TeachVac continues to grow

As many readers of this blog know, I am chair of the company that operates TeachVac – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers. Once seen by some as a concept that wouldn’t survive, TeachVac is now starting its fourth cycle of free, unpaid, recruitment advertising for teaching posts. Covering teaching vacancies across the whole of England, with plans to expand further in the autumn, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk offers a free service to both schools and applicants looking for a teaching post and has doubled in size yet again over the last twelve months.

In addition to handling vacancies for individual schools, TeachVac also handles organisations placing multiple vacancies at the same time and has special arrangements for both dioceses and MATs that help those with decentralised recruitment policies track what is happening in their schools.

With coverage of all 151 local authority areas in England, TeachVac includes vacancies in both state-funded schools of all descriptions as well as private schools and from the start of 2017, state funded-primary schools throughout the whole of England. TeachVac is now the largest site for teaching vacancies in England and, of course is free to both schools posting vacancies as well as those seeking a teaching post.

Vacancies are shown to registered job seekers at one of three different levels, classroom teacher; promoted post and leadership positions. Job seekers may specify either a geographical area based a radius of a postcode or a specific local authority area for the larger rural counties. New matches are sent to candidates every day and allow the potential applicant to decide whether to apply for the vacancy. TeachVac makes it possible to track how many applicants are interested in each vacancy.

Over the course of a year, new entrants to the profession can see something of the frequency of vacancies in the subject they are preparing to teach and the location where they wish to teach. This also applies to teachers overseas wishing to return to England to teach and, indeed, any teacher considering either a change of school or a promotion. TeachVac regularly receives visits from those located in over 100 countries around the world each year.

With its wealth of real-time data, TeachVac monitors the recruitment round as it is taking place. This, along with saving money for schools was the reason for creating TeachVac in the first place.

TeachVac is also uniquely placed to match numbers in training with vacancies across the recruitment cycle providing early warnings of shortages both in specific subjects or geographical areas so that schools can make the necessary adjustments to their recruitment campaigns. As hinted in previous posts, although 2017 was not the worst recruitment round of recent years, 2018 is shaping up to be a real challenge for many schools.

If you want to recruit a teacher, find a new teaching post or understand what is actually happening the teacher recruitment marketplace then visit www.teachvac.co.uk  – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers.

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Making education greener not Greening

The government’s change of heart on renewable energy production, one might call it a –U- turn in some respects, is obviously welcome news. But, what part can schools play in this new order of local power generation and the regulation of consumption at source?

I have long argued that many outside spaces in schools are the least used public asset in the country. Playgrounds are barely used in term-time in most schools and in most cases lie entirely dormant during the holiday periods. A national scheme to use these for ground source heating and other power and heating sources would surely be cost effective. Such a scheme, allied to battery storage and other possible renewable technologies, where applicable, could be funded through a community bond scheme where the returns were shared between the investors and the school on a sliding scale agreed in advance.

Brokering a national scheme with set costs and the most effective construction methods taking the least amount of time is a responsible role for the DfE, although they could offer it out to tender for all academies and free schools as a start. It could also include retrofitting rainwater collection and even green roofs, where they were possible.

I always thought this type of initiative would have been a vote winner for the Lib Dems in the coalition. They should have pushed small scale public works during the aftermath of the recession rather than big schemes such as Swansea Bay tidal power project, where finding the money was always going to be a challenge. But, the Ministers didn’t seem to agree with my view.

An even more radical scheme would be to encourage teachers and other employees in schools to purchase electric cars or cycles and to offer free re-charging at the school site, powered by the renewable energy wherever possible. Perhaps we could start with a scheme for school minibuses?

An audit of school freezer electricity consumption would be an interesting starting point to assess how much money could be saved by fitting an in-line interruptible electricity supply that turned off during peak power demand periods. If filled in-line, the freezers themselves wouldn’t need to be changed until the time came for them to be updated.

All these ideas require Ministers with a degree of vision beyond the normal scope of such officeholders. That’s why local authorities are so important for education. They offer a more manageable geographical area where ideas can be tried and tested and then expanded to cover the country as a whole. Centralising innovation, as has been the principle method of operation for the past forty years may work, as with the national strategies, but can also lead to disasters, such as making the teaching profession feel undervalued, with all the inevitable consequences for recruitment and retention.

The Secretary of State should embrace the announcement from the Business Secretary and use it as means to show she has the best intentions for the education service at heart. It would certainly be more popular than the decision this time last year to focus on selective education as the way forward.

Rising number of exclusions: a worrying trend

The DfE has published the data for exclusions during the 2015/16 school year. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16.  The number of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 1,790 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from around 1,590 per day in 2014/15.

These figures are not good news for the government, as it appears that the improvement seem over the last few years is now being undone. The DfE does need to look behind the headline numbers at the schools responsible for the increase and also if the increase has also continued on into 2016/17, where data for the first term should be available.

The problems of this type that affect a relatively small number of schools raise questions about the use of a national funding formula. In Medway, for instance, virtually all the exclusions are in non-selective schools, with many of the local selective schools not excluding any pupils at all. But, if each type of school receives the same funding component to spend on behaviour management, is that balanced off by adjustments in the other direction elsewhere in the budget.

It is these sorts of issues that create the debate about both hypothecation and unrestricted budgets on the one hand and our notions of equality on the other hand. Put both strands together and you have an interesting debate that despite the Pupil Premium does seem to me to be skewed towards a simplistic notion of equality mitigated only by the traditional view that London is an expensive place to live and work in.

Persistent disruptive behaviour remains by far and away the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions: schools have just come to the end of their tether with the pupil. How long the tether is may differ from school to school, as might the attitude to what is unacceptable behaviour, as schools try to raise the bar on standards of acceptable behaviour. There is a worrying high figure of around 20% where the reason for an exclusion is coded as ‘other’. This is not really acceptable. It may mean there is more than one reasons such as a pupil with generally persistent disruptive behaviour, but the actual exclusion is triggered by another event such as verbal or physical abuse to another pupil or staff member.

As ever, having special need, being on Free School Meals, or from a non-majority ethnic background are all additional risk factors in the likelihood of being excluded. This is despite several years where teacher preparation schemes were supposed to support teachers in schools with large numbers of likely at risk pupils.

Despite concerns in the press and elsewhere, exclusions for either bullying or racist abuse are minimal in the overall totals, although some exclusions may be coded under other headings even where pupils have exhibited this type of anti-social behaviour.

Years 8-10 still account for around 40% of all exclusions, so it is good to see the recent statement about slowing down the timetable for all to study the EBacc. I am sure a better look at the curriculum for this age group can help reduce exclusions where students are being forced to study subjects they no longer value. As ever, more boys are being excluded than girls, especially in terms of permanent exclusions.

School Funding heads for the long grass?

Efficiency saving all round are being used to camouflage the lack of significant extra cash for schools during a period of rising school rolls. The Secretary of State’s statement to parliament, made earlier this afternoon, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/justine-greening-statement-to-parliament-on-school-funding has to be read very carefully to disentangle the rhetoric from the reality.

There will be a national funding formula, but not fully until post 2019-20 when a new spending round will be in place. Until then there will be the following;

  • Increase the basic amount that every pupil will attract in 2018-19 and 2019-20;
  • For the next two years, provide for up to 3% gains a year per pupil for underfunded schools, and a 0.5% a year per pupil cash increase for every school;
  • Continue to protect funding for pupils with additional needs, as we proposed in December.

So, 0.5% will be the basic increase per pupil; will it even cover inflation? What are underfunded schools? Will the increases be enough to offset the inevitable pay increase that will be necessary at some point to stop the loss of teachers from the profession and under-recruitment of new entrants into training? Why set a minimum of £4,800 for secondary school pupils, but no minimum for primary schools? What will this mean for small rural primary schools, are they to be abandoned to their fate?

In their manifesto the Conservatives said no school would lose out as had been proposed in the national funding formula, but it is not clear if the final decision on that point is now being handed to local School Forums and whether this manifesto pledge is being honoured in terms of the primary sector other than through the 0.5% per pupil increase and the up to 3% for under-funded schools? Since there might have been an expectation of a cost of living increase anyway has the 0.5% replaced the cost of living increase? Is it 0.5% per year or across the two years? Some winner now don’t look like seeing the gains that they had expected.

However, primary schools are to receive more cash through their PE and sports premium funding. This may be good news for unemployed PE teachers in some parts of the country, but not for secondary schools that might want to have employed them as maths or science teachers.

The Secretary of State made clear that the £1.3 billion additional investment in core schools funding which she announced today will be funded in full from efficiencies and savings She said,  ‘I have identified from within my Department’s existing budget, rather than higher taxes or more debt’. By making savings and efficiencies, the Secretary of State said that she is ‘maximising the proportion of my Department’s budget which is allocated directly to frontline head teachers – who can then use their professional expertise to ensure that it is spent where it will have the greatest possible impact.’

At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we are happy to help by promoting the free national job board that costs schools nothing to place adverts for teachers. We will even extend it to handle support staff for a relatively small further investment.

A wise Secretary of State would have established a joint commission with the teacher associations to work on these central efficiency gains and in doing so help to neutralise the inevitable complaints from those who projects are being cut, especially if they include spending on professional development. Will, I wonder, the £10 million tender to recruit overseas teachers still go ahead and what will happen to the campaigns to encourage new entrants into teaching?

Finally, I am interested to read that one group of consultants will be retained; those to trawl over the budgets of schools in deficit.

2% for all main scale teachers

Yesterday, the School Teachers Pay Review Body published its report and recommendations to the government. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/626156/59497_School_Teachers_Review_Accessible.pdf as expected, the STRB felt bound by the remit letter it had received from government. As a result, its conclusions didn’t breech the government’s stated policy of a one per cent cap on public sector pay: no real surprise there. However, the STRB’s recommendations did contain one suggestion for higher pay to the maximum and minimum of the main pay range.

STRB’s 2017 Recommendations

For September 2017, we recommend:

  • A 2% uplift to the minimum and maximum of the main pay range (MPR);
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the upper pay range (UPR), the unqualified teacher pay range and the leading practitioner pay range;
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the leadership group pay range and all head teacher group pay ranges; and,
  • A 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of the Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) allowance ranges.

If accepted, these recommendations will lead to some teachers receiving a higher pay rise than others, notably those on the top of the main scale, but not having progressed through to the higher pay scales. Now since many, if not most academies don’t have to stick to the national pay scales, this provides an interesting opportunity for the teacher associations to flex their muscle and demand a 2% rise on the main scale for all teachers not covered by the mandatory national pay scales. If achieved, it would put pressure on the government either to offer the same deal to other teachers across the sector or risk teacher recruitment and retention issues becoming worse outside the academy sector.

The data in the STRB Report suggests that most schools can carry an extra one per cent on their main scale teacher’s pay bill by dipping into reserves. Yes, a hoped for building project might be delayed by a year, but many teachers would feel that their financial situation is being taken seriously.

Is it in the interests of the teacher associations to take this line or to hold out for more for everyone at some point in the future? That’s their judgement call, but I think the two per cent for all main scale teachers demonstrates that they do more on the pay front than just argue the case with the STRB and are indeed prepared to take on a weak government playing a poor hand on public sector pay.

To compensate, I would argue for bringing MAT chief officers pay within the overall cap. It is surely wrong to cap the pay of workers but let the bosses set their own take from public money, albeit sanctioned by their boards.

There is plenty of evidence within the STRB report of recruitment problems, but having waited so long to publish the STRB might have updated some charts with the evidence from the 2016 School Workforce Census rather than relying on 2015 that charted the recruitment round for September two years ago.