What’s happened to our young teachers?

Last week the publication of the DfE’s School Workforce Census data revealed the lowest number of Qualified Entrants into the profession in England since 2011/12. The number given for 2019/20 was 43,405 and for 2011/12 42,434. In 2014.15m the number was just over 50,000.

Now, there may be several possible reasons for the low number this year. There might be more unqualified teachers in classrooms. Although possible, the decline in School Direct Salaried route into the profession and an absence of significant growth from Teach First makes this unlikely to be the reason. Are school rolls falling, meaning less demand for teachers. Well, they are at the bottom end of the primary school, in Reception, but not elsewhere and, in the secondary sector, intakes were higher in September 2019 than the previous year.

Perhaps existing teachers were staying put? It is certainly true that fewer teachers retired or left the service than in the previous year, so that might possibly have produced less demand for new teachers. Of course, that is a complex picture, especially in the secondary sector, where demand may alter by subject.

Another reason might be that there was a demand for teachers, not met because of insufficient trainees. It is true that entry into training in 2018, the new entrants into schools in 2019, didn’t meet the expectations of the Teacher Supply Model across the board, but it wasn’t an especially poor year for recruitment on to teacher preparation courses.

Worth considering as a reason is that pressures on school funding reduced the demand for teachers and, as a result, there were fewer entrants. A quick look at changes in Pupil Teacher Ratios over time suggests that this may well be part of the reason.

Schools, especially secondary schools, are also remodelling their workforce and may be employing fewer Qualified Teachers. A glance at the DfE’s vacancy web site now shows a range of tutor and other job titles not paid on the Teachers Pay Scales. Indeed, last week, some 24% of vacancies listed by the DfE didn’t require ‘Qualified’ teachers to fill them.

A significant proportion of the reduction in entrants is among those aged under 25. These will mostly be newly qualified teachers either entering directly from their preparation course or after a short time.

Entrants to Teaching Under 25 and Qualified Teachers2011/1211,253
Entrants to Teaching – Qualified Teachers

Source DfE School Workforce data abstracted by author on 6th July 2020

Since 2015/16 the number of Under-25s that are Qualified Teachers entering the profession according to the DfE data has declined by around 3,700. A drop of some 20% from the peak in the past nine years. Since this is the age-group from which will come future school leaders, such a decline must be viewed with concern.

In the current world of reduced vacancies, this data, if correct, should start a conversation about the teachers schools are choosing to employ for the vacancies that there are? NQTs or experienced staff?

I have written elsewhere about the idea of a supernumerary scheme to ensure the profession doesn’t lose large numbers of new entrants, especially if many of the Class of 2020 cannot find teaching roles. They are a valuable resource and should not be overlooked. Without their services, schools might not be able to survive a second wave of teachers taking time out due to the need to self-isolate following local lockdowns during the autumn and winter.

Not the APPG June 2020 paper

Not the APPG Teaching Profession June 2020

The Labour Market for Teachers – some observations for the informal meeting 15th June 2020

When I last prepared a piece for the January meeting of the APPG, I thought 2020 would be a challenging year for some teachers looking for posts in the primary sector, but many teachers seeking a post in a secondary school would have more choice.

The rest of January and February saw more vacancies in the secondary sector than in any recent year, but similar vacancy levels in the primary sector to the past two years, although leadership positions remained weaker than in recent times.

And then came the coronavirus; lockdown, and schools talking only vulnerable pupils and those of of key workers; and not many of those. Vacancies slumped. By the end of May, the number of recorded vacancies across both primary and secondary sectors was almost half the number recorded in the same period in 2019. So far, June, usually a month when vacancies start declining towards their August lows, hasn’t shown any upturn in vacancies. As a result, 2020 is on track to look similar to 2019 for the secondary sector overall, whereas the primary sector will almost certainly record fewer opportunities for jobseekers than in 2019, unless there is a big upturn in the autumn in vacancy levels.

This begs two questions are now: how does the sector respond to a very different environment, where jobs are scarce, but applicants more plentiful? Secondly, how will this situation affect school spending patterns?

The APPG might like to establish an independent review of the recruitment market and what constitutes value for money in this new environment. As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be happy to provide evidence to such an inquiry.

TeachVac is now offering webinars about job hunting skills as a service to teachers, as are others. This recognises the balance in the market has shifted, at least for the next recruitment round and probably beyond September 2021.

NfER have provided their own recent assessment https://www.nfer.ac.uk/teacher-labour-market-in-england-annual-report-2020/ but as they note this was written before the recent change in the labour market post March. The TES, SchoolsWeek, and other publications have also commented on what is happening, based on evidence from various sources including TeacherTapp https://teachertapp.co.uk/

The loss in vacancies across the secondary sector was in the order of 5,000 between March and end of May compared with 2019. In the primary sector, it was nearer 2,500. What cannot be computed is the level of interest in teaching from ‘returners’ either made redundant or furloughed. Then there is the effects on the supply market and home tutoring to consider. An independent review by the APPG could consider the whole market and how it has changed. Such a Review could also look at what is happening to interest in teaching as a career. Is the fact the ONS classify teaching as a high contact activity putting off would-be teachers? Early evidence suggests not in terms of applications to become a primary school teacher.

For graphs place a comment or visit my page on LinkedIn search John Howson TeachVac

Coherent planning needed: not directives

Earlier this week, I offered this action plan for providing education for all in Oxfordshire by September, in some way or another. Such a position needs to be the objective. It would need cooperation from all groups coordinated by Schools Forum and the Local Authority. Like NHS and the economy, it will need extra funds

The aim to ensure teaching and learning is available to all 5-18 year olds in the county by September will be a challenge, but one we should embrace..

Creating learning for all needs strategic planning on a large scale. It should involve school leaders; teacher associations; governors and trustees of schools; administrative services of both local and national government and dioceses with responsibility for schools, as well as parents and politicians.

On the assumption that ‘normal’ schooling won’t restart until January 2021 at the earliest, there are a number of key areas where information is needed before effective planning can take place.

These are based upon assumptions of classes of no more than 15 pupils– how many attend may be another matter.

Teaching spaces – how many extra spaces are needed by each school –

What community assets might be available to help? Teaching A level arts and humanities groups in church halls and empty office space might be easier than relocating some other year groups. But, could a village primary school adjacent to the village hall make use of its facilities. Each school needs to know its needs and what the community might be able to offer. There are risks, but there are risks leaving children in the community without any formal education arrangements.

Staff teaching and non-teaching

Oxfordshire is lucky to have three initial teacher education locations. The first need is to discover how any extra staff would be needed for all children to return to school on a maximum class size of 15. This is different to a Pupil Teacher Ratio of 15.

Assuming staffing costs at the top of the main scale for both teaching and non-teaching staff, some idea of the cost of the exercise can be calculated once the number of teaching units is known. Additional teachers could be employed on a termly basis, if necessary with emergency certification. Academies already have the right to employ anyone as a teacher and other school are allowed to do so ‘in extremis’. Retired teachers could be in high risks groups so not recommended as a main source of extra staff


All pupils need access to technology and there needs to be an audit of those without the technology and those without access to an internet connection. These problems need solving at a local level, using what government support is available, but not relying upon it.

Creating coherent learning packages is the role of the teaching force. The loss of a local advisory service makes this harder than it would have been in the past, but schools can identify where there are gaps and how we can best work to help drive learning forward., especially as some young people will not be able to attend school sites because of their own health or the health of others.

Support services

Bringing back all children requires full support services from transport to meals to health and welfare support.

We can sit back and wait for events or we can all work together to make things happen.

All Lives Matter: But some need to matter more

Readers of this blog will know that in April I revisited an article I first wrote in 1996 about Equal Opportunities in Education.

In the 1996 article, I wrote that:

“It is clear that members of some ethnic groups are less likely to find places on PGCE courses than white applicants.” I added that “These figures are alarming” and that “If graduates with appropriate degrees are being denied places on teacher training courses in such numbers, much more needs to be known about the reasons why.” During the period 2008-2011, I was asked to conduct two, unpublished, studies for the government agency responsible for training teachers. Sadly, the conclusion of both studies was that little had changed in this respect.

In the April article that also considered the issue of gender and ageism in the training of graduates to become teachers I made the following points.

Fortunately, it seems as if more graduates from ethnic minority groups are now entering teaching. Data from the government’s annual census of teacher training reveals that between 2014/15 and 2018/19 the percentage of trainees from a minority ethnic group increased from 13% to 19% of the total cohort.

Table 5: Minority Ethnic Groups as a Percentage of Postgraduate Trainees

 Postgraduate new entrantsPostgraduate percentages
Trainee CohortTotalMinority ethnic groupNon-minority ethnic group Minority ethnic groupNon-minority ethnic group

Source: DfE Initial Teacher Training Censuses

In numeric terms, this mean an increase of some 2,000 trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds during this period.

Although UCAS no longer provides in-year data about ethnicity of applicants, there is some data in their end of year reporting about the level of acceptances for different ethnic groups.

In the 1996 article, there was a Table showing the percentage of unplaced applicants to PGCE courses by ethnic groups in the three recruitment rounds from 1993 to 1995. What is striking about both that table, and the table below for the four years between 2014-2017 that presents the data on the percentages of ethnic groups accepted rather than unplaced, is that in both of the tables, graduates from the Black ethnic group fare less well than do White or Asian applicants. Indeed, the overwhelmingly large White group of applicants had the lowest percentage of unplaced applicants in the 1990s, and the highest rate of placed applicants in the four years from 2014-2017.

In the original article I noted that “39% of the Black Caribbean group [of applicants] accepted were offered places at three of the 85 institutions that received applications form members of this ethnic group. Thirty-nine out of the 85 institutions accepted none of the applicants from this group that applied to them.” Although we no longer have the fine grain detail of sub-groups within this ethnic grouping, nothing seems to have significantly changed during the intervening period.

Table 6: Percentage Rate of Acceptances for Postgraduate trainee Teachers


Source: UCAS End of Cycle reports.

Using the data from the government performance tables for postgraduate trainees, it seems that a smaller percentage of trainees from ethnic minorities received QTS at the standard time when compared to those from the non-minority community, with the percentages of those trainees both not awarded or not yet completing being greater for the trainees from the minority ethnic groups.

Table 7: Success of Postgraduate Trainee Teachers by Ethnicity

2017/18 TraineesPercentage awarded QTSPercentage yet to completePercentage not awarded QTSTeaching in a state schoolPercentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state school
EthnicityMinority4,31188%6%6% 3,01480%
 Non-minority22,86192%3%4% 17,02281%
 Unknown70690%4%6% 50379%

Source: DfE database of trainee teachers and providers and school Workforce Census

However, the percentage reported as working in a state school was similar at 80% for ethnic minority trainees and 81% for non-ethnic minority trainees. As there are no data for trainees working in either the independent sector or further education institutions including most Sixth Form Colleges, it isn’t clear whether the overall percentage in teaching is the same of whether or not there is a greater difference?

So what has changed in the profile of graduates training to be a teacher during the twenty years or so between 1997 and 2019? The percentage of trainees from minority ethnic groups within the cohort has increased. However we know their chances of becoming a teacher are still lower than for applicants from the large group of applicants classified as White as their ethnic group.

Ethnicity and Leadership

For some twenty years I compiled an annual report on the labour market for senior staff in schools. At the turn of the century questions about the ethnicity of candidates were included. In the report on the 2005-06 school year I wrote:

Two other issues we have highlighted over the past few years, where we believe urgent steps need to be taken are the recruitment of senior staff from ethnic minorities and for faith schools. We are especially concerned about the almost complete absence of appointments in the Special school Sector of any staff from amongst the ethnic minorities. … although the position seems to be a little better in the Primary and Secondary School Sectors, we are not convinced that enough is being done to recruit senior staff from amongst these groups.

12th Report Labour Market for Senior Staff in schools 2005-06 prepared for NAHT and ASCL.

That was a typical comment of the period.

The NASUWT also commissioned a report into Black and Ethnic Minority Teachers from a team at the University of Manchester that was published as The Leadership Aspirations and Careers of Black and Minority Ethnic Teachers in January 2009. The text is available on Researchgate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242575423_The_Leadership_Aspirations_and_Careers_of_Black_and_Minority_Ethnic_Teachers The key message from that study was that at that time ethnic minority staff did not perceive the teaching profession to be inclusive.  It would be interesting to know whether such feeling were still prevalent today.

The is no doubt that progress differs across the country, with some areas more forward in both understanding and tackling the issues that other areas where they have been seen of as less concern. Hopefully, the issue will once again see discussion and action to ensure all teachers are treated equally. However, that begs the question of what is meant by equally?

Bring back the Star Chamber?

Bring back the Star Chamber? Head teachers retuned to schools on Monday to find that the simple form the DfE had be asking schools to complete about pupil attendance during lockdown had suddenly, and without warning, ballooned to one of over 19 pages in length.

Now, as someone that has made a career out of management information, I expect the required information is very useful to help Ministers answer the inevitable barrage of questions about their handling of the extension of the opening of schools. I nearly wrote re-opening, but of course, most schools never closed, and in some cases remained open during the Easter holiday period. As a result, it is wrong to talk of re-opening.

Anyway, in the past, it sometimes took up to two years to achieve a very small change in any data being collected from schools. I well recall the lead up to the introduction of the School Workforce Census, and the debates about what could and could not be collected.

Of course, the net result of imposing additional data collection on schools is that probably more schools will have thrown up their hands in horror and not returned anything, not even what they were returning by way of management information up to Friday of last week.

In one sense, I don’t suppose that Ministers will mind, assuming the demands originated from the political end of the DfE, since so long as they have some returns they can say ‘evidence suggests that …’ and nobody can gainsay the quality of the evidence, then they are satisfied. What ONS might make of this could be another matter.

I took part in a conference call on Tuesday with a hardworking set of local government officers, many of whom had been sending me emails over the weekend as they helped schools prepare for their new world order. So, this is the time and place to pay tribute to both the officers and the staff and governors of schools that have all worked so hard to keep the teaching and learning show on the road since lockdown was introduced.

Local authorities have had a hard time of it over the past thirty years, but those that have preserved a functioning education section have shown the value of a tier at this level to help the DfE manage the system. I don’t see all academies or MATs working with their Regional School Commissioners, but I do hear of them joining in with the local authority. And, as a politician, I know that parents turn to local politicians if they have any questions about what is happening. I wonder how many contact either RSCs or the DfE.

Issues of the span of control dominate structures in all organisations, and in the review of how the pandemic has been handled, the role of local authorities and education should be properly assessed and compared with the NHS and social care sectors, one of which has little or no local accountability these days and the other is a hybrid. Which works well and for what tasks?

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Primary Sector Report

National trends in classroom teacher vacancies for schools in England.

Regional trends for Government Region – total compared with previous two years.

Trends for by local authority for classroom teacher vacancies

Analysis of applications by graduates to train as a primary teacher – November to September.

 Number of vacancies recorded each day

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Dramatic jump in ITT numbers offered places

There has been unprecedented increases in the number of applicants accepted for places on postgraduate ITT courses in the month between Mid-April and Mid-May. Mostly, these offers were to applicants already in the system. The number of applicants domiciled in England was just over 30,600 by Mid-May 2020, compared with nearly 29,400 in May 2019. This meant that there were some 4,000 new applicants since mid-April, a not dissimilar increase to that seen during the same period in 2019.

The increase in applicants covers all of the reported age groups, with the smallest increase from those aged Twenty Two at the time of application. Proportionally more male applicants than female applicants were recorded during the past month, taking the number of male applicants to over 10,000 for the first time in this recruitment cycle.

However, it is the dramatic increase in numbers of applications shown as ‘placed’; ‘conditionally place’ or ‘holding an offer’ that is the real story this month. Especially, it is the surge in the numbers ‘placed’ in many subjects compared with last month that is most interesting. Of course, applicants can make a number of applications, and be offered places by each, so we need to allow some time to pass while applicants decide which provider’s course they really want to attend where they have had multiple offers.

These figures are not yet enough, by themselves, to solve all the teacher supply problems, since acceptances in some key shortage subjects have yet to reach the level required to be certain that the Teacher Supply Model number will be met. However, the super-tanker that is teacher supply looks as if it is changing course as a result of the pandemic. Next month, and the behaviour of the new crop of graduates, will provide more evidence of the view of teaching, as either a safe haven in an economic crisis or a risky profession best avoided.

Interestingly, there has been a drop in the number of applications to providers in the North East of some 300 compared with May 2019, whereas in London there have been nearly 1,500 more applications that at Mid-May 2019.

In the primary school sector, School Direct Fee courses and PG Teaching Apprenticeships seem to have been the main beneficiaries of applications, whereas School Direct Salaried applications are some 600 below this point last year. Perhaps these applicants have been switched onto Apprenticeship Courses as a more cost effective option to schools.

The pattern in the secondary sector is similar, with School Direct Fee courses gaining around 1,000 additional applications compared with the same month in 2019.  By contrast, the School Direct Salaried route had almost exactly the same number of applications, but fewer offers than by May 2019. Of course, applicants at this time of year must apply where there are places still available and that may affect the balance of applications between types of provider and across different subjects.

With the teacher job market collapsing during May, it isn’t clear what the future holds for teachers and trainees. Much to be done over the next few months and I hope there are the people with the necessary skills to tackle the issues.

Supernumerary teachers?

Some commentators are suggesting that schools might not want to employ NQTs for September, preferring rather to take on more experienced classroom practitioners to fill any vacancies. I can understand this view, but leaving aside the issue of whether existing teachers will want or be able to change jobs at this time, there is the more basic question about whether or not such teachers will be available even now in some subjects?

I quite understand the view that trainee teachers, especially whose long practice wasn’t completed before the closure of schools came into effect, have less experience than might be expected at the point a school would recruit them. Nevertheless, they still have more time on task than a school Direct Salaried recruit and, I suspect, in most case someone starting the Teach First programme.

For undergraduate trainee primary teachers, they almost certainly will have had the full time in schools, and should not be over-looked. After all, they started training when demand for primary school teachers was buoyant and now find themselves in a very different world.

With significant amounts of student loan debt, the most recent graduates training to be a teacher are in the worst position. Those career changes, with lower levels of loans, already partially or fully paid off, are in a somewhat better position.

So, what is to be done? With smaller classes, schools will need more teachers.  Should the government fund a scheme to allow for all trainees without a post for September to be allocated to a school, at least until the end of the autumn term?

How much more would it cost for such a scheme than paying and administering benefits to these trainees that started their programmes in a time when most could have had an expectation of a teaching role at the end of their courses.

Making them supernumerary would ensure that they can keep developing their skills and practicing in schools while the job market sorts itself out. New entrants have advantages in terms of their degree knowledge, if straight from university, and may be equipped to understand the best in new technology and learning strategies.

Using these trainees as supernumerary staff also has the benefit of ensuring that if there is a second wave of the virus in the autumn, schools may have the staff to cover for absences due to other staff members self-isolating for whatever reason.

Such a scheme might also be a way of encouraging schools to re-open where there are currently concerns for the future.

Whatever the way forward, we must not abandon the current class of trainees to their fate in an uncertain world.

TeachVac is doing its bit by offering a low price webinar about how to succeed in the job market. Details at https://www.careeradviceforteachers.co.uk/

IFS highlight what was expected

It is interesting to look back at what I wrote on this blog on the 29th February, using my experiences of other school closures, especially that of Haringey’s schools in 1979, during the Winter of Discontent.

All this is ‘obiter’ by way of approaching the main question as to what schools should do now, and is there anything we can learn from 1979? Two things standout; some schools, usually those subject to most parental pressure, were better organised than others, especially in respect of examination groups, and we live in a vastly changed world in relation to technology.

Schools that don’t already do so can explore the use of uploaded video lesson segments for revision classes, where limited new material remains to be introduced. Skype or video conferencing software might even allow virtual lessons in some subjects where teachers are available. Indeed, a pandemic, as it would likely affect teachers as well as other school staff, should be the final nail in the coffin of schools competing with each other, rather than collaborating for the good of all learners.

Specific thought will also need to be given to pupils, especially those in special schools that are transported to schools. Will there be sufficient taxis and other vehicles to bring them to school?

These thoughts chime with the report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies about who has lost out from the lockdown, in terms of learning. I haven’t had time to read their research in full yet, but I wonder whether they also computed the attendance rates in normal times for the different groups they identified? There is also differential rates of private tutoring even in normal times

None of this invalidates the IFS’s verdict, with which I agree, and was supported by the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission on the radio yesterday. Social Class and access to both funds for technology and space to learn can make a big difference.

Should we be looking to press new spaces into use as schools? Church and community halls as extra classroom; theatres; cinemas and even places of worship? Because, if we cut class sizes we won’t have enough space to bring everyone back in the present buildings.

We certainly need cooperation and not conflict between those responsible for the education of the nation’s children and young people.

Whatever the strategies finally deployed, we do need to see how we can work with parents to ensure children falling behind can make-up the essentials of learning without being stigmatised as either failures or willful for not having the resources and space at home that makes such a difference to learning. This will not be an easy task, but one we must aspire to achieve as a Society.




Webinar for Job Seekers

TeachVac is collaborating with Marketing Advice for Schools to offer a webinar for teaching either currently job hunting or thinking of doing so. You can find the details at https://www.careeradviceforteachers.co.uk/ With a new section on on-line interviews and how to deal with them, this webinar is based around a successful seminar created for teachers during the last recession when there were more teachers than jobs.

The first webinar will be next Monday evening.

Places are limited and participants will receive a copy of the sides. If you know someone that might find the webinar useful, please do pass this on to them.