Law of unintended consequences

The news that Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars is long overdue recognition for her part in this research. Her decision to use the award to donate her £2.3m winnings is a noble gesture, to be applauded and hopefully recognised in other ways by a grateful nation.

The money will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. Such a use for a scheme, to be administered by the Institute of Physics, is also an inspiring use of the cash from the award, especially if it attracts additional funds from other sources, since by itself even £2.3 million won’t go very far these days. If it generates £150,000 of annual interest at current rates it will be doing well.

So a good idea but, if the scheme is to fund undergraduates in Physics to conduct graduate research that they currently cannot afford to undertake, who will be the loser. Keen readers of this blog can anticipate what will come next. Assuming the stock of undergraduates remains the same, at least in the short-term, and the number undertaking research increases, rather than just substituting under-represented groups for existing entrants into research, then some other post-degree employment routes will find a reduction in the supply of Physics graduates. Might this affect the numbers going into teaching? Of course, if the pool of research places remains the same and we substitute under-represented groups for those currently taking the places that won’t be the outcome.

Much may come down to how the Institute of Physics designs the scheme and works with providers of research places to implement it, especially in the early days of the scheme.

There is a need for more undergraduate places in Physics, again to facilitate more entrants from under-represented groups in society, and from those where the teaching they receive isn’t at the highest level.

The DfE calculates that the state-funded school sector will need around 1300-1350 new entrants in each of the next few years, to maintain the required teaching stock of teachers of Physics. Fortunately, the age distribution of the present Physics teacher workforce seems unlikely to create a retirement boom anytime soon.

However, the last few years have seen insufficient new entrants to meet the DfE number for the expressed need. As a result, any further diversion away from teaching and into research would potentially affect some schools ability to recruit teachers of Physics, even if only for a few years, if these researchers then chose to enter teaching at a later date. If they didn’t, having been provided the opportunity to conduct research, then there would be further pressure on teacher supply. Of course, a recession either resulting for problems in emerging markets of because of Breixt might create a new cadre of potential Physics teachers. However, is that a risk worth taking? The DfE could try to import Physics teachers, but it is not clear how well such schemes have progressed in the recent past. Creating more university undergraduate places linked to teaching as a career might well be worth exploring further. The only other suggestion on the table seems to be paying Physics teachers more than those in subjects where there is no shortage. I discussed that idea in an earlier post.

 

Advertisements

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 TLRs of 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 subject. 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.

 

 

 

 

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. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2016-to-2017

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.

 

 

A sigh of relief

The UCAS data on postgraduate applications to train as a teacher as recorded for May appeared today. The combination of the arrival of offers affected by the Easter holidays plus the addition of almost an extra week of data compared with last year means the government can breathe a small sigh of relief. On the evidence of this data meltdown has been averted for 2018, except perhaps in music, religious education, design and technology and probably physics.

Overall applicant numbers have recovered to 29,890 in England, still down on last year, despite the extra days and some 10% down on May 2016 applicant numbers, but it could have been worse. The decline is still national in scope, with all regions recording lower applicant numbers than in 2016. The almost 3,000 fewer applicants than last year are also spread across the age groups, although the loss is probably greatest among early career changers in their mid to late 20s. This fact shows up in the further reduction in the number of ‘placed’ applicants compared with those with either ‘conditional firm’ places or ‘holding offers’. By domicile region of applicants, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 2,330 last year to 1,890 this May. In London, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 380 to just 300.  Of course, over the next few months the ‘placed’ number will increase as ‘conditionally placed’ applicants receive their degrees and complete any other requirements needed to move them into the ‘placed’ category.

All routes, apart from applications to secondary SCITTs, have been affected by the reduction in applications. Primary courses have lost more than 6,000 applicants compared with last year and numbers ‘placed’ only just exceed 1,000, with fewer than 10,000 applicants with ‘conditional places’ and a further 700 holding offers. In total, this is barely more than 11,000 potential trainees and marks the continued downward trend for the primary sector.

In the secondary sector, SCITTS have attracted just a couple of hundred more applications than this point last year, but that must be regarded as a success. Applications to School Direct Salaried courses have nearly halved over the past two years, although whether that is a drop in applicants or a decline in interest in this route on the part of schools isn’t clear from this data. At this rate there will be fewer than 1,000 secondary trainees with a salary come September (leaving aside those on Teach First).

Looking at some of the individual secondary subjects, music has just 200 possible applicants with offers of any type, compared with 260 in May 2017. Design and Technology is down to only ten ‘placed’ applicants compared with 30 in May 2017. Even in mathematics, numbers placed or holding offers is little more than 1,500; a new low for May in recent times.

Finishing on a good note, English is doing relatively well, with 1,640 offers, although that still isn’t enough to meet the Teacher Supply Number of just over 2,500 trainees.

Overall, perhaps the sigh of relief might only be a small one at the moment. Let’s hope for better times next month as new graduates that haven’t done anything about a job while studying start to decide how to spend their future.

 

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?

 

First thoughts on ITT recruitment for 2018

Half-way through the first month of applications by graduates to train as a teacher on courses recruiting through the UCAS system and starting in the autumn of 2018, I thought that I would have a look at what was happening? At the end of the month it will be possible to make a comparison with previous years, but as there is a new allocation regime in place, I wondered whether this year might have seen a shift in behaviour by the early applicants.

Sadly, the regional information isn’t detailed enough to identify any trends. Higher Education providers still seem to be favoured amongst many of the early applicants, although it is impossible to tell whether there is also a degree of mix and match going on by applicants between school and higher education providers in the same location.

What is clear is that it was correct to treat physical education differently to other subjects. The nearly 4,000 applications for physical education received by the count point today is little short of 80% of the total for all applications for other secondary subjects. Depending upon how the applications are spread regionally, almost all courses could now have received enough applications, should applicants have used their maximum of three choices.

English is the second most popular secondary subject, followed by history, although taken together they only account for the equivalent of half the physical education applications. Mathematics is in third place, with the sciences in fourth place if you amalgamate the numbers across the three sciences: physics, sadly, contributes very little to the total and has the fourth lowest number of applications in the list. Only, business studies, classics and design and technology have lower totals.

Overall, there is very little to surprise in the rank order, although I might have expected a higher figure for primary even this early in the cycle, so that number will need watching over the next couple of months to see how it compares with previous recruitment rounds.

Although it is early days, indeed very early days, in the recruitment round, there is clearly not a large number of applicants that were awaiting the opening of the recruitment cycle, except in physical education. That does not bode well for the recruitment round as a whole, unless the pattern changes to that seen in previous years. Although late applications, especially in mathematics and physics have been a feature of recent years, such behaviour cannot be relied upon. However, as the Brexit date draws nearer that may influence the view of teaching as a safe haven, especially should the wider economy and the graduate job market start to turn sour. If, however, it booms, as some would have us believe, that might be less good news for teaching: certainly we might expect fewer applications for EU nationals, unless that is there is a last minute rush to beat any deadline.

So far, just under 200 applicants have been accepted with conditional firm offers. The largest number is in primary, with just under half as many conditional firm offers in physical education and a handful in history, English and languages. But, it is early days.

 

 

Psst …Want a physics teacher?

It is only somewhat ironic that the government chose the day the House of Commons was discussing Brexit legislation to invite schools to recruit from their newly minted stock of overseas teachers.

  1. Trained teachers ready to teach in England – international recruitment

NCTL has access to a pool of fully qualified mathematics, physics and Spanish teachers recruited internationally; further subject specialisms are in the pipeline. Every teacher has been recruited using a thorough sifting and interview process and meets the high standards required to teach in England. Schools will also have the opportunity to interview candidates.

All teachers will receive an extensive acclimatisation package, inclusive of continuing professional development that will both support their transition into life in England and increase their knowledge of the national curriculum.

The recruitment and acclimatisation service is free to schools; we recommend that schools assign a teacher buddy or mentor to support faster integration.

If your school has a vacancy for a mathematics, physics or Spanish teacher and you’d like to access this opportunity to recruit, please contact us at international.teacherrecruitment@education.gov.uk with a name, school name, telephone number and vacancy details.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-16-february-2017

If the NCTL contact TeachVac, they can identify the schools currently recruiting, so that the government can offer these teachers directly and save schools the cost of recruiting. However, it seem a little late in the year for this exercise to be really effective. Hopefully, if allowed to continue as part of permitted migration post 2019, the timing will fit better to the annual recruitment round in future years. If it doesn’t, then there is the risk of a lot of disillusion teachers from parts of Continental Europe that signed on only to be told there was no job despite the shortages everyone knows about.

I am not sure how certain the government is about a shortage of teachers of Spanish say, compared with German or Mandarin? TeachVac is looking in depth at what schools are seeking in both languages and design and technology to better understand the market as Teachvac already does for Science and some other subjects.

For those that want to see the new 2017/18 TV advertising campaign to attract people into teaching as a career, it is apparently airing during the Educating Manchester TV series. I assume that the thinking is that those that watch aren’t ghouls, but potential teachers that can be persuaded to take the first step on the recruitment ladder. Not, of course, that they can apply until November when UCAS opens the application process for next year. If the government keeps to its timetable at least the allocations for autumn 2018 ITT places will have been published by then at the end of October, along with the latest version of the Teacher Supply Model.

Perhaps the new Select Committee might like to review the progress to a fully staffed education service as part of its work once the full membership is finally announced.