Chickens coming home to roost

Actually, the fact that there aren’t the chickens to come home to roost is the real story. Looking back at the numbers of those registered on the DfE’s ITT Census of graduate training courses to become teachers collected last autumn goes a long way to explain the present challenges in the recruitment market for September 2020 currently faced by schools. The annual recruitment season reaches its peak over the next few weeks.

Schools can recruit classroom teachers from one of four sources; newly minted teachers from one of several routes; teachers switching posts; returners from outside the school sector or returning to employment and in extremis, unqualified staff that can be trained on the job. Some routes, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route put teachers in the classroom and probably don’t provide candidates to help fill advertised vacancies to the same degree as higher education and SCITT courses. Nevertheless, the numbers on these courses were included in the ITT Census. However TeachVac excludes those not likely to be seeking a post in the recruitment market when calculating the size of the likely remaining pool of trainees.

There are also regional differences, but trying to add those in makes the picture even more complicated.

As the table below complied by TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk reveals, at the end of April 2019, subjects that failed to recruit sufficient trainees to meet the DfE’s suggested number needed that was derived from the Teacher Supply Model are facing recruitment challenges.

2018/19
Percentage of Target at census date % left end April
Business Studies 75 -134
Design & Technology 25 -89
Music 72 20
Mathematics 71 30
Computing 73 34
Religious Education 58 41
Science 93 45
English 110 48
Art & Design 73 48
Modern Languages 88 59
Geography 85 69
History 101 70
Physical Education 116 74

Business Studies only had 25% empty places, but demand has far exceeded the supply and the shortfall must come from the routes other than new entrants. So great has been the demand in both business studies and design and technology that TeachVac has logged more vacancies than trainees. Design and technology hasn’t been helped by the fact that only 25% of training places were filled last September. Within the subject it may be that schools seeking food technology teachers are  experiencing even greater problems with recruitment than the subject as a whole. Mathematics an English have been affected by the growth in the growth in the secondary school population that has pushed up demand for teachers in these subjects.

Demand in some of the government’s favoured Ebacc subjects such as languages, history and geography has been weaker than in some other subjects and, like PE, these are subjects where all training places were filled.

Finally, the situation I the sciences is complicated. There is a shortage of teachers of physics, but more biologists in training than the government thinks were needed. As a result, schools may find a teacher of science, but not with an idea set of qualifications.

 

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Teacher recruitment update

The question of school and college funding may have driven the issue of teacher recruitment from the top of the education agenda, but that does not mean that the concerns about staffing have one away. They have just been buried under more topical concerns.

Whether it a sign of the growing number of secondary pupils for September or that the funding crisis isn’t as bad everywhere as it obviously is in some schools, but advertised vacancies are ahead of this point last year in the TeachVac system www.teachvac.co.uk That’s good news for teachers and trainees looking for a job for September, but less good news for some schools trying to recruit a new staff member.

As in the past, the main secondary subjects fall into three groups. Firstly, there are the quasi-vocational subjects of business studies and design and technology where there has already been more vacancies recorded in 2019 than the market can cope with and schools anywhere in England could find recruiting a teacher challenging. Schools seeking a teacher of physics can also face recruitment issues regardless of where the school is located.

The second group of subjects are those where local recruitment challenges may now be apparent, but recruitment problems are most likely to affect schools in London and the Home Counties. These subjects include, mathematics, English, computing, religious education and music. Most of these subjects may well migrate into the first group before the May resignation deadline.

Finally, in the third group are three EBacc subjects, modern languages, geography and history as well as physical education. At present, there is no sign that there won’t be enough of teachers in these subjects to meet needs. However, as noted in the past, this doesn’t address either the issue of the quality of applicants or the possibility that some schools may find attracting candidates a challenge for a variety of reasons.

In the primary sector, vacancies seem to be appearing more slowly than last year, perhaps reflecting the slowdown in the birth rate that is affecting intake numbers quite dramatically in some areas.

It is worth noting that you still wouldn’t be able to obtain this information from the DfE’s vacancy site. As of last Friday, the DfE site had only around 25% of the live vacancies being carried by TeachVac, so teachers looking for a job might use the DfE site if it was a vacancy in the first group of subjects listed above, as applicants may well be few and far between, but for subjects in the other groups they might well be missing some possible opportunities if they stick to just the DfE site.

I don’t know how much the DfE has spent on their site so far, but, as I have comments before, a simple site linking to other free vacancy sites such as TeachVac would achieve a better outcome for far less expenditure of public money.  This takes us back to school funding and why the DfE chose to compete in a marketplace already well served in this manner?

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: http://www.gatsby.org.uk/uploads/education/increasingscienceteachers-web.pdf

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.

 

Shortage of maths teachers in 2019?

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the recruitment site where I am chair of the Board has issued an amber warning for mathematics vacancies. This means that based on the number of vacancies tracked so far in 2019, TeachVac believes that at the current rate of advertisement of vacancies in the subject schools in some parts of England will likely find recruiting qualified teachers of mathematics a challenge. Part of the problem is down to a dip in the number of trainees recruited for ITT courses starting last September that feed into the 2019 labour market.

In September 2018, only some 2,190 trainees started ITT courses and with 265 of these already on courses that place them in the classroom, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route, the free pool of trainees was only around 1,900. Allowing for those that either don’t make the grade or decide not to teach in state funded schools, the pool of available new entrants this year is likely to be around 1,800 or little more than one new entrant for every two secondary schools. Schools can also recruit existing teachers from other schools or returners from a career break or another non-state funded school, but such teachers are generally more expensive than new entrants to the profession.

In February, TeachVac issue both an Amber and a Red warning for Business Studies and an Amber warning for Design and Technology as already noted on this blog. The latter warning is likely to be upgraded to a Red warning sometime soon.

A Red warning means that schools anywhere in England might experience difficulties recruiting in that subject and by the autumn more vacancies will have been recorded that there were trainees entering the labour market to fill them. Red warning mean vacancies for January 2020 will be especially hard to fill from new entrants to the profession.

At the other end of the scale, some EBacc subjects are not creating enough vacancies to absorb the number of trainees on ITT courses this year. Both history and geography trainees may struggle to find jobs in large parts of England for September and even January 202o even when humanities vacancies are taken into account.

As every year, physical education trainees are well advised to play to any second subject strengths and may be especially welcomed if they offer to plug the gaps in maths teacher numbers. However, they need to ensure that some teaching in their main subject is also on offer.

Despite the concern over the teaching of languages, these teachers face challenges in finding a teaching post. TeachVac track the subjects within adverts for ‘a teacher of modern languages’ and can provide information if asked.

Will the announcement of 1,000 graduate posts for trainee detectives in the police forces impact on those thinking of teaching as a career? Police salaries are generally higher than teaching and the lower ranks can earn overtimes, so there is a risk some might switch.

 

DfE Vacancy site: Value for money?

Like many company chairman, I read the recent story of the Eurotunnel payment with real interest. As chair of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk I know that my company wasn’t invited to bid for the DfE’s vacancy web site last year, when the decision was taken to undertake a procurement exercise. I am not sure whether any of the other sites providing vacancies for teachers were invited to tender either?

The government can point to the general rules it has in place for procurement and tendering for starting afresh in the market, but not to explore with existing providers whether they can offer a cheaper service may raise the question about of ‘value for money’ over the cost of starting from scratch.

After all, as the DfE has found out for the third time – Think SRS, a decade ago and the failed attempts to create sites to recruit middle and senior leaders – it is not just designing a piece of software that matters with a recruitment site, but also attracting both schools and teachers to use the site. Providing either a platform for existing sites or asking one to provide a DfE backed service at a specified price would have significantly reduced these marketing costs for the DfE as existing providers would have brought an current base of teachers seeking jobs and a marketing strategy for identifying vacancies already in place.

The fact that the DfE site contained at least once simple design error when it started publishing vacancies, and still has only a fraction of the vacancies to be found on some other sites, such as TeachVac, must raise questions about how much the DFE’s efforts are costing the taxpayer.

The DfE site is still only providing information about a fraction of the available jobs where schools are hiring teachers at the present time, and it completely ignores the needs of both the private schools and other institutions that hire qualified teachers, such as elements of the further education sector where teachers may be looking for jobs. For those reasons, others will have to continue to provide a service to those employers.

I am not sure when the period of ‘beta’ testing for the DfE site comes to an end, but serious questions will need to be asked about why the DfE chose to operate the site from London, where costs are inevitably higher than in the rest of the country.

As TeachVac already provides a free service to schools and teachers, I have offered the DfE either notification of vacancies they are missing or a feed of these missing vacancies in a form that can be uploaded to the DfE site; both for a small fee. This would, at least, solve one issue for the DfE in ensuring teachers weren’t missing vacancies by using the DfE site.

After all, the DfE site will never be successful if it doesn’t offer teachers at least the majority of posts on offer. Teachers only want to register with one universal site to be told of jobs.

At present, TeachVac has the most comprehensive list of teaching jobs across both private and state funded schools in England, and teachers are recognising that fact by registering in ever greater numbers as the 2019 recruitment round gathers pace.

Business Studies: from amber to red in four weeks

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has today reported that the status of Business Studies as a subject has changed from Amber to a Red warning. Essentially, this means that there have been enough vacancies recorded so far in 2019 to mean that more than three quarters of identified trainee numbers, as shown in the DfE’s ITT census last December, could have been absorbed by the vacancies already advertised during 2019.

This is by far the earliest TeachVac ever issued a Red warning notice for any subject. However, in view of the level of recruitment to teacher preparation courses and the failure to meet he desired number of trainees for the past six recruitment rounds this outcome is, perhaps, not totally unexpected. The Amber warning was issued just four weeks ago based upon figures collected on the 18th January 2019.

Business Studies is not the only subject with an Amber warning already in place this year. Design and Technology, again predictably, also has an Amber warning and TeachVac could issue a Red warning within the next two to three weeks, if the advertising of vacancies in the subject doesn’t slow down as much as expected during the half-term period.

An Amber warning means that schools in areas where recruitment can be challenging, such as London and the surrounding areas may encounter challenges recruiting a teacher in the subject: such schools might want to put in place additional recruitment measures.

A Red warning widens this advice to schools across the whole of the country, as recruitment issues may no longer be localised to areas where recruitment is challenging.

TeachVac is closely monitoring mathematics this year, as it is possible that an Amber warning may be issued before the end of March, if vacancies continue to be posted at the same rate they have been already in 2019.

Indeed, whether it is due to pupil numbers being on the increase, more teachers leaving the profession, or better than expected funding for secondary schools, the result has been that more vacancies are being advertised earlier in the year in 2019 than in the previous couple of years.

The same pattern of a rising number of vacancies cannot be said for the primary sector so far this year, and some secondary schools may well find that there are well qualified teachers prepared for the primary sector that would usefully fit into their gaps in the timetable come the summer months.

Nothing in this blog should be news to regular readers, although the speed at which the first Red warning has been issued has taken even me by surprise. Looking back at periods of previous teacher supply problems over the past fifty years, the present state of affairs could build into a really serious problem for secondary schools unless pupil teacher ratios are worsened back to where they were at the turn of the century, some adjustments in the curriculum are made in favour of the arts subjects in the EBacc, where there are generally plenty of teachers available or schools are prepared to see classes taught by teachers with little or no preparation in the subject that they are teaching. None of these is a sign of an excellent education system.

Amber for business studies

The recruitment round for September 2019 has now been underway for nearly three weeks. Such a period of time might be regarded as too short to create any concerns about the position schools looking to recruit teachers are experiencing.

However, TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk issued an amber warning today to schools seeking teachers of business studies. TeachVac expects to announce a similar warning for teachers of design and technology before the end of January. In both subjects low recruitment into training means fewer than needed new entrants into teaching in England this September.

TeachVac would probably be issuing a similar warning for Physics but, as most schools in England advertise for a teacher of science, it is less easy to predict the absolute demand for teachers of each science subject area. However, schools should not have any difficulty recruiting a science teacher, as there are far more Biologist in training to be teachers than required by schools.

There will also be more than enough candidates for PE, history, geography and probably English vacancies in 2019 and also for January 2020 vacancies. This is despite falls in the numbers on School Direct Salaried courses.

Schools will face increasingly difficulty recruiting teachers in some subjects, with location, time of advert and the nature of the school seeking to recruit all key factors in determining success or otherwise.

January vacancies are often the most challenging to fill and the DfE should work with COBIS (Confederation of British International Schools) to identify those parts of the world where the yearend is before Christmas and some teachers may be seeking to return to England. The DfE also needs to ensure that head teachers and middle leaders know of the value of recruiting a teachers with some period of overseas service either volunteering or in an international school.

The disparity between the low number of teachers for practical and vocational subjects and excess of teachers for some classroom based subjects is stark and, unless applications pick up for training, will be replicated again in the 2020 labour market.

So, schools should find someone to employ in 2019 and January 2020, but not necessarily with the right background or subject knowledge. This raises the question of whether QTS with no strings attached is still a good idea. It certainly is for Ministers, as they can point to overall numbers when asked about a recruitment crisis and say that there are enough teachers with QTS.

But, is that good enough? My view for many years is that it isn’t. Now the DfE has a vacancy site they also won’t any longer be able to hide behind a lack of knowledge of the vacancies schools cannot fill. After all, if the DfE site displays four times as many business studies vacancies as the ITT census reveals, then Ministers cannot deny that there is an issue.  I suppose the answer will be: we are evaluating the data at this point in time.

Looking back over the blog, I can see very similar posts in recent years, but no evidence of any action being taken in these chronic shortage subjects.