Shortage of maths teachers in 2019?

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the recruitment site where I am chair of the Board has issued an amber warning for mathematics vacancies. This means that based on the number of vacancies tracked so far in 2019, TeachVac believes that at the current rate of advertisement of vacancies in the subject schools in some parts of England will likely find recruiting qualified teachers of mathematics a challenge. Part of the problem is down to a dip in the number of trainees recruited for ITT courses starting last September that feed into the 2019 labour market.

In September 2018, only some 2,190 trainees started ITT courses and with 265 of these already on courses that place them in the classroom, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route, the free pool of trainees was only around 1,900. Allowing for those that either don’t make the grade or decide not to teach in state funded schools, the pool of available new entrants this year is likely to be around 1,800 or little more than one new entrant for every two secondary schools. Schools can also recruit existing teachers from other schools or returners from a career break or another non-state funded school, but such teachers are generally more expensive than new entrants to the profession.

In February, TeachVac issue both an Amber and a Red warning for Business Studies and an Amber warning for Design and Technology as already noted on this blog. The latter warning is likely to be upgraded to a Red warning sometime soon.

A Red warning means that schools anywhere in England might experience difficulties recruiting in that subject and by the autumn more vacancies will have been recorded that there were trainees entering the labour market to fill them. Red warning mean vacancies for January 2020 will be especially hard to fill from new entrants to the profession.

At the other end of the scale, some EBacc subjects are not creating enough vacancies to absorb the number of trainees on ITT courses this year. Both history and geography trainees may struggle to find jobs in large parts of England for September and even January 202o even when humanities vacancies are taken into account.

As every year, physical education trainees are well advised to play to any second subject strengths and may be especially welcomed if they offer to plug the gaps in maths teacher numbers. However, they need to ensure that some teaching in their main subject is also on offer.

Despite the concern over the teaching of languages, these teachers face challenges in finding a teaching post. TeachVac track the subjects within adverts for ‘a teacher of modern languages’ and can provide information if asked.

Will the announcement of 1,000 graduate posts for trainee detectives in the police forces impact on those thinking of teaching as a career? Police salaries are generally higher than teaching and the lower ranks can earn overtimes, so there is a risk some might switch.

 

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Business Studies: from amber to red in four weeks

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has today reported that the status of Business Studies as a subject has changed from Amber to a Red warning. Essentially, this means that there have been enough vacancies recorded so far in 2019 to mean that more than three quarters of identified trainee numbers, as shown in the DfE’s ITT census last December, could have been absorbed by the vacancies already advertised during 2019.

This is by far the earliest TeachVac ever issued a Red warning notice for any subject. However, in view of the level of recruitment to teacher preparation courses and the failure to meet he desired number of trainees for the past six recruitment rounds this outcome is, perhaps, not totally unexpected. The Amber warning was issued just four weeks ago based upon figures collected on the 18th January 2019.

Business Studies is not the only subject with an Amber warning already in place this year. Design and Technology, again predictably, also has an Amber warning and TeachVac could issue a Red warning within the next two to three weeks, if the advertising of vacancies in the subject doesn’t slow down as much as expected during the half-term period.

An Amber warning means that schools in areas where recruitment can be challenging, such as London and the surrounding areas may encounter challenges recruiting a teacher in the subject: such schools might want to put in place additional recruitment measures.

A Red warning widens this advice to schools across the whole of the country, as recruitment issues may no longer be localised to areas where recruitment is challenging.

TeachVac is closely monitoring mathematics this year, as it is possible that an Amber warning may be issued before the end of March, if vacancies continue to be posted at the same rate they have been already in 2019.

Indeed, whether it is due to pupil numbers being on the increase, more teachers leaving the profession, or better than expected funding for secondary schools, the result has been that more vacancies are being advertised earlier in the year in 2019 than in the previous couple of years.

The same pattern of a rising number of vacancies cannot be said for the primary sector so far this year, and some secondary schools may well find that there are well qualified teachers prepared for the primary sector that would usefully fit into their gaps in the timetable come the summer months.

Nothing in this blog should be news to regular readers, although the speed at which the first Red warning has been issued has taken even me by surprise. Looking back at periods of previous teacher supply problems over the past fifty years, the present state of affairs could build into a really serious problem for secondary schools unless pupil teacher ratios are worsened back to where they were at the turn of the century, some adjustments in the curriculum are made in favour of the arts subjects in the EBacc, where there are generally plenty of teachers available or schools are prepared to see classes taught by teachers with little or no preparation in the subject that they are teaching. None of these is a sign of an excellent education system.

Now for the bad news

In my previous post I highlighted how Ministers might be pleased with the overall figure in the ITT Census released this morning by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2018-to-2019 However, once the numbers are analysed in more detail, a picture of two worlds moving further apart beings to emerge.

First the good news: English, as a subject, passed its Teacher Supply Model figure and registered 110% recruitment against the ‘target’. Biology did even better, hitting 153% of target, and history managed 101%, virtually the same as last year. Physical Education, despite recruitment controls, registered 116% of target, slightly up on last year’s 113% figure. Computing also had a better year than last year, reaching 73% of target, the best level since 2014 for the subject. Geography recorded a figure of 85% of target, Classics and drama also recorded higher percentages again the TSM target.

Sadly, that’s where the good news stops. The remaining secondary subjects largely missed their TSM target by a greater percentage than last year. This means a more challenging recruitment round in 2019 for schools looking for teachers in the following subjects:

Mathematics census number down to 71% from 79% of the TSM figure

Modern Languages 88% from 93%

Physics 47% from 68%

Chemistry 79% from 83%

Design and Technology just 25% from 33%

– it would be interesting to see a breakdown across the different elements within this subject group

Religious Education 58% from 63%

Music 72% from 76%

Business Studies 75% from 80%

 

Apart from Physics, where the decline is of alarming proportions, in the other subjects the percentage decline is just part of a steady and continuing decline seen over the past two years. With demand for secondary teacher likely to be around the 30,000 mark across both state and private school in England, if 2019 is anything like 2018 has been then, many of these subjects will not be providing enough trainee to fill the vacancies likely to be on offer. Encouraging retention and managing returners, especially for those working overseas, will be key initiatives for the government if we are not to see some schools struggling to recruit appropriately qualified teachers. I am sure it won’t be the successful schools that face recruitment challenges; it also won’t be private schools free to charge what they like in order to pay attractive salaries to teachers in shortage subjects.

The government has done relatively well recruiting in EBacc subjects, although science is only doing well because of the surfeit of biologists, many of whom may find themselves teaching other sciences, at least at Key Stage 3.

However, the CBI and the IoD might look at these percentages in the other subjects with more concern, if not even alarm. Wealth generating subjects either need more support from government or a clear statement that they don’t matter. The same is true of the arts and the social sciences beyond just history and geography.

As chair of TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk I will ensure that our site continues to monitor trends in the labour market for teachers throughout 2019 and reports on the pressures we see emerging.

Is it harder to recruit teachers of English than teachers of mathematics?

I can finally report that TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the national vacancy site that provides free posting of jobs for schools and uses a defined alert system for teachers seeking to know about vacancies, now shows mathematics as a subject where schools anywhere in England might encounter recruitment challenges, if they are looking for a teacher to fill a vacancy for January 2019.

But, I hear you say, mathematics is a shortage subject and schools already cannot recruit teachers to teach the subject. That’s certainly the message put out by those in the mathematics world. Curiously, their colleagues representing teacher of English make much less noise about the shortages in their subject.

Both English and mathematics are key subjects, recruiting many new teachers each year, although not as many as the sciences overall as a subject area. If mathematics teachers are in really short supply, then a percentage of vacancies will in reality be re-advertisements for posts schools could not fill the first time they advertised them.

So far, in 2018, TeachVac has recorded around 300 more vacancies for teachers of mathematics than for teachers of English. However, with fewer trainees in English than were recruited to mathematics teacher preparation courses in 2017, this gap goes a long way to explaining why the autumn term could have seen some schools struggling to recruit teachers of English even more than they will teachers of mathematics.

Of course, part of the explanation for the level of demand might be that schools have bought into the message of a national shortage of mathematics teachers and not bothered to advertise a vacancy, instead filling it by using existing staff in a creative fashion.

There is another explanation that is linked to the way that schools are now starting to advertise vacancies. A growing number of schools don’t advertise specific posts but request interest from teachers seeking to work at the school or within the Multi-Academy Trust. The school or Trust then, presumably, sifts through these expressions of interest when a vacancy occurs and contacts the most likely candidates to see if they are still interested.

In the past schools may also have used recruitment agencies and one firm in particular still operates some micro-sites for schools. However, I suspect this may not be a cost effective solution, especially with free services such as TeachVac now being available.

Of course, there may be more ‘returners’ in English than in mathematics and that may help explain less concern over recruitment for teachers of English.

Hopefully, better recruitment onto courses preparing teachers of English in 2018 will make for a less challenging labour market in that subject for September 2019 and January 2020 vacancies. For mathematics, we must wait and see how many trainees were recruited and actually started courses this September.

One thing that is certain is that in 2019 there will once again be a shortage of teachers of business studies and probably shortages in a range of other subjects as well.

Pay physics teachers more than history teachers?

The research report published today by the Education Policy institute (EPI) is an interesting addition to the cannon of literature on the issue of teacher shortages.  https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/EPI-Teacher-Labour-Market_2018.pdf The major new component in ‘The Teacher Labour Market in England shortages, subject expertise and incentives’ is the consideration of where shortages are located on a local authority by local authority basis. The data comes from the 2016 School Workforce Census of 2016, so is now two years out of date.

Much of the basic issues around shortages have been covered by the Migration Advisory Committee, the School Teachers’ Review Body, the Education Select Committee, the National Audit Office and the range of publications from the DfE including their index of teacher shortages as well as previous publications from EPI. In that respect, the lack of a bibliography is something of a shortcoming in this report.

Indeed, missing from any analysis of shortages in the EPI report is a discussion of the relationship between the training market and the demand for teachers by schools. Are we training teachers where they are needed or are we, as a nation, training them where they are not needed? The supply of mathematics teachers is a case in point. As this blog has pointed out, there are more trainees in maths than in English, but the number of vacancies is roughly the same since the amount of curriculum time for each subject is roughly the same.

A quick look at TeachVac’s percentage of advertisements in maths and English for 2018 in just the South East region is revealing in their shares of the overall total.

Eng % maths%
Southampton 15% 21%
Reading 17% 19%
Hampshire 18% 16%
Slough 13% 16%
East Sussex 16% 15%
Medway 15% 15%
Brighton and Hove 11% 15%
Kent 11% 14%
Oxfordshire 9% 14%
Isle of Wight 14% 14%
Windsor and Maidenhead 8% 14%
Buckinghamshire 15% 14%
Milton Keynes 10% 12%
Surrey 10% 11%
Bracknell Forest 12% 11%
West Berkshire 16% 10%
West Sussex 17% 9%
Wokingham 21% 9%
Portsmouth 18% 8%
All South East 13% 13%

 

Now these numbers haven’t been corrected for re-advertisements, so there is some over-estimates.

The EPI conclusion that in many areas schools with a greater degree of deprivation among their school population have fewer teachers with degrees most closely connected to shortage subjects, is revealing, but not surprising. This was a tenant of the former Secondary School Curriculum and Staffing Surveys that the Department for Education and its predecessors used to use before the School Workforce Census to measure expertise among the workforce. How to teach Physics at ‘A’ level in schools where there is no teacher with a Physics degree is a real challenge for a fractured education system, where cooperation between schools is not encouraged. But, it is not a revelation. Indeed, the EPI study might have benefitted from looking at changes over time in the use of under-qualified teachers as the Migration Advisory Committee achieved in Table 4.19 of their 2017 Report.

Finally, the EPI solutions proposed   provide a real sense of deja vue. Salary supplements for working in challenging schools seems very like the ‘Schools of exceptional difficulty’ payments of the Heath government in the 1970s and schools can already pay recruitment and retention allowances to teachers in shortage subjects, but don’t seem to do so. However, they seem more willing to pay heads of department in shortage subjects more either through higher TLRs or offering posts on the Leadership Scale. This is an area EPI might like to investigate at some point in the future.

EPI did not consider the DfE’s CPD programme in mathematics that is trying to improve the qualifications of those already teaching the subject. Such an approach can be more helpful than salary supplements that pay teachers different amounts for performing the same task. There would need to be an index of shortages and although it would be headed by Physics – where the country just doesn’t produce enough graduates – business studies would probably come next; a subject not mentioned by EPI.

 

 

 

 

Applications to train as a teacher still far too low for comfort

Let’s start with the good news: there isn’t going to be a shortage of PE teachers in 2019. Last month also saw some applications and acceptances for graduate teacher training courses. But, that’s about the good news that I can find from the latest UCAS data on applications and acceptances processed by mid-February 2018.

On the downside, a group of subjects are recording either new lows for February when compared with any cycle since the 2013/14 recruitment round or an equal joint low with the figure for February acceptances in the 2013/14 cycle that was the last really poor recruitment round. The list of subjects bumping along the bottom includes: Chemistry; IT; design & technology; mathematics; music; physics, religious education and art.

Applications for primary courses still remain a matter for serious concern, with just 26,430 applications compared with 39,240 in February 2016. Assuming around 2.5 applications per applicants that translates into less than 11,000 applicants for primary places. Acceptance rates amount to 7,320 for primary this February, compared with 10,910 at the same point two years ago in 2016. (Based upon place; conditionally placed and those holding an offer). The only spot of good news is that the number of offers being held is 1,020 this year for primary compared with 990 at this point in 2016. Nevertheless, with around 12,500 primary places to be filled by postgraduates, the current situation isn’t looking good.

Across the secondary courses, total applications of 27,910 are relatively in better shape than primary, since the fall from 2016 is only from 36,560 applications. As a result, applications for secondary courses continue to be above the total of applications for primary courses. However, there is little room for complacency as the following table relating to placed candidates and those holding offers in February and March of recent recruitment rounds for mathematics demonstrates.

Mathematics – the number of candidates accepted or holding offers in recent recruitment rounds

Recruitment round February March
2013/14 920 1140
2014/15 940 1110
2015/16 980 1290
2016/17 900 1160
2017/18 700

Source; UCAS monthly Statistics

In the 2011/12 recruitment cycle, before School Direct had been included in the UCAS process, applications totalled some 34,936 candidates at the February measuring point. This compares with 18,830 applicants domiciled in England recorded this February by UCAS; down from 24,700 in February 2017. Compared with recent years, applications are down from both men and women; all age-groups and from across the country. If there is a glimmer of hope, as noted earlier, it is in the fact that across both primary and secondary sectors the number of offers being held by applicants is above the level of February 2016, although not by any great number.

The DfE’s new TV campaign has now kicked in and, if targeted properly by the agency, this should help to attract some more applicants. However, between now and June, most final year undergraduates will be concentrating on their degrees and not filling in application forms. Hopefully, with the wider economy slowing, some older graduates might start to think teaching is once again a career to consider. This week’s bad news on the retail sector employment front could be good news for teaching, but I wonder how many store assistant are actually graduates?

 

Quality Assurance or Quality Control?

Just after 7am this morning I was telephoned by a researcher from BBC 5 Live to ask what I thought about the new ‘tables’ tests for Year 4 pupils? Not a great deal at that time of the morning was my first and honest thought. However, early morning phone calls are an occupational hazard for anyone prepared to make a comment on issues of public interest and that response wouldn’t do. Some calls of this nature develop into big stories and make headlines: others disappear onto the modern equivalent of the editor’s spike, either dumped or relegated to a footnote in a news bulletin.

Sometimes, you don’t get a call back, as promised, but a text message saying that the item isn’t proceeding either due to other stories taking precedence or some similar phrase, as happened this morning and you then wonder whether the point of view you expressed to the researcher was too similar to those everyone else was expressing and what they were looking for was a different view to balance the debate?

On the story about multiplication tests  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43046142 or ‘checks’ as they are being called, my view is that they should be scrutinised through the lens of whether they are a quality control or a quality assurance measure? If the former, then they are likely to be required of all teachers at the same time. The results then tell us on that day how well the age group are doing. We would possibly expect summer born children to do less well than those with a longer exposure to schooling and those that have remained in the same school to do better than those pupils that have already been subject to changing school one or more times. Pupils will a poor attendance record, for whatever reason, might also do less well.

A quality assurance check would allow the DfE to provide both an expected level but also to help teachers diagnose why those pupils that don’t reach the level expected fail to do so. The DfE might them provide some research into what will work with these pupils to help them reach the standard expected of most children at that point in their education. Such an approach, rich in a developmental approach aimed at helping the system, is more expensive than a simple check that will allow Ministers to blame failing schools and by implication their teachers through the medium of the Ofsted inspection.  If I was in charge of Ofsted, I might want to take the DfE to task for making the job of improving our school system a bit harder if it further reduced trust in the inspection system.

I guess that the DfE cannot afford to spend money on diagnostic tests and a simple pen and paper exercise to be marked by teachers in their own time looks more profitable in terms of political capital.

Take this new the test when a pupil is  ready; collect the data electronically and then let the results tell the DfE if their choice of Opportunity Areas is the correct one or whether key areas such as South East Oxford City have been consistently overlooked for intervention and extra resources? In this technological age, we need to harness the resources at our disposal to help both teachers and their pupils to learn effectively not just impose more burdens on everyone.