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.

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.

 

 

 

Further reflections

The Daily Mail is apparently carrying a story today of a leaked DfE email revealing a fall in teacher numbers. This is seen as a revelation, even though Table 2a of the DfE’s analysis of the Teacher Workforce, published in June 2018, showed a fall in teacher numbers between the 2016 and 2017 census points. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2017

However, I suppose that when a staunchly Tory supporting newspaper starts printing bad news stories about the working of a Conservative government one must anticipate that either the end is nigh or that editorial control is weak over the Christmas and New Year period.

Had either the Daily Mail or any other media outlet wanted to pick a more up to the minute bad news story about teacher numbers, they could have done no better to use my previous post as the basis for a news item. Readers will recall that based on data released yesterday by UCAS, it appears that fewer graduates want to become primary school teachers than in the past.  The Daily Mail could have run a headline around ‘Who will teach Tiny Tim?’ about this fall in applications to train as a primary teacher.

Delving further into the UCAS data than I had time to do yesterday, it seems as if more career changers were queuing up to apply to train as a teacher in 2019, than were new young graduates. However, the 230 additional graduates in their 30s and 40s compared with December 2017 were not enough to offset the reduction of 400 in those from the 22-22 age group that have not applied this year. Hopefully, they are still weighing up their options.

For the first time in some years, fewer than 1,000 men from the 21-22 age group have applied for a place to train as a teacher on either a primary or secondary course starting in 2019. However, it is the continued relative lack of interest from young female graduates that should concern officials even more. This group in the past has been the bedrock of those applying in the early part of the recruitment round.

Rather than evaluating the overall success or otherwise of the marketing campaign, the DfE should urgently be investigating why this group, of whom there will be fewer emerging from universities over the next few years, are taking longer to think about teaching as a career. Last year, enough came around in the end to ensure all places for primary teachers were filled, but the warning signs are there and need investigation.

Perhaps the DfE has over-emphasised the need for secondary subject teachers and rather taken the primary sector for granted, apart from the need to ensure sufficient teachers with expertise in mathematics. The DfE doesn’t have a policy of ensuring sufficient subject knowledge across the curriculum to ensure that able pupils can be motivated and intellectually stretched either within the primary school or in other ways.

Perhaps it is time to reconstruct those local CDP offering managed by teams of staff than know their schools and teachers. Doing so in a cost effective manner might mean upsetting some MATs and even diocese, but can we afford anything other than the most cost effective system for such CPD?

 

Requiem for an Agency

This week saw the final rites for the National College of Teaching and Leadership with the publication on the 5TH December of their final annual report and accounts before the College disappeared from the scene and its functions were re-absorbed into the Department for Education. You can read the report at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nctl-annual-report-and-accounts-2017-to-2018

Thus ends an era that started with the Teacher Training Agency in the mid-1990s, when QUANGOs were fashionable (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations for those that don’t remember the initials). Tony Blair created a National College and for a period of time mandated that all new head teachers should hold the National Professional Qualification for headship (NPQH). Then came a period of amalgamation and eventually a change in attitude to how government is run. While Regional School Commissions became fashionable, the arm’s length body for the teaching profession that the NCTL was becoming after the demise of the General Teaching Council didn’t fit in with the emerging agenda of the control of schools from Westminster.

As someone that worked at the then Teacher Training Agency for 1997-1998, I can see that the relationship between the Department and its satellite bodies was always fraught with problems. Teach First was a Department creation and for many years the employment-based routes were administered from Sanctuary Buildings or its Manchester outpost rather than by the TTA or its successors.

The quasi arm’s length functions that remain are now under the auspices of the Teacher Regulation Agency. However, even that agency has to see its decisions on disciplining teachers signed-off by a civil servant on behalf of the Secretary of State.

So what did the NCTL do in its final year? The list of tasks in the annual report covered:

  • provided over £286 million funding in the form of bursaries and grants, in order to incentivise recruitment to initial teacher training;
  • ensured that most of the teacher trainees required to meet the needs of schools in England were recruited;
  • delivered a national teacher recruitment marketing campaign;
  • developed and funded a range of routes into teaching;
  • improved National Professional Qualification (NPQ) provision;
  • continued to support participants still to be assessed on the previous NPQ programmes;
  • provided targeted support for continuing leadership professional development;
  • increased the number of teaching schools and system leaders;
  • managed the awarding of Qualified Teacher Status to individuals following an accredited ITT course in England & Wales and overseas; and
  • managed referrals of allegations of serious misconduct against teachers to consider whether individuals should be prohibited from teaching in any school in England.

On all these task, Minister will now have nowhere to hide. This will be especially true if recruitment into the profession falls short of targets set by the Teacher Supply Model. Ministers will now have nobody else to blame but themselves for any shortfall.

In the accounts at the back of the report is the figure spent on advertising and publicity by the NCTL. In the 2016/17 financial year, this was £14.4 million. In 2017/18, the expenditure had increased to £20.4 million, and increase almost £6 million. So, at least one industry is benefiting from the teacher recruitment crisis.

 

Where teachers are prepared matters

The final post in my series looking at the ITT Census for 2018, published last Thursday, considers the relative fortunes of schools and higher education in recruiting trainees on to teacher preparation courses. When Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, the direction of travel was clear: away from higher education as the provider of courses and towards a school-led and based system. How well has that direction of travel survived some three Secretaries of State later?

In the 2018 census the increase in secondary trainees has been concentrated in the higher education and SCITT sectors.

Secondary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference % change
Higher Education 6965 7965 1000 14%
SCITT 1955 2435 480 25%
School Direct Fee 3780 4170 390 10%
School Direct Salaried 1080 905 -175 -16%
Teach First 915 760 -155 -17%
PG apprenticeship na 20    
Total 14695 16255 1560 11%

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

SCITTS continue to flourish, with an increase of a quarter in trainee numbers, whereas the other school-centred courses have not shared in the overall increase in trainee numbers to the same extent, with the most expensive salaried routes experiencing declines in trainee numbers. In the secondary sector, the postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has have only a minimal impact this year.

In the primary sector, where recruitment controls were more important, there has been far less change between this year and last year.

Primary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference
Higher Education 5660 5605 -55
SCITT 1390 1565 175
School Direct Fee 3350 3365 15
School Direct Salaried 1690 1830 140
Teach First 410 395 -15
PG apprenticeship na 70  
Total 12500 12830 330

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

In the primary sector, higher education seems to be still less favoured than the school-based routes; with both SCITTS and the School Direct Salaried routes recording more trainees than last year. The postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has more primary participants than secondary, but its first year has not made a significant contribution to the supply of new teachers.

Overall across both sectors, SCITTs are under-represented in the London area. This may partly be because London schools have the most School Direct Salaried and Teach First new entrants, accounting for more than one third of those on both routes. By contrast, the South West that participates in both programmes has relatively few numbers on either of these routes into teaching and nearly 60% of new entrants in the region are on higher education programmes.

Teach First seemed especially good at recruiting me to primary courses, achieving a three per cent higher outcome than other routes this year, but, by contrast, especially poor at recruiting me to secondary courses, achieving only a 31% outcome, compared with the 40% of trainees figure for high education courses.

Where higher education excels is in recruiting new graduates. Of course, the School Direct Salaried route is not open to new young graduates, but compared with the routes that take all-comers, higher education recruits the higher percentage of those under 25, accounting for 50% of the higher education intake this year: albeit down from 51% last year, a warning sign for the future. SCITTS only recruited 45% of their intake for the under 25s, perhaps signifying the importance of their more local recruitment focus, in many areas with a high percentage of career changers.

With the number of eighteen year olds dropping for the next few years, while the demand for new secondary teachers will be increasing, as the school population increases, nurturing the young new graduate market may well be important: that might mean a re-assessment of fees and other support for all trainees.

However, should the Bank of England’s predictions for 2019 and the years following any departure from the EU prove correct in terms of the economy, it is possible that teaching might once again seem like an attractive career in an unstable world: after all, there will always be children to educate.

 

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.