Retention still an issue?

The School Workforce data for 2108 published yesterday is always worthy of several posts on this blog. Indeed, this is the third in the series so for about the 2018 data. You can find the data at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

Slightly fewer teachers left the profession in the year up to the 2018 census than in the previous year, 42,073 compared with 44,376. This was a reduction in the percentage of the teaching force departing, from 10.2% to 9.8%, the lowest percentage since 2013. However, apparently, only among the over-55s did the percentage of the age group leaving decline. This suggests that more teachers may be remaining in service longer and the number retiring early may be falling. Certainly, the number of recorded retirements reduced from 8,188 in 2017 to 6,294 in 2018.

This blog has raised concerns about the growing loss to the state school system of teachers with five to seven years of experience, those that might be expected to take up the middle leadership vacancies. In the data released, the DfE have updated the table of the percentage of the cohort starting in a particular year remaining in each subsequent year. This Table has data that stretches back to the 1996 entry cohort, of whom 45.9% were still teaching in state schools some 22 years later. The notes to the Table suggest there may be some under-recording of part-time teachers, by about 10%.

Of more interest is the fact that the 2018 entry cohort was the smallest since 2011, and, at 23,820, almost exactly the same as last year’s 23,829 entrants. Only among teachers with 10 years’ service was the percentage remaining in 2018 above the percentage reported last year, at 62% compared with 61.7%.

Record lows abound across the Table, with the 70% level now being breached after just four years and the 60% level after 11 years of service. Of course, there was a data collection change in 2010, when the School Workforce Census was introduced, although the Database of Teacher Records is still used to help provide a complete picture where schools do not fully complete the Census each November.

The DfE is yet to update the Teacher Compendium that put real numbers to the percentages and allows for analysis by different phases and secondary subjects https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4 and although the overall picture is helpful to know, it is the data relating to certain subjects and teacher retention that is of even more interest, as would be data on geographical trends in retention. Do more teachers in London leave teaching in state schools earlier than those in the north of England and in the South West?

Interestingly, young women teachers under the age of 30 earn more than young men in both the primary and secondary sectors and also across both maintained schools and academies. However, the effect or differential promotion rates and greater numbers of women taking a break in service for caring responsibilities means that as a whole male teachers on average earn £1,400 more than their female compatriots. However, there are more women in the primary sector earning more than £100,000 than there are men. The same cannot be said for the secondary sector.

More evidence that London is different

In a previous post about the DfE’s evidence to the Teachers’ Pay Review Body (STRB) in 2019 I mentioned that the DfE cited that the wastage rate for Inner London schools was 14% in 2017. This was the highest for any area in England.

After reflecting upon this statistic, I went back to the data in the School Workforce Census to see whether high wastage rates were confined to specific schools or a more general matter for concern? The basic data on the Census, as it appears on the DfE’s web site, doesn’t allow that question to be answered. The DfE provides information on vacancies and temporarily filled posts at the school level, but not wastage rates. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2017

Percentage of schools in the region reporting a vacancy (%) Percentage of schools in the region reporting either a vacancy or a temporarily filled post (%)
REGION  
 
North East 3.2 9.1
North West 2.6 9.4
Yorkshire and the Humber 3.4 11.0
East Midlands 2.9 8.2
West Midlands 3.4 11.3
East of England 3.2 12.0
Inner London 5.3 22.5
Outer London 4.1 24.8
South East 3.8 12.2
South West 2.2 7.4
 
ENGLAND 3.3 11.9
School Workforce Census 2017    

Looking at the table abstracted above, from the 2017 School Workforce Census, it seems that around twice as many schools in Inner London reported a vacancy in November 2017 as did schools in the North West region. The gap was even wider between those London schools and schools in the South West.

Once the percentage of schools reporting a temporarily filled post in the November Census was added in, the gap between schools in London and the South West was even greater. Now, it just may be that there are more temporary posts in London than other regions because more teachers are on maternity leave in London than elsewhere in England. Since London does tend to attract many teachers at the start of their careers, this is indeed a possibility. However, the size of the gap does seem to call into question whether this is the only reason for such a large difference.

Taken together with the wastage figure, it does seem that schools, and especially a small number of secondary schools in London, were facing a problem with staffing at a time of year when schools would expect to be fully staffed.

Previous staffing crises have been based upon data that was collected in January, the census date before the School Workforce Census was introduced. However, if the current census covers the whole period from November to November that change of date would not be an issue. Should the data only relate to the situation at the time of the census, it would be or more concern, as the consequences of departures of any staff at the end of December would not be captured in the data.

What are the implications for the STRB if schools in London were finding the staffing situation challenging in 2017. The STRB will certainly want to know whether the early returns from the 2018 Census reflect any improvements or whether the situation has deteriorated further. If the DfE is unable to answer that question, then I am sure that the teacher associations and others providing evidence will be able to do so.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has consistently reported that London schools top the list of schools advertising the most vacancies.

With separate London pay scales, will the STRB look to increase them more than the national scale this year? Only time will tell.

Am MIS system for teachers?

Does the government need a Management Information System (MIS) for teachers? In the past the answer was obviously no, as teachers were employed by schools operated by local authorities, diocese or various charities, including some London livery company foundations. The government needed a register of Qualified Teachers, not least so it has something to bar miscreants from that prevented them working as teachers, but presumably not as always calling themselves teachers, since ‘teacher’ isn’t a reserved occupation term that can be only used by appropriately qualified professionals. However, a barred teacher might still be guilty of an offence, such as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’, if they held themselves out to be a teacher when on the barred list.

But, I digress from the question of whether the government needs an MIS system? It clearly also need to know who are members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and their service record, but again, that isn’t an MIS system.

What the government does have, in place of an MIS system, is the School Workforce Census, taken annually in November that records teachers currently in service. Since the mistaken abolition of the General Teaching Council for England, in the bonfire of the QUANGOs that also saw several other useful bodies disappear for little good reason, it hasn’t had a registration scheme to track both current teachers and those that might possibly be available at some point in the future to the profession, although it knows the number of ‘out of service’ teachers not working in state-funded schools.

Now, as can be seen by the manner in which the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model uses the School Workforce Census data for planning purposes, what data there is can be helpful to government in managing the future shape of the workforce. However, it is always out of date and backward looking. As a result, unlike a good MIS system, it cannot spot changes that might be vital for future planning as they happen in real time, and certainly not as early as the end of the recruitment round for September of any year.

Just to provide one example; how is the battle between tighter resources for schools and the growth in secondary school pupil numbers at Key Stage 3 while they are still falling or level at Key Stage 5 playing out in the labour market for teachers in 2018? And, is the fall in pupil numbers at Key Stage 1 already affecting the demand for teachers?

If a curious MP asks a question in September of the DfE about the recruitment round for 2018 they will be referred to the 2017 School Workforce Census that provides the most recent data available to the DfE. Is that good enough in this day and age?

The School Workforce Census has been amended and is likely to be further amended in 2019 to ask questions both about recruitment and why vacancies have arisen, thus making it more like a MIS system.

Schools already have complex databases about their staff and TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk already tracks the majority of vacancies in state-funded schools across England as they arise. To create a MIS system would be to create a dynamic system that recorded changes in the workforce as they happen.

For instance, how many NQTs will leave their first jobs in the autumn term and is there anything similar about the characteristics of the schools, the new teachers, or the type of school in which they were working?

In 1991, I visited Pakistan to help with some CPD for school leaders. At that time the government’s MIS system for teachers, provided by an aid package could have answered that question. Ministers here, still won’t be able to answer it until spring 2020, and the results of the 2019 School Workforce Census are published. Not good enough?

 

 

Class sizes and PTRs

How do you measure the utilisation rate of the teaching workforce? The two traditional measures have been class sizes and pupil teacher ratios or PTRs. More recently, a new measure of Pupil Adult Ratios or PARs has been introduced in order to incorporate the growing important of support staff in the life and work of schools.

For the lifetime of the Statistics of Education volumes based upon the census of the workforce taken each January, the PTRs were published by local authority for nursery, primary, secondary, special school sectors and an overall figure. This allow meaningful comparison between primary sectors in LAs with 11-16 secondary schools and those with Sixth Form Colleges. Small rural primary schools also didn’t affect the comparisons between schools.

With the coming of the School Workforce Census, in 2010, in what was a sensible move overall in terms of data collection, more data became available at the level of the individual school, but less by local authority. Since 2010, only overall PTRs for each local authority have been easy to abstract from the datasets. This has not been as useful as the former more nuanced datasets.

In passing, it is worth recalling that dealing with PTRs for more than 150 local authority areas can lead to mistakes, even if the data provided at the local authority level is 100% accurate, which it isn’t always. My first interaction with Hansard in the early 1980s was when a national list of PTRs appeared in answer to a written PQ with a mistake in the first local authority in the list, thus making all other figures wrong. These days it would be an easy talk to rectify the error. Then it wasn’t and I am sure that bound copies of Hansard still remain with the wrong data to trip up some future researchers, especially if the errata slip has become detached.

I think there was a mistake in Telford and Wrekin PTR in the 2010 first run of the School Workforce Census where a PTR of 25.0 was apparently recorded. Logic suggests it ought to have been somewhere in the range of 17.6-17.9.

In a later post I will discuss the differences in PTRs between different types of local authority; London; urban areas outside of London; the unitary authorities and the remaining shire counties. However, it is generally clear that across England the pressure of rising pupil numbers and the cash they bring through the funding model has not been able to offset the falls in pupil numbers in the secondary sector and the other pressures on school funding over the past few years.

Only 15 of the 154 local authorities don’t have a worse PTRS in the 2017 School Workforce Census than they recorded in the last of the former series collected in January 2010. Seven of those local authorities are in London and most of the remainder are authorities with significant areas of deprivation where the Pupil Premium may have helped funding in their schools.

Overall PTRS are still much better than a generation ago across much of England, but will that trend be reversed as secondary pupil numbers grow if demands on funding, and especially gross salary costs, outstrip funding increases?

Workforce worries over retention

Yesterday, this blog took its first look at the School Workforce Census data for 2017. Jack Worth at NfER, their authority on the school workforce, has also written a much more extensive blog about the same data. This can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/ It is well worth a read.

One interesting dataset in the DfE Tables is that on teacher retention. The DfE has updated the numbers used in their submission to the STRB as part of their discussions on pay and conditions for teachers still covered by the national pay and conditions. The updated data doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Year
NQT enter-ing service
YEAR 1
YEAR 2
YEAR 3
YEAR 4
YEAR 5
YEAR 6
YEAR 7
YEAR 8
YEAR 9
YEAR 10
1996
18100
16471
15204
14299
13213
12851
12308
12127
11584
11222
10860
1997
18900
17010
15023
14553
13986
13419
13041
12663
12285
11718
11340
1998
17800
15842
14418
13706
13172
12816
12282
11926
11392
11214
11036
1999
18300
16104
15006
14091
13542
12993
12810
12261
11895
11712
11346
2000
17600
15664
14608
13728
13024
12672
12144
11792
11616
11264
10912
2001
18600
16554
15252
14508
13950
13206
12648
12462
12276
11904
11904
2002
20700
18423
17181
16146
15318
14904
14490
14076
13662
13455
13248
2003
23000
20700
19090
17710
17020
16330
15870
15640
15410
14950
14490
2004
25200
22428
20412
19404
18648
17892
17388
17388
16884
16380
15624
2005
25700
22102
20817
19789
19018
18247
18247
17733
16962
16448
15677
2006
24000
20880
19440
18480
17760
17520
17040
16320
15840
14880
14400
2007
24400
21472
20008
19032
18788
18056
17324
16592
15372
15128
14640
2008
24400
21472
20008
19520
18788
18056
17324
16104
15860
15372
2009
22300
19401
18509
17617
17394
16056
15164
15164
14272
2010
24100
20967
19762
18557
17593
16870
15906
15424
2011
20600
18128
17098
15862
15038
14214
13390
2012
23300
20504
18873
17475
16543
15611
2013
23800
20706
19040
17612
16660
2014
25100
21837
19829
17374
2015
26100
22707
20358
2016
24900
21165
2017
23300

Abstracted from DfE Table 8 School Workforce Census June 2018

Although the number of NQTs fluctuates from year to year and is uprated as new entrants arrive in the profession as deferred entrants, either for the first time or from another sector, the loss of teachers is concerning. It is probably worth ignoring the 2011 data where the NQT number looks somewhat out of line for the period since 2006.

The DfE notes that numbers also underestimate teachers in part-time service, but, if the underestimate is consistent, this is only an issue where part-time working among this group of teachers is changing significantly.

The table does show how quickly teacher recruitment and retention can become an issue, especially where school rolls are on the increase, if the profession doesn’t hold on to its teachers.

The real concern must be with retention from years 6-10, where the next generation of middle leaders should start to be emerging. Assuming the 2007 cohort is split equally between primary and secondary sectors, this would mean a cohort of around 7,400 primary teachers. As the primary sector currently needs more than 1,000 new head teachers each year, the likelihood is that approaching 15% of the cohort may need to become head teachers at some point in their careers. Adding in deputy posts means that the percentage of the cohort needed for leadership positions probably exceeds 25%.

If you factor in specific demands, such as the need to be a Roman Catholic to lead an RC primary school, future leadership issues can already be predicted if the workforce isn’t prepared for leadership.

There are no regional breakdowns for retention in the tables. Such breakdowns would be helpful in predicating the pressures on future leadership appointments at a sub-national level and identifying the areas where there is the need to take early action. Perhaps, the Select Committee might ask for that data next time they talk to the Secretary of State for Education.

A new Teacher Supply index from the DfE

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s report form the National Audit Office comes the DfE’s Analysis of school and teacher level factors relating to teacher supply. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643974/SFR86_2017_Main_Text.pdf

So hot off the press that the early on-line version still had formatting errors in the table of contents. There is now far more statistical information around about the teacher labour market than at any time since the 1980s although most is about teachers and we need more on leadership turnover. However, as in the 1980s, it is still largely statistics and not management information that is available from the DfE.

I have sent the last forty years, ever since I began counting head teacher turnover in the early 1980s, arguing that management information, what is happening in the labour market now, is at least as important and in some case more important than what happened in the past. This is especially important when trends are changing. If the relaxation of the pay cap attracts more teachers to remain or return in the 2018 recruitment cycle for September 2018 vacancies then we should not have to wait until spring 2019 to discover that fact when the results of the 2018 School Workforce Census will first appear; too late to influence recruitment in 2019.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy service was created to cut the cost of recruitment to schools in a period of austerity, but also to develop tools in real time that the DfE has provided historical data about in today’s report. If for 2017, the DfE publishes the outcome of the ITT census in line with the information in Figures 2.1-2.3 of today’s report, then TeachVac can translate that data into an analysis of the 2018 recruitment round and provide guidance to schools on the local labour market.

The lack of complete data in the School Workforce Census of 2016 from almost a third of secondary schools in London must raise issues with the quality of the data for the capital. TeachVac records more secondary vacancies in London than elsewhere. TeachVac has the data to update the DfE’s supply index for the 2018 recruitment round as a further reams of verification. The supply index needs to take into account future pupil growth and the effects of major policy changes such as the introduction of a National Funding formula and changes to the Pupil Premium. Not to do so makes it less of a policy tool and more of a historical record of what has been happened. In creating TeachVac, the decision was that there was a need for information in real time. That said, the factors identified are not by themselves a surprise, what matters is the need to be aware of what is happening now. The tools are available, as TeachVac has demonstrated, the DfE should not shy away from recognising that now local authorities cannot as easily provide information to all local schools there is a need for someone else to be able to do so. The focus should switch from a statistical unit to one that handles both statistics and management information.

 

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.