Fewer teachers, classroom assistants and technicians

Today is the day that the DfE publishes two important datasets: the results of the 2017 School Workforce Census and the data providing the identification of schools and their characteristics. You can find the details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics?departments%5B%5D=department-for-education

There are a large number of tables to assimilate, but the DfE helpfully publishes what used to be known as a Statistical Bulletin on the School Workforce data at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719772/SWFC_MainText.pdf Now it only has a title.

The headline figure is the reduction in staffing levels almost across the board, whether teachers, technicians or classroom assistants. This is the manifestation of the funding issues facing schools that have been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere. As the DfE note states’ ‘The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%’, between November 2016 and November 2017. The note is not totally accurate, because the figure includes centrally employed teachers, but since there are now less than 4,000 of these the latitude in the wording can be overlooked.

There was also a fall in the number of entrants to teaching, meaning that entrants and leavers were both recorded as at 9.9% of the qualified teaching force. This is the first year for some considerable time and probably since the School Workforce Census has been collected at its present November data that entrants into the profession have not exceeded departures as a percentage of the qualified teacher workforce.

As noted in the previous post on this blog, older applicants were taking more training places as younger graduates seem less interested in becoming teachers. The same trend is visible in the workforce data. Table 7b shows a large increase in departures among teachers in the 25-44 age brackets and especially among the key 25-34 age group where just over 14,000 were recorded as leaving compared with just 10,400 of this age group in 2011. Are we losing the leaders of tomorrow and where are they going? Are international schools tempting them overseas with better pay and easier working conditions?

Although much is made of working conditions and workload, teacher absence rates still continue to fall as Table 16 reveals. There was a one per cent rise in the percentage of teachers taking sickness absence, but the total days lost was the lowest for many a year.

After some years when the match between teachers’ qualifications ad subject expertise had been improving, there was something of a setback between 2017 and 2018 in some subjects. This may be due to the increasing challenge in recruitment into training and can be expected to show further declines in key subjects when the next set of data are published next June. In 2017 among EBacc subjects, only German and ‘other’ Modern Languages saw an improvement in the percentage of hours taught by a teacher with a relevant post A level qualification. Spanish and Chemistry recorded no change.

Now that secondary pupil numbers are on the increase and primary numbers are falling among the entry age groups, it is likely that we will see more rebalancing of the teacher workforce over the next few years. Unless funding improves, it also seems likely that more support staff will also lose their jobs as schools strive to protect teaching posts.


Big week for the outcome of 2018 teacher labour market

The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession holds its autumn meeting and AGM at Westminster tomorrow afternoon. Among topics on the agenda are an update from Dame Alison Peacock, head of the College of Teachers; a discussion of the state of recruitment and retention of teachers and an update about the progress made by the DfE on the idea for a National Vacancy Service, as reported in a previous post on this blog.

This week the DfE should publish the overall ITT numbers for 2018 entry into teacher preparation programmes, as identified by the Teacher Supply model and UCAS opens the 2018 application round for graduate courses – except Teach First – on Thursday 26th.

As the National College has bowed to the inevitable and is allowing unrestricted applications in all graduate recruitment areas except for primary and physical education, the closeness of the two dates shouldn’t matter. However, some primary providers will need to watch that they don’t exceed their allocation, especially if overwhelmed by an early rush of applicants.

Re-reading the NCTL 14th September document on the methodology behind the allocation of ITT places, two things struck me. Firstly, unrestricted allocations are a tacit admission that it will be challenging at best to meet the Teacher Supply Model suggested numbers and secondly, the battle between awarding quality and matching regional need has been resolved by the government abandoning either position in favour of a ‘free for all’. Whether this will help areas like Suffolk, and the East of England generally, train more teachers is a moot point. The National Audit Office Report of 2016 identified the East of England former government region as having the lowest number of training places per 100,000 pupils. In some subjects there have been no training places in the south of the region. will that change now?

This new approach might seem like a complete turnaround from the brave new world of the Gove era when the then head of the NCTL, Mr Taylor, said at one of the last North of England Education conferences in January 2013 that:

In the future I would like to see local areas deciding on the numbers of teachers they will need each year rather than a fairly arbitrary figure passed down from the Department for Education. I have asked my officials at the TA to work with schools, academy chains and local authorities to help them to devise their own local teacher supply model. I don’t think Whitehall should be deciding that nationally we need 843 geography teachers, when a more accurate figure can be worked out locally.

(DfE, 2103)

Now, it seems that would-be teachers will decide by selecting where they would like to train and providers can accept them. In reality, the number of schools willing to take trainees on placements, especially if School Direct continues to decline, will be one limiting factor. The other will be the willingness of providers to risk allocating staffing to create extra places above what they have planned. Nevertheless, to make both history and biology unrestricted across all routes is, at least in the case of history, to risk candidates paying out lots of money to train as a teacher without the opportunity of a teaching post, especially if schools’ interest in EBacc is reaching its peak.

I am also unsure about the PE plus programme, although it may be bowing to the inevitable. Where a provider will find time to add subject knowledge in a second subject in the present arrangements of a 39 week course is an interesting question. But, presumably, something is better than the nothing they presently receive before being asked to teach another subject. What is needed is controls over what QTS means and tighter restrictions on unqualified teachers.



PE trainees find jobs: but what are they teaching?

Last week the DfE published the ITT provider profiles for 2015/16.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016  The data provides the final look at the cohort that were seeking work for September 2016 and January this year. One of the most interesting tables is the completion rate by subject.

  Percentage awarded QTS Percentage in a teaching post
All Primary and Secondary 91% 95%
Primary 91% 96%
Secondary 92% 94%
of which:    
Computing 84% 92%
Physics 85% 91%
Chemistry 87% 93%
Total Science 88% 93%
Mathematics 89% 92%
Biology 90% 95%
Religious Education 91% 96%
Design & Technology 92% 95%
Geography 92% 97%
Modern & Ancient Languages 93% 92%
English 93% 97%
Other 93% 92%
History 94% 95%
Music 95% 93%
Art & Design 95% 93%
Physical Education 96% 94%
Drama 96% 96%
Business Studies x 91%
Classics x 97%

There seems to be something of a link between subjects where recruitment was challenging and the percentage of entrants awarded QTS at the normal point of completion of the programme. For instance, only 85% of physics trainees were awarded QTS compared with 96% of Physical Education trainees. Now, physics is a subject with perennial recruitment problems, whereas Physical Education faces the opposite situation with many more applicants than places. Indeed, this was the first year where recruitment controls were in place, so that makes the data even more interesting.

The percentages of those in a teaching post must be treated with a degree of caution since a footnote records that: “When calculating the proportion “in a teaching post”, we exclude those with an unknown employment status from those awarded QTS.” SFR page 10. There is also the issue of what “in a teaching post” actually means? It does not mean only fully employed teaching the subject against which you are shown as having trained. Neither does it mean teaching in a maintained school nor even in a school. Once the DfE can link the identification number for a trainee with the School Workforce Census it should be possible to be much more specific in the presentation of the data. In the meantime, it appears as if 94% of Physical Education trainees are in a teaching post compared with only 91% of Business Studies trainees. This is the opposite of the situation shown in the TeachVac data www.teachvac.co.uk based upon an analysis of vacancies advertised by schools. So, either many of the Physical Education trainees aren’t teaching PE in state funded schools or there is a mis-match between vacancies and trainee numbers that needs exploring further if public money isn’t to be wasted on training teachers for non-state funded schools.

The other interesting subject is English. Here trainee numbers were much high than the previous year, but 97% are shown as in a teaching post. This suggests that the complaints of the previous year that the ITT allocations had been too low were fully justified. Looking ahead, the profiles for next year are likely to show similar percentages in employment, but lower numbers having obtained QTS in a range of different subjects.

The DfE are proposing to make changes to the profiles and the Statistical Bulleting invites comments about the new proposals. The proposals seem eminently sensible to me, but still don’t answer the question about where and what trainees are teaching. There also is nothing about Ofsted and their findings of the link between training and employment mooted some years ago as of great importance in measuring quality.


Unqualified ‘teachers’

Let me start by stating my position on this important issue raised today by the opposition. In my view, the term teacher should be a reserved occupation term only allowed to be used by those appropriately qualified. Those on an approved training programme aimed at achieving licensed status could be designated as trainee teachers. Everyone else should use terms such as instructor; tutor; lecturer or any other similar term, but not be able to call themselves a teacher.

The data on unqualified teachers that has fuelled today’s discussions comes from the school level information collected through the School Workforce Census (SWC) by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 There are two sets of tables in the regional dataset of the SWC for 2016 that are of interest; the percentage of teachers with Qualified Teacher Status and the percentage of unqualified teachers on a route to QTS: presumably either Teach First or School Direct Salaried route, plus a small number of overseas trained teachers or those on other accreditation only routes to QTS.

REGION Teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (%) Unqualified Teachers on a QTS Route as a Proportion of the Total Number of Unqualified Teachers (%)
North East 97.6 15.3
North West 97.4 10.3
South West 96.9 10.3
Yorkshire and the Humber 96.0 9.3
West Midlands 96.0 10.1
East Midlands 95.0 4.4
South East 94.8 14.1
East of England 93.9 9.9
Outer London 92.5 19.0
Inner London 92.4 18.1
ENGLAND 95.3 12.6

The SWC data show as strong correlation between the percentages of unqualified teachers employed by a schools in a region and the difficulty of recruiting teachers in that region. There is a 5.2% difference between schools in Inner London and schools in the North East in terms of the percentage of unqualified teachers employed. If one buys the argument that such staff are employed because of their special skills, then presumably their distribution would be similar across the country rather than showing this marked difference between regions. In London around 6-7% of teachers, and presumably more in terms of classroom teachers, don’t have QTS.

Part of the difference can be explained by the percentage of trainee teachers employed in schools. The range is between 4.4% of unqualified teachers on a QTS route in the East Midlands and 19% in the Outer London boroughs. This goes some way to explain why, in the SWC, 66 secondary schools in London revealed a measurable percentage of unqualified teachers on routes to QTS compared with just 98 in the rest of England. However, these figures obviously underestimate the number of schools involved in QTS preparation. This is due to the suppression of the data in many schools where such trainees were present, but not in sufficient numbers to be reported publically. There are also a number of secondary schools where the data was not reported.

Clearly, with recruitment being an issue, it is always going to be a challenge to recruit enough qualified teachers to staff schools, especially where the school population is growing fast. I am sure that parents expect pupils to be taught by those who understand the job at hand and have been prepared for it by achieving QTS.

There is, of course, a much larger issue that isn’t being addressed by the discussion about qualified teachers and that relates to the degree of subject knowledge required to teach any particular subject. This blog has raised that issue as matter for concern on several occasions. In some subjects, such as mathematics, steps are now being taken by the DfE to ensure post-entry subject knowledge enhancement for those teaching the subject. This may offer a better way forward than just trying to achieve sufficient subject knowledge from all entrants. However, ensuring all entrants are properly trained in the skills associated with teaching and learning should not be negotiable whatever their role in the process might be.



Subject expertise

The DfE recently published an interesting document about specialist and non-specialist teaching in schools. The original can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/analysis-of-specialist-and-non-specialist-teaching-in-england

The DfE accepts that data collection methods currently mean it cannot link data about pupil outcomes directly to individual teacher’, as is possible in some jurisdictions, including, I believe, some US School Board districts. As the DfE note:

As a consequence of this data limitation, it is not possible to directly evaluate the impact ‘specialist’ teachers have on pupil outcomes by comparing them to ‘non-specialist’ teachers. This report employs a variety of analytical strategies to estimate the impact indirectly using school level data. New analysis of the impact of ‘non-specialist’ teaching presented in this report is therefore based on the proportion of ‘specialist’ teaching calculated at school level.

Now, there is a further difficulty about what determines a specialist teacher and especially the place of un-reported post-entry professional development. This is a direct consequence of the fact that QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) is not linked throughout a teacher’s career to a subject or even a phase of education. Thus a teacher qualified on a PGCE in physical education and with a sport science degree could take a second degree in say, physics, but this would not necessarily be recorded and they wouldn’t receive access to funding for a new teacher preparation course unless there was a specific government re-training initiative.

Some years ago, I looked into who was teaching mathematics at Key Stage 5. Some successful schools didn’t seem to employ teachers with mathematics degrees, but rather those with degrees in other subjects. This didn’t seem to affect examination results. So, an interest and liking for the subject may be an important ingredient in successful teaching, but in some circumstances it may not be enough as standards are raised. I guess I would struggle to teach English even at Key Stage2 now, because my knowledge of the technical underpinning of our complex language is limited, as this blog regularly displays to its readers. However, even with a degree in economics and geography I happily taught geography, including physical geography, for a number of years in a comprehensive school, although even now I am not sure I could still do so as the subject has move don so much since then.

Anyway, back to this interesting DfE report. Using their definitions ,the authors of the DfE report state that:

The available data show that for a suite of subjects the extent of ‘specialist’ teaching in secondary schools in England is comparable or higher than the international averages. The vast majority of hours taught in England to pupils in years 7-13 in most subjects are taught by teachers with a relevant post A-level qualification. In November 2015, the respective proportions were 88.9% for all subjects, 90.2% for EBacc subjects, 89.2% for Mathematics, 91.5% for English, 91.5% for History, 89.0% for Geography, 79.0% for Modern Foreign Languages, 80.2% for Physics, 88.8% for Chemistry and 95.1% for Biology.

This, of course, raises the question, why then don’t we do better at international tests such as PISA? Is it because we do different things. Or, is it that the 10% of teaching not taught be specialists has a disproportionate effect on outcomes?

Table 2 on page 23 of the report provides a useful timeline of changes in percentages of specialist teaching in a typical week. It confirms that in the aftermath of the recession most subjects reached their peak of percentages taught by a specialist. Since 2013/14, possibly due to the start of increased pupil numbers and the falling interest in teaching as a profession, percentages have started to decline in key subjects, most notably in Physics, where, form a peak of 83.3% in 2010/11 there had been a decline to 80.2% in 2015/16.

Table 4 is worth reproducing here in part, as it shows the proportion of hours taught in a typical week in November 2015 to pupils in years 7 to 13 by the highest relevant post A-level qualification of teacher using a matched database of teacher qualifications and the TSM subject mapping.

Subject Degree  BEd PGCE Other None Total
Mathematics 60.6 3.9 20.1 4.7 10.8 100
English 78.2 2.0 7.7 3.7 8.5 100
Any Science 87.3 1.9 5.1 1.1 4.6 100
Physics 66.9 1.8 10.4 1.2 19.8 100
Chemistry 79.2 1.2 7.8 0.6 11.2 100
Biology 86.9 1.3 5.8 1.2 4.9 100
Comb/General Science 90.8 2.1 4.0 1.2 1.9 100

The low percentage for Physics is especially noticeable. Presumably, it is even higher at Key Stage 3. The significant percentage of teachers of mathematics with a degree in a different subject is also worthy of note.

This post cannot do justice to the wealth of information in the report and I would urge those interested in the topic to read the full report as it repays the time taken, but not on Christmas Day.

Warning lights flashing amber

The publication today of the 2014 School Workforce Census data by the government https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2014 allows a review of the key indicators about the staffing of schools across England To this new data can be added the re-publication of the ITT data for courses in 2014-15, first published last November. The latter showed that only 93% of primary and 91% of secondary courses were filled when measured against the demand identified using the Teacher Supply Model. These numbers don’t appear to have changed since last November when they were first released.

According to the School Workforce Census, the number of vacancies reported by schools in November was 1,030. This is 280 more than in the previous year, although as one might expect from a census taken in November, the absolute figure as a percentage of the workforce has only increased from 0.2 to 0.3. Still, it is at its highest since the census moved to November in 2010 when it stood at just 380 vacancies.

The other key indicator of possible recruitment challenges comes from the percentage of lessons taken by those without a relevant post-A Level qualification in the subject. These percentages have increased for pupils in Years 7-13 in maths by 2.8%, so that only 79.8% of pupils this year were being taught the subject by a teacher with a relevant qualification. In English, the increase was 1.8% to 83% and in the sciences it was 1.2%, so that only 86.4% of pupils were being taught by a qualified science teacher of any description in November 2014.

The other indicator is the use of unqualified and temporary teachers. The number of unqualified teachers increased between 2013 and 2014 from 16,600 to 20,300 and is now the highest number recorded since the census moved to November. However, some of the increase may be due to the manner of recording those on Teach First and School Direct in schools. The number of temporary teachers increased from 13,500 to 14,100 and is above the 2010 figure of 12,200. Since sickness absence taken by teachers showed a slight decline, the increase in the number of temporary teachers is another possible indicator of staffing issues.

As this blog has regularly reported, the acceptances for entry into training in 2015 will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Teacher Supply Model, so we now know that recruitment for some schools, especially in and around London, but not exclusively in this area, will again be a challenge in 2016.

I published a blog earlier in the week with suggestions for how to tackle the training shortfall and it is clear that regardless of the Bill currently going through parliament, all schools, whether or not they are academies, will find progress challenging if they cannot recruit appropriately trained staff.

Had the census still been taken in January, as it used to be, then the 2016 data might make more worrying reading. But, the time for action is now, not when the growing size of the problem overwhelms the government and its Regional Commissioners.

This idea won’t solve the current problem in teacher supply

Mr Taylor, the head of the National College for Teaching and Leadership is given to New Year suggestions that can sometimes seem extreme. A few years ago he advocated the abolition of the Teacher Supply Model process and its replacement with local decisions about recruitment into the profession. This year he appears to be suggesting some form of talent spotting of youngsters as a means of overcoming a teacher shortage that he still isn’t apparently prepared to admit has occurred on his watch. This is despite plenty of warning from those that understand the labour market for teachers.

Although a scheme, whether called cadetships, apprenticeships or even a taster scheme, won’t help alleviate the current teacher shortage, and it is naive to suggest anything to the contrary, the idea has been tried before. I recall going to visit such a scheme in North Carolina nearly 20 years ago whereby schools offered cadetship to those possibly interested in a career as a teacher. The problem was that although many potential primary school teachers identified teaching as a possible career when at high school, possible secondary subject teachers were often still more interested in their subject than in how they would use their knowledge after university. Offering tasters at university to this group is probably better than trying something at school where subject enjoyment is often seen as correlated with teacher enthusiasm and likeability. Nevertheless, helping pupils identify the positives of teaching can be useful in counteracting their over-exposure to schooling compared with their understanding of other potential careers.

As teaching is an occupation, schemes to attract youngsters mustn’t either fall foul of employment law or look like cheap alternative to fill gaps where there are insufficient numbers of trained teachers. In the 1960s, scholarship pupils where I went to school often spent two terms as class teachers in local secondary modern schools helping to fill vacancies before going on to university. I am sure that isn’t what Mr Taylor had in mind, but his Daily Telegraph interview does seem to veer towards re-introducing pupil teachers or monitors in classrooms when he refers to such children as classroom assistants. Perhaps he has modelled his idea on the football talent spotting schemes that try to identify future stars while they are still at primary school.

In the past, many young people received their first taste of teaching as Sunday School Teachers or similar roles in other faith communities and many still help younger siblings at home. Uniform organisations were also a route to learning about working with people and helping others to develop new skills. How primary pupils would act as teaching assistants without affecting their own education isn’t covered by Mr Taylor in his interview. Perhaps he just has visions of them as monitors handing out resources, although some might have opportunities to lead baffled teachers through the intricacies of computer coding that is now part of the curriculum.

Putting in place schemes to attract sufficient teachers in ten years time is a long-term project. What Mr Taylor doesn’t seem to accept, perhaps because he would need to admit his own part in bringing it about, is that we have a teacher supply crisis now. I suggested in my post yesterday that fees be abated for trainee teachers and that they all be paid a bursary. That would produce results now, which is when we need more trainee teachers.