Is the teacher job market changing?

Earlier this week Will Hazell, the relatively new education reporter for the i newspaper and a former TES journalist, produced a piece about agencies charging schools a ‘recruitment fee’ after signing up teachers looking for jobs. Since governments of all complexions have been happy to leave teacher recruitment as a free market activity, why wouldn’t commercial organisations aim to help schools solve a recruitment issues for a price. After all, schools have been paying local authorities, the TES and other newspapers to place job adverts for many years. Indeed,  even search agencies are also not a new phenomenon in the marketplace. In addition, there are other new approaches to recruitment as schools seek direct marketing and MATs use central recruitment pages for all their schools.

However, what might be acceptable as a fringe activity affecting only a small number of schools can become a matter of public concern if a greater number of schools are involved and the sums being made reach significant amounts.

As I have written before on this blog, why wouldn’t busy teachers and trainees take the bait offered by agencies if it makes their life easier? Selling yourself on every application form you complete takes far more time compared with filling out just one registration form per agency you register with and is a no brainer, especially with the amount of work teachers and trainees face during term-times.

Even where jobs are easy to find, because the supply exceeds demand, teachers can benefit from a system that reduces their need to complete a series of application forms on the off chance they might come second in an interview. But all this costs schools money. Even so, advertising hasn’t traditionally be free, and can take up more time an effort if there either isn’t much interest and either a re-advertisement is necessary or there are lots of applications and time has to be spent by a group of staff short-listing candidates for interview. These costs need to be set against any finders fee.

In the past, I have pointed out that knowing the state of the job market helps schools to choose the most cost-effective path to recruitment. Want a business studies teacher in London or the Home Counties, then paying an agency on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis might be cost effective from the end of February onwards. Want a PE teacher or a historian at the same time of year, and agencies might still be cost effective in saving staff time sorting through lots of applications, especially with the risk of ensuring there is no discrimination in your short-listing process.

So, should there be a public sector registration point where candidates must register if they want a teaching post, and that can manage supply and demand more effectively than the market?

TeachVac already knows where the bulk of the jobs are and can offer schools a service telling them how many potential applicants have been match with a vacancy. TeachVac can also tell candidates how many jobs in a selected area meet their parameters in a given time period, and also advise when a candidate’s search area is not wide enough for them to expect to have a good chance of securing a teaching post. This data changes as the school-year progresses.

At present, TeachVac offers its service free to both schools and those seeking teaching jobs. Providing the data about jobs to both schools and teachers has a cost, but it wouldn’t be very high; perhaps £5 per search. Let me know what you think?

 

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£26,000 for some trainee teachers in 2020

Why should a new teacher of mathematics starting work at one of the best selective schools in England receive a £1,000 a year bonus for staying in the school for up to five years, while a similar teacher starting in a non-selective school anywhere in South East Essex won’t receive this salary boost?

Are house prices higher in Reading than in Southend on Sea? Is the level of deprivation far greater in Reading than on Canvey Island or in Thurrock? Teachers in Bracknell Forest will also be favoured with this extra cash, while their compatriots working in Slough won’t be so lucky.

The government’s recent announcement on support for trainees and new teachers reveals an ever yet more complex scheme as Ministers and officials try to stem the teacher recruitment crisis now entering its sixth year https://www.gov.uk/government/news/up-to-35k-bursary-and-early-career-payments-for-new-teachers

Long gone are the days when DfE officials and Ministers tried to deny there was a crisis building in teacher recruitment and retention. Now, the answer seems to be ‘throw money at the perceived problem’, but still favour EBacc subjects over the more vocationally orientated areas of the curriculum.

Thus, the announcement for trainees being recruited to start training in September 2020 of the following postgraduate bursaries and scholarship.

Postgraduate bursaries and scholarships

Scholarship Bursary (Trainee with 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s)
Chemistry, computing, languages, mathematics and physics £28,000 £26,000
Biology and classics No scholarship available £26,000
Geography £17,000 £15,000
Design and technology No scholarship available £15,000
English No scholarship available £12,000
Art and design, business studies, history, music and religious education No scholarship available £9,000
Primary with mathematics No scholarship available £6,000

Almost the only subjects missing from the list are physical education and drama. Why classics should merit a bursary of £26,000 when art and design and business studies only merit £9,000 is for Ministers to explain. The level of payment to geography trainees also seems out of line with demand unless the DfE is expecting these trainees to help fill gaps elsewhere, such as a shortage of mathematics teachers.

The School Teachers’ Review Body needs to consider evidence as to how these schemes have been working over the past few years? Is the School Direct Salaried route now ‘dead in the water’ for secondary trainees in the face of bursaries and scholarships that cost schools nothing like the School Direct Scheme?

On the evidence of recruitment into training in 2019, discussed in a previous post, the fact that both mathematics and physics are recording some of their lowest levels of new entrants into training for many years suggests that it isn’t just cash incentives that are needed to attract talent into teaching.

Teacher workload and morale are as important as pay in a labour market where many other employers can offer better conditions of service and more flexible working conditions. Yes, teachers still have a better pension scheme than many, although not as good as when I entered the profession. But, how much of an attraction is this to the average 20-30 year old seeking a career?

By Christmas, it will start to become clear whether these levels of support for trainee teachers are working or whether yet another recruitment strategy might need to be developed in 2020?

 

Teacher Labour Market 2020 – current thoughts

While I was away, UCAS published the September data about applications to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. Generally, any changes between these data and the end of cycle data are small. As a result, these data provide a guide to how many new teachers may be available in 2020.

The number of new teachers required is affected by the interplay of supply and demand. In the primary sector, although there may be local issues created by local circumstances, I do not think there will be any national problem over supply. This is because the birth rate is now lower than a few years ago and more teachers are working for longer, possibly as a result of changes to the pension age. Of course, any increase in departure rates might upset my calculations, but, for now, I don’t see the sort of issues the secondary and special school sectors will face confronting the primary sector in 2020.

The secondary sector is facing the challenge of more pupils in 2020 than in 2019. This generally mean a requirement for more teachers. Sadly, many subjects do not appear to have reached the DfE’s estimate of trainee numbers, as set out in their Teach Supply Model (TSM). I am especially anxious for both mathematics and physics, where the UCAS data has likely outcomes below the numbers accepted in 2018. In both cases this was not enough to satisfy demand from schools, even before the increase in pupil numbers is factored into the equation. Fortunately, the number of biologists is likely to be at a record level, and this supply line will help offset any shortages of physical scientists.

The lack of mathematics teachers will need to be covered by trainees from subjects such as geography where trainee numbers remain healthy, as they do in history and physical education. Many history trainees will need to find a second subject, as there is unlikely to be enough vacancies to support this level of trainee numbers. From the DfE’s point of view record numbers in history help the overall total of trainees and will allow Ministers to use a more flattering headline number that disguises issues within particular subjects. But, hey, with QTS any teacher can be asked to teach any subject to any child, so who cares about the details?

Happily, Religious Education has had a good year, with offers coming close to its projected need identified by the TSM, assuming all those offered places actually turned up at the start of their courses. Design and Technology fared slightly better this year than last year’s disastrous recruitment round, but will still fall far short of requirements, as will Business Studies. IT also appears to have suffered from a poor recruitment round into courses in 2019.  Elsewhere, outcomes may be close to last year’s, so there should be enough teachers of modern languages overall, although whether with the combination of languages needed is not known. Similarly, the number of trainee teachers of English may cause problems in some parts of the country in 2020, most notably London and the Home Counties and any other areas where the school population is growing.

These predications will be validated later this autumn when the DfE publishes its annual ITT census. Until then they remain observations based upon more than 20 years of studying the trends in the teacher labour market in England.

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Jam in 2022, but not cream as well

This blog has not so far commented on the largesse being promised to schools and the FE sector by the current government. I prefer to wait for specific proposals rather than broad gestures. As a result, the remit letter to the Teachers’ Pay Review body (STRB) announced today by the Secretary of State is worth considering for its implications for schools. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/30000-starting-salaries-proposed-for-teachers

Is there a risk that the announcement of a £30,000 starting salary in 2022 might be like David Blunkett’s maximum class size initiative for Key Stage 1 classes, something of a Pyrrhic victory for the government? Allowing for increases in teachers’ salaries of between 2-3% in both 2020 and 2021 then perhaps the starting salary will already be expected to be £26,000 by 2022 anyway.

The other question that will interest schools is how many teachers will be affected? It isn’t possible to work out how many full-time teachers are paid less than £30,000 – presumably less than £36,000 in Inner London? The School Workforce Census for 2018 revealed that there were nearly 103,000 teachers paid less than £30,000 at that time. However, this included both full-time and part-time teachers. The Census also revealed that there were 111,000 part-time teachers across the system, so it seems likely that a significant proportion of those earning less than £30,000 at that time might be have been part-time teachers?

If I were the STRB receiving the remit letter for Mr Williamson, I would want to look at the distribution of teacher shortages and ask two questions.  Firstly, is there a regional pattern to shortages and secondly, do we want to pay some teachers more than others in an overt manner by creating not just regional supplements but also supplements for specific subjects and other expertise that might be in short supply?

Failing to address the first of these questions could create a situation where the Secretary of State made matters worse by making teaching in lower cost housing areas more attractive than teaching in London and the Home Counties, just as David Blunkett made teaching in the suburbs more attractive than teaching in the inner cities by reducing class sizes in the suburbs, but not in the inner cities where they were already below 30 pupils per class in most Key Stage 1 classes.

All the evidence points to the teacher shortage being worse in London and the Home Counties and that these areas are also finding it more difficult to attract graduates onto teacher preparation courses. Personally, I would uplift the London salary rates more than those elsewhere. (See pages 36 onward of the 29th Report of the STRB for why I say this.)

The government also needs to remember that teachers start earning a year later than most graduates, including those being trained in other public sector graduate roles. For this reason, they might also consider returning to a training salary for all postgraduates and not just those on Teach First and the diminishing numbers on the School Direct Salaried route.

 

More lows than highs

Schools are going to have to rely upon reducing wastage rates among serving teachers and encouraging returners back into teaching in order to survive the 2020 recruitment round, if the data released by UCAS today about offers for teacher training courses starting this September don’t show dramatic improvements over the next couple of weeks. The DfE is doing a valiant job fast tracking enquiries received by their ‘get into teaching’ site, but so far it isn’t enough to prevent another potential year of problems for schools.

Let’s start with the good news: history has more offers than ever before, and languages; religious education and design and technology have recorded more offers than in August last year. However, design and technology is still way below target numbers needed to meet the Teacher Supply Model number for this year.

Biology, English, geography and physical education are at similar levels to this time last year in terms of recorded ‘offers’ and should produce sufficient teachers to meet needs next year on a national scale, even if there are local shortages because of where training is located. Chemistry is also at a similar level to last year, but that may not be sufficient to meet demand for teachers of the subject.

Now for the bad news: some subjects are recording lower offer levels than at this point in 2018. Business Studies and art, although lower than last year are not at their lowest levels for August during the past six recruitment rounds. However, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording offer levels that are lower than at any August during the recruitment rounds since 2013/14. Schools across England are likely to experience recruitment challenges in these subjects in 2020 that could be worse than this year unless supply is boosted in other ways.

This grim news, is backed by a depressing 500 fewer placed applicants in England and slightly fewer ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. The additional 30 applicants ‘holding an offer’ do not make up the difference. Overall, some 72% of applicants domiciled in England have been made an offer (73% at August 2018). The published monthly statistics don’t allow for easy comparison by subject for applicants as opposed to applications which, as I have pointed out in the past, is a disappointment.

Nevertheless, most of the reduction in offers is to male applicants, where ‘placed’ applicants are down from 9,250 in August 2018, to 8,800 this August; a reduction of around 450 or the majority of the reduction in offer numbers. It is career switchers that have disappeared, especially those between the age groups of 22-29. The youngest ‘new’ graduate numbers are very similar to last year, but there are more applicants in their 30s than last year.

The School Direct Salaried route continues to be the big loser in terms of offers, but not in terms of applications. Only 770 applications are shown as with offers of any sort compared to 990 last August for the secondary sector. In the primary sector the number is higher at 1,840, but last August the number was higher at 2,000.

There are still very many offers recorded as ‘conditional’ even at this late point in the cycle. Only in history, Mandarin, PE and Religious Education, among the larger subjects, are ‘placed’ numbers shown as higher this August than in August 2019.

Next month will mark the end of the monthly date for this recruitment round. I wish I could say that I was optimistic, but despite the potential turmoil faced by the country over the political situation, I cannot be anything other than concerned for the teacher labour market in 2020 based upon these data.

 

Uncertain Times

One of the consequences of the prorogation of parliament has been the cancellation of the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession that was scheduled for the 9th September. Below is the paper I would have presented to the APPG meeting. The text represents my first look at what might happen to the teacher labour market in 2020.

APPG Labour Market for Teachers: A first look at the outcome for September 2020.

In 2020, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that brought state schooling to the whole population for the first time in our history.

The job market at the start of September 2019 is probably facing another year where the supply of teachers will not meet the demand, especially in many secondary subjects, and most notably across the South of England. The further North and West in England you move away from London, and in much of the classroom teacher market in the primary sector, there is less pressure overall on supply, but shortages in specific subjects remain, especially for January 2020 appointments.

However, the picture might change quite radically post-Brexit on 31st October. If there is a general slowdown in the world economy in the autumn and through to the start of 2020, as many economists seem to be expecting, this may be good news for schools. Recessions in the past have meant fewer teachers leaving the profession and more seeking to either train as a teacher, as other career avenues recede, or return to teaching as a secure, if not well-paid, profession. Additionally, if demand internationally for teachers from England reduces that may help retain teachers and reduce wastage rates, especially amongst teachers with 5-7 years of experience.

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, the picture is still one of shortages. In mid-August 135 preparation courses in London had vacancies, compared with only five in the North East of England.

As a result of this analysis, there are three possible scenarios for the teacher labour market in 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population. This will make it the longest running supply crisis since the early 1970s.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. A worsening economic and geopolitical situation, especially in the Middle East and in China might be catalysts for such an outcome, as might less that fully funded salary increase for teachers used as an incentive to help attract more recruits in the future into teaching as a career. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is extremely unlikely scenario for 2020, unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.