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 However, it is always out of date and backward looking.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?

 

 

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Signs of some relief

You can just see the picture from earlier today. A civil servant rushes into Private Office and announces, ‘some good news on teacher recruitment at last!’ There have been 1,000 offers in English over the past two months and the subject is off the danger list, joining geography, history, biology, modern languages and physical education in the category of ‘should meet their targets in 2018, if these numbers are meaningful’.

However, that still leaves a slightly larger group of subjects where accepted applicants to teacher preparation courses won’t be enough to meet predicted need according to the DfE’s modelling process. Time is running out for these subjects and some, such as music and physics, are recording not only levels this month, where the Teacher Supply Model number won’t be met, but the number of offers made are also below the number of offers in July 2017.

Equally of concern is the further drop – compared with 2017 – both in the number of applicants (now down by slightly less than 2,000 on July 2017) and in the number of ‘placed’ applicants.

Although there are more applicants with a ‘conditional place’ than in July last year, there are around 900 fewer ‘placed’ applicants compared with July last year and around 3,000 fewer than in July 2015. This matters, because ‘placed’ applicants are the most likely applicants to turn up when the courses starts. Conditional placed applicants remain slightly more of a risk.

Age Group 2017 2018 Difference
21 and under

430

270

160

22

750

670

80

23

800

690

110

24

640

570

70

25-29

1550

1250

300

30-39

810

720

90

40 and over

610

500

110

All age groups

5590

4670

920

Numbers rounded to nearest ten, so total may reflect that fact.

The decline in ‘placed’ primary applicants in England, to 2,590 from 3,270 is clearly of concern, even though demand for primary teachers may be slackening compared with a couple of years ago as pupil intake numbers start to decline, mostly due to the fall in the birth rate since 2013.

There are only around 60 recorded ‘placed’ candidates in physics this year, compared to around 80 in July 2017. Even in history, ‘placed’ numbers are down from around 280 to around 240 this year. However, there 410 ‘placed’ candidates in biology compared with around 160 last year. This is another rare bit of good news and even figure is partly balanced by a decline in the number of ‘placed’ applicants in ‘science’.

The STRB Report, published earlier this week, showed a decline in the percentage of trainees on School Direct courses in 2017/18 over the previous year. In terms of ‘placed’ applicants, that decline has continued, with School Direct numbers of ‘placed’ candidates on Primary phase courses down from 1,270 to 1,060 and for Secondary phase courses, down from 1,000 to 790, with only around 130 ‘placed’ applicants on School Direct Salaried secondary courses in July this year. By contrast, placed applicants on Secondary phase courses in higher education are actually up this year compared with July 2017, from around 1,340 to around 1,390: another welcome piece of good news. Higher education courses also have more conditionally placed applicants than in July 2017 in the secondary phase, but not in the primary phase.

As we approach the summer season and the start of courses in less than two months’ time, 2018 looks like being another challenging recruitment round and it is possible that the 29th STRB Report in 2019 will have to record the seventh straight year that recruitment targets were not met. Of course, Brexit might change all that: only time will tell.

 

 

The importance of place in education governance

Is it time to reinvent LEAs? The Local Education Authority, democratically elected and supported, when there were also Education Committees responsible for the LEA, by persons of experience in education and representatives of teachers and any diocese with voluntary schools in the locality had a great advantage over today’s muddled arrangements for education. This was a geographical sense of place.

Should we return to a place based system of education with a degree of local democratic control and oversight? Reading the news about an academy head paid £270,000 leaving at short notice; about an academy trust with a £1.5 million deficit and a school turned around despite rather than because of the Trust it was a part of at the time, I do wonder whether the dislike of local authorities that was a feature of both main political parties for so many years has actually managed to produce a system that is worse than before: costly, undemocratic and in many cases lacking in a public service ethos.

The idea of Regional School Commissioners and head teacher boards hasn’t worked. Neither, now the money distribution is controlled to a large extent in Whitehall has the idea of the Schools Forum, bereft as they are of any really political accountability and link to policy making.

Would we have a funding crisis if local politicians were more involved in policy-making for the schools in their local area? I don’t know, but in some parts of the country we now have a generation of local politicians with little or no engagement with the local schools service and its development.

One has to ask the question about developing local resilience in terms of pupil places, teacher supply and a coherence for career development and effective professional development. Do competing and overlapping MATs willing to swop schools or just give up if the going gets tough present an education system that is resilient to local needs? Does it matter if there is no local democratic accountability? After all, who cares about the future?

Support for my concerns has come in a new report by academies at LSE and a lawyer from the Matrix Chambers. http://www.lse.ac.uk/News/Latest-news-from-LSE/2018/06-June-2018/Academisation-of-state-education-has-reduced-freedom-and-autonomy-for-schools published this week.

They conclude that despite some benefits of academies, there is on the other hand, ‘the lack of transparency in the way academies are run. In contrast to maintained schools, where decisions are taken by governors appointed through an open process, academies are run by ‘trustees’, whose opaque appointments are not subject to openness rules which apply across other areas of public life.’

The authors recommend that:

To address fragmentation within the education system, the authors recommend statutory intervention. Restoring a local democratic role where academies operate under legal contracts with the local authority, rather than the Secretary of State, would help strengthen schools’ relationships with their stakeholders. The authors also recommend a new legal framework enabling academies to revert to become schools maintained by the local authority, as opposed to central government.

I am not sure that I could have put it better.

 

 

 

Is London leading the teacher job market in 2018?

Will the STRB have to take a long hard look at where teachers are needed when deciding how to make the pay award this year? I ask this question because TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the free to use recruitment site that matches vacancies for teachers with applicants, where I am the Chair, can reveal the importance of London in the teacher job market during the first quarter of 2018.

According to DfE statistics, in January 2017, London schools taught some 16% of the nation’s children educated in state-funded schools. The assumption might be that these schools might require a similar proportion of the nation’s teachers.

There are several challenges to this assumption. Firstly, more teachers may be required because pupil rolls are rising faster in London that elsewhere in the country, especially in the secondary sector. Secondly, London, as a region, educates more children in independent schools than other regions. While London accounts for some 16% of children in state-funded schools, it accounts for 26% of those educated privately in recognised independent schools. As such schools generally have smaller classes and larger numbers of post-16 pupils than many comprehensive schools, their presence will probably increase the demand for teachers needed to work in London. TeachVac handles vacancies from both state and private schools. Thirdly, teachers in London may be more prone to either move around or move out of teaching: including going to teach overseas.

So what did TeachVac find during the first quarter of 2018?

Recorded main scale vacancies placed by secondary schools January – end of March 2018

London England % Vacancies in London
Business 110 355 31%
Music 68 244 28%
RE 75 301 25%
Social Sciences 55 227 24%
Geography 142 595 24%
PE 87 382 23%
Science 500 2229 22%
History 92 412 22%
IT 75 358 21%
Languages 195 936 21%
Art 54 278 19%
Total 2379 12423 19%
Mathematics 318 1813 18%
English 274 1566 17%
Design & Technology 62 454 14%
Humanities 16 129 12%

Source TeachVac.co.uk

As far as the levels of vacancies for main scale teaching posts in the secondary sector are concerned, London schools seem to be advertising more vacancies than might be expected, even allowing for the higher than average number of pupils in private sector schools.

The most interesting feature of the table is how it is the smaller subjects where the relative demand is highest in London. In English and mathematics, London’s share of the national vacancy total is possibly even below what might be expected, given the percentage of pupils in the private sector. I think this may be explained by the significant presence of Teach First in London schools and the importance of both these subjects to the Teach First programme. On the other hand, the subjects at the top of the table mostly do not feature so prominently in the Teach First programme: perhaps they should.

April is the key month for recruitment at this grade, and TeachVac has already experienced a bumper start to the post-Easter period, even though many schools are officially on holiday. TeachVac can link every vacancy on its site to a job posted by a school. The TeachVac site contains no vacancies from agencies or other sources, a factor, as the Migration Advisory Committee found some years ago, resulting in an inflation of the figures to a point where they can become almost meaningless. As a ‘closed site’ that only sends jobs to registered applicants TeachVac also cannot be browsed by those wanting to extract a finder fee from schools.

Finally, it seems as if the DfE may launch a trial of their own service later this month. do test TeachVac at the same time and with the same parameters and let me know how TeachVac measures up to the DfE’s millions of pounds of expenditure on the project?

 

 

Thank you

A big thank you to all readers. Whether you are one of the regulars or just coming across this blog for the first time, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading these posts. Today is the fifth birthday of this blog. It started on the 25th January 2013 with a post about the level of reserves then being held by schools. In the five years I have been writing the blog it has had 50,000 visitors – this landmark was passed earlier this month – and the 100,000 views landmark will be reached early next month as the total currently stands at 98,668 or just fewer than two views per visitor. The day with the most views was the 8th March 2014, when there was a reference to the blog in a national newspaper.

I think it is reasonable to claim that this blog helped lead the way in terms of highlighting the deteriorating situation in relation to the flow of new entrants into the teaching profession. Because much of my working life was spent in and around the area of teacher supply, it is perhaps not surprising that issues about teacher numbers should have remained a prominent theme across the years.

In August 2013 the DfE was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying what I had written in this blog was scaremongering and based upon incomplete evidence (blog post 14th August 2013, if you want to look it up). It wasn’t then and what I say isn’t now. But, I do sympathise with DfE press officers having to try and come up with an answer when the negative stories appear. The media is less interested in the good news, for instance, when applications increase. The easing of the concerns over maths teacher numbers during 2017 also wasn’t really reported, but that may be an issue of quantity not matching the quality needed?

Along with teacher supply, I have tried to keep an eye on the stories behind the numbers in education; or at least some of them. From rural schools in London to the profit companies make from education there is always something to write about and the blog has now reached more than 650 different posts in its five year lifespan. 130 of the posts have drawn comments and again, my thanks to those that comment regularly on what I have written; my especial thanks to Janet Downes for her insightful comments on many different posts.

Regular readers know that I am a Liberal Democrat politician and have fought two general elections (unsuccessfully) and two county elections (both successful) as well as one election for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner, all during the life of this blog. It is good to have some time off this year; assuming that nothing goes wrong and there isn’t another general election.

This blog is now on its fourth Secretary of State and I predicted the change this January in a post at the end of 2017, before the reshuffle was announced.

My one regret is that schools are still not doing enough to share in the challenge to cut Carbon emissions. My one hope is that someone will come up with an energy scheme that can utilise the vast acreage of school playgrounds that lie unused for more than 99% of the year.

Thank you for reading: my best wishes for the future.

 

Not a surprise?

In my Review of 2017, I wrote that:

‘Although there have been changes in the junior ministerial ranks, the Secretary of State has served throughout the year and is now approaching the point in her tenure when she is in the zone where many politicians find themselves either changing jobs or being removed from office in a reshuffle.’

Lucky guess or just reading the political runes? I note that the TES expressed similar views, so perhaps the departure of Justine Greening wasn’t unexpected. Nevertheless, we must thank the now former Secretary of State for her calming period in office. If it survives, still no means a certainty, the National Funding Formula may be Justine Greening’s legacy from her time in office at Sanctuary Buildings. We now await the possibility of changes in the more junior ministerial ranks.

The new Secretary of State served on the Education Select Committee for a period after 2010 and we had this exchange when I gave oral evidence to the inquiry into attracting, training and retaining the best teachers, when I appeared as one of a panel of witnesses.

 Professor Howson: I can’t imagine that the CBI would be terribly happy if we took the whole of Oxford and Cambridge’s output to fill our 35,000 places. That is part of our dilemma. Yes, we want people who are as well qualified and able as possible, but we are not competing in a vacuum, and society as a whole has to decide where it wants to put teaching in terms of the competition for graduates.

Q149 Damian Hinds: Gosh-most people would say that teaching should be very near the top. McKinsey, BCG and Goldman Sachs can fight their own battles, but in society, we want teaching to be very high up on that list of priorities, don’t we?

Professor Howson: Then this Committee must recommend that the Government take actions to achieve that. As someone has already said, pay may well be one of those actions.

Q148 & Q149 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/uc1515-ii/uc151501.htm

It will be interesting to see how quickly Mr Hinds acts to deal with the problems over teacher training numbers discussed in this blog and elsewhere during the past week. Perhaps he might like to create a specialist group to advise him on possible ways forward. I am sure that with his track record on social mobility including his role in the APPG on social mobility, he will find many willing to offer help.

Apart from teacher supply issues, Mr Hinds will need to look at the governance of the academy sector and how it relates to the remaining maintained schools. Having been educated in a faith school, he will not be unaware of the role such schools play in our system despite the increasingly secular nature of much of modern society. They may offer a model for cooperation that could plot a path to a unified system working towards the goal of greater social mobility that works not only for potential university graduates but for apprentices and everyone else in society.

Hymns and Schools

What better way for a writer of an education blog to spend Christmas Day than to recall some of the Victorian hymns that feature schools and education, either in their title or the actual words. However, research hasn’t yet yield up a ‘carol’ with a direct school reference.

In 1829 there appeared in the USA, ‘Hark, the infant school bell’s ringing’ by a Miss M. J. and composed for Infant school Number 1. This appeared in the aptly named ‘The infant School and Nursery Hymn Book, published in New York as long ago as 1831.

Of course, it is necessary to winnow out the much larger collection of hymns about Sunday, or as the Americans seem to call them Sabbath Schools, when seeking for those hymns about schools as more general education establishments. However, it is worth recalling the debt that the development of education has paid to those that started the ‘Sunday School’ movement more than two centuries ago.

Hymns about schools in general, and especially schools for younger children capable of instruction, appeared throughout the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, especially in the USA. Some of their first lines included:

Lord and Saviour, true and kind

We build our school on thee, O Lord

To infant school. To infant school

Dear God, a school day

Gracious God, our heavenly father, meet and bless our school

How we love our infant school

The bell rings for school

Our youthful hearts for learning burn – with the third verse starting ‘Our teachers are so very kind, We love to go to school.’ This hymn appeared in hymn books up to the 1930s.

Henry James Buckoll an assistant master at Rugby School was responsible for two of the more enduring hymns relating to the school year: ‘Lord dismiss us with thy blessing’ and ‘Lord, behold us with Thy blessing, Once again assembled here’. I am not sure what new pupils made of the reference to ‘once again’, but perhaps it was the schools as an entity and not the pupil as a person Buckoll was writing about.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the large number of Church of England and Roman Catholic primary schools in England, not to mention the remaining few Methodist primary schools around the country, there appears to be little specifically written hymns for these pupils to sing in modern hymn books.

Like other popular songs, hymns appear to go out of fashion, although at Christmas the staples of O Cone all ye Faithful; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Silent Night; O little town of Bethlehem; Away in a manger and while shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seem to come around every year.

So, festive best wishes to both regular readers of this blog and those that have alighted on this festive post. May 2018 be a wonderful year for you wherever you are reading this Christmas epistle.