Vacancies still a concern

The recent data on the workforce in state schools at the time of the 2018 School Workforce Census conducted by the DfE shows vacancies rates overall at similar levels to the previous year in percentage terms, but on the increase in terms of absolute numbers. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

Given that the data is collected in November, when schools ought to be fully staffed, any vacancy is of concern. Data from before 2010 was collected each January, when vacancy levels might be expected to be affected by those teachers that departed at the end of December and how easy it was to replace them.

Nevertheless, the 1,725 recorded vacancies in the secondary sector in November 2018 was the highest number since 2014, and more than three times the level recorded in 2011, after the financial crisis. Vacancy levels fell in mathematics between 2017 and 2018. This can partly be attributed to the subject having a relatively good year in terms of ITT recruitment in 2015-15 that fed through to recruitment for teaching posts in September 2018. I expect the ground gained between 2017 and 2018 in mathematics to be lost in the 2019 census, with little indication of any improvement in 2020.

Business studies has the largest percentage vacancy level. The subject includes both commercial studies and economics.  It remain a mystery to me why this important subject group for the British Economy does not attract more help for trainee teachers through the scholarship/bursary scheme. Mr Hunt’s idea of paying off student loans for young entrepreneurs seems only likely to make the situation worse if it was implemented. Indeed, I have yet to hear about a solution to the teacher recruitment problem from either of the candidates for the Troy Party leadership.

The other measure of concern is that of the percentage of hours taught in a typical week to pupils in Years 7 to 13 by teachers with no relevant post-A Level qualification. The trend in many secondary subjects continues to worsen, even among EBacc subjects, where recruitment into ITT is buoyant. However, that may be due to changes in teaching methods as much as to a shortage of teachers in history and geography. Where schools employ a classroom teacher approach to some or all of their pupils, generally either Year 7 pupils or those having trouble learning in large classes, these teachers may not be specialists, and this can cause the number of hours taught be a non-specialist in a subject to increase for perfectly sensible reasons.

Of more concern, and not provided in the Tables, would be any evidence of increasing levels of teachers lacking subject knowledge teaching groups in Years 11 to13. Although even here a case can sometimes be made on the basis of teaching experience and non-formally acquired subject knowledge, such as through high quality Professional Development activities.

Within the detailed tables, there is far more data on these matters, but it will take a little more time to work through the data. However, there is no room for complacency over retention and every reason, as the school population increase over the next few years to continue to express serious concern at the trends emerging in relation to mid-career retention of teachers.

 

 

 

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An Auger effect already?

The publication of the data on ITT applications for June 2019 coincided today with the DfE’s date for publishing its annual raft of statistics on teachers and schools. The DfE data is, of course, backward facing, whereas the UCAS data tells us what to expect in the teacher labour market in 2020.

With only three months left in the current recruitment round, it is usually easy to predict the actual outcome of the recruitment round. However, with the current levels of uncertainty over issues such as the funding of schools after the new Prime Minister is elected by Conservative Party members, and assuming there isn’t a general election in the autumn, as well as what happens to tuition fees in the short-term, the past may not be a guide to the future. Nevertheless, this blog will try and made some inferences from the data as it currently stands.

Overall applications are down on last year. The current total of 32,720 applicants is some 490 below the figure for June 2018. Perhaps of most concern is the decline in ‘placed’ applicants in London and the South East, where the figure is down from 900 last year to 710 this year. There has also been a decline in ‘conditionally placed’ numbers in these two regions, although numbers ‘holding offers’ are similar to last year at this point.

There has been a reversal in the recent trend in age profile of applicants, with fewer applicants than last year in all age groups, except for new graduates 21 or under, where the number is up from 4,630 last year to 4,670 this year. ‘Placed’ applicants over the age of 25 are down this year by 130 to some 1,440. In the past, this age group has help keep applicant numbers up as younger applicants have fallen away.

The number of applications are down from both men and women, mostly as a result of fewer applicants being ‘placed’. As degree results are confirmed over the next month or so, the number of ‘placed’ applicants should increase rapidly over the next two months. This is a number that will need watching very carefully.

The data on application status by provider region (Table B6 of the UCAS monthly data) confirms that there needs to be a focus on what is happening in London. Placed numbers are down by 100, and ‘conditionally placed’ by 160, with only those ‘holding offers’ up by 50, for a net change across the three categories of around 200. Application numbers to providers in London are down by around 600. With London schools seeing growth in pupil numbers, and so far in 2019 having advertised 10 vacancies per secondary school (www.teachvac.co.uk data) these numbers must be of concern.

So far it is primary courses that have borne the brunt of reduced applications, down from 41,180 in 2018, to 38,880 in 2019, whereas applications for secondary courses are up from 52,530 to 53,250. But, before anyone hangs out the bunting and declares a ‘dance and skylark’, it is worth delving deeper into the statistics for individual subjects. History, English and biology al doing extremely well, and could recruit their largest numbers of trainees in recent years.

On the other hand, art, chemistry, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording new lows for June in terms of those ‘placed’ and either ‘conditionally placed’ or ‘holding an offer’. Based on the evidence of previous years, none of these subjects will hit the required Teacher Supply Model number in 2019.  That’s bad news for the 2020 recruitment market for teachers.

Has the Auger Report with its suggestion for lower fees already had an effect on recruitment onto UCAS courses for this September? If so, the government must react sooner rather than later to stem any further losses ad protect teacher supply.

 

 

 

 

Mixed messages on ITT

The data on those placed either firmly or conditionally together with those holding offers for post-graduate teacher preparation courses starting this autumn was published earlier today by UCAS.

Overall, the level of applications is down again at 83,560 on 20th May compared with 85,370 on 21st May last year. However, that overall total marks a downward shift in applications for primary, by just over 2,000 and an upward move in applications for secondary subjects, by about 600 applications. This is where the picture starts to become more complicated

Record levels of applications in biology; English; RE and history have more than offset declines in PE – by a substantial number to only 6,000 – mathematics – some 300 fewer applications – and Art – 200 fewer applications. In each case, divide by three to estimate the change in applicants, as UCAS don’t provide that data in the monthly numbers.

In terms of placed applicants and those holding offer, Computer Studies; mathematics; physics and art are all at record lows for the recruitment rounds since 2013/14 for this month of the cycle.

Next month’s figures should start to record how new graduates feel about teaching; especially those that have so far done nothing about finding a career. The good news is that applicant numbers in the youngest age group; these will be new graduates, are holding up at similar levels to last year.

However, those in their Twenties are still not looking to teaching as either a first or second career choice. Numbers aged 22-29 are seemingly down in all age groupings. However, those, mainly career switches over 30 are still showing an increasing interest in teaching.

Applicant numbers are down from applicants domiciled in most regions of England. Those domiciled in London, where pupil numbers are growing fast in the secondary sector, number only just over 5,000, with around 300 fewer placed or conditionally placed applicants this year. Staffing the capital’s state schools should really be an issue for the STRB when considering teachers’ pay and conditions.

In the secondary sector, School Direct is still losing ground to higher education and SCITTs in terms of its share of applications. How the Augar Report, published today, plays out for postgraduate teacher preparation courses may well affect these figures in the next few years.

A languages teacher with five years of fees (four year degree plus one year teacher preparation course) could be faced with debts of £117,000 according to a chart in the Augar Report. With no difference in repayments between those earning Inner London salary and those in high cost areas on the national salary scale this is an issue the STRB needs to confront in their discussions on teacher supply.

Applications from m n are declining at a faster rate than form women, with around 240 fewer applications from men compared with only a decline of 170 in applications from women. UCAS only report gender as a binary choice. In England, the decline is from 8,910 male applicants in May 2018 to just 8,650 this year, of whom there has been a welcome increase in the number of those 21 and under conditionally placed, from 680 to 750.

Not a bribe, but a gift or Scholarship?

It is difficult to know what to call the payments to teachers of mathematics and physics in parts of the north of England and the Opportunity Areas, announced by the DfE today. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-mathematics-and-physics-teacher-retention-payments

As the DfE make clear in their announcements, these payments are neither part of a teacher’s salary nor an allowance, as they don’t require either the teacher receiving the cash or the employer to pay either National Insurance or tax and presumably are not part of pensionable pay. I am not sure how HM Treasury regards this handout that has similar characteristics to the bounty paid to reservists with the forces.

Paying someone just for teaching specific subjects in particular geographical areas might have unintended consequences. There are some great schools in Harrogate, one of the areas included in the scheme, and I haven’t noticed that the schools in that area have any more challenges recruiting that do schools in London boroughs, so might we see a flight from London to teach mathematics in the Yorkshire Dales and Wolds. Interestingly, the Lake District and deprived Cumbrian Coast is not included in the list of qualifying local authorities. Surely an oversight?

This scheme looks like a blunter form of the Mrs Thatcher’s Schools of Exceptional Difficulty payments of the early 1970s, although that cash went to all teachers in the qualifying schools, but not to other staff.

How biologist and chemists teaching physics at Key Stage 3 will feel about this payment that they won’t receive unless they have the appropriate academic qualification in the subject, even if they have undertaken considerable professional development, is, no doubt, something the teacher associations will have to discuss with their members. Such teachers cannot just stop teaching physics, since head teachers can require staff to teach any subject where timetabling or other reasons require them to do so.

Making this announcement on EU election day does make it seem a bit like a Jo Moore story, one to be buried in the middle of a lot of announcements on a busy news day – the announcements were 12th and 13th down the list issued by the DfE this morning, although The Times newspaper, did carry the story today, so presumably the press was forewarned.

By not making this a salary supplement, the DfE presumably hopes to head off the question of equal pay for work of equal worth from other teachers working alongside the lucky recipients. I suspect head teachers will also want to ensure they can claim for these payments and not have to pay out of existing budgets. There was no mention in either of the government announcements about the mechanics of the scheme other than the statement that ‘details about the application process and the first year payment process will be available soon.’

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will monitor trends in vacancies for teachers of physics and mathematics and report any changes seen. However, the way the scheme will be organised it should not have much immediate impact on the labour market.

 

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.

 

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.