What headteachers told PISA about schools in England

The holiday season has provided me with time to read the full PISA Report for England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pisa-2018-national-report-for-england as well as look at the comparisons with the other Home Nations, while they remain a part of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Anyway, buried in the details is a section that looks at the results of questionnaires sent to headteachers. Now one must assume that headteachers are influenced by the current mood at the time that they completed the questionnaire, and that mood may differ from country to country. What might have been the mood in England and how does it compare with the OECD average?

Generally, it seems that headeachers in England were more optimistic than the average headteacher in the OECD in their answers to a range of questions about factors that might hinder student learning.

Table 6.5 Pupil and teacher behaviour for learning, reported by headteachers
Percentage of headteachers who responded “A lot” and “To some extent” to In your school, to what extent is the learning of students hindered by the following?
  England OECD Percentage point difference England-OECD
Pupil behaviours
Students not paying attention 40 59 -19
Student truancy 20 38 -18
Students lacking respect for teachers 11 22 -10
Students skipping classes 9 34 -25
Students intimidating or bullying other students 4 12 -8
Student use of alcohol or illegal drugs 3 10 -7
Teacher behaviours
Teachers not meeting individual students’ needs 28 30 -2
Teacher absenteeism 20 18 2
Staff resisting change 10 29 -19
Teachers not being well prepared for classes 5 13 -8
Teachers being too strict with students 3 12 -10

Source: PISA Report England 2019

Only in teacher absenteeism were headteachers in England gloomier than the OECD average. This seems somewhat surprising given the relatively low level of term-time teacher absence in many schools. Generally, although  lack of attention by students was recognised as an issue, even that concerned head teachers less than the average PECD headteacher.

Table 7.14 Hindrances to learning reported by headteachers and principals
Percentage of headteachers who responded “A lot” and “To some extent” to In your school, to what extent is the learning of students hindered by the following?
  England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales
Pupil behaviours
Students not paying attention 40 35 49 30
Student truancy 20 8 35 20
Students lacking respect for teachers 11 19 22 19
Students skipping classes 9 7 31 14
Students intimidating or bullying other students 4 8 13 6
Student use of alcohol or illegal drugs 3 3 5 7
Teacher behaviours
Teachers not meeting individual students’ needs 28 14 29 15
Teacher absenteeism 20 19 30 14
Staff resisting change 10 14 23 12
Teachers not being well prepared for classes 5 3 3 9
Teachers being too strict with students 3 0 6 7

Source: PISA Report England 2019

However, it is interesting to put the views of headteachers in England alongside those of their colleagues in the other Home Nations that completed the PISA questionnaire. On the basis of these responses, one wonder what is going on in some schools in Scotland? The figure for students skipping classes seems difficult to believe if the sample is representative of schools across Scotland and probably also accounts for the high figure for headteachers agreeing that truancy is also seen as an issue by a third of the headteachers compared with a fifth of headteachers in England.

I am not sure what the teacher associations make of the data from these questionnaires, but I am surprised that the government hasn’t made more of it. But, perhaps the views of headteachers looking at schools from their offices isn’t the same as the view from the staffroom?

 

STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-review-body-29th-report-2019 Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?

Funding dilemma

There is an interesting story on the BBC web site today about a school with 300 holes in its roof. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-44456241 Now this is not a crumbling Victorian pile that ought to be knocked, down but a modern building recently re-built – with shiny design features and a landscaped setting. Unfortunately there appears to be a substantial issue with the roof.

Under the regime initiated by Labour and continued by the Coalition and the recent Conservative governments, education budgets have been devolved to schools and increasingly taken away from democratically elected local authorities. The professional association that represents most secondary head teachers, the ASCL, has supported school-led financing for ever and a day.

The Common Funding Formula now being introduced is a direct result of this line of thinking. I well recall when head teachers couldn’t even authorise the change of a light bulb without an order number from their local authority and that was obviously as crazy in education as it has been elsewhere in the public sector where I have encountered such rigid rules controlling expenditure. There has to be a degree of trust of those in authority at all levels. Heads know this when allowing heads of department latitude in how the spend money on their subject or age group.

The problem comes, as with the school in the BBC story, when there are special needs in terms of problems facing a school. I wrote about this issue in terms of UTCs with extra equipment needs because they specialised in high cost areas such as engineering or manufacturing. A common formula doesn’t take this aspect into account.

The stark dilemma is either a common formula that hurts those on the extreme of spending demands or a formula plus add-ons decided by someone either nationally or locally. The government has solved the dilemma in Multi-Academy Chains by suggesting, in Lord Agnew’s recent letter, a return to the status quo ante whereby money can be vired between schools at the behest of the MAT governing group.

So, the solution for this school may be to join a MAT rather than remain as a single academy or as in this case a Voluntary Aided school that presumably had to pay for part of the rebuilding cost?. The problem for these schools is that no self-respecting MAT would want a school with such horrendous building problems that affects their budget. This can leave such schools in limbo until someone somewhere finds the cash to solve the problem.

More than century ago, Sidney Webb considered the issue of school funding in a chapter in one of his books. He discussed the issue of a non-specific grant versus the totally hypothecated funding stream of the time: his preference was for the former rather than the latter.

This debate comes on top of the wider debate about the funding of schools and the need for more cash. It is disingenuous of anyone to try and mix up the two problems. The former will remain even if there is more cash overall, unless the system of distribution is altered.

Of course the system can also make economics, as I have demonstrated by backing TeachVac, the free vacancy web site for schools and teachers. www.teachvac.co.uk So far TeachVac seems to be doing much better than the DfE site in the North East, but that’s a story for another day.

Leadership trends for schools across England: A DfE Report

The DfE has today published an important new piece of research about the school workforce, concentrating mainly on observations about Leadership roles. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-leadership-2010-to-2016-characteristics-and-trends

As a purist, I cannot get my head around the use of headteacher rather than head teacher but, apart from that grumble, there is much to welcome in this study. In my ways it fills in the gaps since the end of my annual reports for the NAHT (nd from time to time ASCL as well) that appeared between the late 1990s and 2012.

As these are no longer available to open view on the NAHT web site, I have reproduced the key issues from the 18th Report, and last in the series, at the end of this blog. This is because the DfE report, authoritative as it is, doesn’t then move to discuss in detail some of the potential policy implications arising from their findings. To provide one such example. If it takes a teacher potentially 16 years to become a secondary head teacher, then what are the implications for promotion possibilities for mature entrants with career experience outside of teaching? A use of the Sankey diagrams by age group of entrants to the profession might help answer this question.

The DfE Report also compliments TeachVac’s analysis of leadership vacancies during 2017 in the primary sector across England issued this January, and still available on request from enquiries@oxteachserv.com

The DfE Report comments that teachers with a senior leadership role (headteacher, deputy or assistant headteacher) form a small proportion of the overall teaching population, smaller in secondary (10.8%) than primary (18.5%) schools, which has grown since 2010 (up from 9.7% and 18.1% respectively). This growth was mainly in assistant heads, which have increased from 3.5% to 5.2% of teachers in primary schools and 5.6% to 6.5% in secondary schools between 2010 and 2016.

However, there are a greater percentage of classroom teachers in primary schools than secondary schools. This means fewer teacher in the primary sector have posts with salary additions due to additional responsibilities than in the secondary sector. This is the result of the subject related nature of teaching in secondary schools since the development of the comprehensive school model in the 1960s and 1970s replaced the class teacher model previously used in the secondary modern schools, and the elementary school sector before the 1944 Education Act. Such a divergence of staffing models is still reflected today in the formation of principles behind the DfE’s Common Funding Formula.

Those with an interest in school leadership will find both the report and the accompanying tables repay detailed study. I look forward to reading updates over the next few years. However, they will need to bear in mind the important change in the secondary sector during the period of the DfE’s analysis in relation to the creation of academies and the implications for issues such as the retention of school leaders.

Extract from: The Staete of the Leadership Market for Senior Staff in Schools 2011/12

18th Report issues – September 2012

By Prof John Howson & Dr Almut Sprigade

Each year this survey provides a dynamic picture of the state of the labour market for senior staff appointments on the Leadership Scale in publically funded schools. It complements the picture provided by the School Workforce Survey that allows an understanding of the state of the labour market for a particular date in November.

The most important questions that this survey addresses are; what are the trends in the demand for senior staff, and is the market able to meet them, both now and in the foreseeable future? Of course, even within the three different grades of head, deputy and assistant head associated with the Leadership Scale there are many different sub-markets associated with geography, type of school, phase of education and source of public funding.

The school sector is undergoing a period of significant change, especially in its governance, and such moves may affect the labour market, especially during any period when existing schools seek to change their status. This may, for example, have affected the number of deputy and assistant head posts advertised by secondary schools during the period when they converted to academy status. It is difficult to see why otherwise during a period of declining pupil numbers there should have been an increase in deputy head vacancies.

The key issue during recent years has been the effect of retirements on the labour market. Once again, this year, retirements have been the dominant reason for headship vacancies and a significant reason in the vacancies for both deputy and assistant headships. However, it seems likely that the peak year for retirements has now been passed, and that whilst remaining at a high level they may decline over the next few years. This assumption is based on the continuation of an orderly market with no sudden upturn, perhaps due to an unpredicted change in pay, pension or conditions of service.

According to the School Workforce Survey conducted in 2011 (DfE, 2012) there were just fewer than 4,000 primary heads in the 55-59 age group, along with 878 secondary heads, and 299 special school heads, making a total of around 5,200 head teacher likely to retire within the next five years. Assuming there is an equal distribution across the age range that equates to around 1,040 departures each year for each of the next five years. To this figure must be added a number of early retirements, say around a third of turnover if the figures in this report can be grossed up for the market as a whole. That would add somewhere around 900 departures to the total, providing for around 2,000 of the total of 2,678 recorded advertisements this year. This would represent some 75% of current turnover compared with just less than 70% recorded in this survey in the current year. However, if any of those in the ‘other category’ were actually retirements, then the difference might be smaller. On a worst case scenario of high early retirement plus expected levels of age-related retirement the turnover of head teachers might be expected to be around the level seen in 2010-11. Now that the abolition of the mandatory NPQH has widened the pool of eligible candidates, the question is whether the supply side can provide enough candidates considered as suitably qualified by governing bodies and whether there is sufficient appetite for the role from those candidates?

The evidence of application levels from this survey suggests that in schools that are neither at the extremes of the pupil number ranges nor associated with certain other characteristics, such as being a Roman Catholic school, the demand for the post of head teacher is sufficient to ensure most schools that advertise at the appropriate time will be able to make an appointment. However, the supply for certain more specialist segments of the market may be less secure. The fate of Roman Catholic schools, where recruitment has been an issue for most of the past two decades, shows that schools do eventually make an appointment. Evidence of how they perform during any interregnum and whether the appointment of a temporary head teacher can affect short-term performance might be worth investigating further.

It may, of course, be that the current wage freeze on teachers’ pay is spurring interest in leadership posts since promotion offers one way for a teacher to increase their salary when there are no cost of living increases. However, if that is the case with relation to applicants, it does not seem to have been the case with appointments, where a minimum period of service appears to be seen as relevant to an appointment as it ever was; more than five years’ service being required for an assistant headship; 10-15 years for a deputy headship; and more than 15 years for a headship. The age at which mature entrants to the profession reach this length of service may affect their chances of promotion, especially if they do not reach 15 years of service before the age of 45.

Although the number of returns from schools in the London area was below average there was some evidence that these schools were finding some difficulty in filling leadership posts, and especially for the more junior or more specialised vacancies.

The increase in advertised deputy posts in the secondary sector should mean that the supply of deputies will remain adequate even if vacancies for headships remain above the longer-term average. However, there were little more than 1,200 primary deputy posts advertised during 2011-12 compared with just over 2,000 headship advertisements. As 40% of headship appointments went to deputy head teachers, this suggests a demand for around 800 deputy head moving into headship each year or three quarters of new deputy head appointments. The position is further complicated by the fact that most appointments are probably from candidates who do not relocate when taking up a headship. This means that there needs to be a sufficient spread of candidates across the country.

The percentage of women being appointed to headships in the secondary sector does not yet reflect the percentage of female teachers working in secondary schools, and it would be helpful to establish whether or not women have the same success rate at interview as their male counterparts. A similar exercise for ethnic minority candidates might also be useful, especially now that the benchmark of the NPQH has been removed.

As has already been mentioned, Roman Catholic schools continue to find appointments more challenging than do other schools, with fewer applicants and smaller shortlists. Neither is per se a bad thing, but if they result in more unfilled vacancies then the process for schools is both more expensive and time consuming, and potentially unsettling.

There have always been fewer problems recruiting deputy and assistant head teachers than in recruiting head teachers and, generally, that has been the picture again this year although some primary schools appeared to have found difficulty in appointing an assistant head, and this may need further investigation as to the type and location of schools facing problems.

Overall, 2011-12 was another year in which the demands of the labour market were generally able to be satisfied by the supply of candidates putting themselves forward to fill the vacancies on offer. However, it is worth noting that a small number of schools that failed to appoint after a first advertisement continued to face problems when re-advertising their vacancies. If they are located in areas where support for the middle tier is now weak it is not clear what help would be available to them. As more schools become academies this may become more of an issue until a governance structure is worked out for schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of keeping teachers

The DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Review Body (the STRB) has been published and, as usual, the document contained some interesting nuggets in the detailed annexes. Two that are of particular interest are the retention rates for teachers over time and the number of schools using different forms of payments on top of the basic salary. This post consider the first of these numbers.

Retention is always shown by the DfE as a percentage of the entry number of teachers for each year. This is helpful in one way in that that it allows a direct comparison for year to year as to the progress of those entering as NQTs, although it isn’t clear if earlier years’ data are amended to take into account late entrants. However, the percentages can mask some very large swings in numbers. For instance only 18,600 NQTs entered service in 2001 compared with 25,700 in 2005 and 25,500 in 2015: the second highest number this century. Lest anyone think that such a large number negates any talk about recruitment crises, it is worth recalling that the figure for entrants covers both primary and secondary sectors and all subjects and specialisms. Thus, some over-recruitment can hide shortages in other areas. However, 2015, 2016 and probably 2017 witnessed more than 24,000 new entrants each year: significant numbers, albeit against a rising tide of pupil numbers and hence a growing demand for teachers. Regular readers of this blog will know my anxiety that the 2018 and probably 2019 entry cohorts will not match up to these numbers and are more likely to be in the range of the 23,000 entrants of 2012 and 2013.

The percentage loss of new teachers during their first year of teaching has remained relatively stable since 2000, at between 12-13% most years, dropping to only 10% in 2003. More alarming is the steady decline in retention rates for teachers in years 3-6 of their careers. The 2011-2014 entry cohorts were all at record percentage lows in 2016, with the 2011 cohort having lost a third of those entering by 2016. The issue is whether this is just accelerated departure of those that would have normally left by year ten of their careers, where the data suggests around 40% of entrants are no longer being tracked as teaching in state funded schools. These leavers may be teaching in the private sector; have moved overseas to teach; be working in FE of Sixth Form Colleges or taking a career break for personal reasons. No doubt some will have decided teaching isn’t for them; but others will have returned after a brief sell in being counted in the data.

The number of departing teachers is of concern because from the remaining teachers must come, first the middle leaders and then the senior leaders and overall leaders of the profession. Obviously, the best scenario is one of high entry numbers and low wastage by year ten: the worst outcome is low entry numbers and higher than average departures. By year ten, this can mean a difference of several thousand teachers. By the time any cohort reaches headship level, this differential in numbers probably doesn’t matter a great deal in the secondary sector, but it can seriously affect the supply of new head teacher in the primary sector, especially if it coincides with an above average retirements, as happened at the end of the first decade of this century.

Teacher Recruitment; nationalised service or private enterprise?

So the unacceptable face of capitalism has raised its head again, with a Conservative Prime Minister once again facing questions about excesses in the private sector, much as Edward Heath, who coined the phrase,  did in 1973. The other parallels with 1972 are also interesting a rocketing stock market and a decision to be made about Britain’s relationship with Europe. Happily, the other scourge of the 1970s, high inflation, isn’t currently the same worry, although it has been replaced by the high price of housing, where the market has failed to produce enough homes of the right types in the right places to satisfy demand.

In an interesting side line on the debate about the role of the State in the provision of services, last week the DfE talked to an invited audience about the plans for their new vacancy service for schools. Although I wasn’t at the meeting, the idea of such a service has been discussed in a number of the previous posts on this blog ever since it first emerged as a suggestion in the White Paper of 2016. Following the meeting, the whole situation has left me more than a little confused. What the teacher associations make of the DfE’s actions must also be an interesting question.

Held at the same time as PMQ was taking place in the House of Commons chamber, where the demise of Carillion was fresh in the minds of MPs, the DfE meeting saw a Labour peer representing a commercial company at the same time that his leader was expressing views more sympathetic to the State running industries rather than the private sector. And if that weren’t curious enough, the education lead at the right leaning thinktank Policy Exchange must surely be wondering why the DfE is further empire building by moving into devising a recruitment service on top of the growing staff numbers supporting both the EFSC and the offices of the Regional School Commissioners. Better procurement, rather than a replacement state run service, would be what I would expect from John Blake’s analysis of the cost of recruitment to schools and the need to find ways of reducing it.

To some extent, I am not a dis-interested player, as TeachVac, the free national recruitment service for schools and teachers already does what the DfE is seemingly trying to provide for schools and at no cost to the public purse.

TeachVac also collects data about the labour market. TeachVac will publish its first report of 2018 on Wednesday of this week. This report will discuss the labour market for primary leadership posts during 2017. That report won’t be free, but if you want a copy email enquiries@oxteachserv.com For details of the vacancy service visit: www.teachvac.co.uk

Leadership Matters

The DfE has just published the latest in a series of working papers based on the 2013 international TALIS Study of teachers. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teachers-in-secondary-schools-evidence-from-talis-2013 The TALIS study covers secondary schools and this working paper is about job satisfaction and teacher retention. Probably not surprisingly, it concludes that leadership matters. The working paper summarises this key fact as follows:

Better school leadership is strongly associated with higher teacher job satisfaction and a reduction in the odds that a teacher wants to move school. More specifically, a one standard deviation (SD) improvement in the quality of leadership is associated with a large, 0.49 SD increase in teacher job satisfaction and a 64% reduction in the odds that a teacher strongly agrees that they want to move to another school.

This comment makes the abolition of a mandatory preparation qualification for headship nearly a decade a go by the then Labour government even more difficult to fathom than it was at the time. A mandatory leadership qualification also allows for greater understanding of the pipeline of potential new head teachers and areas where there may be challenges recruiting a new head teacher.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with the heads of Roman Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Southwark that covers a swathe of south east London and the neighbouring counties. There were many new, young head teachers just embarking on journey as the lead professional of a school. What was interesting and inspiring was the range of new options the Archdiocese and its schools were willing to try; co-heads sharing the role; primary and secondary heads working together in the same primary school, where at the same time the secondary head also retains their leadership role in the secondary school. Also inspiring were the large proportion of new heads that were women.

Church schools, like schools in the larger MATs, are lucky in that they work in an organisational structure that can set funds aside for system leaders to help head teachers and other school leaders develop. Many local authorities no longer have the funds or the support of their remaining maintained school to ensure such support and encouragement for school leaders and also can no longer identify those that will form the next generation of school leaders.

This is a point noted in the main TALIS report on the 2013 data, where the authors made it clear that:

.Schools in England are clearly very autonomous by international standards, or at least are viewed as such by their head teachers. The levels of school responsibility that are reported are so high and the levels of local and national authority responsibility so low that there is little room for much analysis of differences among English schools. Unsurprisingly, the reporting of local or national authority involvement is strongly concentrated among the maintained schools, although we have already noted that it is not nearly as high as might be expected. Within the group of maintained schools, we can find no clear significant differences in level of average GCSE performance, the distribution of Ofsted ratings, or average Free School Meals receipt between schools with heads reporting significant local or national authority involvement ….. and those with heads who did not. (Page 42 paragraph 22, main report).

The TALIS report is a good starting place for any new Minister, should we find reshuffles and changes at Westminster create such an eventuality, even without the enduring possibility of an early general election causing wholesale change.