Incentives to train as a teacher

There have been two recent announcements from the DfE that are of interest. Firstly, the support levels for postgraduate ITT students on courses in 2022-23. These bursaries are designed to encourage recruitment into subjects where targets are being missed. The DfE has made the following announcement:

For 2022 to 2023, we are offering bursaries of:

  • £24,000 in chemistry, computing, mathematics and physics
  • £15,000 in design and technology, geography and languages (including ancient languages)
  • £10,000 in biology

Applicants may be eligible for a bursary if they have 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s.

These bursaries sit alongside the scholarship programme that DfE persuaded the Learned Societies to offer some years ago.

Business Studies still doesn’t appear in the list. This is despite it being one of the subjects where schools can struggle to recruit teachers. However, it is encouraging to see design and technology back on the list, albeit not at the £24,000 level where the bursary really might make a difference.

Now that the DfE is managing recruitment, they will have nowhere to hide if the scheme doesn’t produce results. While there should always be sufficient trainees in history and physical education, some of the other subjects such as music and religious education may suffer from not being included in the bursary list. But, I guess, the bursary is a backward looking recruitment tool not one designed to prevent a possible future shortage.

The other announcement from the DfE was on the access to the National Professional Qualifications. These will now be available to all teachers and not just those in the originally designated areas. As the funding remains the same, there is a risk that the contribution that this scheme will make to the ‘levelling up’ agenda will be diluted by now being offered to all teachers. We won’t know until the curriculum and selection criteria and availability of courses are compared with the original objectives.

Whatever the outcome, it is good news to see attention being paid to professional development once again. Leaving professional development up to individual schools as employers at a time of financial constraint is a risky business as this is a budget line that can all too easily become a victim of cutbacks. Expecting schools to fund professional development that advances the career of a teacher and may well take them away from the school on promotion is always a big risk. Indeed, it is one reason for dealing with this funding stream on a regional or even national basis.

The news from the labour market is that across some parts of England vacancy levels have been higher than usual for the autumn in some subjects. Is this a catching-up exercise or are some teachers re-thinking their futures in the profession in a world where covid is likely to be endemic.

Few signals from Manchester

An extract from the Secretary of State’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference

Every child deserves a great teacher. And every teacher deserves great training.

I will bring forward a schools white paper in the new year outlining plans to tackle innumeracy and illiteracy “

So as the foundation of the next decade of reform during this parliament we will deliver 500,000 teacher training opportunities. We are carrying out a fundamental overhaul that will make this country the best in the world to train and learn as a teacher.’

50,000 training places a year will be hard to achieve under any regime, especially if some universities decide to pull out of ITT or ITE because of the government changes to the curriculum for preparing teahcers

.Interestingly, the Gatsby Foundation has published a pamphlet of essays on the topic of reforming teacher education in response to the government’s market review. itt-reform-expert-perspectives-2021.pdf (gatsby.org.uk) I was especially taken by the essay by Ben Rogers of the Paradigm Trust about the distribution of ITT places, something that featured in the previous post on this blog

With a government now seemingly committed to a high wage; high skill level economy, education will be an important player in driving forward the success of that policy. Now, of course, the government having seen the outcome of the tutoring programme, might want to turn over the skills agenda to the private sector and leave schools with the basic curriculum centred around literacy and numeracy to teach. May be that will be the focus of the White Paper that seems to hark back to the Blair government’s education play book.

However, there are other problems facing the Secretary of State. This blog has recently reminded readers that the lorry driver shortage is as nothing compared to the shortage of design and technology teachers, not to mention business studies and physics teachers.

It is no use telling the private sector to ‘get its house in order’ when the public sector, where the Conservative Party has been in control of government for the past decade, has failed to deal with teacher shortages. The DfE site for teaching now explicitly shows whether a course provider will handle visa applications.

Ahead of the Spending Review, a Review that is unlikely to be kind to education, the Secretary of State would have been hard put to announce costly new policies, especially since he has little control over how schools actually spend their cash. There are saving to be made still in the school sector. These range from cutting recruitment costs that might save £40 million or so to a major rethink about the diseconomies of scale of the academy programme.

Now the Conservative Party has created a Labour style NHS model of central control for the school system, shorn of local democracy, it is surely time to look seriously at what the system now costs to administer. Local Authorities may have had their faults, but a high cost structure wasn’t generally one of them. Time for a savings task force?

DfE ITT courses site now viewable

Those that have looked at UCAS ITT site searches for postgraduate ITT courses in past years won’t be surprised by the new DfE site that opened for viewing earlier today of courses for 2022 entry. They might be disappointed, depending upon their point of view.

A search for physics courses in London with a salary attached produced results for 42 courses. However, some 20 of the course providers are located outside the 32 boroughs that make up the generally accepted definition of the capital. Now, those 20 providers, including the National physics provider may well have schools registered in London offering places.

There doesn’t seem to be a reminder of Teach First, presumably the site thinks viewers will already have researched that route if a salary is important. But, in my view, it is always worth reminding viewers of the other possible routes.

I was also struck by how few of the courses were run from schools within inner London. This is especially important as today Lewis Hamilton, the racing driver launched a campaign to train more Black teachers in STEM subjects. If, as the IFS study discussed in a previous post is right about mobility of trainee teachers this may be an issue worth considering.

Then there is the issue of multiple listings for what is in essence the same course. One version of a course has QTS; another version QTS plus a PGCE. As yet, it isn’t clear how many places are available on each course. I have always maintained this is a key piece of information for candidates.

Interestingly, in the year the DfE ran application process for the School Direct programme they included the information and how many places had been filled. The research from that data led to my suggesting we were heading for a teacher supply crisis in some subjects and the subsequent exchanges with the DfE via the media.

A search of the DfE site reveals some areas where there are few or even no courses available. Thus, there appears to be no provider in Oxfordshire of Computing ITT courses after a search on Computing with or without vacancies. Curiously, a search on Oxford by providers brings up four courses for Computing at the SCITT that didn’t appear in the previous search.

Each provider has a listing for whether they can sponsor visas for overseas applicants. Of the 8,000+ course combinations, just fewer than 1,300 sponsor visa applications. I assume that the government thinks this is a good idea, even if in the past that route has failed to ensure all ITT places required were filled.

Over the next few months this system will bed down and be the ‘go to’ place for those wanting to train as a teacher in our new high skill, high wage economy. Whether some applicants will be prepared to train without a salary, while other have that advantage and all it brings with it, will be an interesting discussion if the data is provided to measure any different rates of interest.

Does pay matter for potential teachers?

The DfE has recently published a Research Report commissioned from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Higher-education-geographical-mobility-and-early-career-earnings.pdf (ifs.org.uk)

The report concludes, as far as Education as a subject is concerned that:

All else being equal, there are no large earnings differences between movers and non-movers who graduated in nursing, education and social care. This is likely to reflect the fact that wages in these occupations are set nationally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, graduates in education and social care are also least likely to move away from their area of origin, conditional on characteristics.

Education students have some of the lowest mobility levels shown in Figure 9 within the Report. This is an area where what the Report defines as ‘Education’ is important. Does it include only undergraduate ITT – almost all preparation courses for primary school teaching? Does it include non-ITT Education degrees and PGCE courses as well or are they excluded? If PGCE courses are included do they include students on SCITTs and other school-based courses validated by universities? I have emailed the IFS to ask these questions as they may have an impact on the data.

An email exchange with the lead author reveals that ‘Education is undergrad [in the study] and so does not include PGCE. So yes you are correct, it is mostly primary. The secondary teachers are going to be mixed in amongst the other subjects.’ As a result of this exchange, I am still not certain about the location within the study of non-ITT Education degree courses. There is more work to be undertaken on the mobility of trainee teachers.

However, the fact that wages are set nationally may well be an important factor, especially if the report standardised for London Weighting and other geographical pay scales. This is important in towns with good commuting links to inner London such as High Wycombe- a town cited as losing a lot of its graduates in the early years of their careers.

The incidence of work may be as important as national pay scales. There are primary schools located across the length and breadth of England, so offering the ability to receive the same pay as elsewhere and remain in your locality may be a strong draw to teaching for certain groups of students.

Last year, the IFS conducted a study into Postgraduate earnings that specifically included a section on PGCE students by their degree subject Earnings returns to postgraduate degrees in the UK (ifs.org.uk) There are important messages within the data and analysis of that study for those currently thinking about the future shape of secondary teacher preparation courses and whether, when the economy is performing well, subjects such as mathematics and physics will always be ‘shortage subjects’ for teacher supply and the consequences of that fact for the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Twenty years ago I conducted some market research for the then TTA that showed where the strongest recruiting grounds for potential teachers were to be found. Teach First also recognised that Russell Group universities without a School of Education were a potentially source of entrants to teaching, but these numbers of graduates proved insufficient to meet the growing number of places on offer as the scheme developed.

Pay may not be the key driver for some entering teaching but it can seemingly be a deterrent to others. Solving that problem and cracking the teacher supply issue is nothing new.

Thank You UCAS

Today marks the final set of monthly data from UCAS in relation to postgraduate teacher preparation courses. From Next month the DfE takes over the application process for all such postgraduate routes into teaching. The remaining undergraduate courses will still be part of the UCAS process.

Thirty years ago, in the days of PCAS, UCAS and the Clearing House for Teacher Training, I started monitoring the monthly data produced to study the implications for teacher supply of recruitment levels for courses starting each September. So, this may well be my final report on the subject. With readership of this blog falling away in recent months, that probably won’t be an issue. For many

At some point, I may write a blog about the highlights of thirty years of looking at the data, but enough of looking backward: what are the implications of today’s data? Primary courses should have more than sufficient trainees to meet demand in 2020. Applications were at their highest levels this September since the 2016/17 cycle.

Across the secondary sector, the picture is more mixed. Overall applications remained high, although some 10,000 below last year’s surge that was a result of the response to the covid pandemic and the shutting down of the economy. This year, subjects can be divided into three groups.

Firstly, those where applications are sufficient to ensure there should be no shortages of teachers in 2022. These subjects include, Art, PE, history and chemistry. Music may also be in this group, but might be on the cusp of the second group where applications are high by past standards, but may not be enough to meet demand in 2022 and will need watching when the ITT Census appears for the numbers that have actually made it onto courses. This group of subjects includes, RE, mathematics and business studies.

The final group is those subjects where the number of recorded acceptances will not be enough to meet likely demand next year. This group includes some regulars such as physics, IT and design and technology as well as biology, English, a subject that might also be in the second group depending upon demand in 2022, geography and modern foreign languages.

Many of these subjects are those thought important by the former Minister of State, although during his tenure at Sanctuary Buildings the supply crisis in these subjects was never solved.

Design and technology deserves especial mention as it is facing its worst crisis ever in terms of numbers offered places. The 320 recorded as placed or conditionally placed is half the number of September last year and the lowest level recorded since before 2010. No doubt the possible surplus of teachers of art and design will help stave off complete catastrophe in the staffing of the subject.

There is some evidence that bursaries do matter. Both biology and geography have seen numbers accepted drop sharply following changes in financial support. Chemistry has been a beneficiary in the sciences, suggesting that some possible biologist have switched subjects to chemistry and the more attractive finance package during training.

So, farewell and thank you to everyone at UCAS. We may not have seen eye to eye all the time, but I appreciate you work and the data you have produced.

Cottage Industry or Modern Workplace

There has been a lot of chat about the resumption of Ofsted inspections of ITT settings following the suspension during the first year of the covid crisis. In the past, ofsted has tended to see ITT providers as reaching a high standard in preparing the next generation of teachers. However, the early inspection outcomes under the new framework have ruffled feathers with some providers being judged as either Requiring Improvement or even Inadequate.

Further education provision, often seen as the overlooked child of teacher/lecturer preparation, has come in for the most concern from inspectors, with two university curses flagged as Inadequate and two Further Education based courses seen as Requiring Improvement. As a former teacher educator that doesn’t surprise me. This area of preparation often doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves.

From these first round of inspections there has only been one Outstanding grade, for a provider in South West London. Three universities have received Requires Improvement grades for part of their provisions. All are post-1992 universities with a long tradition in teacher preparation. None are in areas where there is a teacher shortage. Two other providers of courses for teachers in the school sector have been graded as inadequate. Both in the North West, an area where there is no overall shortage of teacher supply.

Is there an agenda here? Data suggests that there are too many training places in the primary sector for future needs if the intention is to match training numbers with perceived need and not to regard the training of teachers are an open choice course not related to market need. With the shambles over lorry driver numbers and other shortages, matching need for workers to supply may move up the government’s agenda in the future.

In teaching, because the government has always met the initial costs of training, whether by grants in the past or now through student loans, the Teacher Supply Model has always attempted to match the supply of teachers with expected demand: not always successfully, as this blog has noted in the past.

Adverse inspection outcomes in areas where teacher supply is less of an issue, especially in the primary sector, could be a means of flagging up courses where accreditation might be removed. It will be interesting to watch the data as it emerges from further inspection reports.

Neither of the two providers with ‘national’ in their title were rated as Outstanding. Both the mathematics/physics course that involves a large number of independent schools, and the Modern Foreign Language course were rated as Good. Surely such specialist provision ought to be Outstanding in their preparation of new teachers? No doubt they will be at their next inspections.

How do small courses manage issues such as introducing trainees to recent research and creating a balance between generic teaching skills and subject knowledge acquisition where there may be only one or two trainees in a particular subject. Additionally, how do some schools handle an introduction to diversity issues in largely mono cultural locations? In respect of the levelling up agenda, this might be an issue for courses located only in schools with strong parental support or excellent outcomes.

These are early days, but there is much discussion about the landscape for initial teacher preparation courses as there was in the mid-1970s; late 1990s and no doubt will be again in the future when change is being mooted. This blog has been in existence long enough to contain a detailed submission to the Carter Review. I will watch the future with interest.

Teachers have 70 days holiday – DfE

Browsing through the DfE website looking for information on the new Minister of State for Schools I was diverted on to the pages about ‘becoming a teacher’- I refused to use the rather slang wording of ‘getintoteaching’ used by the DfE. Many readers will raise a hollow laugh at what follows:

You’ll get more days holiday than people in many other professions. In school, full-time teachers work 195 days per year.

For comparison, you’d work 227 days per year (on average) if you worked full time in an office.

Salaries and benefits | Get Into Teaching (education.gov.uk)

To think teachers work for 39 weeks a year whereas other office workers must toil for an additional six weeks. The DfE site says nothing about the length of the working day and the use of part of this difference in holidays as employer-driven flexitime to compensate for attendance at activities such as parents’ evenings, being present on exam results days and the days before term starts and finishes not included in the 5 days pupils are not in attendance over the 190 days of teaching. Marking and preparation at home outside the working day aren’t mentioned either.

The danger of this type of false encouragement is that new entrants either come believing it to be a fact or recognise it isn’t during their preparation course and have to decide whether they are prepared to accept the real terms and conditions around teaching and not the advertising spin put out by the DfE.

Of course, classroom management does enable teachers to acquire some useful transferable skills and with the buoyant labour market that fact will be a risk for the new Ministerial Team if other employers look to unhappy teachers to fill gaps in their workforce. But, of course, teachers unhappy with working in state schools in England need not change careers, but rather can opt for the private sector either in this country or almost anywhere else in the world.

The more marketable are teachers and their skills, the more the Secretary of State will have to worry about the levelling up agenda. Rolling out a vaccination programme with cooperative NHS staff will seem like a dream task compared with managing catch-up and staffing challenging schools.

Wish list for the new Secretary of State

The replacement of Mr Williamson as Secretary of State probably wasn’t much of a surprise. There isn’t a manual on how to handle a pandemic, but some issue were pretty obvious from really early on. Strategic thinking isn’t easy, and UK corporate management has not always managed it, so we shouldn’t be surprised that some Ministers don’t find it a real challenge.

Anyway, we have a new Secretary of State, and here are some of my top issues for him to consider.

Consider raising the free transport age for students from 16 to 18. The leaving learning age has now encouraged staying-on, and it is time to help the levelling up agenda by ensuring 16-18 year olds receive the same treatment in terms of transport as when they were at school. There would be a cost, not least because some 16-18 year olds attend further education colleges some distance from their homes, but the present arrangement affects the choice some 16 year olds make about what to study.

Finally remove the ability of schools to handle their own in-year admissions and create a common local scheme, as for September admissions. This would help both parents and local authorities ensure a place for children forced to move during a school year. Schools might also review their induction arrangements for such children to ensure they aren’t overlooked and set up to fail.

Take a long hard look at the teaching profession in the light of the market review. Make objectives clear. Can we construct a system than ensures enough teachers in the right places for all schools using a preparation route appropriate to the individual, whether they be a school leaver; a new graduate or a career changer. Encourage more under-represented groups into teaching and ensure the preparation course is financially fair to all and not a burden to some while others receive a salary.

Make the term teacher a reserved occupation term so that those banned from teaching cannot still use the term. teacher

Make a teaching qualification less generic. For a start, make it the right to teach either primary up to eleven or secondary not below eleven, and abolish the ‘middle’ level route. In the longer term make it more specific in relation to subjects and specialisms within the primary sector. And do something about qualifications and staffing for the growing SEND sector where there are often more unqualified teachers than in other sectors. At the same time review training numbers for educational psychologists and other allied professions that support our children and their schools.

Look at what funding might do to small primary schools now the birthrate is falling. Decide whether keeping schools in rural communities is a sensible idea or whether government is prepared to see many closures as school become financially non-viable due to restrains on per pupil funding.

There are no doubt many other issues, not least the future of expensive public examinations at age 16 and the content of a curriculum for the 21st century in a multicultural society, along with issues about school meals, uniforms and the developing gender agenda.

New entrants into QTS

Buried on the government website is the Annual Report and Accounts of the Teacher Regulation Agency for 2020/21. This is the agency that handles all teacher regulation matters in England, including registering Qualified Teacher Status, maintaining the register of Qualitied Teachers and handling the disciplinary process against teachers where misconduct is an issue. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teaching-regulation-agency-annual-report-and-accounts-2020-to-2021

However, since the term ‘Teacher’ isn’t a reserved occupation term, the Agency can only restrict where individuals may work as a teacher, and not the complete use of the term by anyone. For many years, I have felt that teachers deserve parity with other professionals in the protection of their well-earned rights to be called a teacher. So far, governments haven’t agreed and teacher associations haven’t be seen to put the issue on behalf of their members. I think that is a pity.

The Agency’s Annual Report notes that:

During 2020-21, the TRA received 628 teacher misconduct referrals. The TRA took no further action on 138 referrals received due to them not falling within the TRA’s jurisdiction and/or not meeting the threshold of serious misconduct. The TRA referred 286 cases of alleged serious misconduct to an independent hearing in 2020- 21.

During 2020-21, the Agency held 58 virtual hearings resulting in: 

39 teachers being prohibited from teaching: 

13 hearings where unprofessional conduct was found but did not result in a prohibition 

6 hearings where facts were found but there was no finding of serious misconduct.

 All hearings were postponed between March and August 2020 due to COVID-19, this alongside the many complexities of cases, meant that the median time to conclude teacher misconduct cases referred to an independent panel was 66.29 weeks, against the target of 52 weeks.

This is a commendable achievement in the face of the unprecedented challenge presented by the covid pandemic.

On the registration side of the Agency’s work the notable change during the year resulted from the exit of the European Union of the United Kingdom.

Registrations from different routes are shown in the table

2020/212019/20Change
QTS awards3207431752322
Assessment route11911432-241
Wales1069104326
Scotland/NI46038377
OTT route29403868-928
3773438478-744

No doubt the covid pandemic played some part in the reduction of Overseas Trained teacher registrations that was not fully offset by the small increase in QTS awards.

The reductions for certain countries are shown in this table

2020/212019/202018/19
Spain77611501365-589
Greece292368478-186
Australia152443467-315
USA56047349565
Change over the period-1025

The effect of covid on the labour market for teachers, often noted by this blog, can we seen in the reduction from 467,084 to 325,209 in the number of pre-employment checks by employers using the Agency’s on-line service. This is a reduction of 141,875 checks or around a third on the 2019/2020 figure. 

This is a small Agency with an important function in the smooth running of our school system. If I have one very small nit-pick it is that in a profession dominated by the number of female teachers the front cover of the Annual Report features two men and only one women, albeit with a positive BAME balance.

School Funding: looking for savings

Either schools are under-funded or they are not. They certainly say that they are. The IFS Briefing Note  https://ifs.org.uk/publications/15588 lends credence to that view.

But what do they do about it? As a business owner, I need to use my resources in the most effective manner. Schools it seems to me can afford to complain about their funding while still spending in a manner that doesn’t bring a sensible return on the outlay.

Let’s take recruitment spending. And let’s narrow that to spending on teacher recruitment by secondary schools – the most lucrative part of the market for the private sector. This is also an area where I know quite a bit about how the market works having established TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk some seven years ago as a job board for teaching vacancies and where I am still the current Chair.

Now, using TeachVac’s extensive database, we can calculate that the average secondary school recruits around eleven teachers a year. Some recruit fewer, and new schools may recruit more in their first few years.

Some teachers are easy to recruit, such as history teachers or teachers of physical education. Other teachers, such as teachers of business studies or physics, are difficult to recruit at any time, and virtually impossible to recruit for a January vacancy unless a school is exceptionally fortunate.

So, let’s assume over a five year period, a third of vacancies a school may advertise are easy to fill; a third a bit of a challenge and a third very difficult. How do you spend your cash wisely as a school to meet your staffing needs?

Many schools and MATs take out a subscription to an on-line platform that can run into a six figure sum each year. That’s a lot of cash to spend on an easy to fill job and even more cash for a job you cannot fill. So, maybe the cash pays for the third of vacancies in the middle group, possibly an average of 4 vacancies a year. Is that value for money?

TeachVac can fill those vacancies at much less cost to schools, and so can the DfE vacancy site. With TeachVac a school doesn’t have to do anything other than put a job on its website. TeachVac matches candidates looking for the type of vacancy and can report on the size of the market.

With the DfE site, a school must enter the job and hope it can be seen among the plethora of non-teaching posts cluttering up the DfE site.

The DfE site also has the disadvantage of only offering state school posts, so teachers that want a teaching post regardless of whether it is in the state or private sectors probably won’t bother to use the DfE site. TeachVac doesn’t suffer from this constraint.

TeachVac is reviewing its services to ensure better value for money for schools. After all, out technology costs a fraction of historical costs of advertising and at TeachVac we have always thought these saving should be passed on to schools. Do tell us what you think.