Muddled governance doesn’t help teacher development and retention

The publication of the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) study on teachers   https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/teacher-recruitment-progression-and-retention-in-multi-academy-trusts/ – based mostly around those in MATs – has coincided with the OECD’s TALIS report. I am not sure whether that is coincidence or a deliberate decision by David Laws and his team? Either way, there is some interesting information and some disturbing issues in the EPI document.

EPI divide the world into two, local authorities and MATs. The MAT group is then further sub-divided and, I assume, includes stand-alone academies? Both groups are considered by primary and secondary phase.

Given that academies were created to bring the free market into education, the notion of a governance system that requires such schools and groups to collaborate for the good of all is an interesting development.

At present, there are three parallel governance system with little overlap, maintained schools; stand-alone academies and MATs. This can produce either diverse policies in a local area or no policy at all. Indeed, it is significant that EPI avoided discussing the special school sector; as do so many commentators and think tanks. Planning for that system is shambolic at present and our most vulnerable learners are losing out, as the BBC revealed earlier today. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48663873 Local Authorities need to either be allowed to plan places properly for this sector or the DfE should take over the responsibility. The lack of geographical proximity may be one of the reasons for this MAT highlighted by the BBC is having problems in the SEN sector https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-48691736

As the period that EPI reviewed was one when many schools transferred to academy status, the findings on turnover and promotion might not be the same once the system has settled down. However, the ages of appointment to senior leadership don’t look very different to the longitudinal study of leadership appointments I conducted for the NAHT during the first decade of this century. These figures are still bad news for late entrants to teaching seeking a career beyond middle leadership.

On the issue of central recruitment by MATs, TeachVac has seen evidence of a return to individual school recruitment sites; presumably candidates don’t identify with MATs as a source of vacancies and, apart from TeachVac, many recruitment sites might not pick up these vacancies if candidates aren’t looking for them.

EPI ducks the central question of geography in its recommendations, focusing instead on what MATs might do, perfectly sensible as suggestions go, but not addressing the key issue. If there is a shortage of cash for education, why are we wasting it creating lots of min-school system without democratic accountability: has nothing be learnt from the NHS that has operated on such a model for all the time it has been in existence.

Even more than the NHS schools, and especially primary schools, are rooted in their communities. As Oxfordshire’s Education Scrutiny Committee members discussed with the RSC officials earlier this week the issue of who takes the lead if rural primary schools are financially nonviable. If the consequence of school closures is higher transport bills, paid for by council tax payers, can a policy that keeps the schools open for less overall cost be agreed between local authorities, MATs, diocese and the DfE. If not, not only is government inefficient, but also lacking in coherent strategic planning.

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School funding – is it ever enough?

The Education Policy Institute, where David Laws, ex-Education Minister is Chair of the Board, published a report on school revenue balances today. The data on school balances discussed in the report in maintained schools comes partly from the same DfE source discussed in a post on this blog on the 12th December 2018.

Simplistic analysis of the report produced comments that the Report showed schools were under-funded. This was because one in ten of the remaining maintained secondary schools had a deficit overall and many others were in deficit in the latest year data was available for from the government. In reality, as the EPI report discussed, the picture is both more nuanced and more complicated than a bald assessment that schools don’t have enough funding, although pressure on 16-19 funding almost certainly does need attention.

What is less clear is the extent to which the former funding formula created winners and losers and whether the new formula will help redress the balance in the future. Personally, I don’t think it will. However, there also needs to be more understanding as to why these one in ten maintained secondary schools cannot live within their means for several years and more schools are now in that position?

As EPI note, academy chains have fewer schools with deficits and are able to move money around between schools. Local Authorities cannot do this to help schools over a temporary crisis. Should the remaining maintained schools now be treated as if they were a Multi-Academy Trust, allowing cash to be moved between schools?  If local financial management means the cash provided for a school is for that school, then MATs should not be allowed to take any cash away from one school to help another and can only charge for services provided.

The EPI report covers this point in their policy recommendations

  1. With increasing financial pressures on schools – particularly in secondaries – the government should consider before the Spending Review whether higher per pupil funding is needed, or whether efficiency savings can make up part of the current shortfalls. It should especially focus on the strains faced by many secondary schools, and assess whether changes in pupil numbers are likely to ease financial pressures, or whether these will prove more enduring.
  2. Further consideration should be given to what extra help or advice can be offered to those schools facing large deficits.
  3. The government should determine the reasons for the lower level of in-year deficits in academy trusts, and whether there are any lessons to learn from this.
  4. The government should also look closely at the level of “excessive”, unallocated, surpluses and consider if existing rules allow for these resources to be used effectively.

The last recommendation from EPI is interesting, especially in view of the concerns over deficits. As I noted in December, some schools have balances equivalent to 20% of their annual income and there are schools with more than £1,000,000 in reserves. My view, as expressed in December, is that revenue income is for spending in the year it is provided ad for the current pupils, although setting a sum aside for depreciation is now acceptable.

Finally, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk was established to help schools cut costs by providing a free vacancy service to schools. I am delighted to record TeachVac handled nearly 55,000 vacancies in 2018 and has a great start to 2019, breaking records. Just why the DfE needs to run a rival scheme isn’t clear.

 

 

How has teacher expertise changed recently?

Following on from the previous post about today’s EPI study, I thought that I would update the Table from the Migration Advisory Committee report on teacher expertise, with the findings of the 2016 and 2017 School Workforce Census.

The percentage of hours taught in a typical week to pupils in years 7 to 13 by teachers with no subject relevant post A-level qualification
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Maths 16 16 18 17 20 18 12.8 12.9
Physics 21 24 26 26 28 25 24.6 24.8
D&T 11 15 18 17 19 17 14.2 14.1
ICT 48   44 41 39 44 38 30.6 31.3
English 12 13 15 15 17 13 9.6   9.8
Geography 11 16 18 18 17 14 12.5 12.9
History 10 13 15 15 15 11 8.6   8.8
PE   9 11 12 11 11   7    4   3.8
Source School Workforce Census as included in the Report of the Migration Advisory Committee with 2016 & 2017 data added.

Now, there is a teacher shortage and this blog had a spot of bother back in the summer of 2014 when it first revealed a possible teacher supply crisis. It is also accepted that teacher shortages overall and of those most appropriately qualified are likely to be most significant in schools with higher levels of deprivation than in areas of affluence. It is also worth recalling that pupil numbers in secondary schools were falling in the years up to 2016, and that budget pressures can also play a part in determining class sizes as well as availability of qualified teachers.

In further posts today, I will examine the UCAS data both for August this year, as a predictor of the 2019 supply side of the teacher labour market and then consider how 2019 compares with the previous two years for August’s in relation to the expectation of trainee numbers.

There is room for a genuine debate about how the teacher stock can be best used to provide the best outcomes for all pupils. But, that may require a degree of intervention by government not acceptable in a capitalist economy: hence, presumably, EPI’s suggestion of market based solutions. The failure of the attempts by the coalition government, of which David Laws the head of EPI was a serving Minister in the DfE, to create either a National Teaching Service or a method of providing head teachers to challenging schools, shows how complicated the labour market in teaching can be when no one body has overall control and budgets are allocated to individual schools. But, that debate has been well-rehearsed already on this blog.

There is also the issue of where increasing recruitment into training would mean more teacher unemployment? Can the system absorb more trainees? Evidence from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk suggest that in mathematics that might be a challenge to employ increased numbers of trainees as there are unlikely to be many suppressed vacancies and increased supply might not be met be increased demand, unless those already teaching maths and regarded as under-qualified were either redeployed or made redundant in some way. Could making someone redundant to replace them with someone doing the same job, but with different qualifications, see some employment law challenges?

Fortunately, rising pupil numbers offers a way out of that dilemma, as does harnessing modern technology effectively to assist the teaching and learning process.

Pay physics teachers more than history teachers?

The research report published today by the Education Policy institute (EPI) is an interesting addition to the cannon of literature on the issue of teacher shortages.  https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/EPI-Teacher-Labour-Market_2018.pdf The major new component in ‘The Teacher Labour Market in England shortages, subject expertise and incentives’ is the consideration of where shortages are located on a local authority by local authority basis. The data comes from the 2016 School Workforce Census of 2016, so is now two years out of date.

Much of the basic issues around shortages have been covered by the Migration Advisory Committee, the School Teachers’ Review Body, the Education Select Committee, the National Audit Office and the range of publications from the DfE including their index of teacher shortages as well as previous publications from EPI. In that respect, the lack of a bibliography is something of a shortcoming in this report.

Indeed, missing from any analysis of shortages in the EPI report is a discussion of the relationship between the training market and the demand for teachers by schools. Are we training teachers where they are needed or are we, as a nation, training them where they are not needed? The supply of mathematics teachers is a case in point. As this blog has pointed out, there are more trainees in maths than in English, but the number of vacancies is roughly the same since the amount of curriculum time for each subject is roughly the same.

A quick look at TeachVac’s percentage of advertisements in maths and English for 2018 in just the South East region is revealing in their shares of the overall total.

Eng % maths%
Southampton 15% 21%
Reading 17% 19%
Hampshire 18% 16%
Slough 13% 16%
East Sussex 16% 15%
Medway 15% 15%
Brighton and Hove 11% 15%
Kent 11% 14%
Oxfordshire 9% 14%
Isle of Wight 14% 14%
Windsor and Maidenhead 8% 14%
Buckinghamshire 15% 14%
Milton Keynes 10% 12%
Surrey 10% 11%
Bracknell Forest 12% 11%
West Berkshire 16% 10%
West Sussex 17% 9%
Wokingham 21% 9%
Portsmouth 18% 8%
All South East 13% 13%

 

Now these numbers haven’t been corrected for re-advertisements, so there is some over-estimates.

The EPI conclusion that in many areas schools with a greater degree of deprivation among their school population have fewer teachers with degrees most closely connected to shortage subjects, is revealing, but not surprising. This was a tenant of the former Secondary School Curriculum and Staffing Surveys that the Department for Education and its predecessors used to use before the School Workforce Census to measure expertise among the workforce. How to teach Physics at ‘A’ level in schools where there is no teacher with a Physics degree is a real challenge for a fractured education system, where cooperation between schools is not encouraged. But, it is not a revelation. Indeed, the EPI study might have benefitted from looking at changes over time in the use of under-qualified teachers as the Migration Advisory Committee achieved in Table 4.19 of their 2017 Report.

Finally, the EPI solutions proposed   provide a real sense of deja vue. Salary supplements for working in challenging schools seems very like the ‘Schools of exceptional difficulty’ payments of the Heath government in the 1970s and schools can already pay recruitment and retention allowances to teachers in shortage subjects, but don’t seem to do so. However, they seem more willing to pay heads of department in shortage subjects more either through higher TLRs or offering posts on the Leadership Scale. This is an area EPI might like to investigate at some point in the future.

EPI did not consider the DfE’s CPD programme in mathematics that is trying to improve the qualifications of those already teaching the subject. Such an approach can be more helpful than salary supplements that pay teachers different amounts for performing the same task. There would need to be an index of shortages and although it would be headed by Physics – where the country just doesn’t produce enough graduates – business studies would probably come next; a subject not mentioned by EPI.

 

 

 

 

Leadership matters

Is the fact that there are both good and less good local authorities and multi-academy chains (MATs) the main message from today’s new report of the Education Policy Institute? It is certainly likely to be one of the headlines when the report is being discussed. The Report is a follow-on from the one they published in 2015 and has the advantage of being by the same author. https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/performance-academy-local-authorities-2017/

However, for me, there are two other key issues raised by the report. The first, given it was generally known that there are good and less good local authorities and MATs, is, how important is democratic accountability in the governance of education?

Where poor performing local authorities are in areas where political control hasn’t altered for many years and there is often one dominant political party running the authority, how can challenge be created and maintained. Did we do better when there were Education Committees as opposed to Cabinet Government, with power sometimes residing in a single cabinet member, subject only to post-hoc scrutiny. Education Committees did have non-politicians in full membership in most authorities and this helped where they created an effective challenge, but it didn’t always work well. As I have mentioned in other posts, local authorities also have geography on their side and I do think that is important.

The EPI report might like next time to look at the outcomes for non-geographical MATs compared with those that have a stronger sense of place. EPI might also like to look at the effective size of governance units and whether there is any relationship between central costs and outcomes? But, commentators must be wary of dancing on the head of a pin. Where teacher supply is an issue, as it is in large parts of England at the present time, then schools that cannot recruit teachers will surely often suffer in terms of their outcomes.

The other concern raised by the EPI Report is that of the span of control faced by the DfE. EPI identified 237 bodies it rates for KS2 outcomes and 218 for KS4. Outwith these tables are the stand-alone academies and free schools that also need central oversight. Indeed, the fact that local authorities still make up two thirds of the listed bodies at KS4 make come as a surprise to many and shows how the ‘stand-alone’ schools are an issue EPI needs to address in the future.

The government also needs to work at deciding upon the model for governance of education that will allow the good to flourish, but also respond to decades of under-performance in some parts of the country. Recent decades have seen the repeated use of the stick to beat local communities for failure and spasmodic attempts, from Blair’s education Action Zones to the current Opportunity Areas programme, to recognise that carrots also have a part to play in improving performance.

Leadership matters and developing the next generation of system leaders ought to be high on the agenda of the government. Leadership is inextricably linked to values and the ability to put them into practice and EPI might also want to explore that most intangible of elements when they do their next study in a couple of years’ time.

EPI’s view of teacher labour market

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) have helpfully pulled a lot of information about teacher supply – some of the data has already appeared on this blog over the past few years – in a new pamphlet. The teacher labour market: a perilous path ahead? https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/EPI-analysis_Teacher-labour-market_2018.pdf

I am not sure that I agree with their conclusions about paying some teachers more than others. However, it is an inevitable solution offered by free market economists, where changing the price offered for labour is the mechanism for dealing with shortages and surpluses. Interestingly, EPI don’t suggest cutting the pay of PE teachers. I assume they believe the millstone of student debt and no guarantee of a teaching post should be enough of a disincentive. However, it would be one way to provide schools with the cash to pay others more.

I assume that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would eschew the free market approach and go for the alternative strategy of state controlled rationing. Such a strategy was popular after Second World War, when the Ministry of Education used to issue an annual circular telling local authorities how many newly trained teachers they could employ. In those days, the issue of subject expertise was less of a concern as, apart form in the selective and independent sectors, most schools employed class teachers rather than subject specialists.

The problem with the free market approach, as suggested by EPI, is the assumption that teaching can outbid the private sector when it comes to pay. This was presumably also behind the thinking of the Gatsby Foundation paper http://www.gatsby.org.uk/education/latest/examine-pay-of-early-career-shortage-subject-teachers-to-effectively-tackle-retention-in-english-secondary-schools of March this year that said ‘a data simulation to measure what the impact of a 5% pay increase for early years maths and science teachers in England would have been, had it been introduced as policy in 2010. The report reveals such a policy would have eliminated the shortage of science teachers experienced since 2010.’ I wonder whether that would have been the case or whether private sector employers would have matched the pay increases and offered better non-pay conditions of service.

Where EPI is correct is to cite a perilous path ahead for the teacher labour market. Tomorrow should see the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances for 2018 teacher preparation programmes. I doubt we can expect much good news. As the EPI pamphlet points out, and in doing so reinforces a point made on this blog, ‘there is still a chance training providers will be able to get close to meeting DfE’s recruitment targets, but they might need to accept nearly all applicants.’ As I have said before, what does that mean for the quality of applicants being offered places if almost anyone that applies can be taken onto a teacher preparation course?

Increasing the time spent on sports and PE in our secondary schools and reducing the time on separate sciences taught by specialists before Key Stage 4 might upset some departments in Russell Group universities, but it might also make for a healthier school population. Looking at the curriculum that can be staffed might be a better use of limited resources than trying to decide each year how much to pay teachers with different skills and expertise. But, if the government does go down that path, they might need to pay the highest salaries to teachers of business studies.

 

Blog post supported by EPI Report

Last December this blog published a post headed ‘Figures back heads views on funding pressures’. https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/figures-back-heads-views-on-funding-pressures/ it was, therefore, interesting to read the report issued by the Education Policy Institute that appeared today and effectively says much the same thing.

You might want to compare Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) key finding with my post last December. EPI have said that:

  • The number of local authority maintained secondary schools in deficit reduced from 14.3 per cent in 2010-11 to 8.8 per cent in 2013-14. Strikingly, however, over the period of four years up until 2016-17, the proportion of local authority secondary schools in deficit nearly trebled, expanding to over a quarter of all such schools – or 26.1 per cent. The average local authority maintained secondary school deficit rose over this 7 year period, from £292,822 in 2010-11 to £374,990 in 2016-17.
  • The number of local authority maintained primary schools in deficit has also risen. In 2010-11, 5.2 per cent of local authority primary schools were in deficit – this reduced in the following year to 3.7 per cent, before staying at a level of around 4 per cent until 2015-16. However, in 2016-17, the proportion of primary schools in deficit increased significantly, to 7.1 per cent. The average primary school deficit also noticeably increased, from £72,042 in 2010-11, to £107,962 in 2016-17.
  • At a regional level, the South West had the highest percentage of local authority maintained secondaries in deficit over this period – with 22.1 per cent of schools in deficit in 2010-11, rising considerably to over a third of schools (34.9 per cent) in 2016-17. The East had the lowest – with 7.5 per cent of local authority maintained secondary schools in deficit in 2010-11, rising to 17.5 per cent in 2016-17.
  • The North East had the highest number of local authority maintained primary schools in deficit in 2016-17 at 10.1 per cent. The East of England consistently had the lowest, with 2.6 per cent in deficit in 2010-11, rising to 3.4 per cent in 2016-17.
  • A large proportion of local authority maintained schools are now spending more than their income. Over two-thirds of local authority maintained secondary schools spent more than their income in 2016-17. Significantly, such events are not just occurring for one year – we find that 40 per cent of local authority maintained secondaries have had balances in decline for at least two years in a row.
  • Similar figures are found for local authority maintained primary schools – in 2016-17, over 60 per cent were spending more than their income. A quarter of local authority maintained primaries have had a falling balance for two years or more.

Where the EPI report does go further than I did last December is in looking at implications as well as the regional breakdown of schools for concern. However, the latter points may be affected by the asymmetric distribution of academies across England.

Implications for schools: financial pressures and deficits – EPI report

  • For a significant proportion of schools in England, being able to meet the cost of annual staff pay increases from a combination of government funding and their own reserves looks highly unlikely, even in the short term.
  • In response to pressures, schools have undertaken various efficiency measures to deliver cost savings, such as switching suppliers, reducing energy usage and reducing the size of leadership teams.
  • However, education staff account for the majority of spending by schools – around two-thirds. It is likely that schools will find it difficult to achieve the scale of savings necessary without also cutting back on staff. Many schools will face the challenge of containing budget pressures and reducing staffing numbers without impacting on education standards.

Either way, the outlook for schools and their pupils is bleak, but so it is across the whole of the public sector just as George Osborne warned it would be in the second half of this decade when he became Chancellor. It was just that few wanted to believe him.