Fewer younger trainee teachers?

Digging down into the details of yesterday’s DfE publication of the ITT census it seems as if the drift away from teaching as a career by young first time graduates has continued this year. The percentage change isn’t significant by itself, but if it forms part of a trend, then it will be worrying since new graduates have been in the past been a very important source of new entrants into the profession: those that remain also provide the bedrock of future leaders in ten to fifteen years.

This year, the percentage of postgraduate entrants under 25 fell to 50% of the total, while those over 30 increased to 24%. The latter are mostly career switchers and likely to be location specific when it comes to looking for teaching posts. Now, the percentage of older trainees has been higher during the dark days of some of the previous recruitment crisis periods, and losing under-25 is not unexpected as the cohort falls in size. However, it is a bit early in the demographic cycle affecting higher education to see a decline at the new graduate level at this stage. If it were to continue, then in three to four years’ time there might be a real issue if planning for how these missing entrants could be replaced has not taken place. To this end, last week’s announcement of funds to attract career changers is a welcome move. However, it is not just classroom teachers we need, but also the leaders of tomorrow.

There is mixed news on the gender profile of new entrants this year. Some secondary subjects have attracted more men, notably mathematics, where the percentage of males topped the 50% mark again, after falling to 49% last year. Overall men accounted for only 39% of secondary applicants this year although there were more, due to the overall rise in trainee numbers: 6,270 this year compared with 5,945 last year. In the primary sector, men accounted for 19% of trainee numbers, down from 20% last year, meaning 185 fewer men this year than last. Worrying, but nowhere near as bad as it was in the late 1990s when I think that the percentage was heading towards single figures. Still, it is not a good gender balance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, computing had one of the largest percentages of men in the cohort: some 68% of trainees, although that was down two per cent on last year. However, that was topped by Physics, where 71% of the 575 trainees were men this year. This means there were only around 170 women on teacher preparation courses to teach Physics this year. If there is sufficient demand from single sex girls’ schools, then a female NQT in physics might be a rare sighting in a co-educational school next September.

There is better news about the ethnic background of new entrants into teacher preparation courses, with 18% of postgraduate trainees and 12% of undergraduate new entrants being recorded as from any minority ethnic group. These are the highest percentages in recent years, and possibly since records were first collected about ethnicity. However, the DfE doesn’t reveal how many trainees did not provide this information.

In my next blog I will discuss trends across the different types of providers and the balance between school based courses and the more established partnership arrangements led by higher education and most SCITTs.

 

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Déjà vu

The traffic light colours of Green, Amber and Red have become a popular method of distinguishing degrees of concern or providing a warning as we saw recently with the Met Office descriptions of the snow and ice events. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has always used such a system to warn of shortages in the labour market for classroom teachers in the secondary sector.

Today, TeachVac has just issued its first Red warning for a subject this year. It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the subject concerned is Business Studies. The DfE’s Teacher Supply model seems to consistently underestimate the need for such teachers by schools. Additionally, in 2017, the failure to fill 20% of the places on offer to trainees has only exacerbated the situation.

The Red warning means that in TeachVac’s estimation schools anywhere in England could from now onwards struggle to recruit a teacher of Business Studies. This challenge will extend right through to January 2019 and the start of the new recruitment round. With Business Studies applications for 2018 teacher preparation courses already only tracking the 2017 levels, 2019 isn’t looking any more hopeful at present.

At the same time as TeachVac issued a Red warning for Business Studies it is within days of issuing an Amber warning for English classroom teacher recruitment. Here again, with 10% of training places unfilled in 2017, TeachVac will shortly be warning that some schools could start to face challenges in recruitment. There are fewer trainees on school-based preparation courses for English this year. As a result, demand in terms of advertised vacancies may well be greater than in recent years, when some schools employed School Direct trainees without needing to advertise vacancies. TeachVac expects recruitment to be especially challenging in areas where the pupil numbers are on the increase, namely London and the Home Counties.

If this all feels horribly familiar to regular readers of this blog, then they are correct. On the 8th March 2017, budget day last year, I wrote almost exactly the same post about the 2017 situation. Those that haven’t read it might like to compare the two posts.

Already in 2018, TeachVac has already also issued an Amber warning for Design and Technology. This is partly because only a third of places on teacher preparation course in this subject were filled in 2017. This meant total trainee numbers, including forecasts at the time of the DfE’s census, only amounted to some 303 trainees this year. Such a number is less than one trainee per ten secondary schools, even assuming all trainees both complete the preparation year and then want to teach in a state funded secondary school. Within some of the subjects that make up the Design and Technology family, the situation may be even worse: TeachVac is monitoring the spread of expertise requested within adverts, something nobody else even attempts to do to the same degree.

However, in this recruitment round, we do not expect any significant issues recruiting teachers to fill primary school vacancies. But, as the previous post have indicated, 2019 might be more of a problem, unless applications pick up over the next few months.

 

 

Most trainees teach close to where they train: no surprise there

Last week the DfE published the fourth in their series of publications about teacher supply. Entitled, ‘Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility’ it can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/682892/SFR11_2018_Main_Text.pdf Like the three earlier publications, it takes the School Workforce Census and the ITT Performance Profiles as the main sources for its data. As the authors make clear, this publication ‘aims to generate new insights, be an accessible resource to stimulate debate, improve the public understanding of our data, and generate ideas for further research, rather than to provide authoritative answers to research questions.’ (page2).

Much of the ground the document covers will come as no great surprise to those familiar with this field. However, there is a welcome aspect to this series of documents showing after many years of official neglect and even disinterest that these concerns are now finding more favour with the DfE as part of understanding the issues around the labour market for teachers. However, as our own TeachVac’s recent report into turnover of school leaders in the primary sector during 2017 shows, there remains much more work to be undertaken before the labour market can be fully understood.

Key features of the analysis by the DfE are that post ITT employment rates stand at 85% for the latest cohort where data is available, up from 75% for the 2009/10 cohort. However, the DfE still cannot count entrants into the independent sector; FE or Sixth Form Colleges so probably around 90% of postgraduates may enter some form of teaching after qualification.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, SCITTS have higher employment rates than HEIs. I suspect this is because more HEI trainees are likely to end up in teaching posts not covered by the DfE methodology and SCITT can offer teaching posts directly to their trainees. The existence employment outside the state funded school sector is given extra credence by the low outcomes on the employment measure for some pre-1992 Universities with only trainees in secondary ITT subjects.

Also, of no surprise given the distribution of ITT places, especially in the primary sector, is the fact that the North West region has the lowest outcomes for employment and the East of England the highest. A higher percentage of primary trainees end up in the state sector than do secondary trainees, again not really a surprise.

Most trainees start to teach close to where they train and then are more likely only to move locally. This means that many teachers may spend their careers in the same region. In 2015, possibly because of less competition from returners and a great number of vacancies than in 2010, a year during the recession, the distance travelled by new entrants was shorter. Young male graduates from HEIs were likely to move further than trainees from SCITTs.

Interestingly, teachers were more likely to move to schools with the lowest two Ofsted grades. This may be because such schools might shed staff after an inspection creating more vacancies than in schools with better ratings.  Overall, a part time female primary teacher has a 94.7% chance of moving 50 kilometres or less compared with 82.1% for a full-time male secondary teacher. Again, this is probably not surprising given that the former may have a stake in a community and a partner with employment locally. Their choice may be between either a local job or no job, whereas a male secondary teacher may be motivated to choose on a wider set of criteria including type of school and salary on offer.

The DfE conducted some interviews as a part of this work and recruitment difficulties featured as more of a concern than retention, with great concern over some secondary subjects: again, probably no great surprise.

Along with the recent work by NfER in the field of teacher retention, this study is worth reading and although the DfE support the value of a national teacher supply model, as indeed I do, there may be some benefit in evaluating whether some regional rebalancing of teacher preparation places might be appropriate.

However, if trainees cannot be recruited then, however, good the modelling, the outcome will always be that some schools will be unable to recruit the teachers they need and deserve. With rising pupil numbers driving demand for teachers, any shortfall in recruitment into training is eventually likely to affect school and pupil outcomes.

On Thursday, the next set of UCAS data on recruitment to training for 2018 will be published. The data will be watched closely and reported on this blog.

 

TeachVac continues to grow

As many readers of this blog know, I am chair of the company that operates TeachVac – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers. Once seen by some as a concept that wouldn’t survive, TeachVac is now starting its fourth cycle of free, unpaid, recruitment advertising for teaching posts. Covering teaching vacancies across the whole of England, with plans to expand further in the autumn, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk offers a free service to both schools and applicants looking for a teaching post and has doubled in size yet again over the last twelve months.

In addition to handling vacancies for individual schools, TeachVac also handles organisations placing multiple vacancies at the same time and has special arrangements for both dioceses and MATs that help those with decentralised recruitment policies track what is happening in their schools.

With coverage of all 151 local authority areas in England, TeachVac includes vacancies in both state-funded schools of all descriptions as well as private schools and from the start of 2017, state funded-primary schools throughout the whole of England. TeachVac is now the largest site for teaching vacancies in England and, of course is free to both schools posting vacancies as well as those seeking a teaching post.

Vacancies are shown to registered job seekers at one of three different levels, classroom teacher; promoted post and leadership positions. Job seekers may specify either a geographical area based a radius of a postcode or a specific local authority area for the larger rural counties. New matches are sent to candidates every day and allow the potential applicant to decide whether to apply for the vacancy. TeachVac makes it possible to track how many applicants are interested in each vacancy.

Over the course of a year, new entrants to the profession can see something of the frequency of vacancies in the subject they are preparing to teach and the location where they wish to teach. This also applies to teachers overseas wishing to return to England to teach and, indeed, any teacher considering either a change of school or a promotion. TeachVac regularly receives visits from those located in over 100 countries around the world each year.

With its wealth of real-time data, TeachVac monitors the recruitment round as it is taking place. This, along with saving money for schools was the reason for creating TeachVac in the first place.

TeachVac is also uniquely placed to match numbers in training with vacancies across the recruitment cycle providing early warnings of shortages both in specific subjects or geographical areas so that schools can make the necessary adjustments to their recruitment campaigns. As hinted in previous posts, although 2017 was not the worst recruitment round of recent years, 2018 is shaping up to be a real challenge for many schools.

If you want to recruit a teacher, find a new teaching post or understand what is actually happening the teacher recruitment marketplace then visit www.teachvac.co.uk  – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers.

Uphill task, but not yet panic mode?

At the end of January, when that month’s UCAS data on applications to ITT postgraduate programmes was published, I wrote in a blog ‘The next four weeks are vital ones for teacher supply and the number of teachers entering the labour market in 2018.’ So, it has turned out to be.

The February data was published earlier today. It is worth noting that it is data up to 20th February this year, whereas the comparative data for 2016 was up to the 15th February. On that basis there are several more days for applications included in this year’s figures.

As a result, the fact that applicants with a domicile in England are down from 26,130 last year to 24,720 this year is disappointing to say the least. Applications aren’t just down in one region, but across most of the country. In London, a key area of need for teachers, applicants are down by around 200 and in the usually buoyant North West, numbers are down by around 300.

Most alarming is the haemorrhaging of applications form those under 22. Compared with 2016, there have been around 1,000 fewer applicants from this age-group, to just 7,850.

The loss of keen bright new graduates has not been fully offset by additional applications for career changers and other older applicants. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, before the School Direct programmes were included in the process, there were 34,936 applicants at this point in the cycle. So in five years, teaching has seen around 10,000 fewer applicants by February As that month marks the half-way point in the application cycle, time is already slipping away to make up this deficit.

Of course, if the smaller number of applicants are of high quality, this may not matter. But, assuming no change in the profile or even that fewer doesn’t mean better, this poses a problem for providers. Do they lower the quality mark when offering places?

Interestingly, this is a dilemma for higher education as much as for school-based providers thus year since applications to higher education are holding up better than for school-based training. HE institutions have attracted 36,260 of the 73,440 applications. School Direct salaried has only attracted 10,350 compared with 11,680 last February. This is despite the greater proportion of older applications that would be eligible for the School Direct Salaried route. Of course, there may be fewer places on offer, but that fact remains a mystery since government won’t publish the national targets.

In terms of subjects, geography and history are doing well, several other subjects are holding their own and schools might well start making room for PSHE by axing business studies since there are likely to be few teachers. After all, it isn’t a subject we are going to need post BREXIT anyway.

Teaching seems to be looking less attractive as a career to women. In February 2012, some 24,265 women has applied for courses in England. This year, the number was just 17,360. Down by nearly 7,000 or more than a quarter. In the same period applications from men fell from 10,600 to around 7,400: some 3,200 fewer.

With the exam season approaching and no obvious reason for career switchers to increase their level of applications, the remainder of the recruitment round looks like being a real challenge. Not yet a crisis, but the problem of recruiting the next generation of teachers certainly hasn’t been solved despite three reports in the past twelve months.

 

Teacher Supply: my current thoughts

This week the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession and SATTAG (The Supply & Training of Teachers Advisory Group) both hold their autumn meetings. The 2016 ITT census appears next week, so teacher supply is likely to be on the agenda one way or another for much of the rest of the month. At some point in the future the Migration Advisory Committee will presumably publish its findings on visas and shortage subjects.

This time last year I told the Select Committee there were three possible sources for a crisis in teacher supply; geographical, numerical and quality. Now, while the numbers crisis may have eased in some subjects, and could be seen to ease further when the 2016 census appears, the other two reasons for a crisis may not have altered very much. To these can be added a fourth, whether more teachers are leaving state-funded schools after a couple of years in the profession? The evidence, although a lagging indicator, certainly seems to point in that direction.

So, will the situation in teacher supply worsen or continue to improve over the next few years? The jury is out at this point in time as the different factors are finely balanced. On the one hand, the global economy could slow down reducing job opportunities for graduates. There is also the issue of tightening school budgets, coupled with actual losers in any new funding formula that together might reduce demand for teachers. Should teachers finally be offered a pay rise of more than one per cent in 2017, then that might further reduce demand.

On the other side of the equation, pupil numbers are rising and the increase will start to be felt by secondary schools, especially in and around London for the next few years. The Capital and the surrounding Home Counties are already the areas most affected by teacher turnover and possible supply issues.

The effects of School Direct and the expansion of Teach First have been patchy to date. Schools in those programmes may benefit from their involvement and can also use the ‘free pool’ of higher education trained teachers where they cannot recruit trainees through these routes, whereas schools that don’t benefit from these programmes must, perforce, use the ‘free pool’ to recruit. I am not sure the effects of this approach have been fully researched yet, but the government must ensure all can have teachers if it is to do its job properly.

On balance, it seems the teacher supply situation could go in either direction: worsen for the seventh year in some subjects in 2017 and affect recruitment until 2018, or ease further in some subjects, but worsen in others. The world economic situation is likely to be the key determinant of what happens and the world may be overdue for a slowdown.

A final point to consider is that the number of eighteen year olds going to university isn’t going to increase over the next few years as the cohort size is affected by the demographic decline now coming to an end in our secondary schools among the younger age groups. Add in a loss of teachers from the EU, post the UK’s departure, and, whatever the world situation, we may create our own national teacher supply problems. To that extent it will be interesting to read the Select Committee Report when it appears as well as the deliberation of the Migration Advisory Committee.

 

Application apathy?

I have a lot of time for Stewart McCoy, the operations director of Randstad Education, the global recruiter that is a player in the UK education recruitment market. As a result, I read Randstad’s latest survey and report with interest. Entitled, The Invisible Barrier: https://www.randstad.co.uk/employers/areas-of-expertise/education/the-invisible-barrier/ it raises some important issues.

The most important concern is the plethora of different application forms teachers can face when applying for jobs in different schools. It is possible for each and every academy to have a different form and certainly for different MATs and local authorities to use subtly different forms for applicants.

Of course, this is nothing new, when I first started teaching many local authorities still had space on the form for national service details and every form was different. Not very helpful to new entrants, but for many serving teachers changing jobs their service record was part of their employment history.

With the proper concerns these days about child welfare and the need for more rigorous vetting of applicants for posts working with children and young people it is understandable that application forms have become more complex and demanding of a person’s life history and less standardised. Randstad’s survey found 90% of the teachers that they surveyed wanted a ‘simple, universal application process’ and that the present system was off-putting and persuaded teachers to apply for fewer jobs at any one time.

Of course, there may also be other explanations of why teachers only apply for one job at a time. In some subjects, where demand outstrips supply, why make multiple applications if you might succeed with your first. After all, if you don’t, there will certainly be other jobs to apply for. Then there is also the effect of trainee and teacher workloads during the key March to March recruitment season for permanent vacancies. This problem does indeed point towards the need to simplify the application process with, at the very least, a common form for essential details. For every specific vacancy an applicant is always wise to tailor the free text part of the form to sell their unique characteristics that make them suitable for the school to hire to fill the advertised vacancy.

Of course, agencies can operate rather like the local authority ‘pool’ arrangements that used to be so common for primary school classroom teacher vacancies, where the overall suitability is measured through the initial application process and it is left to the interview stage for the real ‘sell’ by the candidate either selected by the school from the ‘pool’ or put forward as suitable by an agency. This avoids the need for tailoring the free text to the job being applied for, but can leave schools guessing about suitability of some candidates.

Incidentally, I was interested that Randstad conducted their survey in March, but have not published it until now. Their comment that September and October are two of the busiest months for teacher recruitment is an interesting one. There is always a small surge in vacancies in September, but Teachvac’s (www.teachvac.co.uk) evidence is that October is often a quieter month for permanent vacancies. Perhaps, this is the month that Randstad see their supply teacher work pick up as schools start to face their first staffing issues of the new school year.

The Randstad Report does contain some interesting issues for the DfE as they no doubt ponder the future of any possible national recruitment portal and the lessons they have learnt about the application process from the work to date on the National Teaching Service.