Increasing Science Teacher Capacity

The Gatsby Foundation has continued its contribution to the debate about how to solve the shortage of science teachers with a new pamphlet entitled: ‘Increasing the Quantity and Quality of Science Teachers in Schools: Eight evidence-based principles’. The on-line version can be found at:

Although the document is primarily about science teachers, it has some generally applicable points that can apply to some other subjects as well. However, it is a bit potentially limited in its application in places, in that it doesn’t seemingly put the points into any order and it doesn’t discuss what might be the best scenario if some of the suggestions are impossible to implement. Take the second suggestion of ‘Providing Stable Teaching Assignments’ where the document suggests that:

‘Heads of Science should consider increasing the stability with which teachers are assigned to specific year groups. This may be particularly valuable in science departments that do not have enough staff to specialise across the three sciences. Assignment to specific key-stages is particularly important for early-career teachers, who are still gaining fluency in planning (Ost & Schiman, 2015). Where staffing pressures make it necessary to add new year groups to a teacher’s timetable, departments should provide additional support such as materials and mentoring.’

Ost, B., & Schiman, J. C. (2015). Grade-specific experience, grade reassignments, and teacher turnover. Economics of Education Review, 46, 112-126

There is good sense here, but how do you protect the only qualified physics teacher if that is what the school has?

Teachers in other subjects where staffing levels do not permit this type of approach; religious education, music and often the humanities, for instance, might well ask how any school will compensate for the necessity of teaching across all year groups. Should non-contact time differ by subject and the amount of lesson preparation and marking required of a teacher?

In science, we seem to be returning, if indeed we ever left, to a situation where there are far more teachers in training with a background in biology than in the other sciences. The House of Commons Education Select Committee recently discussed the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the needs for the future of British Society. If there is a lack of balance in the abilities of teachers of science to cover the whole gamut of the science curriculum, how might the needs of the future influence how the skills of those teachers the system does possess are most effectively utilised?

The Gatsby pamphlet also suggests flattening the pay gradient in the early years of a teacher’s career. However, if every school did this it might nullify the effects. There is an argument for looking at pay differentials and calculating the cost of turnover of staff and recruitment challenges against paying part of the recruitment costs to the existing workforce. Recruitment and Retention allowances make this a possible strategy for schools with the available cash. However, many schools would say that at present they do not have the cash to take such an approach to solving their staffing issues.



Teachers rule: OK

Teachers are back in the news. The DfE’s publication of an Early Career Framework, created by a group of the wise, and supported by an advisory panel of experts has lots of good ideas and structures within it, but seems to miss two vital matters.

Teachers find their jobs in a free market and some may, therefore have to endure a break between training and employment. Additionally, as QTS isn’t linked to anything other than having undertaken an approved training course and passed it, will any post-entry framework too closely tied to progression put off teachers from being prepared to teach outside the specialism that formed the basis of their training?

Over the weekend, the Secretary of State also revealed that either he or his advisers, whether political or civil servants, have possibly been looking through their history books. I don’t know whether the current Secretary of State is an admirer of Mrs Thatcher’s tenure at the Education Department, but the concept of payments for teachers that remain in schools for three and then five years seems, at least on the face of it, a rehash of the’ Schools of exceptional difficulty’ scheme of the Heath government that paid a salary top-up to teachers after one year and then three years tenure in designated schools. There was lots of dispute about the designation of these schools at the time, and the NASUWT even fought a court case about the scheme.

I have yet to see the details of Mr Hind’s scheme, but in normal times the Treasury would be anxious about the dead hand effect of any scheme that paid money to the bulk of teachers that would remain in the profession. Presumably, Mr Hinds has reassured the Chancellor that no new money is involved, since schools can pay for the scheme out of their devolved budgets and the saving they make by not having to recruit as many teachers as they would have had to do if the scheme wasn’t in place.

Of course, if there aren’t enough teachers to fill all the teaching posts on offer, those schools with the cash and other advantages may still win out over schools that are more challenging places for teachers. After all, it was a recognition of that fact in the 1970s that limited the schools where staff received these additional payments.

The scrapping of ‘failing’ and ‘coasting’ schools, unless recognised as such by Ofsted, also shows how the tide is turning away from the payment by results regimes of the past quarter century since Ofsted replaced HMI.

How often schools are inspected will be a key issue, especially as in the past government inspection was backed by a functioning local network of advisers and inspectors at local authority level. In many places these school improvement and support teams no longer exist. The irony is that to recreate them would require even more teachers to leave the classroom in the short-term, thus risking an even worse staffing situation.

The alternative is fewer Ofsted inspections, especially of primary schools, and all sorts of associated risks.


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. 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.





CEOs pay: what’s happening?

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel Development survey found that median pay for bosses of the UK’s biggest companies hit almost £4m last year – up from about £3.5m in 2016.

That set me thinking about the work the DfE undertook earlier this year in relation to the pay of CEOs of Multi Academy Trusts and whether or not the findings had been published anywhere?

Readers will recall that Eileen Milner, the chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, wrote in February to the chairs of 87 MATs employing individuals earning more than £150,000, asking them to explain their rationale for doing so by early March and to justify paying these salaries.

The intervention comes two days after the Department for Education minister, Lord Agnew, said that no MAT boss should receive a larger pay increase than their teaching staff and that CEOs should have their pay cut if there is a downturn in the performance of their schools. It follows a similar letter sent in December 2016 to single-academy trusts paying leaders more than £150,000. Lord Agnew’s February letter can be accessed at

Further letters appear to have been written to some MATs in April and July seeking more information. These can be found at 28 letters were sent in December 2017; 88 in February 2018 and a further 96 letters in either April or July 2018. With a final return date of 20th July, the EFSC should now have sufficient information to publish a report on the state of the most highly paid staff in the public education service.

There may be an issue relating to pensions should those not undertaking any teaching or direct site leadership of a school remain in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. In the past, when becoming local authority staff most would have moved out of the TPS into the relevant LGPS for their authority. I don’t’ know how LGPS scheme managers and trustees, of which I am one for Oxfordshire’s scheme, would approach the arrival of such highly paid staff so near pensionable age, but the DfE does need to make clear the boundary for who can belong to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme even if they aren’t actually in a school?

The level of salaries paid to senior staff in the school system is clearly a matter that won’t go away. After all, perhaps 100 MATs paying more than most local authorities pay their Director of Children’s Services must be of concern in term of expenditure, especially once pension and other on-costs are added to the basic salary.

The problem really dates back to the Labour government and the development of Executive Headteacher roles without the government making it clear how such professionals should be paid. However, the seeds of that confusion date even further back into the early 1990s and the refusal to police the upper end of the Leadership Pay Scale for large schools facing recruitment difficulties. Failure to deal with a problem doesn’t always make it go away; sometimes it allows it to grow into a serious issue that is much harder to tackle as is now the case with the pay of CEOs of MATs.




Confusion over future pay

The confusion over the future of the public sector 1% pay cap that apparently highlighted differences between the Treasury and other ministers yesterday is but one symptom of the malaise at the heart of the present government. We are used to hearing of –U- turns, but what do we call a double reversal of intent since the term spin has already been appropriated in the political landscape?

Nevertheless, it is clear that pay and associated conditions of service for teachers cannot for ever avoid the effects of competition in a labour market while we live in a society where the State doesn’t direct the job you have to take.

While the labour market remains buoyant, and especially the graduate labour market, it does seem inevitable that any ceiling on pay will have adverse effects. Later today, the June data on recruitment to teacher preparation courses starting this autumn will be published and that will be another straw in the wind. Regular readers will know that I don’t expect the data to be very encouraging in terms of meeting the government’s modelling over numbers needed to be recruited.

Eventually, the pay cap in education will have to go. The government can fudge the change by making changes to the overall structure through, for instance, initiatives such as loan forgiveness schemes that reduce a new entrant’s monthly outgoings by taking over their student debt. However, that won’t help older teachers and encouraging experienced teachers to remain in the profession may be as important as attracting new entrants, if you want a balanced age profile in the profession reflecting both experience and new ideas.

Then there is the question of regional pay. Should London pay rates go up faster than those elsewhere in the country because the London area is where the problem of recruitment is most severe? The data in a previous post about percentages of unqualified teachers might support this thesis, but it could also be down to academies in London looking for a different mix of skills not adequately provided by the subjects identified in the Teacher Supply Model? Should we pay more to secondary school teachers than those that work in primary schools? Traditionally that hasn’t been the case and there seems little evidence that freeing academies form national pay rates has altered the pay landscape very much, except in one specific area.

Senior staff pay in schools, as much as elsewhere in society, doesn’t seem to have been subject to the same degree of pay restraint as classroom teachers have experienced over the past decade. I don’t buy the view that adding one or two schools to a Multi Academy Trust requires the Chief Executive to receive a pay rise to compensate for extra responsibilities.

Since academies are national schools, the government should look at whether chief officer pay in MATs is governed by any specific restrictions and whether there is at least a moral obligation to follow the government’s line on pay restraint while it is still in force.

Perhaps a learned body or a university research team could produce some pay guidelines for chief officers of MATs that relate their pay and conditions to those of chief officers in local authority Children’s Services? They might even be included in the Top Salaries Review Body since these staff in MATs are paid from government funds.



Pay differentials matter in the public sector as well

The previous posts read by those who visit my blog are always interesting to monitor. On the day when the government is expressing its interest about the pay of bosses in private sector companies, I am not surprised to see a number of visitors to the post from this March when I discussed CEO’s pay in education. That post was written following a letter from The Chief Inspector to the then Secretary of State. At the end of the March post, I wrote:

Personally, I thought we were in an age of austerity and I set up TeachVac to offer a low cost option for recruitment to allow more money to be spent on teaching and learning. Frankly, this Report is disappointing news and I hope that there is an urgent review of salaries in education outside of those set by the STRB for teachers and school leaders. We need some clarity of purpose in the use of public funds.

Since then, the gap between the best paid directors in the private sector, but not employees – think footballers and entertainers – has exercised the mind of the new Prime Minister, but little has been said about the public sector. Mrs May will no doubt recall the attempt to limit the pay of head teachers and other public sector workers to no more than the Prime Minister’s salary, helpfully ignoring his use of a flat in central London and a mansion in the Buckinghamshire countryside for use at weekends as well as an especially generous pension scheme, when deciding pay rates rather than overall remuneration levels.

On the day the latest TIMMS data has appeared, (more of that in a later post), there is certainly a discussion to be had about the effect of salaries on the supply of talent. One outstanding figure from TIMMS for me is that the gap between Year 5 and Year 9 pupil outcomes is wider in England than in many other countries in the Survey (Figure 15). Could this be down to the challenge of recruiting specialist maths teachers to teach at key Stage 3?

If you push up salaries for classroom teachers, should you also increase the salaries for those in leadership roles? That’s the dilemma the government faces in trying to decide whether, in a free market, the government has a social responsibility to limit anyone’s pay and to decide how companies use their resources? Of course, governments could tax high earners more, but there is then the fear of driving them away. But, such a fear doesn’t seem to be there in this discussion over pay differentials being curbed.

On the other hand, the government has to recognise that free movement of labour can mean those that feel underpaid can opt to go elsewhere: hence the concerns over retention rates in teaching for those with 3-5 years of classroom experience.

The issue of compensation is a complex area that exercised parliamentarians in the 1990s when they were trying to benchmark their own salaries. The issue may now be whether the gap between the haves and have nots in society is too wide? Having decided it is, it is interesting to see a Conservative government taking the stance they are.

1% pay rise for most teachers likely in 2016

The main teacher associations have now submitted their joint evidence to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB). This follows the publication of the DfE’s evidence to the STRB just before Christmas, although it is dated November 2015. The date is significant, since it presumably allows the DfE to ignore the evidence from the 2015 ITT census and instead rely upon the School Workforce Census taken in 2014 along with the 2014 ITT census as the most up to date information they have on the workforce in schools and in training.

I assume that the STRB could ask for supplementary evidence or commission their own secretariat to update the DfE’s data if it isn’t in the associations’ evidence. The STRB can also look further at the vacancy figures, as they have done in the past.

Nevertheless, the trends and pressures in the system are visible from the evidence that is available and have largely also been rehearsed in front of the Select Committee over the past couple of months.

One chart that struck me in the DfE’s evidence was Figure 10 on page 43. It may be no accident that the East of England and the South East were the two regions with the largest mean and median negative salary differences between classroom teacher salaries and private sector graduate professional salaries. As TeachVac has revealed, along with London, these are the two regions where teacher recruitment is at its most challenging.

If the net effect of high pay overall for graduates is to drive up the cost of services in these areas then a one per cent pay rise for teachers will have the most effect on recruitment in these areas. One solution would be to review the boundaries of the extra-national pay areas to extend them out beyond London. It is worth noting that the mean difference was negative across all regions in 2014/15 and it was only the median that was positive for teachers, and in just four regions, the North East, North West, Yorkshire & the Humber and the West Midlands. In the other five regions both the mean and median were negative for teachers’ salaried when compared with the private sector. Apparently, this is due to some graduates earning very high salaries, although this seems less likely in the Home Counties than in Inner London.

It is also not clear why the DfE had to resort to using resignation and early retirement data from the whole of the public sector in Figure 4 rather than using data from the School Workforce Census just for the teaching profession? Could it be that the resignations data looks more favourable across the whole of the public sector than just for the teaching profession? However, with so many young women in teaching – Figure 6 suggest around 30% of the classroom teacher workforce was below 30 in November 2013 (sic) and 74% of these were women – resignations as a result of starting a family are likely to be above the long-term average.

What is also clear from the DfE evidence is the concentration on the EBacc subjects, in some cases to the complete exclusion of data on other subjects. The STRB might like to ask the DfE to remedy this short-comings since they are responsible for the pay of all teachers and not just those in the EBacc subjects.

One relatively new idea from the DfE is to allow schools to extend the concept of a season ticket loan to also cover a loan to teachers for a deposit on rental properties through what is known as a salary sacrifice scheme. This might help attract new teachers into some areas providing the cost of repayments plus the monthly rent wasn’t so high as to still be off-putting at current salary levels. Indeed, the government might put pressure on landlords to reduce the level of deposits required.

The DfE on behalf of the government make much of the need for public sector pay restraint all the way through the remainder of this parliament and their view that overall pay increases should be capped at 1% until 2020.

The associations may well be worried by Figures 8 & 9 in the DfE evidence that show academies with lower median salaries than maintained schools. This is headed average salaries although the DfE haven’t used the mean as the measure of central tendency. Could it be that academies use more unqualified teachers and Teach first trainees and this is bringing down their median salary or is their retention rate worse than I maintained schools? This evidence is contained in the School Workforce Census and the STRB might like to ask more about what the evidence reveals.

Overall, there isn’t much new data since the DfE has used mostly data already in the public domain. However, I would be surprised if the STRB did more than warn about teacher supply on this evidence unless the associations have made a much stronger case. Expect the one per cent overall to be announced for 2016, even if it is nuanced in favour of some groups.