4: the smallest recorded national pupil statistic in Education?

You don’t often find numbers below 10 in DfE statistics, as there is usually too much of a risk that individual pupils could be identified. However, such small numbers can and do crop up from time to time. One such is in table 5 of this year’s statistics about schools and their pupils. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2019

The largest number in this Table is 4,716,244 – the number of pupils in state-funded primary schools counted in the January 2019 census. The smallest number is just four (4). This is the number of pupils of the Chinese ethnic group recorded as in Pupil Referral Units. In 2018, the number was five (5).

Apart from in Local Authority Alternative Provision, the percentage of minority Ethnic Pupils is greater in 2019 than it was in 2018. The increase was less in the primary sector, up from 33.1 to 33.5 than in the secondary sector, up from 30.3 to 31.3.

Interestingly, the ‘Black’ group as a whole registered no change in their share of the primary school population; steady at 5.5%, whereas the Asian Group that are mostly from the Indian sub-continent increased from 11.1% to 11.2%. Pupils of any other White background other than White British; Irish and the traveller and the Roma communities, increased from 7.1% to 7.3% making them the second largest sub-group in the primary sector.

With the downturn in admissions at the entry level of the primary school, it is interesting to ask whether birth rates are falling across all ethnic groups. Certainly, the difference in the total percentage of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds between the primary and secondary sectors that was 2.8 in 2018, is now 2.2 in 2019.

Pupils from the Black ethnic group continue to be over-represented in both special schools and pupil referral units, although not in local authority alternative provision. However, the percentage of Back pupils in PRUs fell from 7.2% of pupils in such units in 2018, to 6.8% in 2019, against a percentage of 6.0% in the secondary sector from where most, but not all, PRU pupils have come from.

In numerical terms, the number of Black pupils in PRUs declined from 1,205 in 2018 to 1,104 in 2019. However, some might now be in alternative provision settings rather than in PRUs. Of course, there is no information about the scale of the off-rolling of pupils over the past year, and thus the ethnic backgrounds of pupils that have been taken off school rolls.

I suspect that the ethnic group labelled as ‘Mixed’ may well see the largest increases over the next few years as society becomes more diverse in nature. There are now around half a million pupil classified as from the ‘Mixed’ ethnic group in schools across England.

Almost one in five pupils in primary schools does not have English as their first language, although the total doesn’t identify the skewed distribution that can be found across England, with some schools teaching pupils that speak many different languages at home. This can be a real challenge to some less well funded primary schools. There is also the question as to whether the State should fund any first language tuition for these pupils or whether that is solely the responsibility of the family?

 

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Small schools: what’s their future?

Last Thursday, the DfE issued a raft of statistical information. The data about teachers has been covered by this blog in a number of different posts. As a result, the data from the January School Census that covers schools and their pupils has had to wait its turn. Happily, there is now time to reflect upon the data.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2019

In terms of public expenditure implications, the important news is that there are more pupils to be funded, as the rise in the birth rate of a few years ago starts to work its way through the system. Overall, there were 84,700 more pupils in education in England in January 2019 than in the previous January. This is despite any trend towards home schooling or off-rolling.

The bulk of the increase, 69,500, came in the secondary sector.  Assuming more of the increase to be in Year 7, then this probably required some 3,500 more teachers. Not all will have been recruited, as some schools will have falling rolls at sixteen and in a few cases still, at fourteen due to movement of pupils to UTCs and Studio Schools.

The number of primary pupils increased by 10,800; an insignificant increase on a pupil population of 4,730,000 pupils. This levelling off in the primary school population, and its possible reduction in a few years’ time, has implications for the system that will be discussed later.

It’s worth noting the increase in the number of pupils in special schools, of some 6,500. How far this is an awareness of extra need and how far schools looking to place pupils that cost more to educate than a school normally receives cannot be identified from the data. However, by January 2019, almost all pupils should have converted from a Statement of SEN to an EHCP.

It is worth noting the fall of 900 pupils in independent schools. It isn’t easy to identify where that trend is coming from, but some of it might be as a result of local authorities reassessing the cost of placing SEN pupils in such schools, and instead now using cheaper state funded provision and thus contributing to the increase in numbers in special schools.

The most concern in policy terms arising from this data are the future shape of the primary school system. While there are 13 primary schools with over 1,000 pupils, there are almost 2,000 primary schools with 100 or fewer pupils. Together these latter schools account for approaching one in eight primary schools. Some will be infant schools, where a merger with a junior school could create a primary school, as has already happened in many instances. However, where these small schools are already primary schools, how will their future be assessed? Does the present funding arrangements permit local authorities and academy chains to retain such schools, both for the good of their communities and to prevent very young children having to take bus journeys to and from school each day? Some counties with small communities that are widely distributed will certainly face this problem, even if they aren’t already doing so. So far, I haven’t heard anything from the Leadership contenders about this matter.

Worsening PTRs herald a sign for the future?

The DfE has today published a raft of statistics about schools, their pupils and the workforce. This post will concentrate on the data about the teacher workforce, collected by the DfE in the 2018 School Workforce Census completed by schools during November 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

As ever, and as under any government, the DfE highlights what it sees as the positive: more teachers and teaching assistants and fewer leavers, but readers sometimes have to dig down to uncover the nuances behind the numbers However, the time series graphs by themselves are very revealing. For instance, although sixth form numbers aren’t rising yet, the pressure of an increased number of Year 7 pupils may well be behind the increase in Pupil Teacher Ratios in the secondary sector to 1:16.3. This is the fourth increase in a row, and takes the ratio from 1:15 in 2014, to its present level, an increase of 1.3 pupils per teacher and not far short of a 10% increase since 2011. By contrast, the primary sector has only seen PTRs increase from 20.5 in 2015, to 20.9 in 2018, the same level as it was in 2017.

The DfE has produced an interesting one page infographic of the teacher workforce that shows 74% of teachers are women – on a full-time equivalent basis – and that nearly a quarter of teachers are aged under 30. Just over 13% of teachers are BAME and almost a quarter of teachers are part-time. In the year up to 2018, entrants to teaching exceeded leavers, but not by very much, and this followed a relatively good year for recruitment into training in 2016-17.

So, excluding short-term supply teachers, there were 453,411 FTE teachers employed in November 2018, up from 451,968 in 2017. Although the number of teaching assistants also increased, the number of other support staff decreased from 232,031 to 229.949, a sign of the pressure school budgets are now under.

The upward trend in the full-time numbers of ‘teachers’ without QTS continued, possibly as more primary schools have recruited School Direct salaried entrants to the profession, no doubt in some cases converting them after a period as a classroom assistant. Although the number of part-time teachers with QTS increased over the 2017 figure, it was still the second lowest number recorded since 2010. However, the dip in the recorded number of occasional teacher recorded in the 2017 figures was revered in 2018, with an increase to 12,853 such teachers recorded by the DfE.

Technicians, mostly employed in secondary schools, were the support staff group that continue to bear the brunt of cuts, falling to their lowest number since the 2010 Census. By contrast, teaching assistants were at record high numbers in 2018.

Part-time teaching is still dominated by women, with just 8,745 qualified male teachers working part-time, compared with 111,755 qualified women teachers working part-time in 2018. The ratio among unqualified teachers is a slightly lower number.

Over the next few years, as more pupils enter the secondary sector, with its lower PTRs, and assuming post-16 numbers in schools don’t fall, then teacher numbers will probably increase in the secondary sector but fall in the primary sector. I expect that secondary PTRs will continue to worsen for 2019. Beyond that it will depend upon any funding injection schools do or do not receive in the next spending review.

 

Pressure on school places intensifies

The DfE has published the data on offers made regarding admission to primary and secondary schools for September 2019. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/secondary-and-primary-school-application-and-offers-2019

In view of the growing number of pupils in the transfer age group from primary to secondary school, now almost universally at age eleven, the percentage of pupils receiving their first choice of schools fell again this year to just 80.9%.

Secondary Schools
Entry into academic year % made 1st preference offer
2010/11 83.2
2011/12 84.6
2012/13 85.3
2013/14 86.7
2014/15 85.2
2015/16 84.2
2016/17 84.1
2017/18 83.5
2018/19 82.1
2019/20 80.9

The percentage successful at gaining a place at their first choice schools has now declined every years since 2013/14 when it reach a high of 86.7%. Of course, there are significant regional differences, as well as differences between urban and rural areas.

As the DfE points out in the report: Northumberland (98.4%) and North Somerset (96.9%) achieved the best first preference rates in 2019. Northumberland has been the top performer in this measure for the last four years.

As in previous years, the lowest first preference rates at secondary level are all in London, Lambeth (54.8%), Lewisham (56.9%) and Hammersmith & Fulham (57.3%) achieved the lowest rates in 2019.

Central Bedfordshire is now the only local authority to submit secondary data for year 9 as their largest secondary intake. They had the third best percentage of transfer to secondary school to their middle schools that are classified as secondary schools.

Interestingly, there is no comment by the DfE on the transfer of pupils at age 14 to the UTCs and Studio schools. Presumably, anyone that wants to go to these schools can secure a place.

There was a small fall in first preference rates in the primary sector this year, down from 91.0% last year to 90.6% this year, but this is still well above the 87.7% of 2014/15.

This year there were 608,200 applications for a primary school place, virtually the same as last year, but the 604,500 applications for a secondary place represented an increase of 3.6% over last year, and just over 100,000 more than the lowest year of 2013/14.

There are implications in teacher supply for this increase in the secondary school population. The increase has been factored into the Teacher Supply Model by DfE civil servants.

What hasn’t been factored into the real world situation is the shortfall against the Teacher Supply Numbers in many subjects as far as trainee teacher numbers are concerned.

As this blog has pointed out in other posts, even assuming the DfE projections on retention and returner numbers are correct, not recruiting enough trainees can have real implications for schools.

As piece of research in California has demonstrated that it is the schools serving the more deprived neighbourhoods that suffer most when it comes to recruiting teachers when there is an overall shortfall. I fear the same is likely to be true in some parts of London, especially with the bonus on offer to some teachers to go and work in Opportunity Areas.

 

 

 

School places still needed

Pupil place planning is at the core of a successful education system. The DfE has recently published a new Statistical First Release about school capacity 2017: academic year 201/2017. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-capacity-academic-year-2016-to-2017

The headline is that 825,000 places have been added to the school estate since 2010, a net increase of 577,000 primary places and 248,000 secondary places. Between 2016 and 2017, 66,000 primary places and 23,000 secondary places were added. As is generally known, the pupil population has been increasing and that increase has now started to reach  the secondary sector after a period where rolls in secondary schools had been declining: indeed, they still are a the upper end of some schools.

Whether or not new schools are needed to cope with the growth in pupil numbers depends upon the degree of spare capacity in the system: hence the DfE’s capacity surveys. However, that capacity has to be in the places where it will be needed, otherwise it is of little use. During periods of reducing pupil numbers canny local authorities always used to try to close their worst schools whether selected on performance grounds or because of the state of the buildings. They know that when pupil numbers started increasing again someone, usually central government, would have to pay for a new school. The decline in local authorities’ power and influence in education rather put a stop to this practice, but a couple of academy chains have closed schools that were uneconomic because they couldn’t attract enough pupils.

The DfE latest finding was that the number of primary schools that are at or over capacity has remained relatively stable since 2015, following a long term increase. The number of secondary schools that are at or over capacity has increased slightly since 2016, following a long term decrease. This suggests that the growth in the primary school population may be nearing its peak, at least at Key Stage 1. The DfE confirms this, by stating that local authority forecasts suggest primary pupil numbers may begin to plateau beyond 2020/21. Secondary pupil numbers are forecast to continue to rise as the increase seen in primary pupil numbers arrives in the secondary phase. Indeed, secondary school rolls will continue to increase well into the next decade. This is good news for anyone thinking of secondary school teaching as a career.

I have some concerns that the capacity in the secondary sector may not be increasing fast enough to meet the demands of the known increase in the school population. While it is still easy for a local authority to work with a developer over the creation of a new primary school for a housing estate, few estates are large enough to generate a developer provided secondary school. Asa result, the DfE will almost always have a bigger role to play in the development of new secondary schools.

At least in Oxford, the track record of the Education and Skills Funding Council in ensuring enough secondary places is mixed. All new schools must be ‘national’ schools under the free school and academy badges. County place planning identified a need for a new secondary school in Oxford City by 2019. An academy chain offered to sponsor a new school –call it a free school or an academy, it doesn’t really matter – finding a site was always going to challenge the local authority and the EFSC has now reached a position where the school seems unlikely to open in 2019. Such a situation is unacceptable to me. If the local authority had failed, parents could take the feelings out on local councillors at the next election. Civil servants in Coventry are protected from such democratic action, but I suppose might risk their jobs if local MPs felt affected. In this case, there are no Tory MPs in the City of Oxford and indeed, at present no Conservative councillors at any level of government.

If the government cannot take front-line responsibility for school place planning and the delivery of these places, then it should be fully returned to competent local authorities across England.

Crisis in primary headship?

Last December this blog asked a question about whether there was a crisis in finding leaders for primary schools in England? As a result of new data collected by TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free to use job board for teacher and school leader recruitment, we are able to make a first attempt at answering that question.

TeachVac recorded 359 vacancies for head teachers during January 2017, of these 336 were in the primary sector, with 23 advertisements seeking a head teacher for a secondary school. Of the total, some 89 schools had placed a second advert more than 21 days after the original advert and up to the 6th March 2017. That’s a second advertisement rate of 25%. It is possible that the percentage will increase further as schools try to complete their recruitment process and interview the short-listed candidates.

The recorded distribution of schools advertising across the country was:

East Midlands 22
East of England 47
London 37
North East 17
North West 56
South East 84
South West 41
West Midlands 31
Yorkshire & the Humber 24

One school advertised twice in January on the 3rd and 31st

Among the 89 schools that had placed a second advertisement by the 6th March, over half were in either London or the two regions surrounding the capital. In contrast, very few schools in the north have yet re-advertised a headship.

As has been common when I studied trends in the labour market for senior staff in schools for almost 30 years, between 1983 and 2011, church schools, feature prominently in the list of schools that have re-advertised a head teacher vacancy. There are also a disproportionate number of infant and junior schools, as I suggested might be the case in the December blog. Any factor that makes a school different for the average school increase the risk of the need for a re-advertisement.

TeachVac has a growing amount of data on the schools advertising, in many case including the salary on offer where stated and the background to the school. This allows cross-checking on Ofsted inspections; free school meal percentages and pupil outcomes.

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.