STRB misses the point?

There is a lot of good data in the STRB Report published yesterday. School Teachers’ Review Body 32nd report: 2022 – GOV.UK (

Sadly, most of it, as far as the teacher labour market is concerned, is based upon data collected by the DfE in November 2020 in the School Workforce Census, and thus relates to the labour market cycle of two years ago. Even if, when compiling the Report, the data from the November 2021 Census was used that was still from a previous labour market. As regular readers of this blog will know, the 2021-22 labour market for teachers has been anything other than normal in terms of demand for teachers.

The STRB has at least been able to use the ITT Census of 2021 that provided the data about the supply of new teachers for September 2022. Readers will find little in the STRB Report that hasn’t already been covered in this blog in relation to that data.

However, the Table on pages 49 and 50 of the STRB Report tells the story of this labour market in two simple charts regarding ITT recruitment; with history, PE and Art being the only secondary subjects where the supply of new entrants has been anything like at the level required to meet demand.

Interestingly, TeachVac today added art as a subject with a ‘red’ warning of shortages possible anywhere in England for January 2023 appointments. That just leaves PE and history as the two subjects where supply is still not yet at a level for a ‘red’ warning. PE might reach that level in the autumn: history, even with a contribution to humanities posts, almost certainly won’t. In view of the fact that almost double the number of trainees was recruited compared with the TSM figure that isn’t really a surprise. There is little problem with the primary sector labour market across most of the country.

The STRB Report is an interesting analysis of how the labour market responded to the sudden appearance of the pandemic just at the time when vacancies for September appointments were reaching their peak. Essentially, the market seems to have paused in 2021, and, as we know in 2022, there has been this surge of vacancies. As the end of term approaches, TeachVac has recorded not far short of 80,000 teaching vacancies across England so far in 2022, and more than 95,000 across the school-year as a whole.

The STRB has some interesting observations about leadership vacances, and the problems of recording trends when some posts in MATs are ‘out of scope’ to use the STRB terminology. However, as TeachVac has reported, there does not seem to have been any mass exodus of school leaders. This is despite the massive burdens placed on headteachers and other school leaders as a result of the pandemic, and the need to keep schools open at all times.

On pay, make of the Report what you will. I personally doubt that their recommendations for 2023/24 will last the test of time, especially if inflation continues to remain close to current levels and interest rates increase. With little new cash around for schools, it might be worth looking at the history books for how schools coped with the economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s to see what might happen over the next few years. Although, back then, there was no spending on computers and other IT equipment.  

Is £30,000 enough?

Congratulations to the team of civil servants at the DfE. Now that’s a sentence you probably didn’t expect to read on this blog. However, the detailed evidence from the DfE to the STRB issued yesterday 2022 pay award: Government evidence to the STRB ( marks one of the most comprehensive analyses of the functioning of the labour market for teachers that has been published in recent years.

Perhaps, I can now retire, since the government has accepted almost everything that I have been pointing out for the past decade, and has also provided the evidence in minute detail that might provide some interesting posts for this blog over the next few weeks.

When a starting salary of £30,000 for teachers was first mooted, it was generous. Now with inflation running at a ten-year high, and the world looking like it might be facing a re-run of the 1972 oil price shock that led to a decade of high inflation and wage erosion, and incidentally did for the plans for much better CPD for teachers in the wake of the James Report, the £30,000 figure may not be as generous as intended. Time will tell.

There are two anxieties behind the good news. The first is whether small primary schools with falling rolls due to a decline in the birth rate will be able to afford the new pay structure? The DfE evidence could have done more to model this scenario, and the possible consequences for different parts of rural England in particular.  Church schools in urban areas may also be affected.

My second anxiety revolves around the extent to which the DfE has taken on board the relationship between training and employment and the global nature of the teaching profession. Of course, a willingness to work overseas might change, but with the growth in international schools being largely outside of Europe, might mid-career teachers witnessing their differential to less experienced colleagues diminish consider whether they could earn more teaching overseas? Perhaps, TeachTapp could ask that question?

Schools can restore differential for mid-career teachers by the judicial use of Recruitment and Retention Allowances, and it is interesting to see how these have been used across England, with areas where the labour market is tight seeing schools more willing to use such awards. Of course, it also depends upon having the cash in the budget to be able to do so.

Schools in parts of South East England outside the London pay structure, but with strong competition from the private school sector, such as in Oxfordshire, may well also be concerned about the likely consequences of this pay settlement.

One sensible move that doesn’t need to STRB involvement, would be to better match training to employment to guarantee sufficient supply to all areas. At present, the supply pattern isn’t anywhere near as effective as it should be, especially with the levelling up agenda.

If you are interested in teacher supply, do please read the DfE evidence as it is well worth the effort.

£30,000 starting salary for teachers by 2022?

The DfE has published the letter it writes each year to the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) about it view of the pay levels for teachers and school leaders. This year, there is mention of recruitment issues and teacher supply as a factor for the STRB to consider.

The government has clearly accepted the need for a £30,00 starting salary for teachers outside London, with presumably higher rates within the pay bands governing the salary ranges for teachers in and around London. The letter from the DfE states that:

I refer to the STRB the following matters for recommendation:

• An assessment of the adjustments that should be made to the salary and allowance ranges for classroom teachers, unqualified teachers and school leaders to promote recruitment and retention, within the bounds of affordability across the school system as a whole and in the light of my views on the need for an uplift to starting salaries to £30,000.

The cliff edge created by the boundary of the national pay scale and London scales is of importance to many county authorities around London such as Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Too large a gap and schools in those areas will face significant recruitment challenges for teachers at all levels from the classroom to the head’s office.

I am not sure why the DfE mentions capital spending in the letter as that is not within the remit of the STRB. However, the DfE does acknowledge that:

Teacher quality is the most-important in-school determinant of pupil outcomes. That is why, in June, my department announced over £250 million of additional funding to help provide 500,000 world-leading teacher training opportunities throughout teachers’ careers. We recognise that alongside this training and development, we also need to reward the best teachers as well as provide a competitive offer that attracts top graduates and professionals into the profession. It is therefore right that additional investment in the core schools’ budget is in part used to invest in teachers, with investment targeted as effectively as possible to address recruitment and retention challenges and, ultimately, ensure the best outcomes for pupils.

Of interest to TeachVac is the following.

Considerations to which the STRB should have regard

In considering your recommendations on the 2022/23 and 2023/24 pay awards, you should have regard to the following:

 a) The need to ensure that any proposals are affordable across the school system as a whole;

b) Evidence of the national state of teacher and school leader supply, including rates of recruitment and retention, vacancy rates and the quality of candidates entering the profession;

c) Evidence of the wider state of the labour market in England;

 d) Forecast changes in the pupil population and consequent changes in the level of demand for teachers;

e) The Government’s commitment to the autonomy of all head teachers and governing bodies to develop pay arrangements that are suited to the individual circumstances of their schools and to determine teachers’ pay within the statutory minima and maxima.TeachVac has recorded more than 64,000 vacancies for teachers during 2021, including a record number of vacancies during December 2021. The STRB might like to review the cost-benefits of the different recruitment methods in use at present and comment on their benefits to both teachers and schools.

After all, reducing recruitment costs paid by schools to a minimum will help release cash to pay for higher salaries while increasing the autonomy of headteachers and governing bodies. Perhaps there should be a Recruitment Czar?

Pay Freeze: more churn?

As expected, the main teacher associations acted with condemnation when faced with the Secretary of State’s remit letter to the STRB, the Pay and conditions of Service Review Body for the teaching profession.  In a joint statement from ACSL NAHT and NEU they said that;

The narrow remit issued to the STRB excludes the crucial and central issue of teacher and school leader pay, reflecting the Government’s unacceptable pay freeze policy.  Teachers and school leaders are key workers who have already seen their pay cut significantly since 2010.  With inflation expected to increase in 2021, they know that they face another significant real terms pay cut. 

How might their members react in 2021? We can expect a range of reactions. Some will say, there is no point in staying with no pay rise in sight – after all will the freeze really be just for one year? Head teachers at the top of their pay band, and having endured the prospect of two disrupted school years might well throw in the towel and take their pension as that presumably won’t be frozen in the same way; at least at present. We will look at that prospect and its consequences in more detail in a later blog.

Some teachers will seek promotion to secure a pay rise, and others a more appealing post either in a different school or in the private sector where there are no requirements for a pay freeze for teachers. Yet others may look overseas or to the tutoring market that will grow to support the increase in home schooling, especially if the government looks to regulation to ensure a minimum standard of education for all children regardless of how parents arrange to provide it. All these factors could increase ‘churn’.

With a profession dominated by women, at least at the level of the classroom teacher, how they and often also their partners view job security and new opportunities will also affect the rate of ‘churn’ if there is job movement around the country.

I actually think, at least in the first few months of 2021, there will be caution, and a desire to stay put and see what happens. With a labour market in teaching heavily skewed towards the first five months of the year, we could see fewer vacancies than normal in the early months of 2021. This will impact especially severely on two group of teachers: new entrants and would-be returners to the profession.

I well recall a Radio 5 Live interview in 2011, when callers were blaming each groups for taking jobs from the other. In reality, both groups were finding it more of a challenge to secure a teaching post, especially in some parts of England.

So, how hard will it be? We don’t know yet, so this is speculation based upon past trends, but I think some teachers will really struggle to secure a post in 2021.

Now might well be the time to revive ideas of a single application form for teaching, at least for personal details. This would leave just the free text statement to be written specifically for each vacancy being sought. The DfE should consider whether sponsoring that idea from those examples currently in development and on offer might be a better use of funds than continuing with their vacancy site that one person described to me in unflattering terms earlier this week.

In the next post, I will describe a new service from TeachVac to help teachers and schools assess the market and where vacancies might be found in 2021.  

Jam in 2022, but not cream as well

This blog has not so far commented on the largesse being promised to schools and the FE sector by the current government. I prefer to wait for specific proposals rather than broad gestures. As a result, the remit letter to the Teachers’ Pay Review body (STRB) announced today by the Secretary of State is worth considering for its implications for schools.

Is there a risk that the announcement of a £30,000 starting salary in 2022 might be like David Blunkett’s maximum class size initiative for Key Stage 1 classes, something of a Pyrrhic victory for the government? Allowing for increases in teachers’ salaries of between 2-3% in both 2020 and 2021 then perhaps the starting salary will already be expected to be £26,000 by 2022 anyway.

The other question that will interest schools is how many teachers will be affected? It isn’t possible to work out how many full-time teachers are paid less than £30,000 – presumably less than £36,000 in Inner London? The School Workforce Census for 2018 revealed that there were nearly 103,000 teachers paid less than £30,000 at that time. However, this included both full-time and part-time teachers. The Census also revealed that there were 111,000 part-time teachers across the system, so it seems likely that a significant proportion of those earning less than £30,000 at that time might be have been part-time teachers?

If I were the STRB receiving the remit letter for Mr Williamson, I would want to look at the distribution of teacher shortages and ask two questions.  Firstly, is there a regional pattern to shortages and secondly, do we want to pay some teachers more than others in an overt manner by creating not just regional supplements but also supplements for specific subjects and other expertise that might be in short supply?

Failing to address the first of these questions could create a situation where the Secretary of State made matters worse by making teaching in lower cost housing areas more attractive than teaching in London and the Home Counties, just as David Blunkett made teaching in the suburbs more attractive than teaching in the inner cities by reducing class sizes in the suburbs, but not in the inner cities where they were already below 30 pupils per class in most Key Stage 1 classes.

All the evidence points to the teacher shortage being worse in London and the Home Counties and that these areas are also finding it more difficult to attract graduates onto teacher preparation courses. Personally, I would uplift the London salary rates more than those elsewhere. (See pages 36 onward of the 29th Report of the STRB for why I say this.)

The government also needs to remember that teachers start earning a year later than most graduates, including those being trained in other public sector graduate roles. For this reason, they might also consider returning to a training salary for all postgraduates and not just those on Teach First and the diminishing numbers on the School Direct Salaried route.


STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?

More cash likely; but please don’t forget the FE sector

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has today published the report of their inquiry into funding in schools and further education.

It is worth reporting their key proposals in full in the light of the excellence of the Report.

  • urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760 (amounting to around £970 million per year), rising in line with inflation;
  • increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value;
  • increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected deficit of at least £1.2 billion, and ensure any funding uplift takes proper account of the costs of providing Education, Health and Care plans up to the age of 25;
  • implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible; make the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors; and investigate how best to account for the individual circumstances of outliers;
  • develop an official statistics publication for school and college funding to provide greater clarity on the data and trends;
  • grant Ofsted the powers to conduct inspections at MAT level, and require MATs to publish more detailed data on their financing structures;
  • ensure all eligible students attract Pupil Premium and overcome existing barriers to automatic enrolment as a matter of priority;
  • secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated Pupil Premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children;
  • extend Pupil Premium to provide for 16–19 year olds; and
  • set out the timetable for providing apprenticeship transport subsidies, as per the Government’s manifesto commitments.

It is good that further education tops the list, even though it is school funding that has made the headlines. The Committee concluded that

… total school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18. Per pupil funding for 2019–20 is expected to be similar to 2011–12 levels. Teachers, unions and parents have described to us in detail the scale of the impact this has had on children and young people, and on those working in the education sector.

Further education has been hit the hardest. Participation in full time further education has more than doubled since the 1980s, yet post-16 budgets have seen the most significant pressures of all education stages. Per student funding fell by 16% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2018–19 – twice as much as the 8% school funding fall over a similar period. This funding gap is the result of policy choices that now need to be addressed urgently. The social justice implications of the squeeze on further education colleges are particularly troubling, given the high proportion of disadvantaged students in these institutions.

It is a shame that these two paragraphs were not reversed in order, to ensure that FE funding issues were fully recognised. This is not to belittle the crisis in school funding, but to emphasise that funding in FE, and for the 16-8 age group that affects both sectors is in a state of real crisis.

The idea from the Committee for a ten year plan for funding, while headline grabbing, is unlikely to find favour with The Treasury, and would seem to be unrealistic in the context of a government that cannot even manage a three year financial settlement this year.

Finally, it is interesting that this report appeared on the same day that ministers appear to have accepted the evidence of a need to increase public sector workers’ pay, at least where they are review bodies. Noise in the media that schools may also receive extra funding also suggests a degree of realism now inhabit Sanctuary Buildings but, please ministers, don’t forget the FE sector: their needs should be first in the queue for additional funds.



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.

Percentage of schools in the region reporting a vacancy (%) Percentage of schools in the region reporting either a vacancy or a temporarily filled post (%)
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 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.

At least one alarm bell is ringing

The demands associated with employing new staff for TeachVac means that I have been a little delayed in catching up with the DfE’s latest submission to the Pay Review Body (the STRB).  This document is more than just an instruction on how much teachers working in school probably should be paid according to the government. It also brings together lots of other useful data about the workforce in our schools.

This year, the document can be found at and probably the scariest figure in the document is buried on page 44, where there is a table on wastage rates for the teaching profession. According to the 2017 School Workforce Census wastage at that point was 14% among classroom teachers employed in Inner London schools. I make that one almost one in seven teachers in London quit. If that isn’t including turnover, but just those leaving the School Workforce Census it frightening, but even if it is all departures, including those taking a job in another London school, the figure is still pretty scare, especially since this is the average.

TeachVac has consistently provided data for this blog showing London schools creating the highest percentage of vacancies per school. Indeed, so far in 2019, London schools are averaging around two vacancies per school according to TeachVac. It is worth noting that London is in an area where Teach First supplies a significant number of teachers, without their help the numbers would undoubtedly be even higher.

By contrast, in the rest of the county, wastage among classroom teachers is around the 10% mark. High, but manageable if supply is sufficient. The fact that in the secondary sector, (and the wastage figures aren’t separated into primary and secondary sector figures), recruitment into teacher preparation courses continues to fall short of need, as demonstrated in table 10 on page 48 of the document for EBacc subjects, is a cause for concern.

The figure for entrants into state schools in 2017, shown in the table on page 43, was just 23,300 teachers across both primary and secondary sector. This is 2,800 fewer teachers the peak of 26,100 reached in 2016. Again the DfE don’t break this number down in the STRB submission between those entering the primary and secondary sectors. I assume the STRB can ask for this data?

Much of the rest of the document puts the best possible gloss on a deteriorating situation. DfE officials have been required to undertake that task on many previous occasions and I am sure, having myself appeared before the STRB on several occasions that its members are well equipped to dig beneath the surface if the teacher associations don’t bring the missing data to their attention.

Finally, a little bit of history. In 2002, when wastage rates were collected in January not November, the total wastage rate calculated from the Database of Teacher Records was 9.9%, the second highest level since 1992. The highest wastage rate was 10.1% in 1998, but that may have been artificially inflated by departures ahead of a significant change to the pension scheme. Sadly, the DfE’s evidence to the STRB in 2019 doesn’t provide an overall national figure for the period November 2016 to November 2017, but I am sure that someone will provide the STRB with the figure.



More pay: fewer teachers: worse PTRs?

The 28th Report of the School Teachers Pay Review Body, published earlier today, provides a great summary of many of the points made on this blog over the past year. There are some good tables and graphs that summarise the situation regarding pay, recruitment and retention very well overall. However, the STRB might have looked at the primary sector in more detail, rather than just regarding it as a sector with a uniform set of issues. Data on leadership trends is also a bit on the thin side, which is surprising given that both associations representing school leaders are consultees and commented on concerns about recruitment.

The big issue arising from the Report is the extent to which schools will be able to afford the pay rise both for teachers and that to support and ancillary staff as well. As I suggested in my earlier post, before the report appeared, the settlement is going to cost schools real money. A secondary school with 60 teachers can expect an increase of perhaps between £70,000- £100,000 on its pay bill once on-costs have been taken into account. That’s a couple of classroom teachers or a review of the senior management team and perhaps one fewer deputy head and more reliance on assistant heads and teachers with TLRs?

I note that the STRB made the point, as I did earlier today, about the timing of their reports and the budgetary cycle in schools. How much did business managers put in the budget for this pay increase? Judging by the number of vacancies in the secondary sector so far this year, probably not as much as has been awarded in at least some schools.

How will the independent sector respond to this increase? This year saw the first reported decline in enrolments in their schools in the published DfE data on schools and pupils. Will it be possible to raise fees to cover the increases or might those schools be constrained in the increases on offer?

As I suggested in the earlier post, changes in recruitment on to teacher preparation courses as a result of the pay increase won’t be apparent until the 2020 recruitment round for new teachers. By then, secondary schools will be well into their growth cycle.

There is a very interesting chart on page 47 of the STRB Report showing the proportion of postgraduate entrants by different routes into teaching for 2016/17 and 2017/18. The DfE in their evidence stated that  2017/18 was the third successive year in which over half of recruitment to postgraduate ITT was to school-led routes, with such routes accounting for 53% of ITT recruitment in that year. (Para 2.13) The chart shows that although true, there was a decline in 2017/18 compared with the previous year in the percentage of trainees on school-led routes.

Finally, it is always difficult to proof read documents prepared at the last minute, as some of the posts on this blog bear testimony. However, the footnote 3 on page 12 suggests a degree of wishful thinking.