Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.



Most women earn less than men in teaching

With the revelation of top salaries at the BBC showing such large differences between what is paid to men and women in the best paid positions in the corporation I thought it worth looking at the data about salaries for teachers in state-funded schools in England. The details can be found in the School Workforce Census taken every November. The latest information is from November 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 The data is only as good as that submitted by schools and tends to lump part-time and full-time workers together in the same table. As there are probably more women working part-time in the older age-groups this may have some effect on the average salary in some age groups. In total, there were around 110,000 part-time teachers and school leaders working in schools in November 2016, not counting short-term supply teachers that are excluded from the data.

Young women under the age of 30 earn on average more than their male compatriots. The exact amount of the difference varies between sectors and type of school, but overall, women under 25 average £400 more per year than men and those between 25-29 £500 more in salary. That is the point where the picture changes and men start earning more on average than women. By their late 40s, women are, on average, earning some £5,400 per year less than men. Men average £46,700 and women £41,300 per year. Neither group is earning enough to support a mortgage on a house or flat in many parts of the country, even if you were to add in the London salary uplift.

Interestingly, there is a similar differential in favour of men among head teachers. Although there are more than 10,000 women head teachers in primary non-academies, compared with fewer than 4,000 men, their average salary is £1,800 lower than for men. The median difference in head teacher salary is even greater at £2,100. However, as salary is usually linked to school size this may mean more women are heads of the many small primary schools still to be found across England. Whether the National Funding Formula will make many of these small schools financially unviable and affect the promotion opportunities of women teachers is an interesting question.

Among heads of secondary academies, there are 1,600 men compared with 1,000 women. Men earn more in all age groups with average salaries for male head teachers in their 50s exceeding £100,000 and peaking at £109,800 for those in the 55-59 age group. Women in this age group average £105,300, when serving as a head of a secondary academy.

Somewhere around 1,300 head teachers were earning more than £100,000 in November 2016, with another 800 where the salary was unreported that might contain additional high earners. Of these high earners, there were 600 teachers earning in a range from £110,000-£200,000. Salaries above this upper level were regarded as mis-reported. Some might be executive heads of Multi-Academy Trusts that also combined that role with head teacher of a particular school. More clarity on this point would be helpful in encouraging schools to complete the census correctly.



Rising number of exclusions: a worrying trend

The DfE has published the data for exclusions during the 2015/16 school year. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16.  The number of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 1,790 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from around 1,590 per day in 2014/15.

These figures are not good news for the government, as it appears that the improvement seem over the last few years is now being undone. The DfE does need to look behind the headline numbers at the schools responsible for the increase and also if the increase has also continued on into 2016/17, where data for the first term should be available.

The problems of this type that affect a relatively small number of schools raise questions about the use of a national funding formula. In Medway, for instance, virtually all the exclusions are in non-selective schools, with many of the local selective schools not excluding any pupils at all. But, if each type of school receives the same funding component to spend on behaviour management, is that balanced off by adjustments in the other direction elsewhere in the budget.

It is these sorts of issues that create the debate about both hypothecation and unrestricted budgets on the one hand and our notions of equality on the other hand. Put both strands together and you have an interesting debate that despite the Pupil Premium does seem to me to be skewed towards a simplistic notion of equality mitigated only by the traditional view that London is an expensive place to live and work in.

Persistent disruptive behaviour remains by far and away the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions: schools have just come to the end of their tether with the pupil. How long the tether is may differ from school to school, as might the attitude to what is unacceptable behaviour, as schools try to raise the bar on standards of acceptable behaviour. There is a worrying high figure of around 20% where the reason for an exclusion is coded as ‘other’. This is not really acceptable. It may mean there is more than one reasons such as a pupil with generally persistent disruptive behaviour, but the actual exclusion is triggered by another event such as verbal or physical abuse to another pupil or staff member.

As ever, having special need, being on Free School Meals, or from a non-majority ethnic background are all additional risk factors in the likelihood of being excluded. This is despite several years where teacher preparation schemes were supposed to support teachers in schools with large numbers of likely at risk pupils.

Despite concerns in the press and elsewhere, exclusions for either bullying or racist abuse are minimal in the overall totals, although some exclusions may be coded under other headings even where pupils have exhibited this type of anti-social behaviour.

Years 8-10 still account for around 40% of all exclusions, so it is good to see the recent statement about slowing down the timetable for all to study the EBacc. I am sure a better look at the curriculum for this age group can help reduce exclusions where students are being forced to study subjects they no longer value. As ever, more boys are being excluded than girls, especially in terms of permanent exclusions.

Do schools employ teachers with QTS?

What can the School Workforce Census tell us about who is teaching in our schools? At the level of the individual school record there is some valuable data that can be mined by researchers looking to answer specific questions such as those in the newly published NfER study research into staffing and the role of MATs. https://www.nfer.ac.uk/about-nfer/media-and-events/being-part-of-multi-academy-trusts-may-help-schools-in-challenging-areas-to-recruit-and-retain-teachers/

Of course, such a study doesn’t discuss the important policy issue of whether schooling should be like the NHS and governed centrally or as they used to be, under local democratic control: parents could eject their local councillor if the schools wasn’t properly funded or performed badly. They are unlikely to eject an MP on the same grounds.

Anyway, the School workforce Census public tables contains a wealth of interesting material. Take the issue of secondary schools employing Qualified Teachers. Excluding trainees and schools such as Farringdon Academy in Oxfordshire, where there appear to be nil returns, most secondary schools employ teachers with QTS.

GOR % of schools  with less than 90% of teachers with  QTS
North East 6%
North West 7%
Yorkshire & Humber 11%
South West 11%
West Midlands 12%
East Midlands 14%
South East 21%
East England 23%
Inner London 24%
Outer London 25%
Oxfordshire 21%

Source DfE School Workforce Census 2016

What do we know of the schools with less than 90% of teachers with QTS.? Many are specific types of school. UTCs and Studio Schools for 14-18 year olds abound in the lists across the country. Then there are specific schools such as the Steiner Schools where teaching and learning outcomes follow a specific pattern, but there are limited teacher preparation courses leading to QTS. There are also schools with a specific religious character of which Jewish and Roman Catholic schools appear most frequently in the list of schools with less than 90% of teachers with QTS.

Schools also differ in their age profiles. There are over 120 secondary schools where more than a third of the teaching staff are over the age of 50 despite the general trend towards a younger teaching force across the system as a whole. These older teachers are less likely to be found in London schools than in some other parts of England.

Male teachers are also becoming rarer in secondary schools, with none of Oxfordshire’s 11-18 secondary schools reporting a gender balance: all have a majority of female teachers, albeit only a small majority in a few cases.  There is no doubt still something of a general imbalance at the Leadership level.

The School Workforce Census also includes some data on vacancies, but with the collection date in November, when most schools are fully staffed, it isn’t anything like as interesting as the TeachVac site that collects vacancy data throughout the year. TeachVac also has extra data on science, design and technology, mathematics and IT vacancies that can be of use to those interested in information about that group of subjects. We can collect the same detailed information on other subjects and leadership posts as well.





Motivation not space for prep?

The Report on achievement by white working class boys published today by the Education Select Committee makes clear what educationalists have known for some time: this group underperform in school compared with almost all other groups except perhaps traveller children, and have been falling behind as other groups have improved at a faster rate. Why this is, and the solutions proposed by the Committee, reveals the complexity of the problem.

No doubt the one solution highlighted by many commentators will be the lengthening of the school day to provide both wraparound care and somewhere for older pupils to do their homework and participate in after-school activities. The homework facility is a good idea where pupils lack space and facilities at home. But, it will only work if pupils are motivated to learn, and there is a risk that this is too often not the case.

Absence rates for schools serving white working class communities are often above the national average, and it is well known that pupils falling behind early on in their education struggle to catch up. As a result, it might be worth exploring how we ensure the best quality teachers are working in the early years of schools serving these communities, and also how we create learning opportunities that cope with a less than perfect attendance pattern. This would be the opposite of the big stick, fine for non-attendance route that anyway doesn’t take into account the ability of a family to pay any fine.

With a looming teacher shortage in some parts of the country, addressing the problem of who teaches where is vital if the gap between white working class pupils and the rest of society isn’t to widen still further. Such school cannot be allowed to struggle to find teachers.

However, there is much to be done to motivate the parents, many of whom underachieved at school, and don’t see the reason for forcing a regular pattern of attendance on their offspring. But, society must engage with them, and offer help so their children can benefit from our future economic success as a nation.

With the structural changes to the labour market that have taken place over the past few decades many of the jobs that didn’t need much education have disappeared, and those that remain are often not well paid. Some years ago I noted an educationalist that had said that ‘the porter of yesterday had become the fork lift truck driver of today and the operator of a computer managed warehouse of tomorrow’. Well tomorrow has arrived. White working class boys with no qualifications sometimes have a choice between perhaps either window cleaning or driving white vans; and even window cleaning is becoming more skilled, and there are no jobs for van boys any longer.

Whatever society does to attack this problem of underachievement is likely to cost money, and reassessing how schools are funded, especially those offering the early years of schooling, remains an important consideration.

Now that schools are no longer the total responsibility of local authorities, the government must come forward with a programme to help address the underachievement: keeping schools open longer is only a small part of the solution; fining parents is no real solution, but ensuring the right teachers work in the schools where they will make the most difference is something worth trying. Achieving it will either cost money or mean a total rethink of how teachers are employed, and a challenge to school autonomy.

Teaching a feminised profession?

In the real world you probably don’t come across a normal distribution curve as often as you do in the textbooks. As a result, it is interesting when one pops up during the analysis of a dataset. In this case the dataset is of the number of male teachers in each secondary school in England as recorded in the DfE’s 2012 School Workforce Census. Sadly, it is not really possible to do the same analysis for the primary sector because a very large number of schools either have the data shown as not available or it has been suppressed. Quite why it is necessary to suppress data in this category is a bit of a mystery, but that is government statistics for you

The modal class for schools is between 40-41% of teachers being male, with most secondary schools falling somewhere in the range of 20-70% of their teaching staff being men.

It would be interesting to compare this graph with that of ten or twenty years ago if the data was available; sadly, it probably isn’t or at least not in an easily obtainable format. However we can say that male teachers in the secondary sector accounted for around 75,000 of the 181,000 full-time teachers in the secondary sector in 2012 compared with 119,000 out of 220,000 in 1985. This is reduction from 54% of the teaching force to 41% in just under thirty years.

In a few years time it is likely that six out of ten secondary teachers will be women; and the percentage teaching lower secondary pupils is likely to become even higher as the remaining men take a disproportionate number of the senior posts in schools. Whether secondary education will eventually end up like primary schools, with an essentially feminised workforce is too early to predict, but in London and the Home Counties, where demand for graduates across the labour market is at its greatest, it seems likely that unless wage rates remain competitive men will vanish from many secondary schools.

Whether this is an important issue or just a matter of note probably depends upon your position.  I first identified the trend towards more women in secondary schools in 1995, nearly twenty years ago  (The Guardian 13th January 1995), and also at that point raised the question of where would be male role models for the increasing number of boys in single parent families? That debate hasn’t gone away, although it is much more recognised as a fact of life than it was then, and professionals from all walks of life are probably more aware of the possible issues it can raise.

That’s after all one of the reasons for monitoring data. The fact that earlier today Ofsted reported that many secondary schools didn’t seem to be aware of the evidence that some pupils who leave primary school with top grades weren’t making the expected progress at secondary school just highlights how important using management information can be in schools, even if you don’t come across a normal distribution curve as often as you might expect.