More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

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Muddled governance doesn’t help teacher development and retention

The publication of the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) study on teachers   https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/teacher-recruitment-progression-and-retention-in-multi-academy-trusts/ – based mostly around those in MATs – has coincided with the OECD’s TALIS report. I am not sure whether that is coincidence or a deliberate decision by David Laws and his team? Either way, there is some interesting information and some disturbing issues in the EPI document.

EPI divide the world into two, local authorities and MATs. The MAT group is then further sub-divided and, I assume, includes stand-alone academies? Both groups are considered by primary and secondary phase.

Given that academies were created to bring the free market into education, the notion of a governance system that requires such schools and groups to collaborate for the good of all is an interesting development.

At present, there are three parallel governance system with little overlap, maintained schools; stand-alone academies and MATs. This can produce either diverse policies in a local area or no policy at all. Indeed, it is significant that EPI avoided discussing the special school sector; as do so many commentators and think tanks. Planning for that system is shambolic at present and our most vulnerable learners are losing out, as the BBC revealed earlier today. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48663873 Local Authorities need to either be allowed to plan places properly for this sector or the DfE should take over the responsibility. The lack of geographical proximity may be one of the reasons for this MAT highlighted by the BBC is having problems in the SEN sector https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-48691736

As the period that EPI reviewed was one when many schools transferred to academy status, the findings on turnover and promotion might not be the same once the system has settled down. However, the ages of appointment to senior leadership don’t look very different to the longitudinal study of leadership appointments I conducted for the NAHT during the first decade of this century. These figures are still bad news for late entrants to teaching seeking a career beyond middle leadership.

On the issue of central recruitment by MATs, TeachVac has seen evidence of a return to individual school recruitment sites; presumably candidates don’t identify with MATs as a source of vacancies and, apart from TeachVac, many recruitment sites might not pick up these vacancies if candidates aren’t looking for them.

EPI ducks the central question of geography in its recommendations, focusing instead on what MATs might do, perfectly sensible as suggestions go, but not addressing the key issue. If there is a shortage of cash for education, why are we wasting it creating lots of min-school system without democratic accountability: has nothing be learnt from the NHS that has operated on such a model for all the time it has been in existence.

Even more than the NHS schools, and especially primary schools, are rooted in their communities. As Oxfordshire’s Education Scrutiny Committee members discussed with the RSC officials earlier this week the issue of who takes the lead if rural primary schools are financially nonviable. If the consequence of school closures is higher transport bills, paid for by council tax payers, can a policy that keeps the schools open for less overall cost be agreed between local authorities, MATs, diocese and the DfE. If not, not only is government inefficient, but also lacking in coherent strategic planning.

Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.

 

Was I right?

At the end of December 2018, I wrote a post on this blog entitled

Some trends for 2019 in teacher recruitment (Posted on December 31, 2018)

As the closing date for resignations looms ever closer and the 2019 recruitment round reaches its peak, it is worth asking how well my predictions have stood up to the reality of the real world in 2019. (original post in italics)

 As mentioned in the post that initially analysed the ITT census for 2018, the position in physics is once again dire, with less than half of the ITT places filled. Fortunately, there won’t be a shortage of science teachers, since far more biologists were recruited into training that the government estimate of the number required. However, recruitment of chemistry teachers will prove a problem for some schools as 2019 progresses, since one in five ITT places were left unfilled; the highest percentage of unfiled places in recent years. Perhaps some early professional development on increased subject knowledge for biology teachers required to teach the whole science curriculum at Key Stage 3 might be a worthwhile investment.

The position for physics is difficult to determine exactly, since most schools advertise for a teacher of science. At TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk  the team look in detail at the adverts placed by schools, but it will take a little while to do the analysis of more than 4,000 vacancies so far this year for teachers of science. Overall, the large number of trainee biologists means there is not yet  significant shortage of potential applicants for science teacher vacancies and TeachVac has not yet issued a Red Warning; only an Amber warning.

In 2018, there were not enough trainee teachers of English to meet the demand from schools for such teachers; it 2019 that subject will be less of a problem, but finding a teacher of mathematics might be more of an issue for schools once again, although various CPD initiatives may have helped improve the mathematical knowledge of those teaching the subject and may have helped to reduce demand. Only time will tell whether a shortage of teachers of mathematics will once again be a headline story for 2019.

English is still at an Amber warning, but a Red Warning of national shortages for the remainder of the recruitment round has already been issued for mathematics. The problem will intensify for January 2020 appointments.

Although state schools may have reduced their demand for teachers of art, the independent sector still generates a significant demand each year for such teachers. The fact that more than one in five ITT places weren’t filled in 2018 may have some important regional implications for state schools seeking such a teacher, especially where the demand is also strong from the private sector schools. The same issue is also true for teachers of religious education, where demand from the state sector was weak in 2018. Any increase in demand during 2019 would see schools experiencing more problems with recruitment than during 2018.

TeachVac is on the verge of upgrading its Amber warning for art to a Red Warning, meaning that schools anywhere in England might face challenges with recruitment for the remainder of the recruitment round.

All these assumptions are predicated on the belief that rising pupil numbers, and the associated funding per pupil, will more than cancel out the pressure on school budgets across the country. Once again, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk expects that London and the surrounding areas to be the focus of most demand for new teachers and the North East, the area where schools will experience the least difficulty in recruiting teachers.

 

London schools again lead in the number of vacancies per school in 2019. Although a cruder measure than vacancies per pupil, it does confirm the trend of recent years with Schools in the north of England advertising far fewer vacancies than schools in the south of the country.

 

The autumn term may well be a challenging time for schools required to recruit a replacement teacher for January 2020 across many different subjects. Fortunately, there should be fewer problems in the primary sector.

 

 

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.

 

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.