overall.

Clearly, the TV advertising campaign isn’t working this year. Perhaps the pay rise, when announced, will make a difference, but unless something does, the additional secondary pupils in our schools over the next few years are going to find that who will teach some of them will be an interesting question.

 

Déjà vu

The traffic light colours of Green, Amber and Red have become a popular method of distinguishing degrees of concern or providing a warning as we saw recently with the Met Office descriptions of the snow and ice events. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has always used such a system to warn of shortages in the labour market for classroom teachers in the secondary sector.

Today, TeachVac has just issued its first Red warning for a subject this year. It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the subject concerned is Business Studies. The DfE’s Teacher Supply model seems to consistently underestimate the need for such teachers by schools. Additionally, in 2017, the failure to fill 20% of the places on offer to trainees has only exacerbated the situation.

The Red warning means that in TeachVac’s estimation schools anywhere in England could from now onwards struggle to recruit a teacher of Business Studies. This challenge will extend right through to January 2019 and the start of the new recruitment round. With Business Studies applications for 2018 teacher preparation courses already only tracking the 2017 levels, 2019 isn’t looking any more hopeful at present.

At the same time as TeachVac issued a Red warning for Business Studies it is within days of issuing an Amber warning for English classroom teacher recruitment. Here again, with 10% of training places unfilled in 2017, TeachVac will shortly be warning that some schools could start to face challenges in recruitment. There are fewer trainees on school-based preparation courses for English this year. As a result, demand in terms of advertised vacancies may well be greater than in recent years, when some schools employed School Direct trainees without needing to advertise vacancies. TeachVac expects recruitment to be especially challenging in areas where the pupil numbers are on the increase, namely London and the Home Counties.

If this all feels horribly familiar to regular readers of this blog, then they are correct. On the 8th March 2017, budget day last year, I wrote almost exactly the same post about the 2017 situation. Those that haven’t read it might like to compare the two posts.

Already in 2018, TeachVac has already also issued an Amber warning for Design and Technology. This is partly because only a third of places on teacher preparation course in this subject were filled in 2017. This meant total trainee numbers, including forecasts at the time of the DfE’s census, only amounted to some 303 trainees this year. Such a number is less than one trainee per ten secondary schools, even assuming all trainees both complete the preparation year and then want to teach in a state funded secondary school. Within some of the subjects that make up the Design and Technology family, the situation may be even worse: TeachVac is monitoring the spread of expertise requested within adverts, something nobody else even attempts to do to the same degree.

However, in this recruitment round, we do not expect any significant issues recruiting teachers to fill primary school vacancies. But, as the previous post have indicated, 2019 might be more of a problem, unless applications pick up over the next few months.