10 Adverts per school in 2019

The average secondary school has placed 10 adverts for teachers during 2019. The figure is higher for most schools in London and the Home Counties and lower for many schools in the north of England.

The data are from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the leading job boards for teachers looking for posts anywhere in England.

Of course, the average is a crude measure, as it isn’t related to the size of the school in terms of its pupil population. There are schools with more than 2,000 pupils and also at the opposite end of the scale there are those with only a few hundred pupils.

Once the year is over, TeachVac will link the number of vacancies to the pupil roll of the school, as supplied by the DfE in its data, and compare the outcome with indicators such as the percentage of pupils with Free School Meals. As TeachVac has data for several years, it will be possible to start to identify trends and whether there are certain types of school where staff turnover is more common.

Of course, now that the number of pupils entering secondary schools is on the increase, and there are also new schools being established, the picture is not as clear cut as if it were a steady state in relation to the size of the secondary school population.

The data also reveals how the demand for teachers corresponds to the supply, at least for new entrants. Data on returners seeing work is still patchy, and a national register might be a useful tool for the new government to consider.

After all, what is the point of training teachers if there are also returners willing to work as teachers? As I have said before on this blog, enticing mature entrants into teaching and then not offering them work is a wasteful misuse of human resources. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the Humanities.

There are far more history and geography trainees than required by schools. History trainees, unless lucky to be on Teach First or School Direct Salaried Scheme, have to pay fees and find the cost of looking after themselves during their training, all this expenditure with no guarantee of a job.

This year, 2019-2020, according to DfE figures, some 178 history trainees are being supported by public funds (65 on School Direct Salaried Scheme and 113 on Teach First). By comparison, some 1400+ trainees are using student loans and other funds to train as a teacher.

With such over-recruitment into training, it isn’t clear why the government allowed spending on 178 history trainees at a cost of perhaps £400,000 of public money? That’s unnecessary public expenditure. Add in those 130 geography and PE trainees also on salary schemes, subjects where supply of trainees also exceeds demand for teachers, and the cost to the public purse is well over half a million pounds.

The current hybrid system of training teachers looks overdue for a re-think. Whether it will get one from the next government is probably unlikely while planning for Brexit continues to dominate the agenda.

 

1,336 Physics trainees in 2020/21: wishful thinking or realistic target?

Yesterday, the DfE released the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) information for England covering the academic year 2020 to 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2020-to-2021 There was also information on the methodology underlying the TSM that continues the trend towards more open government set by David Laws when he was Minister of State at the DfE.

Perhaps one of the strangest lines ever to appear in a government publication can be found on page 3 of yesterday’s key DfE publication, where it states reassuringly for ITT providers that ‘in reducing the 2020/21 TSM target, this does not mean there will necessarily be fewer trainees’. This is because the DfE has continued to uncap ITT recruitment in most secondary subjects, except PE, but has continued to cap primary numbers.

The DfE’s rationale for reducing targets, most of which haven’t been reached in recent years, are improvements in the methodology of the TSM, including the fact that NQTs entering through the assessment only route are now included in the calculations. Put simply, the DfE have found some more teachers not counted in previous versions of the TSM, and that has reduced the requirement for new teachers to be trained in 2020/21.

The problem the DfE civil servants face is that each September schools must be fully staffed, otherwise children would be sent home. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to carry forward unfilled places from previous years, as there are not vacancies in the system. Also, carrying forward unfilled places would eventually lead to targets that were ludicrous in size. Better to start afresh each year.

Rising pupil numbers, teacher retention rates and curriculum changes are among the key drivers of the targets that are set at a national level. Interestingly, business studies and physics are two subjects where targets have increased for 2020/2021. In the case of the latter, from 1,265 to 1,336, an increase of 71 possible trainees. As in 2018/19 only 575 physics trainees were recorded outside of Teach First, this increase might raise something of a hollow laugh among providers.

One might wonder why recruitment in Biology (reduction of 76 trainee numbers), history (291 fewer trainees) and geography (187 fewer trainees) isn’t capped in view of their over-recruitment in 2018. Could it be that by recruiting in these subjects the overall deficit will be smaller than it would otherwise be? Surely not, but trainees need to consider their job opportunities before undertaking training to become a teachers in some of these subjects. By 2020, the DfE should be able to tell them about job chances as part of the new DfE Apply System that ought to be operating at that time.

Next month, the ITT Census for 2019 will be published, and it will be possible to see whether, as I hope, the shortfall this year is smaller than the number of missing trainees last year.

Overall, the drop of 602 in secondary targets won’t have much effect on the ground. The reduction of more than 1,500 in the primary postgraduate target to just 11,467, may have more implications for some providers and their future, especially if this is not the end of the reductions resulting from the recent decline in the birth-rate.

20,000 fewer teachers?

The news that the Home Office are going to oversee the recruitment of either 20,000 new graduate police officers or people capable of earning a vocational degree must prompt the question; in the current labour market, where are these new police officers going to come from? Of course, it might be a preemptive strike by the government against a possible recession and the associated increase in unemployment. This must be on the assumption that any recession will hit the graduate end of the labour market at least as hard as it hits those with no qualifications.

After seven years of a failure to recruit enough new teachers into training – a back door cut – and facing an increasing pupil population, teaching also need more entrants than it has at present. Indeed, it seems likely that when the ITT Census for 2019 is published in November, this will be the eighth year of missed targets in some subjects. I recorded the disturbing decline of design and technology trainee numbers in one of yesterday’s posts, if anyone is interested.

So, might teachers switch to become police officers? I doubt it will be 20,000, but the loss of any experienced teachers will be a blow to the profession that has also seen retention rates worsen for teachers we might have expected to have reached the stage where they had become what one person described to me this week as ‘lifers’.

Potential teachers, especially those keen to be in London and not eligible for Teach First, might well weigh up the starting salary of a constable against the fees to be paid as a trainee teacher and the absence of any guarantee of a teaching post on completion of training.

I certainly think that this move to increase police numbers will reinforce the need for a review of the former training grant for all teachers, and not just payments to those lucky enough to be on Teach First or the School Direct Salaried routes or receiving a bursary. Of course, the government could wait and see, but that must be deemed a risk unless graduate unemployment rises both quickly and fast.

If the new Secretary of State for Defence wants more graduates in the armed forces and the NHS more nurses, then those actions will place more pressure on the teaching profession to be competitive in a labour market where it clearly isn’t competitive at present.

Do we really want a system that produces just enough qualified teachers of Physics to meet the needs of private schools, Sixth Form Colleges and the selective schools? Do we want a system that fails to produce enough teachers of design and technology; of music; even of art? According to head teachers that I meet, this isn’t even the complete list of subjects where recruitment is currently a challenge.

The other salvation is that a slowing down of the global economy might reduce demand from ‘overseas schools’ for teachers trained in England. Such a situation is possible, but with the switch of many of these schools to educating not the children of expat business families, but locals dissatisfied with their State system or unable to access it, not too much hope should be placed on this solution, at least for now.

More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

Bursary concerns

At the end of yesterday’s post I mentioned the data on bursary outcomes the DfE had published earlier in the day as a part of the raft of information about teacher supply matters. The Times newspaper has picked up on this aspect of the data published and made a calculation that some £44 million was spend on bursaries for those that either didn’t enter teaching or went on to teach elsewhere than in state funded schools. Some might have secured posts in Sixth Form College or Further Education; some might well be working in the independent sector and some might not have been able to find a teaching post in the area where they currently live, but the DfE doesn’t know how many fall into each category.

The DfE data is based on bursaries paid under a range of different schemes operating between 2009/10 and 2015/16. At the start of the period, in 2009/10, the training bursary was available to all postgraduate trainees; albeit at different rate. This was essentially the scheme announced in March 2000 during the recruitment problems teaching faced at that time. Some details of the scheme can be found at http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/6588.pdf

During the recession and when fees were increased to £9,000, the original scheme was replaced by a more nuanced set of payments totrainees. The DfE time series used in their latest publication might have been better if it had either taken data only from the start of the scheme that replaced a universal bursary or detailed the percentages teaching by each year of training.  Allowing The Times to claim that £44 million could have been wasted is a bit of an own goal for the DfE. A better explanation of the way the schemes operated might have deflected this criticism. After all, I don’t read of concerns over the salary paid to trainee army officers at Sandhurst if they don’t continue their careers after training. The same concerns might be levied at other public servants that draw a salary during training. In that respect, it is unfair to highlight just the teaching profession.

However, one might well ask about a subject like Classics, where the DfE data identified 120 trainees were paid a bursary, but only 40 have been located as teaching in a state school. With no link between training and employment on most routes into teaching – Teach First and School Direct Salaried route are exceptions – the leakage from training at public expense to the private sector is almost inevitable. Maybe the same happens in the NHS where there is a much more direct relationship between training and employment, since staff can always resign after appointment.

One solution is a return to a golden Hello type arrangements, where payments are made after entry into the profession and a tailored to the type of school a teacher is prepared to teach at. A challenging school, such as those supported by Teach First would attract more payment than a teacher working in a selective school in an area where there are no teacher supply issues. Such a scheme would need careful consideration, not least for possible effects on Teach First candidates remaining in the school after completing the Teach First programme.

Was the government wise to abolish a special unit dealing with teacher training and recruitment and to lose the expertise and knowledge contained within its staff? It’s not for me to say, but the presentation of the data on the bursary scheme might have been handled differently in the past.

Primary ITT: a matter for concern?

On the 16th January 2011, the GTTR part of UCAS recorded the fact that there were 37,016 applicants to graduate teacher training programmes in England run through their scheme. These figures didn’t include any employment based programmes or the Open University PGCE, although the numbers did include most of the SCITTs operating at the time. It is worth remembering that in January 2011 the economy was not yet recovering from the crash of 2008.

Fast forward seven years to the 15th January 2018 and the number of applicants through UCAS for the expanded programme of teacher preparation routes is 14,210; a drop of just over 22,000 graduates or would-be graduates. Now the drop would not be of concern if it was just the excess attracted to teaching when the economy was doing badly that had disappeared. But, I don’t think that is the case. In January 2011, there were 21,326 applicants for courses to train as a primary school teacher. In January 2018, there have only been 20,590 applications for such courses even with the School Direct courses now being handled through UCAS. As each applicant can make up to three applications, there could be as few as 7,000 applicants so far this year for primary teacher preparation courses.

For the first time, possibly in living memory, the number of applications for primary courses is virtually the same as the number of secondary courses in January. There are 20,450 applications for secondary course compared with 20,590 for primary courses, and 170 other applications.

Secondary courses seem to be reaching the level where those that know they want to be a teacher account for the bulk of applicants. That says little about the success of DfE’s advertising campaign and the millions that have been spent on it. The most concerning figure in the secondary sector is that School Direct Salaried applications have nearly halved from last January; down from 2,460 to just 1,330. That could mean less than 500 applicants. This number could be a third of the number of applicants for primary School Direct Salaried places.

Applications are down across the country and from all age groups. Most secondary subjects are at levels last seen in January 2013, and that proved to be a challenging year for recruitment.

The DfE can rightly say that January is a funny month, as the data covers a shorter period than in other months because the December figures aren’t published until early January. However, that’s the same problem every year. Nevertheless, even if we allow the DfE the benefit of the doubt for January, if there is no upturn by the publication of the February data then it will be possible to ask serious questions.

One might be, was it sensible to wind down the NCTL and take Teacher Recruitment fully in-house for the first time in a quarter of a century. The second might be, is Teach First experiencing the same challenges as the UCAS system or can something be learnt from their recruitment methods? Finally, what are course organisers saying about quality of applicants this year? Is it fewer, but better or is there an issue there as well?

Alas bright morn

Today did not start well for the government, with the President of the USA tweeting negative thoughts about one of his country’s oldest allies. In the education field it became even worse sometime between 0930 and 1000 when the Initial Teacher Training Census for 2017/18 was published. Full details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2017-to-2018

Let’s get the good news out of the way first. There are around 1,400 more primary phase teachers than recorded in last year’s census: good news for school recruiting for September 2018. There are also more trainees recorded in Physical Education; history; geography and classics. Numbers are stable in English; mathematics; languages; computing and religious education. However in other subject areas they are down, with Design and technology only recruiting a third of their target number by the census date. Indeed, only in PE and history, among subjects where recruitment is up or stable, was the target exceeded. With 13% more PE teachers than target, schools will once again want to consider how they might use these teachers to teach subjects such as the science and even, I have heard, art as in parts of London.

Overall, there are few surprises for anyone that has been following this blog and its analysis of the UCAS data throughout the year (In the next blog, the November 2018 UCAS data will be analysed for any pointers for next September numbers).

Higher education recruited roughly the same number of secondary trainees as last year, although the subject mix is different. SCITTs (School Centred Training) recorded an increase in numbers that went some way to offset the decline in overall School Based numbers. As predicted, the numbers on the Salaried Route for secondary subjects fell from 1,365 last year in the census to 1,080 this year. On the fee-based route, the decline was from 4,250 to 3,870. Does this mean that higher education remains more popular with applicants or that schools find that as their budgets come under pressure they are less interested in taking on all the responsibility for preparing new entrants into the teaching force? The fact that Teach First secondary numbers recruited were also lower this year by around five per cent is also notable, especially the twenty per cent decline in mathematics in Teach First trainees.

As heralded in the analysis throughout the year of the UCAS data, there has been a decline of two percentage point in those under 25 entering postgraduate courses this year, and a three per cent decline compared with two years ago. These losses have to some extent been replaced by an increase in older trainees with 24% now above 30 at the time of the census. The percentage of entrants from ethnic minority backgrounds continues to increase, while the gender balance remains largely unchanged.

All this means that in 2018 rising pupil numbers will create more demand for teachers, if schools have sufficient funds to employ them. What isn’t known is whether departure rates out of teaching will rise or fall and that outcome will be critical in determining the outcome of the labour market.

n 2016/17 non-EU/EEA teachers from countries where QTS is automatics for teachers registering to teach in England fell by 300 from the record level of 2015/16. EEA teacher entrants stayed broadly in line with the previous year at just over 4,500. What these numbers will be in 2017/18 and subsequently is important for covering some of the shortfall in home based trainees if the DfE Teacher Supply Model number is anywhere near correct.

On balance, I think 2018 is going to be a challenging year for many secondary schools looking to employ classroom teachers. As of now, it isn’t possible to provide a regional breakdown.