Welcome for BERA Bites series

BERA, The British Educational Research Association today publishes the second in its series of BERA Bites https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publications/issue-2-educational-leadership-are-our-schools-fit-for-the-future

The BERA Bites series presents selected articles from the BERA Blog on key topics in education, presented in an easily printable and digestible format to serve as teaching and learning resources for students and professionals in education. Each collection features an introduction by editors with expertise in the field, and each article includes questions for discussion, composed by the authors, prompting readers to further explore the ideas and arguments put forward in the original articles.

This second BERA Bite is especially of interest to this blog as it contains a post from almost exactly two years ago. The post appeared on this blog on the 7th September 2016 and you can read it be either downloading the BERA bits of searching the archive on this blog for September 2016. The post was entitledRecruitment, Retention and Region The three ‘R’s’ challenging school performance in England’.

I am grateful to BERA for putting this series together. It is a new form of peer review to have blog posts reviewed as well as more formal articles and the BITES series can become useful teaching aids for particular topics if kept regularly up to date. The issue of relevance is key. I turned to writing a blog, partly because for 11 years I wrote a variety of weekly columns for the TES and partly because, in a fast moving area such as the labour marker for teachers, writing academic articles is fine and dandy, but by the time they appear they are often only of historical interest in terms of policy development.

This is best seen in the series of posts on this blog during August 2013, when I wrote a post on the 7th August predicting a teacher supply crisis in London starting in 2014. The subsequent posts show the government reacted to my conclusions. Had I written an article for an academic journal about a possible teacher supply crisis and submitted it in August 2013, some reviewers might have rejected it as lacking sufficient evidence and, even if sufficiently articulate and scholarly, neither outcomes I can guarantee to produce, it would have bene sometime in 2014 before it saw the light of day.

This is not to argue for the demise of academic journals, there place is firmly established in the academic discourses but to welcome the move BERA and others are making to recognise that some areas of education policy move at a different pace to other and may need different forms of discourse and that there is a need for teaching materials prompting readers to further explore the discussions put forward in the original articles.

So, please do read the BERA Bites both 1 & 2 and let BERA know what you think of the new series. If you are not a BERA member, but a regular reader of this blog, then you might want to consider whether it would be worth joining BERA, even if only for the access to the range research and information it provides to those interested in education.

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Update on head teacher recruitment

Way back at the beginning of May this year, I reported on trends in primary leadership recruitment. The data came from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use recruitment site that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use, and where I am chair of the company.

With a miserably wet day yesterday, I thought I would take a second look at the data for 2018 in the area of primary head teacher recruitment. So far, it I seems to be turning out to be a pretty average year. TeachVac has records of more than 1,200 advertisements for a head teacher, placed by primary schools. Of these, around 22% are re-advertisements placed more than a month after the original advert appeared. In May, I reported some 175 schools had been forced to re-advertise a headship; by last week that number had risen to close to 225.

The number of schools placing multiple re-advertisements, each at least four week apart, had also increased; from 25 recorded in May, to a current number of around 40 schools. This includes one school with an original advert plus four re-advertisements. I do hope each one didn’t come with a separate bill for advertising.

As in the past, schools associated with the various faiths seem to be more likely to have to re-advertise than non-faith schools.  Of course, it might not be the faith aspect that is causing the re-advertisement, although I think that may be part of the issue. Size, geography and type of schools, whether or not it is an academy, for instance, can all play a part.

In the past Roman Catholic run schools in the North West rarely featured in the list of schools challenged when seeking a new head teacher. This year they account for more than 40% of such schools that have re-advertised.

TeachVac could also investigate the effects of other variables such as size of school; ofsted grades and timing of any inspection report along with output measures such as Key Stage results and progress of pupils over time. However, we don’t have the research funds for such analysis at this point in time. Nearly a decade ago, the then National College sponsored an investigation into ‘hard to fill headships’. I am not sure it was ever published, and assume that it is now buried somewhere deep in the archives of Sanctuary Buildings, if it hasn’t already been consigned to the National Archives at Kew.

Overall, the message to chairs of governors, and governing bodies as a whole, remains the same as it always has been. If your head teacher announces that they are leaving, either to retire or to take on a new challenge, the two most likely reasons for a change of headship, then ask three questions; is their someone in the school we could appoint either directly or after some professional development; are there likely to be candidates from within travelling distance of the school; if neither of these can be answered in the affirmative, how are we going to ensure a smooth succession that doesn’t affect the pupils and staff at the school?

There is plenty of good advice out there along with lots of high quality candidates. Hopefully, schools will experience a great term recruiting heads to their vacancies: good luck.

More pay: fewer teachers: worse PTRs?

The 28th Report of the School Teachers Pay Review Body, published earlier today, provides a great summary of many of the points made on this blog over the past year. There are some good tables and graphs that summarise the situation regarding pay, recruitment and retention very well overall. However, the STRB might have looked at the primary sector in more detail, rather than just regarding it as a sector with a uniform set of issues. Data on leadership trends is also a bit on the thin side, which is surprising given that both associations representing school leaders are consultees and commented on concerns about recruitment.

The big issue arising from the Report is the extent to which schools will be able to afford the pay rise both for teachers and that to support and ancillary staff as well. As I suggested in my earlier post, before the report appeared, the settlement is going to cost schools real money. A secondary school with 60 teachers can expect an increase of perhaps between £70,000- £100,000 on its pay bill once on-costs have been taken into account. That’s a couple of classroom teachers or a review of the senior management team and perhaps one fewer deputy head and more reliance on assistant heads and teachers with TLRs?

I note that the STRB made the point, as I did earlier today, about the timing of their reports and the budgetary cycle in schools. How much did business managers put in the budget for this pay increase? Judging by the number of vacancies in the secondary sector so far this year, probably not as much as has been awarded in at least some schools.

How will the independent sector respond to this increase? This year saw the first reported decline in enrolments in their schools in the published DfE data on schools and pupils. Will it be possible to raise fees to cover the increases or might those schools be constrained in the increases on offer?

As I suggested in the earlier post, changes in recruitment on to teacher preparation courses as a result of the pay increase won’t be apparent until the 2020 recruitment round for new teachers. By then, secondary schools will be well into their growth cycle.

There is a very interesting chart on page 47 of the STRB Report showing the proportion of postgraduate entrants by different routes into teaching for 2016/17 and 2017/18. The DfE in their evidence stated that  2017/18 was the third successive year in which over half of recruitment to postgraduate ITT was to school-led routes, with such routes accounting for 53% of ITT recruitment in that year. (Para 2.13) The chart shows that although true, there was a decline in 2017/18 compared with the previous year in the percentage of trainees on school-led routes.

Finally, it is always difficult to proof read documents prepared at the last minute, as some of the posts on this blog bear testimony. However, the footnote 3 on page 12 suggests a degree of wishful thinking.

Good news for Didcot

Well done to the Oxfordshire UTC. The 14-19 school received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted this week, after its first ever inspection. In the same week the UTC in Derby was placed in special measures.

You can read the Ofsted report on the Oxfordshire UTC at  https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/141111 Schools week had some interesting statistics on UTCs recently. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/derby-manufacturing-utc-placed-in-special-measures/ Apparently, according to the report by Schools Week

almost a quarter of the 33 UTCs inspected so far have received Ofsted’s bottom grade.

Sixty-one per cent of all UTCs inspected have been rated less than ‘good’.  Six, all grade three or four, have since closed.

 Of the remaining 27 that are still open, 14 are rated either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Most UTCs have struggled since they were established in 2010, mainly because of problems attracting enough pupils to stay financially viable. Eight have so far closed.

 In January, Schools Week revealed that almost every UTC missed its recruitment targets last year, leaving them with combined debts of over £11 million.”

The UTC in Didcot is clearly bucking the trend for UTCs as a whole and I am grateful to the person that emailed me last night after the Ofsted Report had appeared to draw it to my attention. However, I still have anxieties over its long-term future if it cannot fill all the places it has on offer.

What Ofsted have revealed is that although the Oxfordshire UTC is still a work in progress it has strong leadership and a clear vision of what it is seeking to achieve.  The school and its staff are also aware that a proportion of their pupils come to them at fourteen with a less than successful record of achievement in the school system. Unlike some 14-18 schools they are not only aware of this but also set out to change the relationship with these pupils and the education system. That’s a tough job, but like Meadowbrook, the alternative provision in Oxfordshire, where Ofsted also commented on the work with teenagers that have reacted against schooling, the Oxfordshire UTC is also winning the hearts and minds of these young people. As Ofsted commented in their summary:

Pupils, including some who had previously struggled to engage with education, are inspired by the UTC’s ethos.

The Inspector went on to add that:

Since the UTC opened, some pupils have arrived in Year 10 having had negative experiences of schooling. Staff quickly get to know the pupils well, and support and reassure any experiencing stress or anxiety. Pupils gain a sense of community, security and pride during their time at UTC Oxfordshire. This equips them with great confidence and maturity.

Inspection report: UTC Oxfordshire, 22–23 May 2018

Schools cannot succeed without strong and purposeful leadership and the Oxfordshire UTC certainly has a leader creating a successful school backed by a strong team and supportive sponsors.

My more general anxiety is how the next generation of leaders for the school system will be developed? Some MATs will ensure that they create leadership pathways, but how will the stand alone academies and the remaining maintained schools ensure a leadership pipeline that is sufficient to meet the needs of all schools. This question is especially pertinent at a time when the need for career pathways for teachers that doesn’t involve whole school leadership is once again being discussed.

There are other reasons why I have concerns about 14-18 schools, but in this case I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the Oxfordshire UTC.

Workforce worries over retention

Yesterday, this blog took its first look at the School Workforce Census data for 2017. Jack Worth at NfER, their authority on the school workforce, has also written a much more extensive blog about the same data. This can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/ It is well worth a read.

One interesting dataset in the DfE Tables is that on teacher retention. The DfE has updated the numbers used in their submission to the STRB as part of their discussions on pay and conditions for teachers still covered by the national pay and conditions. The updated data doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Year
NQT enter-ing service
YEAR 1
YEAR 2
YEAR 3
YEAR 4
YEAR 5
YEAR 6
YEAR 7
YEAR 8
YEAR 9
YEAR 10
1996
18100
16471
15204
14299
13213
12851
12308
12127
11584
11222
10860
1997
18900
17010
15023
14553
13986
13419
13041
12663
12285
11718
11340
1998
17800
15842
14418
13706
13172
12816
12282
11926
11392
11214
11036
1999
18300
16104
15006
14091
13542
12993
12810
12261
11895
11712
11346
2000
17600
15664
14608
13728
13024
12672
12144
11792
11616
11264
10912
2001
18600
16554
15252
14508
13950
13206
12648
12462
12276
11904
11904
2002
20700
18423
17181
16146
15318
14904
14490
14076
13662
13455
13248
2003
23000
20700
19090
17710
17020
16330
15870
15640
15410
14950
14490
2004
25200
22428
20412
19404
18648
17892
17388
17388
16884
16380
15624
2005
25700
22102
20817
19789
19018
18247
18247
17733
16962
16448
15677
2006
24000
20880
19440
18480
17760
17520
17040
16320
15840
14880
14400
2007
24400
21472
20008
19032
18788
18056
17324
16592
15372
15128
14640
2008
24400
21472
20008
19520
18788
18056
17324
16104
15860
15372
2009
22300
19401
18509
17617
17394
16056
15164
15164
14272
2010
24100
20967
19762
18557
17593
16870
15906
15424
2011
20600
18128
17098
15862
15038
14214
13390
2012
23300
20504
18873
17475
16543
15611
2013
23800
20706
19040
17612
16660
2014
25100
21837
19829
17374
2015
26100
22707
20358
2016
24900
21165
2017
23300

Abstracted from DfE Table 8 School Workforce Census June 2018

Although the number of NQTs fluctuates from year to year and is uprated as new entrants arrive in the profession as deferred entrants, either for the first time or from another sector, the loss of teachers is concerning. It is probably worth ignoring the 2011 data where the NQT number looks somewhat out of line for the period since 2006.

The DfE notes that numbers also underestimate teachers in part-time service, but, if the underestimate is consistent, this is only an issue where part-time working among this group of teachers is changing significantly.

The table does show how quickly teacher recruitment and retention can become an issue, especially where school rolls are on the increase, if the profession doesn’t hold on to its teachers.

The real concern must be with retention from years 6-10, where the next generation of middle leaders should start to be emerging. Assuming the 2007 cohort is split equally between primary and secondary sectors, this would mean a cohort of around 7,400 primary teachers. As the primary sector currently needs more than 1,000 new head teachers each year, the likelihood is that approaching 15% of the cohort may need to become head teachers at some point in their careers. Adding in deputy posts means that the percentage of the cohort needed for leadership positions probably exceeds 25%.

If you factor in specific demands, such as the need to be a Roman Catholic to lead an RC primary school, future leadership issues can already be predicted if the workforce isn’t prepared for leadership.

There are no regional breakdowns for retention in the tables. Such breakdowns would be helpful in predicating the pressures on future leadership appointments at a sub-national level and identifying the areas where there is the need to take early action. Perhaps, the Select Committee might ask for that data next time they talk to the Secretary of State for Education.

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.

Update on Leadership trends in the primary sector

Some primary schools are still finding it difficult to recruit a new head teacher. Around half of the 151 local authority areas in England have at least one primary school that has had to pace a second advert so far this year in their quest for a new head. In total more than 170 primary schools across England have not been successful at the first attempt, when looking for a new head teacher.

As some schools are still working through the recruitment process for the first time, following an advertisement placed in April, the number of schools affected is likely to increase beyond the current number as the end of term approaches. Some 25 schools have had to place more than one re-advertisements in their quest for a new head teacher. London schools seem to be faring better than those in parts of the North West when it comes to making an appointment after the first advertisement.

As expected, some faith schools and schools with special circumstances: small school; infant or junior schools and those with other issues feature among the school with more than one advertisement.

The data for this blog comes from TeachVac, the no cost to schools and applicants National Vacancy Listing Service for teaching posts in schools anywhere in England that is already demonstrating what the DfE is spending cash on trying to provide. See for yourself at www.teachvac.co.uk  but you will have to register as TeachVac is a closed system. Such a system prevents commercial organisations cherry picking vacancies and offering candidates to schools for a fee. (TeachVac published a full report on the primary leadership sector in 2017 in January 2018.)

Time was, when appointing a deputy head teachers in the primary sector wasn’t regarded as a problem. Are candidates now being more circumspect when it comes to applying for deputy head teacher vacancies? Certainly, so far in 2018, a third of local authorities have at least one school that has had to re-advertise a deputy head teacher vacancy. The same parts of the county where headship are not easy to fill also applies to deputy head vacancies. This is an especially worrying aspect, since the deputy of today is the head teacher of tomorrow.

Assistant head teacher vacancies are still relatively rare in the primary sector, so it is of concern that 37 local authority areas have recorded at least one vacancy that has been re-advertised so far in 2018. London boroughs that have fared well at the other levels of leadership, seem to be struggling rather more at this level of appointment.

Is this data useful? What should be done with it if it is useful? The DfE have cited data as one of their reasons for creating their own vacancy service, but it will be 2019 at the earliest and possibly not until 2020 that they will have full access to this type of essential management data.

If there is a valid concern about filling leadership positions in the primary sector at all grades then, at least for academies, the government needs to understand what is happening and arrange for strategies to overcome any problem. That’s what strategic leadership of the academy programme is all about. As Labour backed academies in last week’s funding debate, they should work with the government to ensure all academies can appoint a new head teacher when they first advertise. The government should also recognise the role of local authorities in helping with finding new school leaders for the maintained school sector.