Retention deserves more attention

The issue of teacher retention has been steadily climbing up the agenda, so that for many observers it now ranks alongside worries about recruitment into the teaching profession as a major area of concern. Taken together, the two factors are set to leave a lasting legacy in our schools that will have an effect, not only classroom teaching, but also middle leadership, for many years to come. A shortage of teachers, and especially of middle leaders, also hampers actions towards improving the schools were staff need both stable and high quality teachers to ensure the best outcomes for their pupils.

So, how bad might middle leadership recruitment become over the next few years? In theory, since the required number of middle leaders is a fairly fixed quantity, each school needs roughly similar numbers regardless of size, it is only the creation of new schools that should increase demand for middle leaders. The other reason for increased demand is as a result of greater departure rates than normal. The demographic upturn currently working its way through the secondary sector is creating new schools across many parts of the country: so that is a concern as more posts are being created.

On the demand side, the growing loss of teachers with five to seven years of experience from employment in state schools, as revealed by the School Workforce Census data that will be updated for 2018 later this week, is a major worry, as these are the very teachers the system might expect to be taking on middle leadership positions at that stage of their careers.

Finally, of course, the relationship between the number of new entrants to the profession and the indicative Teacher Supply Model figure for supply requirements is an important predictor of trouble ahead, especially where the ITT census number is substantially below the indicative TSM figure, as it has been for some years now in certain subjects.

Subject ITT census 2018 TLR vacancies 2019 to end June % ITT census 50% remain after 5 years Revised % as HoDs
Business Studies 175 134 77% 87.5 153%
Music 295 186 63% 147.5 126%
Computing 530 237 45% 265 89%
Religious Education 375 160 43% 187.5 85%
Design & Technology 285 107 38% 142.5 75%
Drama 300 108 36% 150 72%
Art & Design 475 135 28% 237.5 57%

Source TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk

This table takes some subjects where the award of a TLR is likely to mean a substantial degree of middle leadership responsibilities, due to the size of the subject department. Mathematics, English and the Sciences are not included, as they often offer TLR posts below head of department level.  While science departments may struggle to recruit particular types of scientists to offer a broad curriculum, they should be less of an issue finding sufficient candidates to lead science as an overall subject.

Assuming that only 50% of those identified in the ITT census last November are still in teaching in five years, i.e. September 2024, and the TLRs on offer are similar to the situation so far in 2019, up to 21st June, then even in art and design, half of remaining teachers in the cohort entering teaching this year might expect to become middle leaders. For business studies and music, either there will need to be a drop in demand from schools, or teachers are likely to be promoted earlier in their careers to become middle leaders, sometimes before they are ready to do so.

This issue, and the concerns about ensuring middle leaders have the appropriate preparation for the role, deserves more attention than it has received. Indeed, this is one cogent reason why abolishing the National College was a strategic mistake, and detrimental to the progress of school improvement across all schools in England.

 

 

 

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Treasury woes

Teacher recruitment crises are not a new phenomenon in England. Indeed, almost 30 years ago, at the start of the 1990s, the country was experiencing a very similar sort of teacher recruitment and retention crisis to that seen now. As a result, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by the then Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, the forerunner of the present School Teachers’ Review Body, and the successor to the Burnham Committee.

In Chapter 6 of their 1991 report, at paragraph 7.13 the IAC said:

Our final key principle has been to support the provision of proper rewards for additional responsibilities and high performance. Put, bluntly, the teaching profession is no different from any other in needing to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people. Whatever the details of the pay structure, it seems self-evident to us that if adequate levels of differential rewards are not available, as they increasingly are elsewhere, then there will be serious difficulties in tackling the recruitment and retention problems we have highlighted.

(IAC, 4th Report January 1991 para 7.13 page 49)

I found this comment of interest, as I discovered it when I was trying to determine whether more teachers had access to allowances now than at that time before devolved budgets and the total freedom for schools to decide how to pay their teachers. At that time, in the early 1990s, although the pay scales were different and local management of schools was on the horizon, there was still a national structure for responsibility payments, and schools had little choice over the number of such posts that they could create. School size, as determined by the number and age of the pupils, was the key source factor affecting the chance of promotion for a teacher.

Interestingly, a quick look at DfE statistics for both 1989 and 2013, suggests that far more teachers in secondary schools than in primary schools had access to payments above their main scale salary in 1989, and that in both sectors the percentage of teachers paid above the main scale was higher in 1989 than in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, you were less likely to receive a TLR if you worked in an academy than if you worked in a maintained school.

Since 2013, the DfE has changed how it reports teachers’ pay, and it now uses cash amounts in bands as the reporting measure that doesn’t allow an easy identification of the percentage of teachers paid a TLR in addition to their main salary.

Of course, a few teachers have benefited from an opening up of extra posts on the Leadership Scale. But, could this lack of incentives, suggested as important by the IAC in 1991, be partly responsible for the problems with retention in years five to seven of a teacher’s career that have become a feature of recent years?

Conservative politicians, as the previous post on this blog has noted, are aware that current funding for schools is not only insufficient to pay support staff their pay award but also to reward and retain teachers in many parts of the country. The problem is, where to find the cash to pay for schools to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people, the same requirement as the IAC pointed out all those years ago.

 

 

Improve teacher retention, but that’s not the whole solution

The NfER has produced its final comprehensive report into teacher supply and retention entitled, ‘Teacher Workforce Dynamics in England’. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/government-mustnt-lose-focus-tackling-teacher-supply-shortage

I have to confess that, as noted in the acknowledgements, I acted as a consultant to the team working on this project at NfER. During the various stages of the project the team issued research reports and the final documents brings all these together and amplifies them in a number of different ways not possible in the shorter documents. The Nuffield Foundation must be recognised for their help in funding the project.

At the launch last evening there were some interesting issues raised that may merit further analysis should funds be available. Firstly, the data on retention is presented in terms of the percentage of staff leaving the profession. This raises two issues: what is meant in terms of leaving the teaching profession is leaving maintained state funded schools as teachers – they may still be working in state funded Sixth Form Colleges or further education or as a teacher in the private sector. When comparing leaving rates with nursing it isn’t clear whether registration of nurses includes those working in non-NHS settings such as the private sector and as school nurse and thus affects how leaving rates are calculated. Additionally, for the police, there was a period where most police forces stopped recruitment, so departure rates may be depressed when there were no new entrants to create a pool of early leavers during part of the survey period.

However, the other issue with the data are the use of percentages of staff leaving. This can be problematic. Thus, in 2015, 20,700 leavers from the secondary sector were detected by the School Workforce Census – a rate of 9.2% for secondary teachers; in 2017 the rate increased to 10.4%, but the actual number decreased to 20,170.  There is no suggestion that the data used by NfER experienced this situation, but it highlights why I often prefer to use real numbers.

Leavers do so at different times in their careers in teaching. Much has been made by the National Audit Office in their study and in this NfER report on the advantages of retaining more teachers in state funded schools. To that end, there is an interesting chart on page 24 of the NfER Report showing where leavers typically may be going. Again, percentages are used, so let’s assume a hypothetical example based upon 40,000 leavers and how many might be persuaded to return at any point.

Since 30% are retiring, the pool can be reduced to 28,000 straightaway, assuming there aren’t a large pool of teacher taking early retirement. The 400 taking maternity leave, a somewhat low figure given the age profile of the profession, takes another 400 out of the total. Another 800 are removed because they are studying as students. I assume this will include future Educational Psychologists and those seeking extra qualifications, such as to teach children with special education needs. However, the biggest category of leavers are those teaching in the private sector; some 33% or another 13,200 off the total.

So, how many of the remaining 13,600 might be persuaded to return?  4,000 are employed in schools as teaching assistants or other non-teaching roles. Some of these might have decided teaching is not for them, but others may have left for other reasons and might be persuadable back into the classroom as a teacher: let’s say 50% or 2,000 could fit into that category, perhaps if better part-time teaching opportunities were available.

Of the remaining 9,600, the 1,200 unemployed might offer some possibilities if teaching didn’t run on a market based recruitment system. After all, if there are teacher shortages, and these teachers wanted to work, there must be an assumption that they are in areas where teaching posts are not available for those with their skills. The other big group worth exploring further are the 4,400 in our example listed as self-employed. Are they working as tutors or using their skills as musicians, artists, historians or scientists for positive reasons or because they gave up on teaching?

Let’s assume half might tempted back, at last part-time if offered better terms. We now have possibly 4,000 that might be enticed back. Add another 1,000 for all the other smaller categories NfER identified, and the total is some 12.5% of leavers. However, many might only be interested in part-time work, so that might only be half that in terms of full-time equivalent teachers, say 2.500. Working trying to recruit, but still not the absolute answer to the teacher shortage issue. Certainly it is worth exploring whether some of these leavers might have been persuaded to remain in the profession.

 

 

Allocations for teacher preparation courses in 2019/20

The previous two posts on this blog have highlighted the fact that the DfE has recently published its annual datasets about teacher preparation in the coming years and specifically numbers for 2019/20, where recruitment is already underway. The DfE’s information can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020

Normally, the number of places allocated to each sector and the separate subjects in the secondary sector would be of great concern to those operating courses. However, with recruitment having been challenging over the past couple of years and no bar placed on numbers that can be recruited in most subjects, providers will be much more relaxed about these numbers. Whether schools should be is another matter.

Of greatest concern for the labour market in September 2020 will be the geographical distribution of recruitment into preparation courses. This is because there is considerable difference in retention rates across England. Teacher retention is high in the North and at its lowest in London and the Home Counties. That’s neither a new fact nor one that has suddenly been discovered. Old hands at this business have known it for many years and I well recall presenting the information to a House of Lords Committee investigating aspects of science teaching in the early years of this century.

The concern over differential retention rates has been at the heart of the debate about quality of course versus location of training providers that was important when recruitment was likely to be buoyant. Even so, training too many new teachers in the wrong parts of the country, and especially training those not flexible in where they can work, is at least as wasteful as the money spent on bursaries highlighted in The Times today and discussed in the previous post on this blog.

To reasons for the lower retention rates in and around London are probably the present of about 50% of the independent sector schools in England in this area, together with the fact that London represents the largest graduate labour market in the country. For almost all teachers there are other jobs they can apply for even if it means ditching their hard won expertise in teaching. After all, the transferable skill of managing the learning of young people and making many rapid decisions reinforced only by the strength of your personality is a set of skills many businesses are keen to pay good money to acquire in their staff.  This is a point government should not overlook when considering pay rates and teacher associations might want to press more ruthlessly while teachers are in short supply.

Anyway, back to the allocations for 2019/20 and the changes from the previous years. In the Teacher Supply Model outputs, Classics, Computing, Religious Education and Geography have seen drops in the number of places as have Design & Technology, Drama, Music, Food Technology and ‘Others’ although that is partly be down to a reallocation of Dance into PE for TSM purposes. These changes, plus the increases in other subjects, are reflected in Figure 1 of the DfE’s note on ITT allocations.  Of most concern is the increase from 1,600 to 2,241 in places for Modern Foreign Languages. This is to meet the expected increase in pupils studying a language at KS4 in line with the government’s aspirations of a 75% take-up by 2024.

Will the lack of restrictions on recruitment for all secondary subjects, except PE last? As I write this blog, stock markets around the world are following a well-trodden path downwards that has been seen in October many times before. Were the downward trend to affect the economy along with Brexit, not having any restrictions on applications might seem unwise in hindsight.

 

The message to potential applicants; apply now and don’t take the risk of waiting until the spring.

 

UK Music Talent pipeline concerns

UK Music, is the industry-funded body established in October 2008 to represent the collective interests of the recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry.

To quote from their website, UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies through collective representation. https://www.ukmusic.org/about/

At the Liberal Democrat Conference this week UK Music published a pamphlet entitled ‘Securing our talent pipeline’ https://www.ukmusic.org/news/securing-our-talent-pipeline

As they acknowledge, the UK music industry is doing well at present. It grew by 6 per cent last year and is now worth £4.4 billion to the economy with the live music industry contributing around £1 billion. However, that is exactly the time to reflect on the future.

UK Music say that while the immediate outlook is promising, there is growing evidence of a looming crisis in the music industry’s talent pipeline – a pipeline that they rely on for future stars and one that is a vital part of their industry’s eco-system.

Schools form an important part of developing that talent pipeline, so I thought I would take a look at the evidence from TeachVac, the vacancy site for teachers where I am chair of the board. www.teachvac.co.uk about recruitment and the supply of teachers of music.

The headline statistic is that music in our schools, as a classroom taught subject, is more of a shortage subject than mathematics. Sadly, TeachVac doesn’t keep data on instrumental and other specialist music teaching at this point in time.

Despite cuts to the curriculum in state funded schools, there have been more than 600 vacancies for main scale classroom teachers recorded so far in 2018 by TeachVac. This is slightly down on the 632 vacancies recorded by this point in 2017, but not significantly so. The previous two years, 2015 and 2016 recorded around the 550 vacancies mark by this point in September.

Allowing for better coverage in 2017 and 2018 by TeachVac, there doesn’t seem yet to have been a collapse in demand for classroom teachers of music. However, there are significant regional differences. Around half of the vacancies recorded in 2018 were from secondary schools in either London or the South East, the regions with the largest concentration of independent schools and the best funded state schools. Relatively few vacancies have been recorded from schools in the North East so far in 2018.

The real cause of any shortage of teachers of music is the failure of the DfE to attract enough trainee teachers of music over the past few years, and especially for entry into teacher preparation courses in 2017. Last September, the DfE estimate in the Teacher Supply Model was for 409 music teachers; 295 were recruited according to their census of trainees. This year, by the middle of August, potential trainee numbers were slightly below the same period in 2017 and on target for around 280 trainees overall.

Allowing for failure to complete for various reasons, this means the number of new entrants in 2019 could be in the range of 250-275 for the 4,000 or so secondary schools across England. Turnover would need to be as low as five per cent to ensure sufficient new entrants, even assuming the distribution across the country was as required: an unlikely situation.

So, music may well be a subject of concern in 2019 and UK Music are right to worry about the long-term consequences for their industry and the UK Economy.

 

 

 

Keep older teachers in the profession?

Most of the discussion about issues relating to the supply of teachers revolves around the need to bring in more new entrants. Attention is then generally next focused on stemming the exit of teachers early in their careers, often at the point where they might be moving into middle leadership roles. Scant attention is ever paid to the idea of ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those leaving for caring reasons, whether because they have started their own family or are caring for elderly relatives to help retain their interest and understanding of the profession. Indeed, the DfE’s specific attempt at an approach to helping those seeking to return to the profession wasn’t an outstanding success, if you read the evaluation report published earlier this year.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Probably, the least attention has been paid to altering the age at which teachers retire from the profession. I don’t mean the formal age of retirement as, indeed, there isn’t one these days, although working for more than 40 years probably doesn’t bring any extra benefits from a pension point of view. However, could encouraging teachers to remain in either full-time or part-time service for a year or two longer help reduce the staffing crisis faced by some schools?

Sadly, the answer is probably not. The School Workforce Census suggests that the number of teachers leaving over the age of 55 have been falling in recent years

Year Teachers Leaving
2013 11,470
2014 11,420
2015 10,430
2016   9,430
2017   8,570

DfE 2017 School Workforce Census Table 7b

Whether this is because either the cohort size has been falling or more are staying needs further work to determine. However, the Census does also record around 1,600 entrants from this age group each year, so the net departure rate may be less than shown in the table. Overall, in the 2017 School Workforce Census, there were some 25,800 teacher in service between the ages of 55-59 and a further 9,700 over the age of 60 still in service.

Providing more part-time opportunities could be one way to attract more of the leavers to stay, but it could carry the risk of persuading more teachers to consider switching to part-time work and supplementing their income through tutoring and other uses of their talents and experience. Indeed, the shift from a final salary pension scheme to one based upon average salary, however calculated, makes early departure less of a risk than in the past, even though the Teachers’ Pension Scheme remains an attractive scheme to its members compared with some other schemes.

Bringing in more over 50s to spend a decade or so in teaching is worth considering. Some 4,840 new entrants from the 45-54 age grouping were recorded in the 2017 School Workforce Census, but there needs to be sufficient new entrants to fill future leadership vacancies even after the inevitable wastage of teachers in their early years of service. In some subjects future head of department recruits are already looking few and far between and a high percentage of primary teachers that survive more than 20 years of service are likely to become a head or at least a deputy head.

So, we cannot escape the need to ensure new entrants to training meet the levels specified by the DfE if an optimum level for the teacher workforce is to be achieved.

Recruitment – an end of term report

As schools start winding down for the start of the summer break, it is a good time to assess the current recruitment round for teachers. There clearly isn’t just one market for teachers. Rather there is a complex web of interlocking markets based on geography; phase and specialism, both in terms of subject expertise and other knowledge and experience. House prices matter, as does the reputation of schools and the willingness of applicants to travel any distance outside either their current travel to work comfort zone or to move their location either for a first job or a promotion.

Then there is the issue of retention and where those leaving are going. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to a school seeking to make an appointment. In the short-term, if they aren’t applying for your job or are quitting your school you can face a recruitment problem. Although exit interviews aren’t totally reliable, they can offer some insights if conducted by an independent company with experience in that field. The DfE might like to conduct some sample interviews and also put in place ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those that leave for a career break and are in the age-bracket most likely to want to return after a few years away from the classroom.

With so many curriculum changes in the offing, now is not the time to allow leavers that might return to feel de-skilled. You can read more about returners in the recently published study the NfER conducted some time ago for the DfE about their programme to encourage returners to teaching. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Anyway, back to the current recruitment round. Comparing the number of trainees that qualified this summer with the vacancies on offer across England, it is clear to those of us with access to the TeachVac data that Design and Technology; Business Studies; English and music are the subjects where recruitment is likely to have been most challenging across the country. In Religious Education, the Sciences overall, and IT, the situation is a little better, but not much. Generally, the best supply situation nationally is in the EBacc subjects other than English and the Sciences. However, as this blog as stated in the past, numbers and quality are not always synonymous.

The position in the primary sector is more of a challenge to unravel, partly because of the manner in which vacancies are advertised. However, across most of the country, supply is probably more than adequate, although there may be local shortages of specific skills and expertise.

These numbers matter most to schools if they are faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2019. In the most critical subjects, where vacancies have already exceeded trainee numbers, schools would be best advised to either revamp the curriculum or offer to pay a fee to an agency if they can do the heavy lifting of finding a teacher should they be confronted by an unexpected vacancy.

Finally, it is worth recalling that these shortages come at a time when the Daily Mail is lamenting the fact that selective schools are making teachers redundant. How much worse would it be if schools were still hiring across the board, including to teach sixth form students.