Return to teaching: more needs to be achieved

One of the issues that the DfE’s annual data about the school workforce always revives is that of what happens to those that train to be a teacher and either never teach in state funded schools or leave after a period of service. The data can be found at

One side of this equation is concerned with retention rates, and that has been dealt with in an earlier post. The other side relates to the possibility or indeed probability in statistical terms of those teachers either ‘out of service’ or with ‘no service’ re-entering or teaching for the first time in state-funded schools.

Now this is not as straightforward an issue as some might think. A proportion of these teachers are certainly teaching, but not in state schools. Some are in further education, sixth form colleges, initial teacher education and private schools and are counted in the ‘other’ column where service is pensionable, but not in a state funded school. Others, and this may be a growing number, are teaching overseas in the schools offering fee-based education in countries where those with the cash don’t want to or cannot access the local school system. Occasionally, as in the case of the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, these teachers might also be teaching in the state school system.

The rapid growth of such ‘international’ schools – at least in terms of their staffing – in China remains a concern as a potential drain on teacher numbers in England. Although it isn’t all one-way traffic.

Anyway, returning to the data, about half of ‘out of service’ teachers are older than 45, and thus less likely to return to teaching if still in the labour market. A few might do so, but large numbers of returners from this age grouping are unlikely. Among the younger age groups, some have deliberately decided to take a career break, often to care for young families or elderly parents. With good quality local ‘keep in touch’ schemes, and the sort of bounty paid to armed forces reservists for undertaking a period of professional development each year, this group can be an excellent source of additional teachers.

Although the DfE has managed programmes in the recent past to entice these teachers back into the classroom, the schemes have so far been derisory when compared with those initiated during former staffing crisis.

And what of the 17,000 or so teachers that gained QTS in 2015 and 216, but have no recorded service in state funded schools? How much has the DfE spent on following up what has happened to these potential teachers? Some will be teaching, but not captured in the data. Of those that aren’t teaching, what feedback can we obtain that would either improve their training, if that is the issue, or manage the labour market better to achieve optimum use of a scare resource in our teachers.

It seems daft that location specific career changers cannot be guaranteed a teaching post on successful completion of their training programme. This is surely a disincentive for some to switch careers, especially when they also have to pay tuition fees. Time for a Carter style Review of these issues?

Employing NQTs

Recently, I asked Ofsted if they could provide me with a list of schools not allowed to employ NQTs, following an inspection of the school, so I could have a look at a range of job advertisements to see how the recommendation was being presented to possible applicants, including NQTs. Following an FOI request, Ofsted informed me on Friday that

‘… we do not record collated information relating to the appointment of NQTs. Each inspection is regarded as a standalone inspection event, and statements regarding the appointment of NQTs are made in the individual reports and subsequent monitoring letters for each inspection.’

They suggested that I use the published data on inspections, last updated to August 2018.

The appointment of NQTs differs between maintained schools and academies because maintained schools provide a period of induction. Thus, with regard to maintained schools, induction may not be served in a school that has been judged to require special measures, unless HMCI has given permission in writing. School Inspection Handbook paras 98 and para 121.

For all schools, a school placed in special measures following a full Section 5 inspection, the report must include a judgement (or recommendation in the case of academies and presumably free schools) about whether a school should be permitted to employ NQTs. School Inspection Handbook Section 8 para 173. This judgement can be changed at subsequent monitoring reports.

Now this raises two interesting issues in my mind. Firstly, maintained schools declared inadequate these days must normally become an academy and part of a multi-academy trust or committee. The inadequate school is closed, and no Ofsted report is available for the new school. Presumably, the new academy is perfectly entitled to hire NQTs from day one, since the new school has no recommendation resulting from an inspection report. This seems a little concerning. In one case the report on the closing schools said ‘strongly recommend do not appoint NQTs’. Should the new academy recognise and act on this judgement?

The second issue emerged from looking into what is happening on the ground. Viewing records for some of these schools converting to become an academy after an ‘inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted, has identified a concern about the amount of time an academy emerging from an ‘inadequate’ judgement on a maintained school is taking to receive an inspection report. The school that received an inspection report ‘strongly recommending do not employ NQTs’ seemingly had not received a published monitoring report more than a year after it opened as an academy.

A third issue is that not all inspection reports declaring a school ‘inadequate’ appear to mention in the report anything about employing NQTs. Almost half of the inspection reports on secondary schools in London identified as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors that I viewed didn’t seem to mention anything about employing NQTs in the report. That’s also a worry. Indeed, recording use of Pupil Premium seemed of more concern in reports that statements about employing NQTs.

Arising from this is a fourth issue. If a school cannot employ an NQT, should it be allowed to employ any unqualified teachers? There must be a presumption that if a school cannot support NQTs, then they also cannot support an even less qualified person in their classrooms?

Am I worrying unduly or can readers tell me of instances where they didn’t know Ofsted had said ‘don’t employ NQTs’, but the schools had gone ahead and employed them.  Did it work out?







QTS numbers: no room for complacency

If you look at tables 6a and 6b of the ITT profiles published by the DfE this week, you can perhaps understand why some Ministers are sometimes dubious about a teacher recruitment crisis.

In a whole range of subjects, the percentage of trainees in 2016/17 in employment within six months of gaining QTS was lower than in the previous year. A simple reading of those percentages might make one think that there were more unemployed teachers looking for work than the previous year, so that was alright wasn’t it. Not so. Although the number of secondary phase trainees awarded QTS in 201/17 was the highest since 2011/12, a whisker up on the previous year, there were still a range of subjects where the number of trainees awarded QTS was down on the previous year. However, it is worth acknowledging that 2015/16 and 2016/17 were better years for the award of secondary QTS than the two previous year. Sadly, 2017/18 isn’t like to continue the improvement; 2018/19 also looks like being another challenging year.

The DfE data on those with QTS in employment looks at both employment in state-funded and non-state funded schools, because of how the data has been collected. It is to be hoped that tying in QTS to the School Workforce Census will eventually revel better data about how many of those gaining QTS start teaching in locations other than state-funded schools.

In Physics, where 88% of those with known destinations from the 2016/17 were in teaching by six months from gaining QTS, the percentage a falls to no more than 70% of those that started a teacher preparation course. That’s a lot of bursary cash not producing a teacher in a state-funded school.

On the other hand, 88% of physical education trainees that started a course were teaching somewhere by six months after the end of their course. This is despite not having access to any bursary during their training and accruing fee debts of around £9,000 on top of their undergraduate debts. But, I suspect that the option for these graduates are less than for Physics graduates.

There are still worrying trends in some subjects, when comparing the differences in the percentage of trainees awarded QTS. The difference includes both failures as well as those that left the course after 90 days and those that failed to pass the Skills Tests for teachers.  The percentage of final year secondary trainees awarded QTS fell by a percentage point between 2015/16 and 2016/17 from 92% to 91%. However, the overall figure contains a range from 96% of PE final year trainees at one end of the scale to 83% of those on Physics courses. Even that percentage is better than the 79% of Physics final year trainees awarded QTS in 2012/13. Mathematics seems to have been stuck at just less than 90% for the past few years, whereas art and design and music recorded percentages awarded QTS in the mid-90% range most years. It may be that in these subjects technical subject knowledge is less of an issue with trainees and so more time can be spent on the application of the subject knowledge to classroom practice.

After two relatively good years, when the DfE recognised that there was a potential for a serious crisis in new entrants to teaching and upped the marketing on teaching as a career, the next two years are likely to see fewer new entrants with QTS. This is just at the time when pupil numbers in secondary schools are once again on the increase. Whether that will matter in 2019 will depend upon how many teaching staff schools will be able to afford to employ: it certainly mattered in 2018.



Welcome: Teaching Regulation Agency

Welcome to the Teaching Regulation Agency. I mentioned part of its role in my recent post about Induction. Those interested can now read this new Agency’s Corporate Plan at I am delighted to see that Alan Meryick has become its first Chief Executive. He has two female deputies, but, perhaps, it was a missed opportunity to have a women at the top of the organisation. Alan’s name will be familiar to anyone that has read the outcomes of teacher misconduct panel decisions, where his name has regularly appeared as the civil servant that acted on behalf of the Secretary of State in exercising the final judgement on the decision – subject of course to either a Judicial review or an appeal to an upper tier court.

We now know, thanks to this Corporate Plan, that the budget for the TRA for 2018-19 is just under £9 million. This money is needed not just to administer not just the misconduct section, but also all the other work of the Agency. This work includes a whole raft of administrative tasks involved in managing the State teaching workforce qualification and registration system. For example, the Teacher Qualification Unit operational delivery will include:

  • the award of QTS and EYTS to approximately 34,000 teachers who complete either a course of ITT or EYITT in England
  • processing approximately 9,000 applications from overseas trained teachers requesting recognition as a qualified teacher in England
  • delivery of up to 75,000 new online certificates to teachers through the teacher self -service portal (TSS)
  • processing more than 380,000 pre-employment checks through the online employer access service
  • recording approximately 32,000 NQT induction passes onto the database of qualified teachers
  • issuing up to 35,000 teacher reference numbers (TRN)
  • answering up to 30,000 telephone and responding to approximately 35,000 email helpdesk enquiries.

The Agency will also deal with around 1,000 referrals of serious misconduct and hold around 150 hearing of misconduct panels that can lead to a teacher being barred for the profession, but not from being able to use the title teacher.

It is interesting to see that the TRA has a vision statement as I thought that they were now somewhat tout of fashion. The TRA vision is:

We will strive to achieve excellence in all that we do, delivering a fair and consistent regulatory system for the teaching profession on behalf of the Secretary of State. We will assess applications for recognition of professional status fairly and efficiently. We will support the teaching profession by ensuring high standards of conduct are maintained, by fair, rigorous and timely teacher misconduct investigations, that where appropriate, prohibit teachers guilty of serious misconduct. We will work to maintain the high quality standards of the profession, allowing every child access to high quality education.

Sadly, nothing there about protecting who can use the title ‘teacher’.

The tasks of this new Agency are vital in securing a workforce for schools, but it cannot do anything about the shortfall of trainee numbers. The DfE is now fully responsible for any shortcomings in that direction.

Finally, the Agency still has work to do to purge the references to NCTL that still litter its information documents about teacher misconduct hearings. The Agency might also wish to consider whether it is appropriate for the panel’s legal adviser to sit alongside panel members at hearings, in case it makes them look as if they are a member of the panel itself. But, maybe their diagram doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation.


Daft, illogical or just plain stupid?

The DfE’s recently published revised statutory guidance for the Induction of NQTs is dated April 2018. The DfE website shows the Guidance as having been updated on the 1st April. Now, were this Guidance published anywhere else but on the DE’s own website, one might assume it was an elaborate April Fool’ day joke. But, one must presume that some hapless official was charged with uploading these changes on the day that the Teaching Regulation Agency (presumably TRA for short) replaced the now departed National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). Whether the TRA will follow in the footsteps of the RAF and have an illustrious history lasting more than 100 years is probably not even a matter for debate. If it lasts 100 months it might be said to have done well.

This Guidance is another example of a ‘fine mess’ our school system in England has become. To quote from the document:

All qualified teachers who are employed in a relevant school in England must, by law, have completed an induction period satisfactorily, subject to specified exemptions (see Annex B).

The list of relevant schools includes a maintained school; a non-maintained special school; a maintained nursery school; a nursery school that forms part of a maintained school; a local authority maintained children’s centre; and a pupil referral unit (PRU).

Keen eyed readers will notice that missing from this list of ‘relevant schools’ where Induction is mandatory are independent school in England; academies; free schools; 16–19 academies; alternative provision academies; and city technology colleges. Induction can be served in these institutions, even in some cases independent schools, but it isn’t a requirement, as it is for NQTs working in ‘relevant schools’ as listed in the appropriate paragraph of the Guidance.

Schools in special measure – no mention of the term inadequate here- generally, even if a relevant school, cannot employ NQTs or offer Induction unless HMI have granted permission. But, that is what you might expect.

Interestingly, a teaching school that is an accredited ITT provider cannot be the appropriate body for an NQT for whom it recommended that the award of QTS should be made. However, the ban doesn’t seem to extend to other schools in the same academy chain.

So two schools next to each other. Both state-funded and employing new entrants into the profession can have very different rules governing the Induction Period of that NQT. Is that satisfactory? Should the DfE now accept that regardless of the historical nature of a school’s governance, if it is state-funded the same rules should apply to the Induction of new entrants to the profession?

Although fewer Children’s Centres now exist than was the case a few years ago, I do wonder whether they are suitable places to serve an Induction Year.  One requirement is that the Induction Year involve(s) the NQT regularly teaching the same class(es). Can this really happen in a Children’s Centre?

Perhaps the next revision might be based upon recognising the common needs of NQTs regardless of the type of school where they start their teaching careers. But, perhaps, there will finally be a wholesale review of this part of a teacher’s career following the recent consultation exercise on Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status and career progression and perhaps, the term ‘Teacher’ might finally become a reserved occupation title, only usable by those appropriately qualified and with QTS: we can but hope.