Fewer teacher vacancies since lock down

Laura of TeachTapp and and Freddie Whittaker have written an article in SchoolsWeek about teacher vacancies that confirms what TeachVac has been saying on Linkedin. http://www.teachvac.co.uk

Having crunched some numbers, the team at TeachVac have noted a bigger fall in primary teacher jobs than in the secondary sector. However, both sectors, and especially the secondary sector, had a very strong first couple of months of 2020.

Recorded Vacancies for Teachers by TeachVac
All
2018 2019 2020
January 5492 6386 8216
February 5056 5791 8421
March 7159 9029 9302
subtotal 17707 21206 25939
April 1799 4233 1793
Total 19506 25439 27732
Primary
2018 2019 2020
January 1910 1568 1719
February 2046 1617 2103
March 2944 2844 2491
subtotal 6900 6029 6313
April 819 1423 419
Total 7719 7452 6732
Secondary
2018 2019 2020
January 3582 4818 6497
February 3010 4174 6318
March 4215 6185 6811
subtotal 10807 15177 19626
April 980 2810 1374
Total 11787 17987 21000

Contact me if you want details of secondary subjects.

Education for All

The new Report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) about exclusions, building on their work earlier this year, is deeply worrying. https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Unexplained-pupil-moves_LAs-MATs_EPI-2019.pdf

Among the most concerning of EPI’s new findings are;

Amongst the 2017 cohort of pupils, we also found that approximately 24,000 children who exit to an unknown destination do not return to a state-funded school by the spring term of year 11.

The vast majority of unexplained exits do not appear to be a managed move.

51.9 per cent of all unexplained exits are to an unknown destination in the term following the exit.

Both LAs and MATs among the school groups with higher than average rates of unexplained exits, i.e. this is not a problem that is most prevalent amongst a particular structure of school governance. However larger MATs (those with at least ten schools with secondary pupils) all have above average rates of unexplained exits.

These snippets, taken from the Key Findings of a long and detailed report, suggest a system that is not operating to educate all children. Some teenagers have never been easy to educate. Indeed, challenging though schools are today most are not the same as they were up to the 1990s.

There is undoubtedly a trade-off to be had between the cost of educating challenging pupils and the funding a school receives. This trade-off may be starker in areas where Pupil Premium and High Needs Block funds are lower because of high employment and government funding calculations.

Nevertheless, the issue cannot and should not be solved by schools excluding pupils with nowhere to for them to go. EPI might also like to look at pupils that move into an area mid-year and the extent to which some of those with challenging problems are not offered school places.

The education of all our children is an issue for government to tackle. In the present governance hiatus, only central government can identify and tackle both the root causes of the problem and those schools and MATs that are the worst offenders. Ministers have been willing to take on academy trusts over the issue of high pay for Chief Executives. This is another issue for action by central government, with Ofsted, Regional School Commissioners and the Education and Skills Funding Council all acting together.

There is little local authorities can do except identify the size of the problem in their area and ensure missing children are identified and then put pressure on schools. But, with budgets largely in the hands of schools, there is little authorities can do even with maintained schools, and virtually nothing with these academy chains, often with headquarters located far away in another part of the country.

Sadly, one casualty of any intervention might be the right of genuine home schoolers to educate their children as they see fit without the need to keep the authorities informed. This principle goes back to 1870 and the start of state education. However, it must be at risk if it allows for a system that lets so many young people disappear from sight before the end of their statutory education. Out of sight must not mean out of mind.

Fostering needs more discussion

Congratulations to the BBC’s Today programme for highlighting the issue of children that are in foster care. The discussion was spread across the whole programme this morning. It can be as hard being a child suddenly required to move their placement as it is coming into care for the first time, as listeners heard so eloquently this morning.

I am also concerned about the extent to which the fostering placement service should be a commercial enterprise, with carers seen as assets having a monetary value. There must be a question as to why these carers are not offered shares in such enterprises? More importantly, why are these enterprises not run as social enterprises and not profit-making ventures?

If the DfE has the gumption to take on the private sector and provide a free job-listing service for schools, why should it not ensure all foster placement activity is also in the public sector?

My only serious concern with the BBC programme, that followed an in-depth analysis of the adoption process on The World at One earlier this year, was that the Today programme didn’t mention the issue of school placements for children in care and especially what happens when children are moved school in the middle of a school term? Not all academies subscribe to a local in-year admissions process, and it can be challenging to ensure a quick placement for some of these children, especially in a different local authority area to the authority responsible for the placement.

With lots of children’s homes, and no doubt foster places as well, in areas with selective schools, how do we ensure that these children do not lose out in their education? Virtual schools do great work, but must battle against a system that isn’t in any way integrated to deal with this sort of problem even though the Pupil Premium acknowledges the additional financial needs faced by these young people in schools and colleges.

If either the Secretary of State or the Permanent Secretary at the DfE were listening to the Today programme this morning perhaps they would like to instruct officials and Ministers to review how the education of children in care can be further enhanced, especially over the issue of changing school mid-term.

Finally, there is the issue of what happens to children when they exit care? For those interested in the whole issue of children and the care and adoption services, I recommend a visit to The Rees Centre website at http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/rees-centre/ and some of the research that they have conducted over the past few years.

 

Admissions still a headache for everyone

The DfE has recently published data about appeals for admission to primary and secondary schools. The data relates to admissions for the start of the 2018-19 school year; mostly for September 2018, but some schools may start their year in August. Although the data relates to admissions to any year group at the start of the school year, it seemingly doesn’t cover in-year admissions from parents moving into an area during the school year. There also doesn’t seem to be any mention of special schools and the evidence appeals could provide about the pressure on places in that sector. The basic information is available at  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/admissions-appeals-in-england-academic-year-2018-to-2019

As pressure on primary places has eased, with the downward trend in births, so the percentage of appeals lodged in relation to admissions to infant classes in the primary sector has also reduced; from 3.3% of admissions in 2015/16 to 2.0% for the 2018/19 admission round. There has been a similar, but smaller percentage, decline in appeals for places in other years in the primary sector.

By contrast, in the secondary sector, where pupil numbers are on the increase, appeals are on the increase, up from 29,000 in 2015/16 to nearly 38,500 for the 2018/19 admission round. The percentage of these appeals decided in the parents’ favour has also been in decline during this time period as pressure on places has intensified.

This data is important to parents that will soon be struggling with the admission process for 2020. Local Authorities must publish their admission booklets by the 12th September, in order to allow parents to express their preference for schools by the end of October, for the secondary sector, and by early 2020 for the primary sector.

Last year, parents in Oxfordshire faced the problem of deciding whether or not to apply for a place at a school that didn’t exist. Some parents in the London borough of Enfield face the same prospect this autumn. Wren Academy want to open a new school and have created a set of admission criteria, including:

The remaining places will be allocated equally between Foundation and Community applicants as follows:

  1. a. Faith places (up to a maximum of 92) allocated in the following order: i. Up to 55 places for Church of England applicants ii. Up to 37 places for other Christian faith applicants b. Community Places (up to a maximum of 92) for all other children 
  1. Where there are places available in either category 3 or 4 above,these will be filled from the other category.

Leaving aside the issues parents will have about whether they can apply for both a Foundation category faith place and a community place as well, and whether both parents need to be of the Christian faith for a Foundation place or just one will do, there is the issue surrounding the fact that the school hasn’t yet been created by the DfE, and thus no Funding Agreement has been signed.

The DfE really needs to update the Admissions Code to deal with this situation and make explicit that any school included in the admissions booklet is guaranteed to open the following September.

 

 

 

Bad news on closing the gap

The Education Policy Institute’s 2019 Report on Education (EPI Report) has largely been noticed for the comments about social mobility and the stalling of attempts to close the gaps between disadvantaged and other pupils as this is a key feature of its findings  https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/epi-annual-report-2019-the-education-disadvantage-gap-in-your-area/ Reasons for this ending of the reduction in the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and other pupils as noted by EPI are the decline in funding for schools and the challenges some schools face in both recruiting and retaining teachers.

This latter explanation is one that has been regularly championed by this blog as likely to have an adverse effect on outcomes. So, it would seem that money matters, and the idea of just providing cash to under-funded local authorities, as seemingly suggested by the new Prime Minister, might not necessarily be the way forward.

However, I do have some concerns about parts of the methodology used by EPI as it relates to the presentation of the data. A focus on local authorities as the key determinant does tend to ignore areas, whether urban or rural that have wide variations in levels of disadvantage within the same local authority boundary. For the two tier shire and district council areas, it would have been better to use the data at a district council level, but that doesn’t help in cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and boroughs where there may be wide variations between different parts of the authority. To some extent the data for an authority doesn’t reveal the whole picture and can provide results that might mis-lead the casual reader.

EPI avoids this issue to some extent by producing tables using parliamentary constituencies as the basis for the data. Thus the gap in months at the secondary level relative to non-disadvantaged pupils nationally can differ widely within one authority by looking at data at the level of the parliamentary constituency. For Birmingham, it is 13.6 in Selly Oak, but 19.6 in Ladywood; in Kent it differs between 27.0 for the Dover constituency and 13.8 in Tunbridge Wells.

This is not to say that drawing attention to the gap between where pupils start their education journeys and where they complete them isn’t vitally important at a local authority level. But, providing everyone with equal shares of the cake is not an answer for anyone that wants anything other than administrative simplicity, important though it is to ensure that base funding levels are sufficient for the task in hand.

EPI do make the point in their report that despite no progress in narrowing the disadvantage gap, overall pupil attainment has continued to rise. This suggests that an overall rise in standards does not guarantee a reduction in the disadvantage gap. (Their emphasis).

The Report also highlights the fact that the post-16 education routes taken by young people are becoming increasingly segregated by socio-economic status, with disadvantaged pupils disproportionately represented in certain routes. In particular, the increased segregation is driven by an over-representation of disadvantaged students in further education. These trends may damage the government’s ambition of rectifying imbalances between further and higher education. (Their emphasis).

 

 

More wasted cash?

The DfE has today updated the list of academies (SATs and MATs, but possibly not MACs) where there has been a change in overall responsibility, either from a standalone academy (SAT) into a multi-academy Trust (MAT) or between MATs. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/academy-transfers-and-funding-england-financial-year-2018-to-2019

These changes are generally not cost free. They can take place for a variety of reasons including, ‘due to intervention’, usually after an inadequate rating by Ofsted; ‘initiated by the Trust’ and as a result of the fact that the Trust ‘sponsor closed’. The last of these reasons seems to have incurred costs of around £3 million in the 14 months from January 2018 to February 2019. The DfE can offset such costs against any balances held within the Trust, but that cash cannot then be spent on educating the pupils.

Now it has to be recognised that in the past costs were incurred in dealing with failing local authorities. Hackney in the early years of the Labour government was one example, and I think that Bradford was another. Indeed Commissioners are still sent into Children’s Services rated as ‘inadequate’. However, the ability of trustees to effectively close their Trust brings a new dimension to this issue. I suppose that some of these Trusts might have, so to speak, fallen on their sword before they were the subject of intervention by the Regional School Commissioner’s Office.

Nevertheless, the fact that trustee can voluntarily decide to abandon one or all of their schools at a cost to the system does raise questions about the best use of scarce resources, an issue highlighted in the previous post on this blog.

There also doesn’t seem to be any requirement on trustees to think of others when making decisions to close a SAT or a MAT. There are times of year when such actions might be allowed, but others where it should be banned. I recall a few years ago a MAT announcing the closure of a school a couple of weeks before the notification of places for the following September was to be relayed to parents. The local authority had to re-run the whole exercise for that area, with a waste of time and money. Those costs would presumably not be included in the figures provided by the DfE, and I suspect the local authority were not reimbursed for the time an effort of their officers in ensuring every pupil had a place at secondary school that September.

The DfE might also like to publish a list of ‘orphan’ schools, declared ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and requiring conversion to academy status but finding it a challenge to secure a MAT willing to embrace them.

I don’t know whether the Select Committee in their Inquiry into school funding looked into this sort of cost to the system, if not, then they might like to put such a study on their list for the future.

As I have written in previous blogs, there are some areas, such as pupil numbers increases, where costs cannot be avoided. There are other areas where reducing waste should be a real priority for the system. This looks like an example of the latter.

Stop wasting money

A new report commissioned, and part funded by the Local Government Association, has found that ‘middle tier’ oversight functions for academies cost some 44% more than for local authority maintained schools. The research was carried out by Sara Bubb Associates, and the team conducting the study involved some senior figures from the world of academia. The full report can be accessed from: http://sarabubb.com/middle-tier/4594671314

This study published shortly after the call for evidence by the Confederation of School Trusts (see earlier post) shows that the overall costs for middle tier functions within the academy system in 2016/17 was £167.05 per pupil compared to £115.71 for the local authority system. It is worth pointing out that the two do not share a common financial year, and that some of the disbanded local advisory and professional development functions may have been taken up by MATs. However, neither of these points would be likely to fully explain the difference between the two amounts.

By my calculations the figures in this report suggest that saving of some £300 million might be made if the ‘middle tier’ was rationalised and local authorities were charged with oversight of all schools; perhaps with regional boards to allow for the economies of scale that this report points out are missing from the current academy sector at present.

The authors of the report call for an urgent review of the middle tier system in the light of international best practice. It is generally acknowledged that England has some of the most centralised public services; schooling is no exception to that state of affairs. The authors also recommend an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the multi-academy trust model, and I would add of standalone academies as well. The authors also want to see greater efficiency, fairness and transparency in funding the oversight of England’s school system. The DfE has gone some way since the data used in this report on at least facing up to the high salaries that were being paid in some parts of the academy system, but have not yet tackled the underlying issues identified in this report.

The DfE has also undertaken some work to drive down costs for schools, emulating, for instance, TeachVac’s free national vacancy site with a version of their own. However, the have failed to take on board advice in the 2016 White Paper that might have clarified some of the ‘middle tier’ functions, such as in-year admissions once again becoming the responsibility of local authorities. That isn’t just a cost matter, but also one of fairness for pupils compelled to change school during the school-year. As I have pointed out in the past, children taken into care and moved away for their own safety from their previous home often find some schools reluctant to admit them, even if they have places available.

Perhaps any new regime at Sanctuary Buildings after the new Prime Minister enters into office will use this report as the basis for a fresh start. However, I am not holding my breath. In the meantime, reports such as this one that highlight the amount of money being spent unnecessarily are to be welcomed.