TeachVac issues end of term warning

Schools across England will find recruiting staff for unexpected vacancies in January 2018 challenging. This is the message from TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher vacancies across all schools in England that is already saving schools large sums of money in line with the DfE policy of reducing unnecessary expenditure by schools.

TeachVac is celebrating entering its fourth year of operation. At the end of the summer term of 2017, TeachVac have rated 7 of the 13 secondary subjects it tracks as in a critical state for recruitment. This means that TeachVac is warning schools of recruitment difficulties in these subjects that might occur anywhere in the country and not just in the traditional high risk areas for recruitment.

The high risk subjects are:



Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education



In the other six subjects tracked in detail by TeachVac, most schools will still find recruitment easier, although any specific demands such as subject knowledge in, for example, a specific period of history will always make recruitment more of a challenge. On the basis of current evidence, TeachVac expects schools will face the least problems in Physical Education and Art where, if anything, there is still some local over-supply against need in some parts of the country.

In Science overall, – but not in Physics and possible Chemistry – Mathematics; Modern Languages overall, but not in certain language combinations, and in History, supply should still be adequate to meet expected demand between now and January 2018.  Because most schools still advertise for teachers of languages and science and only specify within the advert the more detailed requirements it takes longer to analyse the data on vacancies in these subjects and that information is not yet fully available beyond the headline figures.

TeachVac can provide the data in a form useful to schools facing Ofsted inspection where recruitment may be an issue for the inspection team. For local authorities and others interested in the recruitment patterns over the past three years in specific locations and between different types of school such as academies and free schools, TeachVac now has a wealth of data available. TeachVac is also now looking in detail as senior staff appointments and especially leadership posts in the primary sector and the challenges some schools face in replacing a head teacher when they leave. The outcome of that research will form the basis of a further detailed report to follow the posts already written on the topic.

With recruitment to training for courses starting this September still below the level achieved last year, 2018 is also beginning to look as if it will be a challenging recruitment round, especially for schools not involved in training teachers either directly or through tie-ins with other training providers. This blog will update the situation regarding numbers offered places for September at the end of this month and again at the end of August.




Good news on Mathematics teaching

Is the crisis in mathematics teaching over? According to the data in the 2016 School Workforce Census, if not over, then the problem is at least well on the way to being solved, if you use two important measures for the teaching workforce.

On the basis of the percentage of teachers with no relevant post A -Level qualification teaching the subject, the data for mathematics is the best for many years

2013 22.4%

2014 24.2%

2015 26.3%

2016 22.2%

The 2016 figure is a remarkable turnaround on the 2015 percentage and probably the largest single year change ever recorded. There are similar improvements across many other subjects, with only physics not really following the general trend.

2013 33.5%

2014 36.5%

2015 37.5%

2016 37.3%

The improvement in Physics is only a marginal 0.2% over last year and still far worse than in 2013, although the number of teachers has increased from 6,300 to 6,500, the best level for many years.

To triangulate the data it is worth also looking at the hours taught in a typical week to pupils in years 7 to 13 by teachers with no subject relevant post A-level qualification. This is the measure used last year by the Migration Advisory Committee in their seminal report. The data can be found in Table 13 of this year’s School Workforce Census.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Maths 16 16 18 17 20 18 12.8
Physics 21 24 26 26 28 25 24.6
D&T 11 15 18 17 19 17 14.2
ICT 48 4 41 39 44 38 30.6
English 12 13 15 15 17 13 9.6
Geography 11 16 18 18 17 14 12.5
History 10 13 15 15 15 11 8.6
PE 9 11 12 11 11 7 4

Figures are percentages and come from Table 4.19 of the MAC Report and Table 13 of the 2016 School Workforce Census

So, apart from in Physics, not only has the percentage of teachers with minimal qualifications been reduced, but the percentage of hours taught by such teachers is also down.

However, before everyone becomes too euphoric and proclaims the end of the teacher supply crisis, it is worth noting these are for Qualified Teachers only. It is not clear what impact both the School Direct Salaried and Teach First schemes have on these numbers. The ability of schools to correctly complete the School Workforce Census must also be taken into consideration. Recruitment into training in 2016 and the job market in 2017 may have played a part in helping the improvement as may the work undertaken by the government in mathematics in upgrading the knowledge and skills base of those teaching mathematics.

Whatever the reasons, these figures show an improving trend, although one in eight hours in mathematics taught be a Qualified Teacher with not even an A-Level in the subject is still not good enough. The fact that almost a quarter of Physics lessons are taught by such teachers, let along the hours taught by unqualified and trainee teachers in the subject even after several years of generous bursaries is not a happy situation. It also raises the question of whether the government is paying generous training bursaries to teachers that end up outside of the State school system. If that is the case, a loan forgiveness scheme or even better salaries for teachers in the State system might be better alternatives.

The concern about recruitment into training in 2017 together with the rising secondary school population means that even if the 2017 School Workforce Census produces similar results to the 2016, the 2018 Census may show a return to more concerning outcomes. But, since that won’t be published until 2019 that’s a world away in politics.


Do bursaries work?

I have been catching up on some of the reading I have missed from earlier in the summer. One document I hadn’t found time for until now was the Initial teacher training performance profiles: 2014 to 2015 published by the DfE in late July. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2014-to-2015 Although the data deals with trainees, excluding Teach First and any remaining EBITT trainees, granted QTS in 2015, there are some important pointers buried within the data. It seems clear that the high levels of bursary haven’t always worked.

 The number of trainees granted QTS having taken a Physics ITT course appears to have peaked in 2011/12 at 629. In 2014/15 the number granted QTS was just 509, some 120 trainees fewer than in 2011/12, or around 20% less. Even more alarming is the fact that total trainee numbers in 2014/15 had been 614, so apparently 105 trainees didn’t receive QTS. That’s a completion rate of just 83% according to the DfE; the lowest amongst the subjects with a completion rate quoted by the DfE (Table 6 in main tables of Statistical Bulletin 31/2016). In mathematics, the completion rate was a much healthier 94%, but this still meant only 2,082 trainees were awarded QTS, some 400 fewer than in 2011/12.

The mathematics figures show that the number in a teaching post rose over the last three years up to 2014/15, to reach 1,847 in all types of school. This suggests that the bursary for mathematics may have made a difference. However, in Physics, the number recorded as in a teaching post was only 443 in 2014/15, down from a high of 535 in 2011/12, albeit a year during the middle of the recession. As the DfE model estimated need at around 1,000 physics trainees in 2014/15, this would suggest only 50% of potential need was met. The worrying factor is that a high proportion of these new Physics teachers may well have ended up in either an independent school or a grammar school as these are types of school most likely to have advertised for a teacher of physics according to TeachVac data. www.teachvac.co.uk

One the face of it, the bursary and associated scholarships offered don’t seem to have attracted enough potential teachers of physics into the profession and of these attracted a higher than expected percentage don’t seem to have made it through to QTS. Whether this is due to them leaving courses early or not being judged to have reached an acceptable standard isn’t possible to tell from the data.

With a growing percentage of Physics trainees located in schools on the Salaried or Fee School Direct routes, it seems likely that the ‘free pool’ of trainees has also diminished over the past few years. In that respect, we need to know more about how many of the 440 or so in a teaching post trained in the school where they are now working and how many were in the independent sector? This would make clear the likely number available for maintained schools not participating in the School Direct programme?

Whatever the numbers, there needs to be more Physics trainees to meet the demands of the growing school population over the next decade.

Maths teacher shortage

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics has reported a shortage of qualified teachers of mathematics. According to some news reports they mention schools with several vacancies and schools drafting in teachers of subjects such as PE and geography to teach the subject. I couldn’t find any evidence on their web site http://www.atm.org.uk/ when I looked this morning so I cannot check out the evidence base.
When I looked at the TeachVac data http://www.teachvac.co.uk the number of trainees recorded by the DfE ITT census last November was 2,186 in 2014/15. This number was below the DfE Teacher Supply Model indicative number for trainees required, but not alarmingly so. However, that tells us nothing about the quality of those accepted into training through either school-based or higher education routes. A minimum level of mathematics in a degree, say two years of subject study post ‘A’ level, might help here.
As of yesterday, TeachVac had identified 2,538 advertisements for classroom teachers of mathematics. Two further pieces of data are key to understanding this number. Firstly, the number of adverts that either on the one hand contain multiple vacancies or on the other hand were re-advertisements because a vacancy could not be filled. Secondly, the percentage of vacancies filled by new entrants to the profession. The DfE rule of thumb over a recruitment cycle appears to be 50%, as discussed in other earlier posts on this blog.
Taking all this into account the 2,386 trainees, this translates into just under 5,000 vacancies across a whole year. The recruitment cycle can be considered to run from January to December. The TeachVac advert figure is still well short of that level. Now it may be that there are more multiple vacancies being advertised that we are picking up. Schools that enter vacancies directly can indicate the number of posts on offer. There may also be regional differences. London and the two regions adjacent to the capital have accounted for 52% of the recorded advertisements, so it is likely that any problem is greatest in and around London despite the higher pay rates on offer and the presence of Teach First in the capital. There are also vacancies for January to consider.
There are also some early murmuring in the media today about mathematics GCSE pass rates that are also out today. I don’t know whether there is a link between these two stories, but it might seem likely if qualifications matter in the teaching of a subject. In any event, we do need good management information on the recruitment cycle so that in future recruitment problems can be dealt with as they arise and not ducked by government. In addition, if there are two thirds of graduates in sub-optima careers and maths is the most popular’ A’ level, why are we having difficulty recruiting trainees into teaching? As regular readers know, I have suggested how we can make teaching as a career more attractive in several earlier posts.
One thing is certain is that if there are issues in teacher supply in mathematics now, then there are more severe problems in other subjects. Next week will see the publication by UCAS of applications for courses starting in less than month for the 2016 output of teachers. Any further shortfall against places will mean more problems in 2016, and not just in mathematics.

17,500; 1,313; 3,500; 10; what’s the next number in the sequence?

According to the Number 10 website:

17,500 maths and physics teachers will be trained over the next 5 years over and above current levels, with schemes to attract more postgraduates, researchers and career-changers, and extensive retraining for non-specialist teachers.

The scheme will cost £67 million and will include a programme to offer school leavers a bursary to help pay for university, in return for a commitment to become a teacher when they graduate with a maths or physics degree.


That deals with the first and last numbers in the heading. The second number is the shortfall against the Teacher Supply Model number across both mathematics and physics over the past three years. 3,500 is the number required each year above the existing levels to reach 17,500. Perhaps 2,500 more mathematics teachers and a 1,000 extra physics teachers or about double the present training targets for schools. Of course, some of the additional numbers will work in the further education sector and some might be trained as leaders in maths and science in the primary sector. Even so, this looks like a big ask along the same lines as Labour’s famous plan in the late 1990s to expand maths and science teacher numbers using the expertise of a leading supply and recruitment agency. However, perhaps the clue to success lies elsewhere in the press release with the slightly different wording of:

New programmes will retrain 15,000 existing teachers, and recruit up to 2,500 additional specialist maths and physics teachers over the next Parliament, on top of existing plans.

If the government is going to offer new undergraduate bursaries to physics and maths students without increasing the number of degree places specifically for students whose ‘A’ levels fall just short of current entry requirements it might just set up a bidding war between education as a career and the other employers that are seeking such graduates. Expanding the number of degree places is absolutely essential. An alternative would be an apprenticeship model for would be teachers that want to earn a salary from the age of 18 with a degree as part of the package but that would involve using university education departments as well as subject departments and as such might not meet current attitudes to teacher preparation.

The rest of the Prime Minister’s announcement was about computing and technology, including the new GCSE, and the rightful return of coding to the school curriculum. No doubt we have moved on from turtles hurtling around the floor of primary school classrooms to scenes of six year olds flying drones above the school playgrounds to take Arial photographs of the school in its setting with all the programming coded by the pupils. That might need some updating of primary teachers qualifications, but I didn’t see anything about that in the announcement.

I hope we can find ways of improving both maths skills for the millions and physics for the masses, but the muddled nature of this press release not even announced jointly with the DfE doesn’t fill me with any certainty about a successful outcome. Reflecting on Labour’s attempts more than 15 years ago, I fear history may be about to repeat itself.

Pay rise for Maths teachers?

Rather late in the life of this government the DfE seems to be learning some basic economic truths. Mostly notably they have discovered that when there is a shortage, the price goes up. However you dress up the announcement (made on a bank holiday Monday) that the DfE has done a deal with big business to deprive them of maths PhDs and to divert these scare resources into teaching at a price of perhaps £40,000 plus on-costs per year it must be a reaction to a shortage somewhere.

Indeed, just last week the DfE published an interesting paper on Indicator 19 of the School Workforce Survey showing the percentage of teachers with a relevant qualification teaching in English, mathematics, and the sciences across secondary schools had declined in all three subjects between the first School Workforce survey of 2010 and the latest conducted in 2013. This is despite improved coverage of the curriculum indicator across schools meaning that teacher coverage has increased from 66% to 81%, although the effective coverage rate has remained static at just under 75%.

The decline in the percentage of maths and science lessons taught by teachers with a relevant qualification – at least an ‘A’ level in the subject – is not a surprise. In view of the reductions in training numbers for teachers of English the fall from 88.4% to 84.8% in the percentage of English lessons taught by those with a relevant qualification must be a wake-up call, and vindicates some of the comments made on this blog over the past year. This is not a case of needing to pay more, but of increasing the training numbers to meet demand.

If I were a current maths teacher, or one in training, I would be paying special attention to the details of the DfE announcement when they appear and deciding what line I would take tomorrow with my head teacher. Now that schools have been removed from the shackles of a rigid pay scale, and left to fight out salaries with their staff many maths teachers may now find it worthwhile asking for a pay rise on the back of today’s announcement. This is especially if they teach Years 11-13. Their colleagues in the FE sector might also look to see whether the announcement is enough to seek a transfer into the school sector.

A helpful HEFCE publication http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce/content/pubs/2011/201133/11_33.pdf shows that there were just 255 UK domiciled starters of full-time PhDs in the mathematical sciences in 2009-10, plus a small number of starters on part-time courses. Allowing for non-completion, this might generate around 200 possible new maths teachers, if all new UK domiciled PhDs in the mathematical sciences were diverted into teaching. As a morale booster, it certainly sounds good, but those sorts of numbers are only half the figure the DfE calculated in its evidence to the STRB that would be needed to extend maths teaching to all post-16 year-old pupils just in schools. This number would do nothing to alleviate the growing shortage of qualified maths teachers for years 7-11 in secondary schools.

Although worth a try, especially as it probably isn’t costing the government much in hard cash, this scheme seems more of a gimmick than a solution to a problem the government seemingly now acknowledges needs solving.

This blog has been based upon press reports and will be updated after the DfE publishes the details of the Scheme.

Better Maths for the Millions: well that’s the aim

Schools have four weeks to express an interest in becoming a Mathematics Hub. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/288817/DRAFT_Maths_hubs_guidance_doc_v10.pdf The aim of providing professional development through some 30 hubs that in the first instance will both host the visiting teachers from Shanghai and identify those teachers from schools across England that will be offered a visit to China’s booming port city is a laudable idea. However, 30 hubs for even 20,000 schools means that, on average, each hub will have more than 600 schools that could associate with it. Put it another way, if there are 4 hubs in each of London, the North West, South East and Yorkshire & the Humber Regions, and three in all other regions except the North East, where there might be just two, you get an idea of how thinly spread the resources will be.

The long list of tasks the Hubs are eventually going to have to manage includes supporting wider partnerships on:

  • leading on national innovation projects such as the Shanghai Teacher Exchange Programme

•     recruitment of maths specialists into teaching;

•     initial training of maths teachers and supporting existing teachers of other subjects wanting

to change to maths teaching;

•     co-ordinating and delivering a wide range of maths continuing professional development

(CPD) and school-to-school support;

•     ensuring maths leadership is developed, for example by coordinating programmes for aspiring        and new heads of maths departments;

•     helping maths enrichment programmes to reach a large number of pupils from primary school onwards.

Interestingly, the development of Subject Knowledge Courses for would-be mathematics teachers is not specifically mentioned in the list, but would no doubt be just as important as helping existing teachers of other subjects convert to become competent maths teachers.

On the basis that you have to invest to achieve progress, the Hubs will no doubt initially take some of the scare maths teachers away from classrooms and department leadership to run the programmes. I worry that the initiative is too secondary orientated when what may be required is a national scheme for upgrading the maths capability of primary school teachers. If they can gain confidence is delivering the subject, then a higher proportion of pupils will achieve the expected level at Key Stage 2, and maths teaching in secondary schools will be more interesting for more teachers. It is not enrichment after primary school that is needed as much as the ability of pupils to achieve their full potential before they move on to secondary schools.

I hope that while the DfE has opened the scheme to ‘expressions of interest’ there will be attempts to ensure national coverage rather than leaving schools in some parts of England devoid of any support. Market-based schemes may have their place, but ensuring national coverage must take precedence over other factors. I am also not sure whether a programme developing maths leader solely alongside other maths teachers is a good idea. Personally, I think groups of teachers from different subjects undertaking leadership development together is a better model, and helps those eventually going forward to senior leadership to start to understand whole school issues as well as those relating to their own subject. No doubt the National College has a view on middle leadership development but, despite having been taken into the DfE, they don’t seem to rate a mention in this document. Hopefully, that is only a temporary oversight in the rush to produce a programme to coincide with the Minister’s visit to Shanghai.