Lower Fees: a threat to teacher education?

Will the promise of a possible cut in tuition fees held out in the recent Augar Review harm applications to teacher preparation courses, especially those courses for postgraduates?

Due to an accident of history, postgraduate teacher preparation courses with a higher education component are still usually linked to the student fee regime, at least in England. This anomaly has worked well for course providers in recent years, as they have mostly been able to charge the full fee or something close to that amount.

Although not generous, in terms of the cost of running these courses, the fee has generated more income than was possible during the period when the fee income meant that it was almost impossible to cover the cost of running a course from the income received and university management would every year have to write off deficits, often amid suggestions that teacher education would not survive.  Apart from in one or two institutions, it did survive, as it has survived the Govian era of regarding higher education as part of ‘the blob’.

Still, Augar poses new threats. In the short-term, probably the 2019-2020 recruitment round, will would-be teachers postpone applying for courses until the issue of a fee cut and changes to the interest rate on student debt are decided.

Any such reduction in applications would be a worry since noises from Whitehall now suggest that the government’s planned spending review may be delayed because of the change of Prime Minister.

Hopefully, those concerned with policy on teacher education will have raised the issue of the effect on recruitment of a possible future cut intuition fees with DfE civil servants. However, until their political bosses (is that a non-sexist word?) take a decision, there may be little that can be done in the short-term, except monitor what happens to applications and even that may be easier said than done next year.

I also hope that those on the teacher education side are talking both to civil servants and to the teacher associations about what happens to funding if fees are reduced to say £7,500? Will the shortfall from current levels of funding be made up by the government, and will that mean closer monitoring of recruitment again?

Course providers will need reassurance that the cost of running their courses will be covered if fees are reduced for students. If not, will we see further changes in the landscape, with some schools unwilling to participate for anything less than the current level of funding, especially with the pressures on school budgets at present?

Of course, I favour a return to the situation where all fees for post-graduate courses are paid by the government, and training to be a teachers doesn’t require an increase in the level of debt to the individual, especially if the length of time repayments must be made is also increased by ten years as Augar suggested.

With probably another five years of increased secondary training targets to come before the bulge of pupils passing through secondary schools can be provided with sufficient teachers, even if not the right mix of subjects, anything that deters new entrants should be avoided. A delay by applicants awaiting a decision on lower fees might end up as a loss of a number of potential teachers to the system.

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Mixed messages on ITT

The data on those placed either firmly or conditionally together with those holding offers for post-graduate teacher preparation courses starting this autumn was published earlier today by UCAS.

Overall, the level of applications is down again at 83,560 on 20th May compared with 85,370 on 21st May last year. However, that overall total marks a downward shift in applications for primary, by just over 2,000 and an upward move in applications for secondary subjects, by about 600 applications. This is where the picture starts to become more complicated

Record levels of applications in biology; English; RE and history have more than offset declines in PE – by a substantial number to only 6,000 – mathematics – some 300 fewer applications – and Art – 200 fewer applications. In each case, divide by three to estimate the change in applicants, as UCAS don’t provide that data in the monthly numbers.

In terms of placed applicants and those holding offer, Computer Studies; mathematics; physics and art are all at record lows for the recruitment rounds since 2013/14 for this month of the cycle.

Next month’s figures should start to record how new graduates feel about teaching; especially those that have so far done nothing about finding a career. The good news is that applicant numbers in the youngest age group; these will be new graduates, are holding up at similar levels to last year.

However, those in their Twenties are still not looking to teaching as either a first or second career choice. Numbers aged 22-29 are seemingly down in all age groupings. However, those, mainly career switches over 30 are still showing an increasing interest in teaching.

Applicant numbers are down from applicants domiciled in most regions of England. Those domiciled in London, where pupil numbers are growing fast in the secondary sector, number only just over 5,000, with around 300 fewer placed or conditionally placed applicants this year. Staffing the capital’s state schools should really be an issue for the STRB when considering teachers’ pay and conditions.

In the secondary sector, School Direct is still losing ground to higher education and SCITTs in terms of its share of applications. How the Augar Report, published today, plays out for postgraduate teacher preparation courses may well affect these figures in the next few years.

A languages teacher with five years of fees (four year degree plus one year teacher preparation course) could be faced with debts of £117,000 according to a chart in the Augar Report. With no difference in repayments between those earning Inner London salary and those in high cost areas on the national salary scale this is an issue the STRB needs to confront in their discussions on teacher supply.

Applications from m n are declining at a faster rate than form women, with around 240 fewer applications from men compared with only a decline of 170 in applications from women. UCAS only report gender as a binary choice. In England, the decline is from 8,910 male applicants in May 2018 to just 8,650 this year, of whom there has been a welcome increase in the number of those 21 and under conditionally placed, from 680 to 750.

Review of Post 18 Education and Funding

The Augar Report was published this morning. When generating a set of principles, this Review manages to be both potentially regressive and progressive at the same time, but for different groups in society.

The better news is mainly on the further education side, and the recognition of the importance of part-time study for some in society. However, even here, the Commission established by Sir Vince cable might have some better proposals for lifelong learning.

On higher education, the mixture of funding changes, wider government interference in planning through extending the range of subjects where government grant will be available, and general tinkering with the system seems likely to please almost nobody. If grant is available for Group 3 subjects, but not Group 4, and universities can only charge £7,500, how will the subjects in Group 4 fare? Will universities cross-subsidise, increase teaching groups, and reduce contact hours or just eliminate these subjects from their offer as uneconomic. I suspect much will depend upon the relative cost to income ratio at present.

As a means of boosting some STEM subjects, these proposals could provide incentives, but assumes there is a pool of potential undergraduates wanting to study these subjects, but not able to secure a place under the present system. One unintended consequence could be a glut of biological scientists, possibly with environmental approaches in their degrees, but no more physical scientists or engineers.

On apprenticeship, I was disappointed that Augar didn’t look at the funding pressure the levy places on small primary schools forced to pay the Levy by a quirk of fate. By suggesting eliminating permission for funding second qualifications, Augar would prevent these schools funding senior staff development through the Levy, as some are now starting to do under present arrangements. This is an area that the DfE needs to take notice of, as councils start repaying unpaid Levy back to The Treasury, including the cash collected from their primary schools.

The part of the report receiving the most attention is that concerning higher education tuition fees and repayments. A cap on total repayments is a good idea, but for public sector workers, subject to pay review bodies, the notion of paying postgraduate training fees is still a burden that Augar didn’t address.

As readers will know, I would require the government to either pay the fees of all trainee graduate teachers or offer all teachers full debt repayment for a period of service in public sector schools. Until then, I think the Pay Review bodies should comment on the effects of their recommendations on the teacher’s loan repayments under each of the different schemes in operation that year along with any proposed changes.

Aguar has a table suggesting that a modern language trainee teacher with a four year degree and a one-year training fee might amass some £117,000 of debt at the start of their career.

Finally, it would have been helpful for Augar to also have suggested better careers advice for pupils in schools to help them make informed choices

As a closing note, I hope this review, if implemented, doesn’t spell the end for philosophy, sociology and classical studies in our universities.

 

Harry Judge: a tribute

Harry Judge was Director of the then Oxford Department of Educational Studies when I arrived in Oxford in September 1979 to read for a higher degree. As a teacher with nearly a decade of teaching in a comprehensive school in Tottenham behind me, Oxford was a culture shock. However, Harry Judge was one of those that helped make my time at Norham Gardens memorable. He also inspired much of my interest in both teacher education and the careers of teachers that has continued to this day.

I especially recall his lectures on both the McNair Report and the James Report, where he had been a member of the Committee chaired by Lord James. Although the oil crisis of 1972 scuppered much of what James had recommended for in-service professional development for the teaching profession, the need for a sound education before becoming a teacher was accepted, along with the fact that a teacher preparation course was necessary for all by way of both pre-service training and induction. Not for James and Harry Judge the notion of Michael Gove that anyone with a good education can become a teacher.

Although much has changed in the period of approaching half a century since the James Committee was set up, this paragraph can still strike a cord, especially with those trainees not able to find a job immediately after completing their teacher preparation course.

“The probationary teacher, in fact, leaves his [sic] college on the last day of term and never hears of or from it again. Nor does the school to which he goes communicate with the college, even if difficulties arise. He is pleasantly received at his school (as would be any newly appointed member of staff, whether or not in a first appointment) and introduced, formally or informally, to the ways of the place. No one suggests to him that he is in a special situation, or entitled to unusual help. He may be invited by the LEA to attend a tea party but will probably not go and, if he does, that will be his last meeting with its officers or advisers. He teaches a full timetable including one or two of the notoriously difficult groups of pupils. No one goes near him in the mistaken belief that to do so would be to interfere with his professional integrity. At the end of the year he receives a note informing him that the probationary year has been satisfactorily completed, and he is now a fully qualified teacher. This gap between theory and practice reflects an equally alarming gap between the interpretation of the probationary year by colleges and departments on the one hand and schools on the other. Colleges rightly insist that a profession should accept a major responsibility in incorporating its own members and, in any case, they cannot themselves do everything, and cannot produce a standard and universally valid form of training which will enable everyone to do everything everywhere. The schools rightly insist that ‘the system’ does in fact presuppose that a new teacher is fully trained, and they are given neither resources nor encouragement to become effective partners in the training.”   James Report paragraph 3.9

School-based training, SCITTs and partnerships have helped eradicate the worst of the problems mentioned above, but a market system and a weakened third cycle of professional development can still leave too many new teachers without an ideal introduction to the profession: hence the unnecessary wastage rates for new teachers.

Harry Judge helped pioneer the successful partnership model for the PGCE at Oxford, as well as inspiring many teachers and leaders in the field of education. I am glad to have known and studied on courses that he taught. He was a major influence on my life in the field of education. Thank you Harry.

 

 

 

Bumping along the bottom mark 2

Today’s data from UCAS revealing the latest data about applications for postgraduate ITT courses shows a picture very similar to that of March last year. Applications for courses in England were 22,100 by the 18th March this year, compared with 22,430 on the 19th March 2018. Really little changed. By the end of the recruitment round last year not enough applicants were recruited in a range of subjects and, unless the Brexit fiasco causes an upset of significant proportions, the same result seems likely again this year.

Casting around for items of good news, it seems as if applications from those 21 or younger is the same as last year at this point in time, and applications from those above the age of 30 are higher than last year, by around 500 applicants. But, applications from the other age groups are down on last year. Chemistry, Biology and Religious Education are doing well for applications this year, but many other subjects are only around the same level as in March last year and in a few cases hitting new lows.

The decline in applications is greater for men than for women, with men now only accounting for 29% of applicants to ITT postgraduate courses. Overall numbers placed are still down on this point in 2018, at 570, compared with 750 in 2018, and although conditionally placed numbers are up, those holding offers are at a similar level to last year.

There must be serious concerns about Business Studies, with just 360 applications, of which just 70 have been placed; all conditionally. Similarly, in design and technology, there are only 730 applications across all aspects of the subject, with just 150 of these having been placed; again all conditionally. both these subjects are already in short supply in the teacher labour market.

Never fear, 1,140 physical education applications have resulted in places being accepted along with 670 in history and 560 in geography. 690 of the 3,180 applications for Biology have resulted in applicants being placed. However, for Physics, the number is just 190 out of 960.

Can the School Direct Salaried route survive? So far only 220 applications have resulted in either a place or an applicant holding one or more offers out of 2,070 applications in the secondary sector. Things are a bit better in the primary sector, with 1,190 placed or holding offers, out of 6,140 applications. However, neither sector seems to be attracting many applications for postgraduate teaching apprenticeships. So far, there have only been 330 applications for these course across both sectors.

The loss of interest among applicants is still mainly in the primary sector, but the figures for applications to courses to train in the secondary sector are affected by the few subjects where there has been growth in the number of applications.

As noted earlier, most shortage subjects are still bumping along the bottom, and with pupil numbers increasing again in 2020 when these applicants will enter the labour market for teachers that is not good news.

 

 

Bumping along the bottom

The alternative title I thought about for this commentary on the February 2019 UCAS data about applications to post-graduate teacher preparation courses was, ‘the Goldilocks effect’; some good; some bad and some results in the middle. Indeed, the final outcome of this year’s recruitment round is more difficult to call than for many years. The outcome is likely to differ by individual subjects.

However, one trend that is becoming apparent is the continued decline in interest from applicants in non-EBacc arts and quasi vocational subjects. Thus, art, music, design and technology; computer studies and business studies are all either recording new lows in the number of offers for February or are bumping along the bottom. The government must look seriously at this problem if it does not want to impoverish a future generation of school students and wreck many important export earning industries by depriving them of home grown talent first nurtured in our schools.  By the same token, the independent schools ought also to be worried about this trend, to the extent that they recruit trained teachers with QTS.

As might be expected, history, geography and biology are performing well in terms of the number of offers that have been made. Biology will help ensure there will be sufficient teachers with a scientific background in 2020, even though chemistry and physics are in a similar position to this point last year. Both these subjects are unlikely to attract enough candidates to meet the Teacher Supply Model requirements on the present trajectory for offers.

Overall, applicant numbers, at 18,510 on the 18th February this year, are similar to the 18,830 recorded on the 19th February 2018, but still well down on the 24,700 of February 2017. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, without the School Direct route applicants, numbers stood at almost 35,000, not far short of double where they currently stand.

There is more detail about applicants than applicants in the data. Applications for primary are down on 2018 at 24,710 compared with 26,430 in 2018, but applications for secondary subjects are higher at 28,380 this year compared with 27,910 in February 2018. That could mean about 200 more applicants spread across all the different subjects.

Looking at the applications in more detail, primary higher education continues to witness a decline in applications, down to 10,680 this year from 12,570 in 2018. On the other hand, School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are up by around 600 applications.

In the secondary sector, higher education still dominates applications, although School Direct fee applications have seen a significant increase, from just over 8,000 applications in 2018 to 9,000 this February. However, applications for School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are still below the February 2018 figure in the secondary sector.

Young graduates and final year undergraduate applicant numbers are almost back to last year’s, level in terms of overall applicants, but young career changes are still behind the number of applicants at this point in 2018. Compared with the 10,671 men that had applied for courses in 2012, the present number of 5,900 male applicants, including the School Direct applicants, is probably little more than half the 2012 total.

Still, Mr Gibb should be pleased that two thirds of applicants have been made an offer, although only 330 have been unconditionally placed. Nevertheless, making offer to two out of every three applicants is a very generous ratio indeed.

 

Teacher Shortages in the USA

The issue of teacher supply, and more specifically increases in the number of teachers quitting their jobs, featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal last week https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-quit-jobs-at-highest-rate-on-record-11545993052 It seems that the issue of teacher supply isn’t just a problem this side of the Atlantic, but one that has now hit the headlines in the USA. As a result, I am slightly surprised not to have seen a tweet from Donald Trump on the subject, perhaps stating that anyone can be a teacher.

A tight labor market, years of uncompetitive salary increases and a challenging job are all familiar reasons for the departure of experienced teachers cited in the article and known to those of us that study the labour market for teachers in England.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal didn’t mention a possible move overseas, in order to teach in an international school, as another reason teachers might be quitting. The article also didn’t mention whether there was also an issue of recruiting potential teachers into training courses in parts of the USA. However, it did raise the spectre of an increase in the number of unqualified teachers. I don’t think that the article mentioned Teach for America, one of the original alternative certification programs created during an earlier teacher supply crisis around the turn of the century. It also didn’t reflect upon whether technology might help overcome a shortage of teachers.

Education in the USA is generally a local activity managed by School Boards and largely overseen by the individual States. Some States have traditionally had good teacher planning mechanisms, such as we enjoy in England, but others have been less concerned with planning and more interested in a market-based approach.

One question, if the shortage continues and even worsens, is whether some States might go shopping for teachers overseas in order to help fill their vacancies in the same way that heads in England turn to Canada, Australia and New Zealand for potential recruits when the pipeline dries up at home.

Some US States have turned to the Caribbean countries in the past, but might they look further afield if the supply problem deteriorates further. Could we see competition between US and UK schools for the same teachers and could there even be attempts to entice UK teachers to take up work in the USA? I don’t think that is especially likely, but it is worth recalling that Michael Gove, when Education Secretary, did grant QTS to all teachers in the USA that are qualified, to allow them to teach in England without any need for further qualifications.

I will look at the agenda for this spring’s AERA Conference to see whether teacher supply is once again back on the radar of academics, as well as of journalists. I might just also delve into the archives and dust off some of the articles from conferences 20 years ago to see whether this is a case of history repeating itself or whether there is a new twist to the tale this time around.