Read and reflect

The news this morning that Johnston Press might collapse, carried on the BBC web site, is a further sign of the changes being wrought by technological innovations on our world. Both the retailing and publishing industries have been badly affected by the arrival of the internet. Nobody cannot say that they didn’t see the changes coming, especially in publishing. I recall, about the time that Rupert Murdoch sold the Times educational supplements, seeking out a book he had mentioned in a speech to a gathering of the great and the good of the world’s press. In the book was a chart showing changes in the readership of newspapers by different age-groups after the arrival on the scene of first radio and then television. A third line suggested what the arrival of the internet might also do to print news readership.

Interestingly, a couple of years before that speech, in the autumn of 1997, just after I quit being the government’s Adviser on Teacher Supply, I had written a report for the management at the TES about the possible effects of the internet on teacher recruitment advertising in print publications. The reason I recall this was because it was the first commission that Education Data Surveys ever received. Even at that time, some school districts in the USA were already looking at on-line recruitment possibilities and the New Zealand Government was already featuring vacancies in the government’s Education Gazette, as it still does today.

So, twenty years ago, the writing was already on the wall for those that wanted to read about the future. The TES wisely set up an on-line site for teacher vacancies and ran it in parallel with the print edition of the paper for many years. When News International sold the supplements, it was probable that recruitment advertising could cover the debt created on the purchase of the company. The key question was, how long could print advertising service the debt?

So long as the government at Westminster stayed away from the market, the TES always had a sporting chance to create a strategy to move its monopoly position with schools for recruitment advertising into the new world by offering great service at a price that reflected the lower costs of the new technology. But, if it squandered that brand loyalty, then its future would always be more challenging.

TeachVac was established as a free vacancy service more than four years ago to show how a low cost service could embrace the best of the new technology. Far cheaper to operate than either the TES or the government’s latest foray into vacancy advertising for teaching posts, TeachVac still demonstrates how existing paid for teacher vacancy platforms need to keep ahead of the curve.

I have no doubt that over the next few months we could see something happen at the TES. After all, it was put up for sale by its US owners in June, see https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/interesting-news/ after the 2017 annual results recorded a loss for possibly the first time in its history. There has been no public news of a sale almost six months on. Could the TES possibly go the way of the Johnston Press? I have no way of knowing. However, over the next few weeks as the owners evaluate both the 2018 draft accounts, plus the management reports from this term’s business, they will presumably be looking to what the future will hold. The Johnston Press restructuring came only a month after an attempt to find a buyer.

Even in this modern world, I firmly believe that there is a space for a successful and profitable on-line news, features and recruitment vehicle for the education world, operating in the private sector. How that will emerge may be as interesting and as uncomfortable a journey as British politics is today.  Top class journalism, a top class understanding of the on-line environment and where it is heading, plus a real awareness of the education scene and the labour market that creates so much of the potential revenue even today, will, I believe, be absolute necessities for success.

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100: well almost

Congratulations to the DfE for reaching the 100 vacancies point on their web site for the first time. Sadly, once vacancies past their closing date and non-teaching posts are removed, the total slips just below the three figure mark, but it will make that level soon, I am sure. This on a day when TeachVac, the only other free site to both schools and teachers, has more than 50,000 vacancies for 2018. To be fair to the DfE, their site still doesn’t cover the whole of the country and has only really been in operation of three months, including the quiet month of August, so it has a way to go to catch up TeachVac, but it is running at about 5% of TeachVac’s total at present.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will also hit another key milestone and new record today. However, those details will keep for another post. Still, the team of six in Newport on the Isle of Wight have much to be proud of in developing TeachVac without a single penny of government money. This is compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DfE has spent on their site.

Rather tongue in cheek, I suggested to officials that the DfE buy the vacancies from TeachVac for a fraction of the cost it would cost the same number of schools to input the vacancies to the DfE site, especially using the DfE’s outdated methodology. The DfE could then work with TeachVac to ensure applicants were attracted to the one site. This is because, without spending on making sure teachers, trainees and returners use any vacancy site, it is valueless. TeachVac also has the added benefit of attracting teachers working overseas to teaching posts in England through its TeachVac Global site for international schools. www.teachvacglobal.com

Unlike the DfE, TeachVac also uses it data to provide schools with information on the local vacancy market and has established a new vacancy index for both primary and secondary classroom teachers that will track how recruitment is changing in a world where funding is a concern to schools, but so is the wastage of teachers with several years of experience in the profession.  The next crisis may well be trying to find sufficient middle leaders with experience and appropriate professional development to take on this demanding role.

The free sites, such as TeachVac and the DfE work alongside paid for advertising sites for teaching posts. As more and more teachers use the free sites, it will be interesting to chart the fate of the ‘paid for’ recruitment advertising market. TeachVac offers a service to the independent sector, although the DfE site doesn’t. At present it seems that Sixth Form Colleges are excluded for the DfE site, presumably as they aren’t technically schools. TeachVac is happy to accommodate such institutions as it also provides special arrangements for MATs, diocese and local authorities to handle both individual schools recruitment needs as well as those for all schools in the group.

Ideally, a jointly managed and badged recruitment site supported by the government, teacher associations, employers and teacher educators would be the best solution, provided that is, it offered the lowest cost solution using the best of modern technology.

 

Teaching as a global career

Should the DfE set up a specific Unit to help teachers trained in England return from working overseas? They might want to work on this with the British Council. Recent data from research organisation ISC suggests that UK private schools are leading the charge into overseas markets, with several new schools established overseas this year alone by schools with headquarters in England. Many of these new schools will have a high percentage of UK trained teachers working in them.

In the past, the international school market was mainly a market serving expat communities, by providing a home country style education that allowed executives to take their families with them on overseas posting. This meant that they were secure both in the knowledge that their children’s education would be protected, and that their children would also benefit from a new set of cultural experiences, together with the opportunity to mix with others from a range of cultures in an increasingly global world.

However, in our increasingly global and digital world, the use of so-called international schools has changed. The pupils in such schools are now predominantly not the children of expats, according to ISC research, but mostly local children of parents than can afford to pay the fees in what are increasingly ‘for-profit’ schools. This raises the question, why should the UK, and England in particular, be supporting the staffing of these schools if we cannot provide enough teachers for our own schools? Making teaching in England more attractive as a career is an obvious way forward, but the DfE should also be examining how difficult it is for teachers that want to return from working overseas to find a job back home. Can more be done to assist these teachers in their quest to return and can more of them be helped and encouraged to return?

This is not an idle question, if the ISC research is correct. Such schools around the world are growing at a rate that will see the number of teachers working in them possibly approach the million mark before the end of the next decade. That’s double current numbers. I have long worried audiences at conferences by pointing out that an entrepreneur wanting to start a chain of new international schools could recruit the whole cohort of NQTs for a particular year. With India now expanding faster than China, and UK Education being highly valued in the sub-continent, the warning signs are there for all to see.

Maybe the DfE should now sponsor a return to teaching in England event in Dubai, a location where there are more than 300 English medium schools, many employing teachers from England. They might do the same event in China and even Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in India and Hong Kong.

I confess to an interest in this issue as TeachVac Global provides a recruitment service to these schools at www.teachvacglobal.com The TeachVac team has seen this growth in demand in the period that the service has been operating. At present TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment site for teachers and schools in England, is separate from the international site, but here is pressure from schools to be able to interact with the large number of teachers in England looking for jobs.

 

Improve teacher retention, but that’s not the whole solution

The NfER has produced its final comprehensive report into teacher supply and retention entitled, ‘Teacher Workforce Dynamics in England’. http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/government-mustnt-lose-focus-tackling-teacher-supply-shortage

I have to confess that, as noted in the acknowledgements, I acted as a consultant to the team working on this project at NfER. During the various stages of the project the team issued research reports and the final documents brings all these together and amplifies them in a number of different ways not possible in the shorter documents. The Nuffield Foundation must be recognised for their help in funding the project.

At the launch last evening there were some interesting issues raised that may merit further analysis should funds be available. Firstly, the data on retention is presented in terms of the percentage of staff leaving the profession. This raises two issues: what is meant in terms of leaving the teaching profession is leaving maintained state funded schools as teachers – they may still be working in state funded Sixth Form Colleges or further education or as a teacher in the private sector. When comparing leaving rates with nursing it isn’t clear whether registration of nurses includes those working in non-NHS settings such as the private sector and as school nurse and thus affects how leaving rates are calculated. Additionally, for the police, there was a period where most police forces stopped recruitment, so departure rates may be depressed when there were no new entrants to create a pool of early leavers during part of the survey period.

However, the other issue with the data are the use of percentages of staff leaving. This can be problematic. Thus, in 2015, 20,700 leavers from the secondary sector were detected by the School Workforce Census – a rate of 9.2% for secondary teachers; in 2017 the rate increased to 10.4%, but the actual number decreased to 20,170.  There is no suggestion that the data used by NfER experienced this situation, but it highlights why I often prefer to use real numbers.

Leavers do so at different times in their careers in teaching. Much has been made by the National Audit Office in their study and in this NfER report on the advantages of retaining more teachers in state funded schools. To that end, there is an interesting chart on page 24 of the NfER Report showing where leavers typically may be going. Again, percentages are used, so let’s assume a hypothetical example based upon 40,000 leavers and how many might be persuaded to return at any point.

Since 30% are retiring, the pool can be reduced to 28,000 straightaway, assuming there aren’t a large pool of teacher taking early retirement. The 400 taking maternity leave, a somewhat low figure given the age profile of the profession, takes another 400 out of the total. Another 800 are removed because they are studying as students. I assume this will include future Educational Psychologists and those seeking extra qualifications, such as to teach children with special education needs. However, the biggest category of leavers are those teaching in the private sector; some 33% or another 13,200 off the total.

So, how many of the remaining 13,600 might be persuaded to return?  4,000 are employed in schools as teaching assistants or other non-teaching roles. Some of these might have decided teaching is not for them, but others may have left for other reasons and might be persuadable back into the classroom as a teacher: let’s say 50% or 2,000 could fit into that category, perhaps if better part-time teaching opportunities were available.

Of the remaining 9,600, the 1,200 unemployed might offer some possibilities if teaching didn’t run on a market based recruitment system. After all, if there are teacher shortages, and these teachers wanted to work, there must be an assumption that they are in areas where teaching posts are not available for those with their skills. The other big group worth exploring further are the 4,400 in our example listed as self-employed. Are they working as tutors or using their skills as musicians, artists, historians or scientists for positive reasons or because they gave up on teaching?

Let’s assume half might tempted back, at last part-time if offered better terms. We now have possibly 4,000 that might be enticed back. Add another 1,000 for all the other smaller categories NfER identified, and the total is some 12.5% of leavers. However, many might only be interested in part-time work, so that might only be half that in terms of full-time equivalent teachers, say 2.500. Working trying to recruit, but still not the absolute answer to the teacher shortage issue. Certainly it is worth exploring whether some of these leavers might have been persuaded to remain in the profession.

 

 

Should you train to be a teacher?

This is the time of year when final year undergraduates; recent graduates unhappy with their current lot in life and career changers often start to consider teaching as a possible career.

Teaching in England requires more than half a million graduates to provide an education to all children. Even a low departure rate of around five per cent would require more than 25,000 replacement teachers each year, either through new entrants or by those return9gn to teaching. So, even if the economy goes downhill thanks to trade wars and Brexit, there will still be lots of children to educate.

If you are a potential teacher reading this blog, you can visit the DfE’s advice service for potential teachers at https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/

One of the questions you might want to ask the advice line is, will I find a teaching post where I want to teach and doing what I want to do when I qualify? May, I suggest that if the person answers ‘yes’ to that question, you press them for some hard evidence. After all, the DfE is now running a vacancy web site for teaching posts, so should be able to answer a simple question such as ‘what are my chances of finding a teaching post?’

Unlike many graduate training programmes, only some teacher preparation courses will guarantee those that complete the course successfully a teaching job. Most, however, will require you to take on extra student debt to pay for the course: in some cases this is ameliorated by a bursary payment made tax-free. In other subjects, where the government considers the supply of entrants is sufficient then there is no bursary available. This fact might be a warning sign about job prospects.

Even where there are bursaries, do you want to commit a year of your life to training to become a teacher only to find there are not enough jobs to meet the supply of teachers where you want to teach? Hence the need to quiz the government’s recruitment advisers about vacancies.

If the government cannot answer your question, then local authority might be able to do so, as many still have teacher recruitment services or at least operate job boards and should know something about the local demand for teachers. However, they may not know what is happening in academies in their area, with regard to job prospects for teachers.

You can also ask course providers during any interviews how successful their trainees are at finding jobs and where they find them?

Finally, I recommend you sign up with a job board that can tell you about real vacancies. Beware vacancies not tied to a specific school: the job might not exist. Some schools these days operate talent pools and collect applications even when they don’t have a vacancy. The best make this clear; some don’t.  You can often spot these apparent vacancies by a lack of any starting date and a long period to the closing date with a comment that appointments may be made before the closing date if a suitable candidate appears.

If you want a job board that is free to both schools and teachers and tries to only match real vacancies with teachers looking for those jobs in specific parts of England, then may I recommend TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk This free national vacancy service was established more than four years ago and currently handles more vacancies than any other free service, including that operated by the DfE.  I am happy to be the Chair of its Board.

If you are considering becoming a history teacher, a teacher of PE or of Modern Languages or indeed a teacher of any subject or a teacher working in the primary sector, then signing up when you are considering teaching as a career can provide evidence of the job market that may help you assess the risk of training to be a teacher.

As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be delighted to welcome you to join with many other teachers, trainees and returners already making use of our free service.

Should you have a wish to teacher overseas, then our global site www.teachvacglobal.com  may be able to help you find a teaching post almost anywhere in the world.

 

 

 

Governors warn of teacher recruitment crisis

Tell us something we didn’t know, might be the first reaction to this headline from today’s Times newspaper. Indeed, October is a slightly odd time to publish such a survey, as it is well after the start of the school year and at a point where teacher recruitment is heading towards its autumn low point before picking up again in January.

However, I guess it took the TES some time to put together the answers from the National Governance Association members that completed the survey. Anyway, a survey of this type does help to keep the pressure on government, lest they try and bury concerns about teacher recruitment.

The figure for the extra number of teachers needed by the mid-2020s is also not really news, since the DfE has been publishing the forward planning associated with the Teacher Supply Model for the past couple of years. We have David Laws to thank for opening up this key planning tool to general visibility when he was Minister of State.  The next iteration of the Model is due to be published in a couple of weeks, towards the end of the month and will confirm future needs as the school population increases. No doubt this blog will comment on the DfE’s views at that time.

I was surprised that the NGA/TES Survey didn’t highlight the issues many schools have had this year trying to recruit a teacher of English. Indeed, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk  where I am the chair of the board, surveys key subjects on a daily basis and across the whole of England and we would rate English as more of a problem subject in 2018 than mathematics. As I pointed out last week on this blog, that might not be the case in 2019.

The report in the Times article didn’t mention regional recruitment issues. At TeachVac, we believe that the recruitment situation is generally at its worst in and around London. That’s not to say school elsewhere don’t face problems for specific reasons, but that a higher proportion of school in London and the Home Counties may expect to find recruitment difficult.

The Times newspaper article also ignored the challenges in vocational subjects such as business studies and parts of the design and technology curriculum. That’s probably not surprising, as the DfE shows a complete lack of interest in these subjects, not even offering a bursary to business studies students despite the real challenges schools face in recruiting these teachers.

With the government’s school-based training scheme, School Direct, having stalled this year, the NGA ought to be asking what can be done to ensure teachers that train through higher education courses end up in the schools where they are needed. It is absolutely no use attracting more mature entrants on the back of the BBC Radio 4 series with Lucy Kellaway, if they are in the wrong place and wrong subjects. The Treasury ought to be asking why so many teachers of history are being trained at £9,250 a head. Wasting money training too many teachers is as much of an issue as not training enough, but receives fewer headlines.

 

Teacher Analysis Compendium 4

In my last blog post I drew attention to the Teacher Analysis Compendium 4 – subtitled Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility, and recently published by the DfE at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4 in my last post I reviewed the application the DfE has also created for this work, although unlike most apps this is largely designed around on-line use and might be a challenge for mobile phone users if not for those with larger size tablets.

Anyway, the Compendium contains useful and often unique insights into the following areas of the teacher workforce:

Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses for potential trainees (SKE);

Teacher Subject Specialism Training (TSST);

Time series analysis of teachers in England using Teachers’ Pensions Scheme data;

Teachers returning to the profession;

The pool of qualified teachers who are not currently teaching in the state-funded sector;

Entrants and leavers to the teaching profession;

Retention of Newly Qualified Teachers;

Annex –missing teachers’ characteristics.

In times past, these type of statistics would have appeared in the annual Volume of Statistics on Teachers that were part of a series of education statistics put out by the Department each year. Whether either ad hoc compendiums of this nature or a regular series of volume of statistics is the best way for data of this type to be presented to the outside world is not for me to judge.

One area of debate that is likely to emerge from the consideration of the data in the Compendium is whether there ought now to be a more regional approach to the provision of teacher preparation places to meet the growing demand over the next few years, especially in and around the London area? This was something the National Audit Office raised in their Report of a couple of years ago.

The compendium might have usefully contained a table showing where completers obtained their first job in terms of whether it was within the same region or a different region from where they trained. Using the northings and eastings available it might also be possible to determine the relative distance from the training base the first job was obtained. Tracking the movements of these teachers might also be illustrative of how mobile the teaching force is and at what stages in their careers?

The work on Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses for potential trainees (SKE) is particularly interesting, as this is a growing area of the market for potential teachers. Such courses have the capacity to bridge the gap between an increasingly diversified higher education system, where degrees no longer match the needs of subjects taught in schools, if they ever really did, and the desire for specific subject knowledge from those that enter the teaching profession.

In a future Compendium, a look at the degrees of these that enter our primary schools might merit a section. Are primary schools still too heavily dominated by Arts and Humanities graduates that lack in-depth knowledge of science and mathematics and are the preparation course able to remedy any deficiencies to an acceptable level without sacrificing the knowledge and skills of trainees in other subject areas they may not have studies for several years?