More pay for teachers?

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for teachers’ pay? The latest update on projected pupil numbers through to 2027, issued by the DfE earlier today, suggest that the Treasury might now be able to see the point where teacher numbers will stabilise and, thus, the pay bill can be estimated with a greater degree of accuracy than when pupil numbers are on a rising curve.  The data is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-pupil-projections-july-2018

Civil servants will probably have had access to this data for some time, and it is possible to at least theorise that recent indications of more cash for schools, and specifically for teachers’ pay, might be as a result of an awareness of these numbers. I haven’t heard anything about the pay of other workers in schools, many of whom are far less highly paid than teachers, and don’t have the advantage of a Pay Review Body to provide oversight and guidance. Hopefully, they won’t be forgotten.

So, what are the latest numbers suggesting? In the primary sector the annual rate of increase is expected to fall gradually to NIL for 2020 and 2021, before decreases are projected (between 0.3% and 0.7% each year) until the end of the projection period. This is principally due to the lower birth projections in Office of National Statistics new population projections. The overall population in state-funded primary schools was 4,607,000 in 2018, and is projected to be 112,000 lower in 2027 at 4,494,000. Depending upon how class sizes are affected and the future for smaller schools under the present funding arrangements, this decline might mean 5,000 to 6,000 fewer teaching posts if cash goes into increase pay for existing teachers rather than reducing class sizes. As the teaching force gains more experience it also costs more to employ, so the level of retention is also important in determining the number of teachers that can be employed, especially once the decline in pupil numbers reaches Key Stage 2 where class sizes are not controlled by law.

In the secondary sector up to the end of Key Stage 4, the rate of increase in pupil numbers is expected to reach around 3.1% for the next two years before slowly dropping to NIL by the end of the projection period in 2027. As a result of these increases, the overall population in secondary schools is projected to reach 3,267,000 in 2027, some 418,000 higher than it was in 2018 and a 14.7% increase over the whole projection period. The increases will continue to feed through to the Key Stage 5 school population until at least the end of the 2020s. These numbers suggest that over the time period under discussion there might be a need for between 20,000 to 25,000 extra teachers, and possibly even more depending on the shape of the curriculum and any changes in teaching methods.

As the DfE points out, ‘There are inherent uncertainties in projecting the future size of the pupil population. This is particularly true for early age cohorts, which are the most immediately dependent on projections of future birth rates.’ Higher fertility rates and lower than expected migration could mean a difference of around 100,000 either way on the central projection. As the time period shorten, then the level of certainty can become greater and projections on teacher numbers also become firmer.

However, teaching might once more start looking like an attractive career, if you take the long-term view.

 

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Off-rolling and the state of education governance

Earlier this month The Education Policy Institute published a report into unexplained pupil exits from schools https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/unexplained-pupil-exits/ Their paper raised the question about whether this was a growing problem? A good survey of the background to the issue, and how it has gained prominence, can be found in a House of Commons briefing paper at https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8444#fullreport first published last December. For those with access to the Local Government Information Unit publications, John Fowler has also written a helpful policy briefing on the subject.

The House of Commons paper starts with a helpful explanation of the issue and why it is important.

What is ‘off-rolling’ and why are concerns being raised?

There are many reasons that children may be removed from the school roll. For example, children may legitimately be excluded from schools, move to another school that is more suitable for them, or simply move home. Parents also have the right to educate their child at home if they wish. Recent years, however, have seen concerns being raised that children are leaving school rolls in rising numbers, in particular as they approach GCSE level, because of pressures within the school system. It has been suggested that increased ‘off-rolling’ is taking place because of the impact of pupils who are likely to perform relatively poorly in their examinations on school performance measures, and because schools may be struggling to support children who need high levels of support, for example pupils with special educational needs. Off-rolling of this kind might involve children being excluded for reasons that are not legitimate, or parents being encouraged to home educate a child where they would not otherwise have chosen to do so. Excluding children from school for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful. Children who are off-rolled may move to another school, into alternative provision, or into home education.

In the present muddled state of education governance, local authorities may no longer operate schools, but they retain residual responsibilities, not least where schooling intersects with child safety concerns. Thus, as John Fowler points out, the DfE is reviewing its statutory guidance on Children Missing Education and the requirement in the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, as amended in 2016, in order to publish a review by 30 September 2019 of regulation 5. This is the regulation that covers the contents of the admission register, along with regulation 8 that deals with deletions from the admission register, and regulation 12 that covers information to be provided to the local authority.

In Oxfordshire, all but one of our secondary schools are now academies. What sanctions does the local authority have if schools do not comply with the requirement to notify an exit from school by a pupil, especially by a pupil at the start of Year Eleven where they still would not count towards a school’s results the following summer? A rule that has no sanctions attached is a rule that can be broken with impunity.

In an earlier post on this blog about youth justice I suggested that ‘any secondary school with more than 8% of its current annual revenue grant held in reserves and also with an above average figure for permanent exclusions across years 10 and 11 and any off-rolling of pupils in those years for pupils with SEND should have 50% of the excess of their reserves above the 8% level removed by the government and reallocated to the local Youth Offending Team.’ (March 11th 2019 post headed youth Justice)

If it is more cost effective for schools to remove challenging pupils than to retain them on roll, then there is little incentive, especially when funds are tight, to keep to either the letter or the spirit of the law. At the next Cabinet meeting in Oxfordshire I will be probing this matter further through a tabled question.

 

Steady as you go is not good enough

Overall applications by mid- April through UCAS were almost exactly the same as at mid-April last year, 25,570 this year, compared with 25,550 in 2018. As a result, there is little new to say. I am aware that there are some that suggest I predict a supply crisis every year, presumably on the basis that I will be correct some years and can forget the others. In fact, during the early years of the economic crisis, I actually stopped writing about teacher supply because there wasn’t an issue and only returned when I felt the tide was turning and government should start to take action.

With two thirds of the current recruitment round now over, I feel able to suggest that the outcome for this recruitment cycle for trainees will be very similar to last year and that will impact on teacher supply in 2020, especially in those parts of England where pupil numbers are on the increase.

So here are my predictions:

There will be an adequate supply of biology, English, geography, history and physical education trainees that will match or surpass the numbers the government think are needed.

Modern Languages, design and technology and chemistry trainee numbers are better than last year, but unlikely to be enough to meet government projections of need.

Business Studies, IT and computing, mathematics, music, physics and art will not recruit enough trainees to meet the projected levels of need identified by the government’s Teacher Supply Model.

There are likely to be enough primary trainees to satisfy the demand even if recruitment of trainees is challenging in some parts of the country.

Of the 40,560 applications for places on secondary training courses so far recorded this year, only 2,540 have been for School Direct Salaried scheme places, and there have only been 290 offers, with just 20 actually shown as ‘placed’. The apprenticeship scheme has not taken off in the secondary sector. Higher Education still accounts for almost 50% of applications for secondary places, although its grip on primary is slightly lower. This is somewhat curious given the nature of the course to train to be a primary teachers as a graduate. It leads me to worry about the skills in mathematics and English that can be taught to such trainees let alone their knowledge development of creative and other subjects. But, perhaps there are many classroom assistants converting to become teachers in the primary total of 32,250 applicants.

Of the 7,350 men that have applied to courses in England, almost two thirds have been offered a place.  The percentage for the younger age groups is even higher, with almost three quarters of those age 21 offered a place. However, that percentage is still lower than the 84% of women in this age group that have been offered a place this year.

There is still time to recruit more trainees in the remaining four months before courses start. There is also the contribution from Teach First whose applicants are not included in these figures. Perhaps that Scheme is having a better year than last year.

 

Fines for parents: not main story on absences

Yesterday, both politicians and the media were quick to latch onto the significant increase in the number of parents being fined for taking their offspring out of school during term-time to go on holiday in the data about absences published by the DfE.

Now, I won’t argue that this makes for good headlines, and is an interesting issue to discuss, and I will say more at a later point in this blog, if space allows. However, I don’t think it is the main story to emerge from the DfE’s data https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-2017-to-2018

For me, the story that should feature in the headlines is that almost one in six pupils living in the most deprived IDACI areas were classified last year as persistent absentees. (The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) measures the proportion of all children aged 0 to 15 living in income deprived families. IDACI bands are based on 2015 IDACI scores. Further information on IDACI scores may be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/english-indices-of-deprivation) that’s some 150,000 pupils out of 936,975 pupils. The percentage has been worsening each year since the new definition was introduced for persistent absentees some three years ago.

 

Pupil absence by Income Deprivation –percentages of persistent absentees (number of persistent absentees expressed as a percentage of the total number of enrolments.
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 Change 2015/2016 to 2017/18 % change
0-10% Most deprived 15.3 15.7 16.0 0.7 5%
10-20% 13.6 13.9 14.3 0.7 5%
20-30% 12.4 12.8 13.1 0.7 6%
30-40% 11.4 11.7 12.0 0.6 5%
40-50% 10.4 10.6 11.0 0.6 6%
50-60% 9.1 9.4 9.8 0.7 8%
60-70% 8.2 8.5 8.8 0.6 7%
70-80% 7.2 7.4 7.9 0.7 10%
80-90% 6.4 6.6 7.1 0.7 11%
90-100% Least deprived 5.3 5.5 5.8 0.5 9%
Data uses IDACI decile of pupil residence

 

Now, it is true that the percentage of persistent absentees has increased in all IDACI deciles over the three years, but the relationship between the percentages of persistent absentees to IDACI band has remained constant.

The least deprived communities have always had the lowest percentage of persistent absentees, and the most deprived communities the highest figures. Now, it would be interesting to see these figures by year group, especially with the discussions about knife crime and its relationship to both exclusions and truancy. If that one in six overall in our most deprived communities is say, one in four in years 10 and 11, the government really ought to rethink the secondary school curriculum and its effects on the 50% of pupils not destined for higher education at age eighteen. Do we really want to alienate so many young people from our education system?

On the issue of term-time holidays, and the response to the Supreme Court judgement that altered the terms of the contract between the State and parents, there is a political decision to be made as to whether to accept the Court’s ruling or change the law?

In the table above it is obvious that although still small percentages, the percentages have been rising fasted among the least deprived groups, presumably as a result, at least in part, of more term-time holidays.

 

Congratulations to the Education Select Committee

Alongside the unfolding shambles that is Brexit much of the work of parliament at Westminster goes on almost as normal. Next week the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession s its spring meeting, and I have provided them with an update on teacher recruitment along the lines of yesterday’s post on this blog.

However, of more significant to the work of parliament was the meeting yesterday of the Education Select Committee. Details at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/news-parliament-2017/send-evidence-17-193/ The minutes haven’t been published yet, but will be well worth reading when the do appear.

When I first started following the work of Select Committees in the 1980s, and then submitting written evidence, and in 1996 being called for the first time to provide oral evidence, these Committees met in rooms at Westminster. They mostly just questioned experts in the field they were discussing. There was no TV channel or live streaming, and I recall astonishing a clerk by requesting that a graph accompanying my evidence needed to be reproduced in colour in the minutes if it was to be understood by readers. Incidentally, guidelines in many organisations for reproducing graphs and charts in both colour and monochrome are still often very lax, making some documents very difficult to understand.

Issues such as concerns about the presentation of data will have been fully understood by those providing evidence to the Education Select Committee yesterday. In three groups, of either two or three, young people with special needs or disabilities provided evidence of their own experience of the education system to the MPs on the Committee. I think this is the first time that the Committee has actually heard at first hand from students with SEND of their experience of our education system.

Schools should not be just exam factories, but pupils with SEND should not lose out in achieving their full potential just because they face additional challenges.  Relegating these pupils to a separate room at lunchtime might be both convenient and help to ensure their safety, but it doesn’t help in making friendship with other pupils. Simple actions such as the wearing of a ‘high vis’ Gillet in the playground can warn other pupils to take care, and reduce the need for isolation and significantly increase opportunities to associate with other classmates.

All new schools should be built with doors and circulation spaces wide enough to take motorised wheelchairs, for even if there are no pupils when the school is being built, who is to say that there won’t be parents, staff, governors or even HMIs making use of such aids to their mobility? For the same reason, lifts must provide access to all upper floors where teaching takes place.

Funding for SEND, and the High Needs Block in general, needs more attention and I hope the Select Committee will consider that issue along with the part the NHS can play in early identification of those that need EHCPs rather than waiting for children to start their education. I hope that yesterday was the start of more conversation between Select Committees and those whose voices are often not heard enough.

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?

Employing NQTs

Recently, I asked Ofsted if they could provide me with a list of schools not allowed to employ NQTs, following an inspection of the school, so I could have a look at a range of job advertisements to see how the recommendation was being presented to possible applicants, including NQTs. Following an FOI request, Ofsted informed me on Friday that

‘… we do not record collated information relating to the appointment of NQTs. Each inspection is regarded as a standalone inspection event, and statements regarding the appointment of NQTs are made in the individual reports and subsequent monitoring letters for each inspection.’

They suggested that I use the published data on inspections, last updated to August 2018.

The appointment of NQTs differs between maintained schools and academies because maintained schools provide a period of induction. Thus, with regard to maintained schools, induction may not be served in a school that has been judged to require special measures, unless HMCI has given permission in writing. School Inspection Handbook paras 98 and para 121.

For all schools, a school placed in special measures following a full Section 5 inspection, the report must include a judgement (or recommendation in the case of academies and presumably free schools) about whether a school should be permitted to employ NQTs. School Inspection Handbook Section 8 para 173. This judgement can be changed at subsequent monitoring reports.

Now this raises two interesting issues in my mind. Firstly, maintained schools declared inadequate these days must normally become an academy and part of a multi-academy trust or committee. The inadequate school is closed, and no Ofsted report is available for the new school. Presumably, the new academy is perfectly entitled to hire NQTs from day one, since the new school has no recommendation resulting from an inspection report. This seems a little concerning. In one case the report on the closing schools said ‘strongly recommend do not appoint NQTs’. Should the new academy recognise and act on this judgement?

The second issue emerged from looking into what is happening on the ground. Viewing records for some of these schools converting to become an academy after an ‘inadequate’ judgement by Ofsted, has identified a concern about the amount of time an academy emerging from an ‘inadequate’ judgement on a maintained school is taking to receive an inspection report. The school that received an inspection report ‘strongly recommending do not employ NQTs’ seemingly had not received a published monitoring report more than a year after it opened as an academy.

A third issue is that not all inspection reports declaring a school ‘inadequate’ appear to mention in the report anything about employing NQTs. Almost half of the inspection reports on secondary schools in London identified as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors that I viewed didn’t seem to mention anything about employing NQTs in the report. That’s also a worry. Indeed, recording use of Pupil Premium seemed of more concern in reports that statements about employing NQTs.

Arising from this is a fourth issue. If a school cannot employ an NQT, should it be allowed to employ any unqualified teachers? There must be a presumption that if a school cannot support NQTs, then they also cannot support an even less qualified person in their classrooms?

Am I worrying unduly or can readers tell me of instances where they didn’t know Ofsted had said ‘don’t employ NQTs’, but the schools had gone ahead and employed them.  Did it work out?