Update on head teacher recruitment

Way back at the beginning of May this year, I reported on trends in primary leadership recruitment. The data came from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use recruitment site that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use, and where I am chair of the company.

With a miserably wet day yesterday, I thought I would take a second look at the data for 2018 in the area of primary head teacher recruitment. So far, it I seems to be turning out to be a pretty average year. TeachVac has records of more than 1,200 advertisements for a head teacher, placed by primary schools. Of these, around 22% are re-advertisements placed more than a month after the original advert appeared. In May, I reported some 175 schools had been forced to re-advertise a headship; by last week that number had risen to close to 225.

The number of schools placing multiple re-advertisements, each at least four week apart, had also increased; from 25 recorded in May, to a current number of around 40 schools. This includes one school with an original advert plus four re-advertisements. I do hope each one didn’t come with a separate bill for advertising.

As in the past, schools associated with the various faiths seem to be more likely to have to re-advertise than non-faith schools.  Of course, it might not be the faith aspect that is causing the re-advertisement, although I think that may be part of the issue. Size, geography and type of schools, whether or not it is an academy, for instance, can all play a part.

In the past Roman Catholic run schools in the North West rarely featured in the list of schools challenged when seeking a new head teacher. This year they account for more than 40% of such schools that have re-advertised.

TeachVac could also investigate the effects of other variables such as size of school; ofsted grades and timing of any inspection report along with output measures such as Key Stage results and progress of pupils over time. However, we don’t have the research funds for such analysis at this point in time. Nearly a decade ago, the then National College sponsored an investigation into ‘hard to fill headships’. I am not sure it was ever published, and assume that it is now buried somewhere deep in the archives of Sanctuary Buildings, if it hasn’t already been consigned to the National Archives at Kew.

Overall, the message to chairs of governors, and governing bodies as a whole, remains the same as it always has been. If your head teacher announces that they are leaving, either to retire or to take on a new challenge, the two most likely reasons for a change of headship, then ask three questions; is their someone in the school we could appoint either directly or after some professional development; are there likely to be candidates from within travelling distance of the school; if neither of these can be answered in the affirmative, how are we going to ensure a smooth succession that doesn’t affect the pupils and staff at the school?

There is plenty of good advice out there along with lots of high quality candidates. Hopefully, schools will experience a great term recruiting heads to their vacancies: good luck.

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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.

 

 

Enough primary leaders?

The DfE has now published the answers to their spring 2016 survey of teachers and school leaders. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-voice-omnibus-may-to-july-2016-survey-dfe-questions among the interesting questions asked was one about aspirations to leadership. Since the abolition of a mandatory qualification for headship, this sort of survey is the only real way of knowing whether there will be sufficient candidates for senior posts that fall vacant in future years.

Personally, I doubt there will ever be a serious problem in the secondary sector since the ratio of deputies to head teachers should allow for sufficient aspiring senior leaders, especially as headship is no longer the end point of a career for many in the secondary sector.

If there is going to be an issue with leadership numbers it will be in the primary and special school sectors. Sadly, we don’t have information about the special school sector. That is an oversight needing correction in future surveys, as it is too often overlooked and the issue of leadership is critical for the schools education our young people with special needs.

As far as the primary sector is concerned, the DfE’s 2015 School Workforce Census identified 23,800 deputy and assistant heads in post in the primary sector in England in November 2015. We can assume most were still there when the 2016 survey was conducted by NfER for the DfE. Thus, the 26% of senior leaders not already a head teacher likely to look for a headship within the next three years equates to just under 6,000 teachers. What the survey didn’t ask, was how many were likely to be looking in the next year?

Assuming equal numbers over each of the three years would mean some 2,000 aspiring head teachers across England each year. Now, the next question is, how many vacancies are there likely to be? TeachVac is now collecting that data, so in time we will have up to date information. However, looking back over past trends, head teacher vacancies fluctuated around 1,800 to 2,000 during the first decade of this century. Now, if we assume the lower number, since amalgamations have reduced the number of schools over time, we could still need to conclude that virtually all the 2,000 aspirant deputies and assistant heads would all have to be suitable to be appointed as a head teacher for supply to be sufficient. However, some vacancies will be filled by existing head teachers changing schools; perhaps 20-25% of vacancies are filled in this way. This would reduce demand for non-head teachers to be appointed as ahead teacher to around 1,500 per year.

We also must assume that the applicants are either in the right places for the jobs or prepared to be mobile to move to where the vacancies arise. As the primary sector contains a significant number of faith schools, especially Church of England and Roman Catholic schools, we must also assume that there are sufficient numbers within the total to meet the needs of these schools for specific types of applicants, including adherents to the particular faith.

Without answers to these questions, it is difficult to know whether the 1,500 will be sufficient, but it won’t be if the role of being a head teacher looks unattractive for whatever reason. No doubt the NCTL understand this issue and are planning for the consequences of what the survey tells us about the future supply of school leaders.

 

Economic matters

An American President once said ‘the economy, stupid.’ Often that seems to be the case. Indeed, the austerity facing public services in Britain at present can partly be put down to the management of the economy in the first decade of this century. If governments cannot or will not raise revenue from either wealth or income and discount land taxes, then, unless the economy is growing strongly, they will be unable to expand public services, should they even wish to do so. There is also the argument that the State should not provide services for the many, but just a basic lifeline for the few, but we won’t go there in this post.

All this matters to education, as we have seen with the relatively parsimonious new funding formula announced by the government in the run up to Christmas. With adult social care, the NHS and other services probably ahead of education in the minds of many voters, it was always going to be a challenge to secure more funds for schools: especially, when rising pupil numbers mean more is needed in any case just to stand still. Finding even more cash for enhanced services did seem a bit like ‘pie in the sky’ at the present time.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how parents react to news that their children’s school might be having its budget cut, even by no more than a couple of per cent.  With no elections in London in 2017, save for by-elections, the government can probably weather the storm of protest in the capital.

Of more interest is the situation in the countryside where many small rural schools look like being losers. Indeed, a quick survey of primary schools in the Henley constituency, Boris’s old stamping ground, revealed that 35 primary schools might be losers under the new formula, while just ten would gain funds. Now, I am sure that the good burghers of the Chilterns and adjacent clay lowlands can afford to support their local primary school through some backhanded giving. But, I am not sure that was what they expected as the outcome from the new formula.

The alternative is to see a redrawing of the map of primary education in rural areas, with fewer larger and more efficient units based around market towns. To achieve this outcome, more pupils would be required to travel longer distances to school. The cost of this happily falls, not on the government, but on local council tax payers. Conservative County Councillors defending their seats in May 2017 will no doubt hope that school funding and the survival of village primary schools doesn’t become an election issue, along with grammar schools. For a revolt by parents in the Shires would be bad news for a government with a small majority at Westminster.

Watch for signs that the consultation on the funding formula isn’t going to plan and that the timescale for introduction is amended. If not, following on from cuts to rural buses, mobile library service, road mending, grass cutting and a host of other services, might 2017 be another year where the political map is redrawn?

What does a ‘Qualified Teacher’ mean to Mr Clegg?

What does being a ‘qualified teacher’ mean in Nick Clegg’s mind and how far will his guarantee go? Will he go further than the need for just a teaching qualification and guarantee parents that he will work towards a profession where teachers are not only qualified in teaching, but also qualified in what they are teaching?

To be a successful teacher requires a range of different qualities but, at least in the secondary sector, there ought to be a minimum level of subject knowledge equivalent to two years of an honours degree. Anyone without this basic level of knowledge should be offered Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses to allow them to acquire sufficient knowledge before they complete their teacher preparation experience. Even those with the requite degree may still lack expertise in areas of the school curriculum in their subject, and ways should be found to allow them to continue to acquire such additional knowledge. Any programme leading to Qualified Teacher Status should be restricted to preparation for specific subjects and phases rather than continue to be generic as at present, where a teacher with QTS can teach anything to anyone at any level of schooling. The fact that more than 20% of those teaching some Mathematics in our schools do not have a qualification above ‘A’ level in the subject may explain why many children neither enjoy the subject nor do well in it.

Qualified Teacher Status should be restricted in the subjects and phases where teachers are allowed to practice.

 However, it is in preparing teachers for the primary sector that I believe that most attention needs to be paid. The present post-graduate course attempts to cram the equivalent of a quart into a pint pot. Many curriculum areas receive scant attention, and there is no guarantee that the time in school will effectively dovetail in developing the time spent on the programmes outside the classroom. It is time for a thorough overhaul of how primary teachers are prepared. In the first instance, the undergraduate training route should be replaced by a wider first degree programme that would prepare graduates to work in a range of services including youth and social work as well as teaching. The specific training to be a teacher would be entirely postgraduate. Such a new degree would prevent undue early specialisation among those entering university straight from school.  It would also avoid the bizarre situation created by the Coalition whereby graduates wanting to become a teacher are subject to a minimum degree standard, except in Mathematics and Physics, but no such standard is imposed on undergraduates. As with the secondary sector, where there are already virtually no undergraduate teacher preparation courses, graduates of the new courses would not be licensed to teach at any level in the primary school, but would be certificated to teach at a particular Key Stage.

Overall, graduate training would be on a two year model leading to a Masters degree with the possibility of appropriate credit against the subject components of secondary subject training for those with appropriate honours degrees.

Teacher Training, and especially training for primary teachers, needs a radical overhaul. All teachers should be expected to study to a Masters level.

For too long the nation has under-invested in its teacher preparation programmes because politicians have never really been convinced of the need for such courses. If this is the first step on the road to a fundamental reappraisal of what we want form qualified teachers, then it is a welcome move. But, if Mr Clegg is just embarking on a bit of marketing then it will be an opportunity lost.