Winds of change

Congratulations to NASBTT (National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers) and UCET (The University Council for the Education of Teachers) for setting up a joint venture. I am sure nobody will ask about whether they are now trainers or educators of new teachers, or perhaps a bit of both?

Anyway, closer working between these two bodies is to be welcomed, as was the speech by Emma Hollis, the new Executive Director of NASBTT. Addressing a reception this afternoon in the Thames Pavilion of the House of Commons, under an eerie sky clouded with dust dragged in by ex-hurricane Ophelia, Emma announced the formation of AATEP – The Association of Accredited Teacher Education Providers, the joint venture between NASBTT and UCT- so perhaps it is education after all. Both organisations are dedicated to quality provision and that’s what matters most. I wish the new organisation well and Emma a long and successful time as NABTT’s Executive Director.

Both when going to and on the way home from the NASBTT event, I came across the new advert of teaching as a career put out by the DfE. I wonder what you think of the text that reads as follows: ‘My bursary was actually like a salary. It covered things like living costs and childcare for my daughter.’

Leaving aside the use of the word ‘things’ when outgoings might have been more appropriate and in line with the government’s view of the use of English, I wonder what the message is to those that don’t qualify for a bursary? Your living costs don’t matter; you don’t deserve a salary during your training as a teacher – unless that is you are on Teach First. Perhaps it is that only trainees in bursary subjects have childcare costs?

In this advert there is no attempt at depicting teaching as a profession for anyone, regardless of race or gender. Rather it reinforced the view of the profession as dominated, as it, is by white females. Now there may be other advertisements, but this is the one I saw twice today in different newspapers. There also aren’t any pupils in the advert either, so I am also not sure what that says about encouraging new entrants into the profession.

All this on the day when the DfE came clean about their work on a new National Vacancy Service for teachers that could change the face of teacher recruitment for ever. The DfE’s approach so far seems methodical and in line with the government’s digital strategy. I wonder, how much it will worry those organisations offering the bulk of the paid for advertisements for teacher vacancies?

Should the DfE decide to develop a fully functional recruitment site in house, such a move could have a real effect on several organisations that make some of their profits from advertising teacher vacancies. At this stage, the DfE is still working through the process of where to go and I am sure the issue of cost will be important, especially after the admission last week that the DfE still has further savings to make to meet the announced funding for schools that both the two associations of heads and school leaders don’t think is enough.

 

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New measures merely sticking plaster

Over the weekend the Secretary of State announced new measures to deal with the growing unease about the costs of higher education. She capped fees; adjusted the level at which repayments commence and made some technical changes to support for trainee teachers as well as espousing the apprenticeship route to trained employment and the development of skills. However, she didn’t do anything about the 3.1% management free on the tuition debt charged to students and displayed a somewhat limited knowledge of economics by trying to blame universities for not introducing lower cost courses for some degrees. As this blog has pointed out in the past, why would any provider cuts income when supply exceeded demand? With the number of eighteen year olds falling over the next few years, universities might well offer lower priced degree courses, but will they be shunned as possibly of a lower quality by potential students: we shall see.

The announcements about help for schools, some teachers and trainee teachers seems to be just tinkering at the edges of the recruitment crisis and based on some dubious assumptions in areas where the DfE lacks credible up to date data, as the NAO recently pointed out in their Report on teacher supply issues.

The series of measures announced by the Secretary of State, include:

  • Piloting a new student loan reimbursement programme for science and Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers in the early years of their career, targeted in the areas of the country that need them most. The pilot scheme will benefit around 800 MFL and 1,700 science teachers a year. A typical teacher in their fifth year of work would benefit by around £540 through reimbursement, and this would be more for teachers with additional responsibilities. This is in addition to the benefit that teachers will get from the newly-announced student loan repayment threshold rise.
  • New style bursaries in maths will also be piloted, with generous upfront payments of £20,000 and early retention payments of £5,000 in the third and fifth year of a teacher’s career. Increased amounts of £7,500 will also be available to encourage the best maths teachers to teach in more challenging schools.
  • £30 million investment in tailored support for schools that struggle the most with recruitment and retention, including investment in professional development training so that these schools can benefit from great teaching.
  • Supporting our best teacher trainer providers, including top Multi Academy Trusts, with Northern Powerhouse funding to expand their reach in to challenging areas in the north that do not currently have enough provision so more areas benefit from excellent teacher training, and help increase the supply of great teachers to the schools that need them the most.

Leaving aside the fact that there are far greater shortages in some other subjects than MFL and the sciences, such as design and technology and ICT, and in places even English, there is no obvious shortage of biology teachers and the government has little or no idea of whether suspected shortage of languages teachers is in certain languages or across the board?

The new arrangement for maths teachers looks like a return to golden handcuffs, tried before and abandoned. I assume the £7,500 payments will be in the form of payments to certain schools to pay recruitment and retention allowances of perhaps £2,500 per year for a three year period?

The £30 in tailored support might mean a return of recruitment staff, although they are best employed at a local authority level. Providing extra funding for CPD won’t go very far and it isn’t clear whether this is a single payment or designed to be continued for several years.

In a DfE strapped for cash, changes were never going to be very generous. However, these look poorly thought out and are likely to make little difference to the teacher supply crisis in the subjects they target and none in the other subjects where schools are struggling to recruit teachers.

New London ITT problem

Yesterday, I wrote in this blog about the headline data that has emerged from the UCAS ITT data for September 2017 that tracks postgraduate ITT applications. There is, of course, a lot more detail in the data that is of interest, partly because it provides the first look at what are likely to be numbers close to the end of cycle report when it appears sometime in 2018.

In a post on 27th March 2015, I wrote about the outcome of 2013-14 cycle, details of which had just then been published. In that cycle there had been 54,015 applicants and I noted the number hadn’t fallen below 50,000 since well before the low of just over 51,000 recorded in 2008. Now the September 2017 number of total applicants is 46,190 for the whole of England and Wales. Any number below 50,000 should start ringing serious alarm bells in the DfE.

In the previous cycle I discussed, 52% of applicants were offered a place through UCAS. This year, the figure looks likely to be around 64% of all applicants. So, almost two out of three applicants to teaching has been offered a place in this round. This is despite the drive towards school-based training and away from high education as the main provider of places. Of applicants domiciled in England, the offer rate was closer to 65%.

Geographically, London remains an anomaly, as only 57% of applicants were offered a place. The reasons for this low figure also need to be teased out. Are London applicants of a lower standard than those from elsewhere; by comparison, 67% of applicants domiciled in the North East were offered a place, a ten per cent difference.  The data currently available doesn’t allow for comparisons between phase and different subject mixes of applicants between geographical areas. Those from London may favour English, PE and history all subjects where applicants significantly exceed places available. However, as applicant usually apply within their local area, the low conversion rate for London must be of concern and worthy of further re-investigation.

It is also worth noting that the last time total applications were below the 50,000 mark the employment-based routes were not part of the UCAS system in the way that School Direct is now a part of the UCAS process. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the former employment-based routes and say, School Direct, but even assuming only 5,000 applications for employment based routes in their heyday, then the present 46,000 applicant number looks even more alarming in the face of the DfE’s projected demand for trainees of somewhere in the mid to upper 30,000s.

Interestingly, the timing of applications seems to be changing, with more applications later in the cycle. This may prove the success of the various advertising campaigns, but also puts a strain on everyone having to recruit through the summer. By mid-February this year only around 58% of the September total figure of applicants were registered in the system, compared with closer to three quarter in the previous cycle considered. The current percentage can only fall further as late applicants are included in the system. The implications for any change in recruitment timings should also be considered in details for possible wider outcomes on the system.

Finally, I remain as opposed to the current expensive and wasteful concurrent system that replaced the former consecutive application process. Both have their shortcomings, but one is much cheaper than the other.

Much as predicted in the spring

The final set of monthly UCAS data for the 2017 recruitment round was published earlier today. There are no shock horror revelations and the progress, or lack of it, of the recruitment round has been well charted throughout the year on this blog. It remains true that unless the economy takes a turn for the worse at some point between February and July in any year the likely outcome of the recruitment round can be predicted in many subjects by the early spring.

The outcome of the 2017 recruitment into training round looks like being worse than last year for the subjects tracked throughout the year, except in PE, history, geography and IT/computing. In English, the situation looks to be similar to this point last year. In Music and business studies the acceptance numbers are the lowest for the past four years. Even where acceptances are in the mid-range of the past four cycles they may well not be enough to meet the DfE and NCTL’s expressed level of need. This will affect the 2018 recruitment round for vacancies in September 2018 – see my previous post on ‘the eye of the storm.

What is especially worrying is the level of reported ‘conditional placed’ applicants in the September figures; as high as 20% in some subjects.  Either this reflects a lack of updating by some providers, possibly schools, or it reflect uncertainty over whether some trainees offered places were actually going to start the course? We will know the actual numbers when the DfE publishes the ITT Census, either at the end of November or in early December.

Numbers recruited to primary courses are well up on last year, by around 2,000 and that masks in some of the data a slightly larger fall in placed secondary candidates. The fall in ‘accepted’ secondary subject candidates is relatively small, at 440 candidates, and most of the reduction is in ‘conditionally placed offers, so it may be that actual recruited and numbers counted in the ITT census may not be too far adrift from last year. However, it must be remembered that if some subjects have recruited more than last year; geography is an obvious example, then those increases also serve to mask the size of falls in other subjects.

On the face of it, science and mathematics continued to hold their own compared with last year, with a continued growth in late recruitment over the summer. Indeed, these are the only subjects where there are still candidates shown as ‘holding offers’.

School Direct secondary has attracted fewer applications this year; as a result there have been fewer offers on both the salaried and fee routes. Salaried School Direct secondary numbers only total 1,100 placed compared with 1,440 last year. Most of the decline has been in the ‘placed’ category. At this stage it isn’t possible to tell how different subjects have been affected, but this trend will almost certainly have an impact on the 2018 labour market if these posts not filled by School Direct trainees need to be filled in 2018 from the overall trainee pool.

The letter for ASCL to the Treasury reported in today’s press revels something of how pressures on school funding may mean fewer vacancies next year, but with rising pupil numbers and fixed size classrooms, how badly funding cuts will affect teaching posts rather than all other costs only time will tell.

 

The eye of the recruitment storm?

The National Governance Association (NGA) published its latest survey last Friday https://www.nga.org.uk/News/NGA-News/Key-findings-of-NGA-TES-annual-school-governance-s.aspx Carried out in association with the TES, it not surprisingly reveals governors worried about funding pressures and thus supports the view taken by this blog over the past twelve months.

The DfE has now published the individual school by school potential outcomes of the Mark 2 National Funding Formula. I have had a quick look at the Oxfordshire schools and the change in the method of calculation has produced some improvements, in that no school is now forecast to be facing a reduction in funding.

However, the bulk of the primary schools seemingly only face a per pupil increase of around 1%. This is not enough to fend off rising costs and will be a real problem when the pay rise eventually kicks in if it isn’t fully funded. With all the promises Labour is making at their conference, it is difficult to see how they can fund a public sector pay rise with additional cash. A Conservative government might not find it much easier either unless they can identify some new sources of funding.

Funding pressures two to three years out means that the future for small schools is still in doubt under NFF Mark 2 and the two main churches with schools across the country may face a real challenge if the present distribution of primary schools is no longer sustainable.

I was interested to see that the governors questioned thought this year had been easier in terms of recruitment, but not by much. In view of the better recruitment in 2016 to teacher preparation courses and the record numbers on School Direct and Teach First courses such a finding probably wasn’t a great surprise.  2018 may not be as easy a recruitment if the predictions already aired by this blog are accurate in terms of trainee numbers, unless the squeeze on funding really does mean schools reducing their staffing levels as some governors questioned suggested will be the outcome.

Towards the end of next month the DfE expects to reveal the Teacher Supply Model data that will underpin the allocations to 2018 preparation courses and hence numbers likely to be available to fill teaching positions in September 2019 and January 2020. By that year, the increase in secondary school rolls should really be underway, so the funding debate will really be starting to make a difference.

Should school-based training numbers reduce, as may happen this year, then more schools will be recruiting in the open market. That at least would be good news for those providing recruitment services, unless the DfE has stepped in by then with its own service. Taking recruitment away from the private sector clearly fits in with labour’s narrative, but seems less easy to sell to Conservatives stepped in the tradition of the free market.

Either way, the price of recruitment should be on the way down: good news for hard pressed schools and another win for modern technology.

 

Shifting sands

The news that the public sector pay cap is effectively dead in the water should come as helpful news for schools facing recruitment issues. I have already suggested that the use of recruitment and retention allowances could be a way around the present pay cap as it was in previous times of recruitment difficulty. Such measures are often unfair on teachers already at the school, but they also recognise the additional costs of taking up a first job or a new position in a different area.

Of course, the cost of these measures, as I suspect with the relaxing of the pay cap, will no doubt have to come from existing school budgets. I don’t see the government offering large amounts of additional funds to schools when the pupil population is on the rise and that increase has to be paid for regardless of whatever else happens. This may mean larger classes; fewer small optional subjects and the continued encouragement of older and more expensive teachers to consider early retirement so that they can be replaced by younger cheaper teachers that no longer need a guaranteed annual salary increase.  I don’t think the Teacher Supply modelling process has taken this last factor into account and it may be partly why demand has outstripped supply in some subjects.

This blog was one of the first to catch on to the penal management fee the government has inflicted on those with student loans from this month. So, it is also good news that over the weekend there has been suggestions that the government will look again at the 3.1% rate. I hope that they will bring it into line with management fees on other financial products. Even so, many families might still find extending the mortgage on the family home a cheaper option that taking out a student loan.

Reintroducing maintenance grants for those from low income families attending university is also a sensible suggestion. Far more sensible that Labour’s idea of abolishing fees and paying for the university education of those young people whose families have been happy to pay for their education up to that point in time. I know the issue that post eighteen they are adults, but as the recent NUS Report on FE launched by Vince Cable showed, there are more deserving areas of limited government funding than paying for those that have not needed or wanted to use the State for education up to the point of entry into higher education.

The other area the government needs to reconsider is the funding of trainee teachers. The lack of any coherent policy between Teach First, School Direct and SCITTs and university courses is damaging to recruitment. A common policy of fees paid by the government and a training bursary for all graduates is both clear and coherent and worked well after 2002 when it became government policy. It has no more deadweight funding attached to it than any other government employment area where new entrants are paid a proper salary during their training period. The Treasury should be reminded of that fact. It is just that the numbers are so large.  However, cutting wastage through better retention of new teachers means that the scheme could even be self-financing if trainee numbers could be significantly reduced over time.

Not a good year for ITT

The final set of UCAS numbers for ITT before most course start next month were published today. Earlier in the week, in preparation for the today’s publication, I took a look at the daily figures for a date in late August 2017 and compared them with the same date in 2016. The comparison didn’t make for encouraging reading.

Subject Difference between 2017 on 2016 offers Number of Placed and conditional firm 2017
ART & DESIGN -130 505
BIOLOGY -340 965
BUSINESS STUDIES -40 165
CHEMISTRY -110 855
CLASSICS 5 55
COMPUTING 0 520
DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY -150 315
DRAMA -25 350
ENGLISH 30 1855
GEOGRAPHY 300 1175
HISTORY 215 1135
MATHEMATICS -60 2335
MFL -50 1420
MUSIC -50 310
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 30 1195
PHYSICS -140 690
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION -40 430
OTHERS -95 500

In the table I have reproduced two sets of the data; the difference between the number of ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ offers made in 2017 compared with on the same date in 2016 and the actual number of place and conditional firm offers recorded across all four types of courses (higher education, SCITTs, and the two School Direct routes).  Now a couple of caveats; numbers are rounded, so are not exact, but indicative, and some people offed places may not turn up or stay when they do start the course. These decisions will affect the number in the published ITT census to be released in November. These changes could be balanced or, we live in hope, exceeded by those still in the system being processed at this time. However, in many subjects, the numbers awaiting offers and otherwise in the process of having their application considered is also lower than in 2016.

The good news is in Geography, history and physical education, where, in these subject, offers are up on 2016. In English and computing there are smaller improvements and certainly not enough to mean these subjects will hit their Teacher Supply Model number. Elsewhere, there is gloom with fewer offers than last year even when the ‘placed’ and ‘conditionally firm’ numbers have been added together.

On the basis of these figures, as this blog has been reporting since the start of the year, 2018 is likely to be a more challenging recruitment round for schools seeking teachers than 2017 has been, unless either funding cuts significantly reduce the demand for teachers or existing teachers receive a pay rise that absorbs more of school funds so reducing recruitment of teachers. TeachVac will report on those trends as the 2018 recruitment round unfolds from January 2018 onwards.

As this blog has reported consistently over the past few months, the key loss is from women in the 21-22 age groups, where offers are down by several hundred compared with recorded numbers last year. This is a very worrying trend and needs further investigation to see which subjects are especially affected as the increases in history and geography offers may be masking some quite large declines in other subjects. The DfE may wish to ask their advertising agency why the marketing campaign is not attracting this age group in the same numbers as in the past.

The other policy issue for the DfE to consider is where School Direct is heading? There are fewer offers for both the fee and salaried routes in secondary subjects this year, with English particularly badly affected. The decline in numbers on these routes will mean more schools competing for the trainees prepared through the higher education and SCITT routes where offers seem to have held up much better.

Now it may be that schools are switching from School Direct to consider an apprenticeship approach. If so, that change cannot be captured in this data but does need to be monitored somehow. If not, then the future direction of allocations will need consideration as to how to maximise entrants into the profession for 2019 onwards when secondary pupil numbers will be rising rapidly.