Young graduates still not attracted to teaching in large enough numbers

The good news is that offers for secondary teacher preparation courses aren’t generally any worse than last month. Indeed, in the humanities, the loosening of recruitment targets have probably helped propel offers in history and geography to new high levels. Whether it is fair to  offer places to students to train as a history teacher and take on the extra debt involved when there are likely to be far more trainees than vacancies available in 2018 is a question that presumably everyone involved with teacher preparation is happy to answer in the affirmative. After all, the students know the risk they are running and aren’t callow eighteen year olds fresh from school.

Generally, there must be concern about what is happening to recruitment in the sciences and in particular Chemistry. After several good years recruiting, offers are back to the level last seen in 2013/14, although even that represent an improvement on the situation earlier this year. Hopefully, a significant proportion of those in the unspecified science category are really looking to be Chemistry teachers. We won’t know until the ITT census in the autumn whether or not it is actually the case.

It is undoubtedly the fact that the figure for offers to secondary courses would be far worse if all routes had the same offer to application ratio of School Direct Salaried. This year, just 17% of applicants are currently shown as placed or holding an offer. Last year, the figure at this point in the cycle was 18%. In numerical terms that means a drop from 1,310 last year to just 900 this year, with 740 of those only conditionally placed. By contrast, the School Direct Fee route has a ratio of 22% and SCITTs and higher education have placed or made offers to 28% of their applicants. Indeed, the much maligned university sector has accounted for 6,930 of the 13,150 offers made so far this year: that’s 53% of the total in a sector that was supposed to have been removed from teacher preparation by now under Mr Gove’s school-based training plans. In the primary sector, higher education accounts for just about half of the places and there are more offers for School Direct salaried places than in the secondary sector. However, we don’t know how many of these may be already working in schools in another capacity before transferring onto a teacher preparation programme.

Last month, I raised concerns about the situation in London where offers across both primary and secondary courses now total 4,370 compared with 4,800 at this point last year. Total applicant numbers in England are still below the 36,000 mark, more than 1,000 down on this point last year.

Although there are more 23 year olds applying this year than last, applications from younger graduates  of 21 or 22 still remain below last year and there are fewer career changers in their 30s this year. Last night, I saw two of the Royal Navy TV adverts, but I cannot recall when I last saw a TV advert for teaching: perhaps I am looking at the wrong channels.

With many schools being less likely to recruit applicants over the summer months, despite incentives to do so, the next month is likely to represent the final opportunity to improve on the predicted outcome for this year and a resulting challenging job market in 2018.


Teacher Supply, Retention & mobility

Despite the fact that we are in a period of government purdah, the DfE has followed up its publication of the Teacher Supply Model with the publication of a new piece of analysis on the School Workforce Census between 2011 and 2015, the period when the economy was emerging from the recession and the coalition government was in place.

Effectively the analysis deals with teacher recruitment and turnover up to September 2015, so the data is now two recruitment rounds out of date. Accurate up to date data on the present recruitment round is available from TeachVac the free school recruitment site for teaching posts in all schools across England. However, the nalysis is well worth a look for those interested in the teacher labour market.

The DfE analysis provides some interesting information. Entrant rates, (defined by the DfE as the percentage of teachers in a subject identified as an entrant divided by the number of teachers teaching the subject) include all teachers of the subject regardless of their qualifications to teach the subject. In some subjects, the entry rates needed to by high because wastage was also high. The DfE singled out physics and mathematics as the subjects with the two highest entry rates as also being subjects with high wastage rates. Of course, since this is a data driven exercise, there is no information about why wastage rates are higher in these subject areas, but both are subject areas where the skills of the teachers may be in demand across the labour market and not just in schools.

Of more concern is the decline in NQT entry rates, especially in the non-EBacc subjects. It is really only in History and geography, still strong recruiters into training in 2017, where NQT entry levels have remained really strong. Mostly, the growth has been in returners to teaching, especially in the non-EBacc subjects but also in physics and IT within the EBacc group of subjects.

Entrants can come from one of three sources; NQTs, those new to the state funded school sector and from returners. Of course, schools may also recruit existing teachers creating a ‘churn’ effect if the departing teacher needs to be replaced.

Late entrants provide a relatively small proportion of the annual intake. The proportion of intake that are NQTs has varied from 60% plus, in history and Classics, to below 40%, in business studies and design & technology. Business Studies has recruited badly into training and has a Teacher Supply Model target that has been too low for several years and design & technology has usually under-recruited against it training target. By comparison, history never has any difficulty filling the training places and has over-recruited in some years.

The later sections of the paper on wastage and turnover do seem to support the TeachVac claim that vacancies are more likely to arise in London, where pupil growth has been strong, and the DfE data also reveals the increasing mobility of teachers from London to elsewhere exceeding the percentage moving in the opposite direction in every year under scrutiny. The differences in percentages appears to have doubled between 2011 and 2015. London is presumably, as a result, more dependent on returners and NQTs to fill this gap. The pay cap of 1% across the board may, therefore, be affecting London schools in their attempt to recruit teachers during the latter part of the period under review. At TeachVac, we suspect this trend in departures has continued into 2017. An analysis of applications and offers for training in 2017 does not bode well for the teacher labour market in 2018 in London unless there is a change of direction on the pay front.


Something for everyone

As I reported last week, TeachVac has submitted updated evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee Inquiry into ‘the supply of teachers’. Perforce that evidence was of a general and summary nature. However, it does seem to have been the only comment so far on the 2016 recruitment round. There is also little discussion about what 2017 might look like on the evidence of applications to train as a teacher.

Over the weekend, I took the opportunity of looking in more detail at where the secondary and all-through schools with the most number of recorded advertisements for classroom teachers so far in 2016 are located. Now, this first look is very crude, as it doesn’t standardise for the size of a school and it stands to reason that larger schools are likely to have a greater turnover, as are new schools. Other factors affecting the number of adverts a school might place could be the result of an adverse Osfted inspection or a sudden growth in popularity and hence an increase in pupil numbers requiring more teachers to be appointed.

Leaving all these factors aside, a clear national trend stand out for the second year in succession: London dominates the top of the table for schools with the most advertisements so far in 2016.

Top 50 schools for recorded number of advertisements in 2016 by region where the school is located

  • London                  23
  • South East             11
  • East of England     6
  • West Midlands      6
  • South West             2
  • North East               1
  • North West              1

There were no schools in either the East Midlands or Yorkshire & The Humber recorded as in the top 50 schools with the most recorded advertisements.

This pattern backs up the data TeachVac provided exclusively for the BBC regional radio and TV stations in June.

So, for many schools in the north of England, concerns, where they even exist, are often limited to recruitment issues in specific shortage subjects, whereas in London and the Home Counties the problem looks to be more of a general one of finding classroom teachers in many subjects.

This data is confined to secondary school classroom teacher vacancies, as that is the area of greatest concern. The fact that our survey last week also revealed schools in London were still advertising a substantial number of School Direct vacancies on the UCAS web site must be a further cause for concern, and a worry for the 2017 recruitment round.

These numbers also suggest that trialling the National Teaching Service in the North West and Yorkshire might have been sensible, because a smaller number of schools might be looking for teachers, but there might also be fewer teachers looking to move schools in those areas, so the supply of experienced teachers willing to work in challenging schools might indeed be less than elsewhere.

Over the rest of the summer I will drill down into the data and I hope to report some findings at the BERA Conference in Leeds this September. In the meantime, if anyone wants to ask a question do get in touch.

More to attend school of their choice

Purdah is turning out to be a curious state of affairs during the referendum campaign. Normally, during a general election, virtually everything in government stops. However, the DfE seem to be carrying on as normal in some ways but not in others during the current period of purdah. Yesterday, the statistical release on the admissions round for September 2016 was published.

There was the usual headlines about London parents being less successful than those elsewhere. However, to fully understand the London data, compared with the rest of England, you need both a sense of history and a knowledge of geography. The tightening of rules regarding free home to school transport by many shire counties over the past two years, as austerity has taken hold in local government, inevitably means more parents have no choice of school unless they are willing to pay for travel. Thus, many rural areas have more than 90% of parents receiving their first choice of school even at the secondary school level.

In London, where travel anywhere across the capital is free for travel to school regardless of parental income, parents can make a choice knowing that if unsuccessful they will still be offered a place in a school somewhere. Providing the figures by borough is even more unhelpful in London where the construction of secondary schools, was largely governed by the former LCC and it successor the ILEA often many decades ago. For various reasons, the outcome for the location of schools was not evenly spread around the then boroughs. Add in factors such as single-sex schools and faith schools and even single-sex faith schools and the distribution only makes sense at a greater level than that of the individual borough.

Nevertheless, some of the London problems may be the result the growth of 2.8% in the number of applications received this year to 548,006, compared to 533,310 in 2015. DfE officials said the increase was due to a “rise in births which began in the previous decade”: no surprise there, and London is likely to have seen a growth of more than 2.8% in applications.

The gap between the national average and outcomes for school places in London is much less at the primary school levels that at the secondary, level with Barking & Dagenham even doing better than the national average. This is despite I seem to recall dire warning some years ago of a shortage of school places in the borough.

Indeed, 84.1% of 11-year-olds across the country landed their first preference, compared with 84.2% in 2015 and 88.4% of children seeking primary school places were offered their first choice, up from 87.8% last year. This improvement suggests that the funds David Laws pledged for school building programmes, when he was the Minister, may be starting to have an effect even despite the growing school population. It may also reflect the work done by many local authorities to manage pupil place planning. This is a service that government doesn’t always seem to fully appreciate, especially when dumping a free school or UTC in an area where it is not helpful to effective place planning for all pupils.

Hopefully, the DfE now realises that overall planning at a national level just wouldn’t work and that effective local decision-making, especially for primary education must be retained and even encouraged.


Larger class for London schools

I guess the Chancellor wanted some good news to announce ahead of his Autumn Statement this week where the accepted mood music is of a round of cuts to department’s budgets. Is that the reason he leaked a reminder of the review of school funding and the creation of a national funding formula for schools to the BBC yesterday.

This news no doubt helps keep the f40 Group of largely Conservative shire counties happy and hopefully distracts them from the fact that they won’t benefit as much from the council tax increase allowed this year to pay for growing social care budgets as unitary authorities and London boroughs will because their council tax is split with district councils.

There didn’t seem to be anything radically new in the Chancellor’s announcement on school funding, but it is interesting to speculate how Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for London mayor, reacted to the news. As the BBC report noted, London boroughs will be the main losers in any redistribution of cash to schools, assuming there is insufficient cash to allow everyone to be a winner, as might have been the case if Labour had grasped this nettle before the 2008 recession. Will Conservative voters in the capital accept the news with equanimity or, like most losers in these situations, feel hard done by?

Now I suppose that the Chancellor is gambling that part of any loss through the change in the formula that will adversely affect London, where the funding per pupil is greatest, will be mitigated by the increase in pupil numbers which will bring more cash overall, if less per pupil.

A 100 pupils bringing £5,000 each generates half a million pounds for a school. If that was reduced to £4,500 the school would need to recruit 111 pupils to generate roughly the same amount. This would inevitably mean larger classes. While that might be possible in the secondary sector, where pupil teacher ratios have improved in recent years, it would be a real challenge for the primary sector where many schools are already running at capacity because of the extra pupil numbers that have been enrolled during the past few years as the baby boom generation entered schooling.

The other group that may be worried by the announcement are school leaders and governors. This blog has already shown that staffing schools in London is a real challenge. Any reduction in funding may make it more difficult to offer competitive salaries compared with schools in the Home Counties. Now schools in London with large numbers of pupils receiving the Pupil Premium will be protected against the change to some extent, but less so in the secondary sector than in the primary schools.

Of course, the Chancellor may also be going to announce backing for the third runway at Heathrow. In which case he may have calculated that the Conservatives have already lost the South and West London vote next May so he might as well announce all the pain at the same time and have done with it. Losing the London mayoral race might be small price to pay for winning the Conservative leadership race by pleasing the Tory shires. But, surely, I am just being an old cynic.


Is the lack of a London allowance affecting teacher training numbers in London?

What is happening in London? The data released by UCAS yesterday on applications and applicants for graduate teacher training courses as at the middle of September – after most courses will have started – shows that the data for applicants with a domicile in London seem way out of line when compared with the data for applicants domiciled in other parts of England.

According to the UCAS data, only 39% of applicants domiciled in London have been placed on a course. This compares with a national average of 51%. By contrast, 16% of applicants with a London domicile were shown in the data as holding a conditional offer, compared with a national percentage of 11%. In the North East, the conditional offers were 8% of those applicants domiciled there; half the percentage in London.

Now it is perfectly possible that providers that recruited applicants domiciled in London were less good at informing UCAS that applicants had been converted from a conditional offer to a confirmed place. Indeed, I hope that is the case. The alternative and more worrying scenario is that the conditionally placed total represents candidates that weren’t going to take up the place offered to them earlier in the year and failed to meet all the conditions such as the pre-entry skills tests without informing the provider that they weren’t going to take up their place.  Were that to be the case, then there might only be around 3,500 trainees in London, outwith Teach First, on courses that started this autumn.

As that’s both primary and secondary trainees, the figure must be of concern. As schools in London have advertised a similar 3,500 vacancies for secondary school classroom teachers so far in the 2015 recruitment round  according to TeachVac (, the number of secondary trainees would need to be more than half the trainee total to ensure sufficient entrants to the London labour market in 2016, if vacancies are at a similar level next year. With pupil numbers on the increase, it seems unlikely that vacancies will fall very much unless London schools’ budgets are restricted next year.

As we don’t know the spread of offers between subjects among London providers, it is impossible to tell whether certain subjects might be even more adversely affected by these figures. They certainly need further investigation. Now it may well be that the large-scale operation of Teach First across London is having an effect on the market for training places in the capital. As we know, from TV programmes, such as ‘Tough Young Teachers’, Teach First has its own approach to preparing teachers. However, unless it has the same retention rate as other programmes that presumably aim to train career teachers, any programme seen as a short-service approach to teaching as a career could affect training numbers when pupil numbers are on the increase.

Let’s assume a normal training programme places 75% of its teachers in post: say 75 out of 100. By the end of year 1, 20% leave, taking the number down to 60. If a further 15% leave at the end of year 2, that means 51 are still teaching. However, if the figures were 80% for the entry rate and 10% leaving at the end of each year, there would be 57 still remaining at the start of year 3. How does that compare with Teach First over a similar period from entry to summer school to start of year 3 of teaching?

Fortunately, as a result of a PQ in the House of Lords, we know that the 2014 cohort for Teach First was 1,387 at the start of the Summer Institute. By the end of year 1, some 1,272 gained QTS. However, the government dodged the part of the question from Lord Storey that asked how many entered teaching the following September. As not all of the 1,272 are in London, we cannot really complete the comparison except to say that if all Teach First were in London they would have needed to lose just under 600 trainees between year 1 and entering year 3 of teaching to match the hypothetical figures for other training provision.

The point of this discussion is that any route that retains fewer teachers over the first three to five years of teaching than the norm just adds to the recruitment problems. This is something that should be monitored to allow for the most cost-effective training provision that best meets the recruitment needs of schools in London, especially if there are fewer trainees entering in the first instance than there are places on offer.

Last word is not the most important

It is not often that I get the last word, but that has literally happened in the latest Report of the Teachers’ Pay Review Body that can be found at: Alright, I know it is only an acknowledgement of the fact that I and the Chief Executive both provided them with a briefing. In my case, one (unpublished) on teacher supply matters.

What remains of far more importance than my evidence is the discussions of the STRB about pay and recruitment to the profession that are neatly summarised in paragraph 3.56 of the Report:

3.56 As this chapter has identified, there is clear and consistent evidence that both the starting and profession-wide pay of teachers is less competitive relative to other professional occupations in several areas of the country, and that this gap is widening. Our evidence also suggests able graduates in other professions progress more quickly in the first three to five years and have more opportunity to reach higher levels of earnings as their careers progress subsequently. This heightens the risk of those in the profession feeling under-valued and recruitment and retention suffering as a consequence.

Now that is a real warning to government about teacher supply going forward. What is curious is that despite London being thought of as the least competitive part of the country in salary terms for new teachers, applications to train in London have been increasing at faster rates than elsewhere in the country this year. I don’t think it is because would-be teachers know that school teachers in Inner London do well compared to others entering the labour market with first degrees; and so they should after an extra year of training, since they fare less well against those entering the labour market with higher degrees. May be it is because of a separate London attraction factor despite the negative high prices of housing and transport in the capital.

I think the STRB have made clear that governments in the future have a real problem in relation to teacher supply that has been articulated on this blog before; but is good to read in an official publication. Increased pupil numbers, and increased demand for graduates from the wider economy, both exert real pressure on the labour market for teachers. While it was good to see that teachers joining the profession between 1997 and 2009 had relatively high retention rates, there is no guarantee in the next economic cycle that this outcome will continue unless pay keeps pace with the private sector. Interestingly, there is clear evidence that the pay reforms of the early 2000s boosted teacher retention by a couple of percentage point overall, and probably more in certain specific subjects and areas.

The STRB Report is useful evidence for NQTs negotiating starting salaries in the new market driven world. Any teachers except those in English, PE and history, are clearly in a position to start salary bargaining at say point M3 on the old scale as a starting salary just to take account of the training year. If they don’t already do so, the professional associations should be offering advice on pay bargaining to new members, and monitoring the results. I expect to be offering schools a new service along these lines, starting with secondary trainees in the class of 2014.