Marketing teaching vacancies

Many years ago I used to write a column called ‘job facts’ for the TES. Later, wrote the ‘Hot Data’ column that covered far more than jobs, but that is another story.

In another sphere, the ‘job facts’ column had an influence on the short-lived experiment of TeachersTV, started and ended by the Labour government of the early years of this century. Every Friday on TeachersTV there was a programme about the jobs on offer that week to teachers. These were mostly culled from the pages of the TES, but on some weeks the vacancies were taken from the eteach job board. The programme was mostly recorded on a Wednesday and comprised three segments. A pre-record of what it was like to live and teach in a particular town or area; a discussion of trends in the job market and the highlighting of particular vacancies that had caught the eye that week.

Why is all this relevant now? Well, as the leadership vacancy season builds towards its peak and the classroom teacher job market comes alive with early vacancies, before reaching a peak in the spring, it is interesting to ask the question; are the cuts to school funding everyone is talking about showing up in the job market for teachers? For a few more weeks, the government will have to rely upon the 2015 School Workforce Census data on vacancies when asked the question about trends in the labour market: however, 2015 may not be a very reliable guide to 2017. Even the 2016 data, when it appears, will be of interest in terms of the trends it reveals in context to previous years, but not what is actually happening in the current recruitment round in 2017.

Does it matter? Well it is always useful to have reliable evidence to back assertions with. Are there fewer teaching posts available for this September than there were last year? At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we are, of course, monitoring the trends on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and can now compare what is happening with past years. By the end of this month TeachVac will have some interesting data for 2017.

Unlike the basic free service, designed to save schools money our data analysis, except at the overall level revealed in this blog, Teachvac’s data is not free. There is a limit to any generosity. But, for anyone interested in say, the make-up of design and technology vacancies: do we need more food than electronics teachers, or of language teachers: is Spanish still the language most in demand and how many posts teaching Mandarin are there on offer, TeachVac can provide the answer.

TeachVac regularly works with researchers as we can link our vacancy data to information about location, background, outcomes and other characteristics of schools. If at the heart of good decision-making is good data, then I am working with the team to strive to make TeachVac the best source of real-time data on the labour market for teachers and other staff in schools across England. That’s a long way from ‘job facts’, but thanks to improvements in technology one that has become a realistic possibility.

 

Apprenticeship Levy

In the bizarre world that is education under the present Tory government, stand-alone academies with a payroll of less than £3 million are exempt from paying the new Apprenticeship Levy; all schools in any MAT with a payroll of over £3 million across the MAT will pay the levy, even if they are a small primary school; voluntary aided schools are probably exempt as the local authority is the de facto but not de jure employer so long as the school payroll is below £3 million, but all maintained schools will pay the levy regardless of the size of their payroll because the local authority is the employer, even though in these days of delegated budgets it has no control over spending by the schools.

This is a shambles that does a great discredit to the governance of education. If this is currently the position, it should be rectified forthwith. Either it is a tax on all schools or it isn’t. My position is that the government already takes out of education a sum needed to fund the training of new teachers and it should pray that cash in aid to the Treasury in order to have all state-funded schools exempt from the Levy. I don’t mind if the larger private fee-paying schools contribute since they often employ teachers whose training has been paid for initially by the State, but paid back by individuals through the tuition fee repayment schemes in operation since the late 19990s.

If the schools are not exempted from the Levy, then they should make full use of benefits. Sadly, these are by employer, so a large county council with many maintained schools will pay a large sum in levy but receive little back through the pay-out arrangements.

School budgets face enough other pressures at the present time, including for many small primary schools the loss of part of their block grant under the new funding formula arrangements. In Oxfordshire, the loss per schools equates to several thousands of pounds and may make the difference between survival or closure for village schools with less than 150 pupils.

I don’t know whether it is this government’s intention to redraw the map of primary schooling in England, but it could be well on the way to doing so if the combined effect of budget cuts and cost pressures make such schools unable to breakeven financially.

As I have hinted before, one solution is to downgrade the leading professional in small schools from a head teacher to a head of site paid on a lower salary. The risk is that any savings are then spent on a salary for an executive head teachers paid more than value of the savings. Whether deputy head teachers and other experienced teachers would be willing to take on the role of site leader for less money than the current head teacher will, I suspect, depend upon the terms and conditions offered, especially in the smallest of schools. However, unless some savings can be made, I fear for the future of many primary schools. Hopefully, I am being alarmist, but removing the Apprenticeship Levy from all school budgets would be a start.

 

Issues around collecting vacancy data

Today was the day that submissions had to have been sent to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in connection with their partial review of shortage subjects in education. In preparing the TeachVac submission www.teachvac.co.uk we confronted several methodological issues.

In the first instance, there is the issue of collecting continuous data versus collecting data at a single point in time. TeachVac collects new data every weekday, whereas the DfE collects vacancies only in terms of the number of vacancies recorded at the date of the School Workforce Census in November. So long as there is data for several years that method provides information about trends at that point in time, but cannot say anything about what happens during the rest of the year. The DfE can also calculate turnover and that is also important as additional evidence, but not as compelling as it might seem at first sight. Turnover records outcomes and not desires, so if a school advertises for a teacher of physics, but appoints a biologist because no physicist applies, the data has recorded the turnover, but not the fact that it wasn’t an ideal match with the original requirement of the school.

Some other organisations that collect data on teacher vacancies appear to reply upon vacancies advertised on job boards. Even if job boards are studied regularly, the fact that many vacancies aren’t linked to a particular school makes identifying a reliable total more of a challenge. Is this maths vacancy advertised today for a teacher in London the same as the one advertised yesterday or was that filled and another London schools has requested a teacher? Indeed, could there be several vacancies for maths teachers in London hidden behind a single advertisement? This is more doubtful, because presumably job boards want to show they handle a large number of vacancies for many different schools. Hopefully, there are no occurrences of ‘ghost’ vacancies advertised on job boards just to attract applicants to the site.

As TeachVac is now collecting additional data on several man scale vacancies, it is also able to more successfully handle the issue of identifying multiple vacancies advertised at the same time in the same subject. This is quite common in new schools advertising for staff for the first time, and not unusual in subjects such as English and mathematics during the height of the recruitment season during April.

There still remains the issue of re-advertisements that bedevils all those that study vacancies. The only perfect solution is to ensure a vacancy is attached to a unique identification number that follows it until the post is filled. Until then, there must be an element of extrapolation in any statistics that analyse the job market. There is a similar issue with repeat advertisements, especially in print media, but this is essentially the same problem discussed above with jobs that appear on digital job board. TeachVac has a mechanism for coping with this issue as part of its AI routines.

The MAC will no doubt be wise to these issues when it considers the submissions it has received. It will also have to consider why in the past business studies and design and technology weren’t considered as shortage subjects. Finally, there is the issue, advanced by some in the maths world that schools are supressing vacancies because they don’t want to alarm parents.  To measure that you need to look at the DfE’s analysis of teacher numbers and the highest level of qualifications of those teaching a subject and how those have changed over time.

TeachVac has now extended its AI to start collect vacancies beyond teaching and it is discovering some of the issues recorded here makes data collection in that sector possibly even more of a challenge.

 

Teacher Supply, a longer-term issue

According to a Local Government Information Unit bulletin issued on Saturday, and citing a report in the Birmingham Post that was apparently based upon Office of National Statistics data, the number of people aged 0-14 in England will increase by 951,200 between 2014 and 2039. This will take the number from 9.7 million to 10.6 million. If anywhere near accurate, these figures will mean that there is likely to be no let-up in the demand for more teachers for most of the next quarter century.

The ONS will release some more data at the end of June but, whatever happens, the demand for more teachers is not likely to be spread evenly across the country. At present, ONS projects the following increases for the different regions of England.

Percentage increase in population 2024 on 2014

Region 0 to 15 years old
England 8.7
London 14.9
South East 8.8
East Midlands 7.7
East 10.9
South West 9.2
North East 4.0
Yorkshire and The Humber 4.9
West Midlands 6.9
North West 5.3

This table is very much in line with the findings of our TeachVac www.teachvac.com vacancy tracking. Both in 2015 and so far in 2016, London has had the largest percentage of vacancies per school for classroom teachers of any region, followed by the South East and East of England regions. There have been far fewer vacancies registered in the regions of the north of England.

If the population of London and the Home Counties is going to continue to increase, then governments, whatever their political complexion, will need to solve the staffing crisis in these regions as well as finding sufficient space for the extra pupils. Finding locations for new schools will be a real challenge and it might in extremis require building on existing playgrounds, with new outdoor space being located on the roof. There are precedents for such schools in inner city locations, although they probably aren’t ideal. I recall visiting one such inner city high school in New York located in a former office building that had no windows on several of the upper floors where the classrooms were located.

But, the longer-term strategy for teaching such large numbers of pupils also needs to be addressed by government. The issue is not, will they be taught, because somehow they will be. But, will it be to a standard we require to maintain our position in an evolving world economy? Schools in London have made great strides in achievements this century, it would disappointing to see that progress stall and even worse to see it go into reverse with falling standards just because there were insufficient appropriately trained and qualified teachers.

Whether the solution is a longer working life, more late entrants into teaching as career changers living in London already won’t face a problem of where to live or the more advanced use of technology and private study for older students is all open for discussion.

What is not a matter for debate is the need to take action for the longer-term in a strategic fashion. The first step might be identify a regional commissioner group for London and the surrounding areas.

 

 

Ofsted changes ITT inspection rules again

The latest changes by Ofsted to the inspection of initial teacher training announced today look interesting on the surface, but may be fraught with some interesting issues.

The two stage inspection process; Stage 1 in the summer term, and Stage 2 in the autumn following the completion of training assumes inspectors will visit many more schools to see NQTs teaching in their first term than has been the case in the recent past. Indeed, they may almost take on the role of the former LA adviser dropping in to see how an NQT is progressing.

The new process raises interesting challenges for providers. For instance, the reference will take on a new role. A trainee that has only been in mono-cultural school settings teaching a specific subject might warrant a more caution reference when applying for a post in a multicultural setting dealing with many students whose first language isn’t English. Similarly, it might lead to specific subject certification, such as ‘this NQT is has only taught history during their training, and cannot be deemed to be suitable to teach humanities without further preparation’. If the school appoints the NQT, and the HMI doesn’t like the RE lesson observed because of the material used, does that reflect badly on the ITT provider? The same issue might arise where a primary trainee was appointed to teach a mixed-age class having never experienced that situation in training: does the ITT provider bear the responsibility for the observed outcome? And what of undergraduate trainees that might not normally teach in the final summer term of their course? Will special placements now need to be arranged to satisfy Ofsted?

The summer term may also be too late to observe trainees effectively, especially those in UTCs, Studio Schools, or sixth form colleges where the majority of students might be on examination leave. At the very least, these students might have different timetables to those in 11-16 schools and their primary colleagues. I would personally favour a window between February and May for the observation phase, as ITT providers should by then be indentifying those students that are making good progress, and those that need additional help to reach the required standard. That is one of the benefits of HE and SCITT provision over some forms of School Direct in that the training provider can tailor the placements more directly to the needs of the trainee.

At the end of the day, we need to train enough teachers for all schools, and if the Ofsted process does not match outcomes to training, there is a risk that won’t happen.  Of course, since academies can employ anyone, it is difficult to see how Ofsted can judge training provision against teachers seen where the ITT provider has specifically stated that the trainee is not suitable for the post. That raises interesting questions for providers going forward, and for partnership agreements with School Direct. ITT providers will want to know how they will be judged on the part of a training regime they offer where they have no relationship with the trainee, and where they eventually work. Unless that scenario is discussed, the risk to HE and SCITTs will be greater than to the same training provision offered through School Direct: but perhaps that the logic behind the change.

 

 

 

 

Do 40% of teacher quit in their first five years?

When the HMCI makes a statement such as ‘we invest so much in teacher training and yet an estimated 40% of new entrants leave within five years’ it much be taken as being authoritative, and presumably correct. However, it is worth digging a bit more deeply into the data to see what actually happens to new teachers. Fortunately, the DfE published a detailed analysis of a cohort in their review of the first School Work Force Survey of 2010. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182407/DFE-RR151.pdf

According to the DfE’s analysis of 100 entrants to training, 56 would still be teaching in the state-funded sector five years later, and another six would be teaching in the non-maintained sector; others might be teaching abroad or in the further education sector, possibly in a sixth form college. So, the 40% looks like an upper limit on the number leaving post-qualification.

What is more interesting is the loss after actually entering the profession. According to the DfE analysis, only 4 of the 47 postgraduates that found a teaching job left after five years, and the number of undergraduates was actually greater by one at the five year point than the number counted at the first year after training; presumably as late entrants found a teaching job. This analysis, therefore, points to the greatest loss being between training and employment. Indeed, of the 63 postgraduates that completed training only 47 will be teaching in publicly-funded schools a year after training, along with 12 of the 17 undergraduate completers.

So, is this loss of around a quarter immediately after training a matter for concern? Much may depend upon whether during the period of the DfE analysis too many teachers were being trained. Hopefully, some decided after completing the course that teaching wasn’t the career for them. Other students, especially mature students, may be tied to a particular location, and just haven’t seen a job in their subject advertised yet.

Indeed, since HMCI Annual Reports in recent years have said how good new teachers are, it seems a little odd to suggest there might have been a dip in quality recently. HMCI cannot have his cake and eat it. Either he repudiates publicly the work of his predecessors or he explains what evidence he had to use for his speech to the North of England Education Conference.

Personally, in the new world where many schools sail alone, I think it is important to ensure adequate professional development for new teachers. The audit trail will quickly reveal whether it is during training or afterwards that problems arise. What is more important is for the evidence of any systemic weakness during training to be fed back into consideration of how teacher preparation might evolve. For instance, more time in the classroom might not improve classroom management outcomes unless it is associated with the time spent on the theory and techniques of behaviour management, and the part played by good subject knowledge and an understanding of young people. If, as a result, HMCI decides to tell the government that the present one-year course, especially for new primary schools teachers needs a complete overhaul, I would be delighted.