Recruitment – an end of term report

As schools start winding down for the start of the summer break, it is a good time to assess the current recruitment round for teachers. There clearly isn’t just one market for teachers. Rather there is a complex web of interlocking markets based on geography; phase and specialism, both in terms of subject expertise and other knowledge and experience. House prices matter, as does the reputation of schools and the willingness of applicants to travel any distance outside either their current travel to work comfort zone or to move their location either for a first job or a promotion.

Then there is the issue of retention and where those leaving are going. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to a school seeking to make an appointment. In the short-term, if they aren’t applying for your job or a quitting your school you can face a recruitment problem. Although exit interviews aren’t totally reliable, they can offer some insights if conducted by an independent company with experience in that field. The DfE might like to conduct some sample interviews and also put in place ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those that leave for a career break and are in the age-bracket most likely to want to return after a few years away from the classroom.

With so many curriculum changes in the offing, now is not the time to allow leavers that might return to feel de-skilled. You can read more about returners in the recently published study the NfER conducted some time ago for the DfE about their programme to encourage returners to teaching. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Anyway, back to the current recruitment round. Comparing the number of trainees that qualified this summer with the vacancies on offer across England, it is clear to those of us with access to the TeachVac data that Design and Technology; Business Studies; English and music are the subjects where recruitment is likely to have been most challenging across the country. In Religious Education, the Sciences overall, and IT, the situation is a little better, but not much. Generally, the best supply situation nationally is in the EBacc subjects other than English and the Sciences. However, as this blog as stated in the past, numbers and quality are not always synonymous.

The position in the primary sector is more of a challenge to unravel, partly because of the manner in which vacancies are advertised. However, across most of the country, supply is probably more than adequate, although there may be local shortages of specific skills and expertise.

These numbers matter most to schools if they are faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2019. In the most critical subjects, where vacancies have already exceeded trainee numbers, schools would be best advised to either revamp the curriculum or offer to pay a fee to an agency if they can do the heavy lifting of finding a teacher should they be confronted by an unexpected vacancy.

Finally, it is worth recalling that these shortages come at a time when the Daily Mail is lamenting the fact that selective schools are making teachers redundant. How much worse would it be if schools were still hiring across the board, including to teach sixth form students.

 

 

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Vacancy war breaks out

The DfE’s rather muddled announcement earlier today of a service to clampdown on agencies charging schools “excessive” fees to recruit staff and advertise vacancies https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-free-website-for-schools-to-advertise-vacancies was clearly written by a press officer that didn’t understand what was being said. Either that or the government is in more of a mess than I thought. Muddled up in the announcement posted on the DfE’s web page today are two separate and different services.

In one, the DfE announced that:

Mr Hinds will launch a new nationwide deal for headteachers from September 2018 – developed with Crown Commercial Service – providing them with a list of supply agencies that do not charge fees when making supply staff permanent after 12 weeks.

The preferred suppliers on the list will also be required to clearly set out how much they are charging on top of the wages for staff. This will make it easier for schools to avoid being charged excessive fees and reduce the cost burden on schools of recruiting supply teachers through agencies.

Such a service might backfire if it drove some agencies out of business and then allowed the remainder to actually increase their prices to schools.

However, it is the other service, starting now for a limited trial just after the end of the main recruitment round for September vacancies that is of more interest, as it directly competes with TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free national service for vacancies that has been running successfully for the past four years. TeachVac was set up to do exactly what the DfE say they are now trying to do:

 To help combat these costs, the Secretary of State has announced a free website has been launched to advertise vacancies, which currently costs schools up to £75 million a year. This website will include part-time roles and job shares.

Well, TeachVac does all of that. Regular readers will know that I am chair of the company that owns and operate TeachVac and its international site Teachval Global. Why should the government want to destroy an already successful free service? Perhaps the teacher associations can tell me what see that will be better in the DfE’s offering? Certainly, the DfE won’t have access to the same level of real time job data as TeachVac that has already allowed us to comment on the problems facing schools in London and the Home Counties that have been trying to recruit teachers for September.

TeachVac will continue, as it is backed by its successful TeachVac Global arm that provides a similar paid service for international schools around the globe. http://www.teachvacglobal.com as well as its extensive data and associated businesses.

In the meantime, paid for vacancy services, such as the TES – also a player in the supply agency marketplace- eteach, SchoolsWeek and The Guardian must explain to their investors how they will combat another free service displaying teaching vacancies. Local authorities, don’t have investors to explain to, but could see their job boards affected by the DfE move, especially for posts in primary schools where they are often a key player in the local market.

But, for everyone the key question is, after two failures in this field, will the DfE be successful this time around? Judging by the quality of the announcement, there must be a measure of doubt, especially at the costs involved. Let me know what you think. Is this a service the DfE should provide and do you think that they can for a credible cost?

 

 

It’s all relative

The UCAS data on applications to postgraduate ITT courses measured a the 20th March 2018 was published earlier today. I thought for a change we would start with the good news: applicants holding offers are higher than at this point last year. In March 2017, there were 1,080 applicants holding offer out of 27,770 applicants in total. This March, there were 1,380 applicants holding offers, out of 22,430 applicants. Sadly, that about as good as the new gets.

The 22,430 figure for total applicant numbers is scary. The TSM figure issued by the DfE for post graduate trainees required, even allowing for the removal of Teach First numbers, was an expectation of a need to recruit 30,476 trainees across both primary and secondary courses; so the system is still some 7,500 applicants short of requirements, even if every applicants was offered a place. The TSM identified a need for 12,200 primary postgraduates and we currently have 41,530 applications or less than four applications per place. In secondary, the need is for 18,300 trainees and we currently have 40,440 applications: not many more than two applications per place, without allowing for disparities between subjects.

Equally scary is the fact that between March 2017 and the final figure in September of 41,690 applicants in September 2107, only around 14,000 applicants were recruited during the remainder of the 2017 cycle after the March data had been processed. Project than number forward, and hope for a bit better in 2018, and even 15,000 more applicants only takes the total for 2018 to 37,500 or so, against a need of just over 30,000 trainees: not much room for worrying about quality levels in these numbers.

There is still a real problem in primary and a range of secondary subjects including art, religious education, physics, music, chemistry, design & technology and mathematics that are all recording new lows since before the 2013/14 recruitment round and the introduction of the present system of counting numbers of applicants. Business studies and IT are at the same level as the lowest number reached in March since 2013/14. There is better news in English, MFL, PE, history and geography were the number of offers made is above the total for the worst year since 2013/14. In most cases that doesn’t mean it is anywhere near the previous highest number reached in March during this period.

Applications remain down across all age groups and for most types of courses. There were less than 340 offers for the identified 4,554 places on secondary School Direct Salaried allocations by March. That’s less than 10% even if all the offers are held by a different individual. There is better news in the primary sector, where there are 1,210 offers for the 2,166 School Direct Salaried allocations, but even that number is 250 down on last March.

Looking just at London, a region that needs many new teachers each year, applications are down from 15,630 across both sectors in March 2017 to 11,420 this March. Only 110 applicants have been placed (160 last March); 2,040 have been conditionally placed (2,550) and 360 are holding offers compared with 320 last March – the one bit of good news. Overall, there have been 11,420 applications to London providers, compared with 15,630 in March 2017.

With the TV advertising campaign in full swing, the government may need to decide on something more dramatic if schools are not going to face a really challenging recruitment round for September 2019 that is unless applications take a real turn for the better during the remainder of the recruitment round.

 

 

Productivity gain or worsening working conditions?

Ahead of the ASCL Conference in Birmingham this weekend, there is a report in the press today about rising class sizes in secondary schools.

An analysis by teaching unions has suggested 62% of secondary schools have had to expand class sizes between 2014/15 and 2016/17. The study, conducted by the NEU, NAHT and ASCL – as well as non-teaching unions Unison, GMB and Unite – showed that of 150 local authorities, 83% saw a rise in average class sizes across their secondary schools, while 14% have seen a fall and 3% saw no change.

This report should come as no surprise to anyone connected with education. Indeed, I would predict that class sizes will continue to increase in size over the next few years as the secondary school population expands from its low point reached in 2014 and budgets also come under pressure.

However, there is an argument to be had about the usefulness of class sizes as a measure. They can be affected by factors such as the degree of non-contact time allowed to staff; policy over options at GCSE and for post-16 courses as well as space considerations.

An alternative measure is the Pupil Teacher Ratio. Even here there are now problems: how do you define a teacher. Do you only include those with QTS and exclude Teach First and School Direct trainees, as well as any other unqualified teachers or cover supervisors?

Anyway, I have included the changes in PTRs across different types of secondary schools since the School Workforce Census was introduced. The result confirms the findings from the unions and could have been researched without the need to waste valuable time in hard-pressed local authorities. As an added bonus, these are DfE approved numbers, so the government cannot quibble about them.

Changes in Pupil Teacher Ratios in secondary schools
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
All State funded Secondary schools 14.9 14.9 15 15 15.3 15.6
Converter academies 15.2 15.8
Sponsored academies 13.6 15.3
All academies 14.8 15.6
UTCs/Studio Schools 12.9 13.8
Free Schools 12.6 15.3
LA maintained 15 14.9 14.8 14.9 15.1 15.4

The big change has come since 2015 and probably reflects the loss of extra funding academies received in the early days of the Gove period at the DfE. The effect the loss of that extra cash has had on the funding of these schools is now obvious: sadly, once becoming an academy there is normally no way back. For that reason, heads gathering in Birmingham might want to examine the value for money of back offices at MATs.Source DfE SFR 25/2017 Table 17a

After all, it was the heads that complained for decades about the dead hand of local authority expenditure. Having been released from the frying pan of Local Authority spending patterns they must not fall straight into the fire of MATs with high relative overheads.

There are many other issues that secondary heads will need to consider at their conference. Perhaps one of the most pressing is finding the teachers to fill these classes that now have more pupils in them. It may be a productivity gain, but it does impose a greater workload on teachers and may the class size and PTR changes partly explain the growing loss of teachers with 3-5 years’ experience previously discussed on this blog.

In passing, the head teachers might also want to reflect upon the changing nature of the teacher vacancy market that helps provide the teachers. With the TES group reporting a loss of 2016-17 and the DfE working on a new vacancy platform, how teachers are recruited could become an important area for discussion over the next few years.

As one of the instigators of TeachVac, the free platform for vacancies, I am, of course, not an idle by-stander in this debate.

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.

 

 

Pay flexibilities for teachers

According to the DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) only 64%, just fewer than two out of three schools, pay any of their staff Teaching & Learning Responsibility allowances (TLRs as they are usually known). I guess that most of the remaining nearly 8,000 or so schools are mostly small primary schools, with only a handful of teachers and a head teacher?

Interestingly, some of these schools may be making other payments, as the DfE record that 75.2% of all schools make some form of payment to some of their teaching staff. Indeed, there are more schools making ‘other payments’ than are using the SEN payments allowed under the teacher’s contract. Less than one in five school now make any such SEN payment to teachers.

Even less common, despite all the talk about a recruitment crisis, is the use of recruitment and retention payments to teachers; only one in ten schools across England makes such a payment. However, the percentage does rise to one in five schools in the Inner London area – That’s not technically a region and the DfE evidence doesn’t define what it means by Inner London and whether it is pay area or some other definition. By contrast, only one in twenty schools in the South West makes any payments to a teacher or teachers for recruitment and retention reasons.

Do schools make use of HMRC exemptions from tax for new employees? (https://www.gov.uk/expenses-and-benefits-relocation/whats-exempt). This allowance can be helpful to those teachers and school leaders moving to a new part of the country. Such payments would, presumably, be reported in the ‘other payments’ column of the  DfE’s evidence along with season ticket loans, any health benefits and car allowances to teachers in teaching schools or providing ITT support that have to travel between schools.

None of these extra payments can hide the fact that the teachers’ contract looks increasingly out of line with modern day employment practices. As I pointed out last year, Labour’s idea of more bank holidays might have placed some of the new dates within school holidays so that teachers and others employed in schools wouldn’t have seen any benefit. Regular surveys and diary studies have shown that teachers work very hard during the time children are in school and aren’t paid for that overtime. Should it be counted against school-holidays in a more formal manner than at present in order to allow a meaningful discussion about the feeling of some in the population that teachers still enjoy long holidays?

Perhaps the STRB might want to think what their responsibility is in this debate? Do they need to wait to be asked or can they discuss the issue as part of their consideration of recruitment and retention issues? There is lots of evidence for the OECD about teachers working patterns around the world. The issue has resonance because of the growing appreciation that more provision should be made for teachers’ professional development. Adding CPD to the existing workload without considering what might disappear to allow for the extra study would not really be very helpful.

 

Lowering the bar?

The government has now published the letter from Nick Gibb, Minister of State, sent last week to teacher training providers, encouraging maximum effort in recruitment this year. I cannot recall such a similar letter being sent by a Minister in any recent recruitment cycle. I think in the mid-1960s a Labour Secretary of State once wrote to Mayors across the country asking them to encourage residents to become teachers or return to teaching during the baby boom of that time.

The text of Mr Gibb’s letter can be found at;

https://www.nationalcollege.org.uk/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/letter_from_minister_gibb_29th_january_2018.pdf

The most interesting paragraph in the letter reads as follows:

‘It is right to reject candidates who are not suitable. However, it is also crucial to support and develop those who have the desire and talent to teach. The emphasis must be on assessing applicants based on their suitability to train to teach, rather than whether they are ready to teach at the point of entry.’

As Ofsted will amend the Inspection handbook, this will presumably mean candidates where quality is of concern will now be offered the possibility of becoming a teacher with the final decision about suitability being deferred until the end of the preparation period. It will be interesting to see how much of a boost this letter provides to recruitment totals during the remainder of the recruitment round. After all, if there are no applicants, you cannot offer them a place.

The notion of civil servants looking at rejection rates and then contacting institutions where they feel too many applicants are being rejected raises some interesting issues. Is it acceptable to reject any marginal quality primary arts and humanities graduate because the provider wants to see if they can recruit more maths and science entrants or will civil servants now tell them to accept on a first come first served basis anyone that meets the new threshold. Presumably, monitoring gender, ethnicity and social mobility outcomes are also now thrown out the window in favour of the new approach?

Will there be a new marketing campaign extolling how easy it is to become a teacher. Just turn up and meet the basic maths and English requirements and you will be offered a place. Might the skills tests be the next brick in the wall to be dismantled, returning to an end of course test rather than the present pre-entry timing. This would allow providers to coach trainees in danger of failure and presumably add a few more on to the list of possible applicants.

Of course, simplifying the complex bursary and fee remission arrangements might help more than exhortations to recruit more of the present pool of applicants, especially if rejection rates are already very low in some subjects After all, only a third of design and technology places were filled on courses starting in September 2017. I guess providers weren’t too anxious to turn many applicants away. Sadly, UCAS data isn’t arranged in a manner so as to easily make it possible to determine the number of applicants as opposed to applications per subject, so one cannot answer that question.