Uncertain Times

One of the consequences of the prorogation of parliament has been the cancellation of the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession that was scheduled for the 9th September. Below is the paper I would have presented to the APPG meeting. The text represents my first look at what might happen to the teacher labour market in 2020.

APPG Labour Market for Teachers: A first look at the outcome for September 2020.

In 2020, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that brought state schooling to the whole population for the first time in our history.

The job market at the start of September 2019 is probably facing another year where the supply of teachers will not meet the demand, especially in many secondary subjects, and most notably across the South of England. The further North and West in England you move away from London, and in much of the classroom teacher market in the primary sector, there is less pressure overall on supply, but shortages in specific subjects remain, especially for January 2020 appointments.

However, the picture might change quite radically post-Brexit on 31st October. If there is a general slowdown in the world economy in the autumn and through to the start of 2020, as many economists seem to be expecting, this may be good news for schools. Recessions in the past have meant fewer teachers leaving the profession and more seeking to either train as a teacher, as other career avenues recede, or return to teaching as a secure, if not well-paid, profession. Additionally, if demand internationally for teachers from England reduces that may help retain teachers and reduce wastage rates, especially amongst teachers with 5-7 years of experience.

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, the picture is still one of shortages. In mid-August 135 preparation courses in London had vacancies, compared with only five in the North East of England.

As a result of this analysis, there are three possible scenarios for the teacher labour market in 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population. This will make it the longest running supply crisis since the early 1970s.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. A worsening economic and geopolitical situation, especially in the Middle East and in China might be catalysts for such an outcome, as might less that fully funded salary increase for teachers used as an incentive to help attract more recruits in the future into teaching as a career. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is extremely unlikely scenario for 2020, unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.

 

 

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20,000 fewer teachers?

The news that the Home Office are going to oversee the recruitment of either 20,000 new graduate police officers or people capable of earning a vocational degree must prompt the question; in the current labour market, where are these new police officers going to come from? Of course, it might be a preemptive strike by the government against a possible recession and the associated increase in unemployment. This must be on the assumption that any recession will hit the graduate end of the labour market at least as hard as it hits those with no qualifications.

After seven years of a failure to recruit enough new teachers into training – a back door cut – and facing an increasing pupil population, teaching also need more entrants than it has at present. Indeed, it seems likely that when the ITT Census for 2019 is published in November, this will be the eighth year of missed targets in some subjects. I recorded the disturbing decline of design and technology trainee numbers in one of yesterday’s posts, if anyone is interested.

So, might teachers switch to become police officers? I doubt it will be 20,000, but the loss of any experienced teachers will be a blow to the profession that has also seen retention rates worsen for teachers we might have expected to have reached the stage where they had become what one person described to me this week as ‘lifers’.

Potential teachers, especially those keen to be in London and not eligible for Teach First, might well weigh up the starting salary of a constable against the fees to be paid as a trainee teacher and the absence of any guarantee of a teaching post on completion of training.

I certainly think that this move to increase police numbers will reinforce the need for a review of the former training grant for all teachers, and not just payments to those lucky enough to be on Teach First or the School Direct Salaried routes or receiving a bursary. Of course, the government could wait and see, but that must be deemed a risk unless graduate unemployment rises both quickly and fast.

If the new Secretary of State for Defence wants more graduates in the armed forces and the NHS more nurses, then those actions will place more pressure on the teaching profession to be competitive in a labour market where it clearly isn’t competitive at present.

Do we really want a system that produces just enough qualified teachers of Physics to meet the needs of private schools, Sixth Form Colleges and the selective schools? Do we want a system that fails to produce enough teachers of design and technology; of music; even of art? According to head teachers that I meet, this isn’t even the complete list of subjects where recruitment is currently a challenge.

The other salvation is that a slowing down of the global economy might reduce demand from ‘overseas schools’ for teachers trained in England. Such a situation is possible, but with the switch of many of these schools to educating not the children of expat business families, but locals dissatisfied with their State system or unable to access it, not too much hope should be placed on this solution, at least for now.

Education matters

Last evening saw the termly meeting of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on the Teaching Profession at Westminster. Chris Waterman has continued to do sterling work with this Group that morphed out of a previous ad hoc gathering, primarily established to discuss issues surrounding the teacher labour market as the country moved from surplus to shortage. No doubt those that attended had to ensure they dodged the TV cameras as they made their way through Central Lobby to the committee room for the meeting.

As I had other duties in Oxford, I was unable to attend last evening’s meeting, but did provide Chris will some extracts from recent relevant posts on this blog to distribute to those that were able to attend.

For those with even longer memories that stretch back beyond the creation of SATTAG by Chris and myself, they will recall that this blog started soon after I stopped writing a weekly column for the then TES, now branded as tes. After more than a decade of writing for that paper, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms, and a blog seem a good way to relieve them in a manner that didn’t take up much time.

Of course, the big concern at this present time must be about where the candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party stand on Education? For selection at eleven; complete academisation; more pay for teachers; cash for Children’s Centres? We all have a list of what we would want to ask our next Prime Minister, but are only likely to be able to do so through the professional associations taking a lead and quizzing the eventual finalist on behalf of the profession.

From the candidates’ point of view, they might want to reflect that being too radical can affect what will happen in the real world. Make teaching look too unattractive, and the present teacher supply problem could become even worse, especially if the exodus from the profession were to accelerate. With insufficient numbers entering the profession, losing those already in service at an even greater rate than at present wouldn’t just be unfortunate, but could be disastrous for both our society and the future of the economy.

Teaching is now a global activity and teachers trained in England are able to secure posts in many other countries in the ever-growing private school market of ‘international’ schools, increasingly run by those with the bottom line in mind. With UK higher education an attractive draw for many overseas students and their parents, being taught by teachers that understand the system here can be a help when it is time to apply to university.

So, my key question for Tory Candidates’ is, what support will you provide for your Secretary of State for Education and what will be the key priorities you will ask that person to address? If they don’t mention all of Further Education; funding levels and staffing then education will clearly not be a significant priority for them in the word post October 31st.

 

Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.

 

Happy 6th Birthday

Phew, this blog has made it through another year. Six years of writing and with this piece the publishing of 850 posts – mostly somewhere around 500 words. The discipline of writing continues to be an interesting experience.  My thanks to all that read my posts, and especially to those that make comments about specific posts. My especially thanks to those that retweet a post, mention it in a newsletter or even a newspaper.

Some posts are seemingly never read by anyone; others attract a lot of attention and yet others are slow burns, starting by creating little interest and then over time acquiring a growing band of readers. ‘Bank holidays for teachers’ is one of these posts. Initially, when the idea was mooted by Labour during the spring of 2107, just before the general election, it attracted little notice. Now, it appears regularly in the list of visited previous posts.

The last year saw about 17,000 visitors to this bog – a bit down on the previous couple of years – with, on average, two reads per visitor. However, I suspect that the mode is actually one read. A few hardy souls read lots of the posts. Overseas visitors were thin on the ground for most of 2018, but have picked up again in 2019. I am not sure whether this is due to how WordPress record visitors, as it is often possible to have several likes for a post, but no record of anyone having read it!

Posts about the labour market for teachers and numbers applying for training tend to attract a band of regular readers, helped by the notice they are awarded by the umbrella organisations supporting those that prepare teachers. Posts about TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk where I am the Chair of the Board, are attracting more interest, especially now that the DfE has a free site for the state-funded sector. TeachVac also covers private schools in the secondary sector, so offers a more comprehensive free service to both teachers and schools than the DfE. The companion site for international schools – TeachVac Global – had a successful first full year of operation.

The aim, for 2019 and into January 2020, is to reach the round number of 1,000 posts by the blog’s seventh birthday, but without compromising either the length or quality of the writing. It would be easy to reach the 1,000 figure with a series of short posts, but I would rather fall short than just hit the target anyhow.

Sometimes, posts are written, but not published. There are some that I deemed too political after writing them, such as my thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn after his appointment as Labour Leader. I first met him during the 1974 general elections, when I was Liberal Agent in Hornsey and he had a similar position for the Labour Party.

As pieces written quickly, there are often mistakes and poor punctuation. I apologise and do try to clean up mistakes later.

Thank you for reading, and I hope finds the posts interesting, and that you will continue to read.

 

 

Some trends for 2019 in teacher recruitment

In two of my recent posts I looked at the prospects facing schools that would seek to recruit either a teacher of design and technology or a teacher of business studies during 2019. These prospects will also apply to schools seeking to make appointments in January 2020, as there will be no new entrants to the labour market to fill such vacancies. If, as happens in both the two subjects already discussed, there are sufficient vacancies for September to absorb the whole output from ITT courses, then schools faced with a January vacancy, for whatever reason, really do face a dilemma. In some cases agencies may help, but in others it is a case of making do until the summer.

As mentioned in the post that initially analysed the ITT census for 2018, the position in physics is once again dire, with less than half of the ITT places filled. Fortunately, there won’t be a shortage of science teachers, since far more biologists were recruited into training that the government estimate of the number required. However, recruitment of chemistry teachers will prove a problem for some schools as 2019 progresses, since one in five ITT places were left unfilled; the highest percentage of unfiled places in recent years. Perhaps some early professional development on increased subject knowledge for biology teachers required to teach the whole science curriculum at Key Stage 3 might be a worthwhile investment.

In 2018, there were not enough trainee teachers of English to meet the demand from schools for such teachers; it 2019 that subject will be less of a problem, but finding a teacher of mathematics might be more of an issue for schools once again, although various CPD initiatives may have helped improve the mathematical knowledge of those teaching the subject and may have helped to reduce demand. Only time will tell whether a shortage of teachers of mathematics will once again be a headline story for 2019.

Although state schools may have reduced their demand for teachers of art, the independent sector still generates a significant demand each year for such teachers. The fact that more than one in five ITT places weren’t filled in 2018 may have some important regional implications for state schools seeking such a teacher, especially where the demand is also strong from the private sector schools. The same issue is also true for teachers of religious education, where demand from the state sector was weak in 2018. Any increase in demand during 2019 would see schools experiencing more problems with recruitment than during 2018.

All these assumptions are predicated on the belief that rising pupil numbers, and the associated funding per pupil, will more than cancel out the pressure on school budgets across the country. Once again, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk expects that London and the surrounding areas to be the focus of most demand for new teachers and the North East, the area where schools will experience the least difficulty in recruiting teachers.

TeachVac will be there throughout 2019 to chart the changing trends, and I would like to extend to all readers of both this blog and users of TeachVac and its international arm, TeachVac Global www.teachvacglobal.com my best wishes for 2019.

 

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.