More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

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An Auger effect already?

The publication of the data on ITT applications for June 2019 coincided today with the DfE’s date for publishing its annual raft of statistics on teachers and schools. The DfE data is, of course, backward facing, whereas the UCAS data tells us what to expect in the teacher labour market in 2020.

With only three months left in the current recruitment round, it is usually easy to predict the actual outcome of the recruitment round. However, with the current levels of uncertainty over issues such as the funding of schools after the new Prime Minister is elected by Conservative Party members, and assuming there isn’t a general election in the autumn, as well as what happens to tuition fees in the short-term, the past may not be a guide to the future. Nevertheless, this blog will try and made some inferences from the data as it currently stands.

Overall applications are down on last year. The current total of 32,720 applicants is some 490 below the figure for June 2018. Perhaps of most concern is the decline in ‘placed’ applicants in London and the South East, where the figure is down from 900 last year to 710 this year. There has also been a decline in ‘conditionally placed’ numbers in these two regions, although numbers ‘holding offers’ are similar to last year at this point.

There has been a reversal in the recent trend in age profile of applicants, with fewer applicants than last year in all age groups, except for new graduates 21 or under, where the number is up from 4,630 last year to 4,670 this year. ‘Placed’ applicants over the age of 25 are down this year by 130 to some 1,440. In the past, this age group has help keep applicant numbers up as younger applicants have fallen away.

The number of applications are down from both men and women, mostly as a result of fewer applicants being ‘placed’. As degree results are confirmed over the next month or so, the number of ‘placed’ applicants should increase rapidly over the next two months. This is a number that will need watching very carefully.

The data on application status by provider region (Table B6 of the UCAS monthly data) confirms that there needs to be a focus on what is happening in London. Placed numbers are down by 100, and ‘conditionally placed’ by 160, with only those ‘holding offers’ up by 50, for a net change across the three categories of around 200. Application numbers to providers in London are down by around 600. With London schools seeing growth in pupil numbers, and so far in 2019 having advertised 10 vacancies per secondary school (www.teachvac.co.uk data) these numbers must be of concern.

So far it is primary courses that have borne the brunt of reduced applications, down from 41,180 in 2018, to 38,880 in 2019, whereas applications for secondary courses are up from 52,530 to 53,250. But, before anyone hangs out the bunting and declares a ‘dance and skylark’, it is worth delving deeper into the statistics for individual subjects. History, English and biology al doing extremely well, and could recruit their largest numbers of trainees in recent years.

On the other hand, art, chemistry, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording new lows for June in terms of those ‘placed’ and either ‘conditionally placed’ or ‘holding an offer’. Based on the evidence of previous years, none of these subjects will hit the required Teacher Supply Model number in 2019.  That’s bad news for the 2020 recruitment market for teachers.

Has the Auger Report with its suggestion for lower fees already had an effect on recruitment onto UCAS courses for this September? If so, the government must react sooner rather than later to stem any further losses ad protect teacher supply.

 

 

 

 

Treasury woes

Teacher recruitment crises are not a new phenomenon in England. Indeed, almost 30 years ago, at the start of the 1990s, the country was experiencing a very similar sort of teacher recruitment and retention crisis to that seen now. As a result, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by the then Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, the forerunner of the present School Teachers’ Review Body, and the successor to the Burnham Committee.

In Chapter 6 of their 1991 report, at paragraph 7.13 the IAC said:

Our final key principle has been to support the provision of proper rewards for additional responsibilities and high performance. Put, bluntly, the teaching profession is no different from any other in needing to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people. Whatever the details of the pay structure, it seems self-evident to us that if adequate levels of differential rewards are not available, as they increasingly are elsewhere, then there will be serious difficulties in tackling the recruitment and retention problems we have highlighted.

(IAC, 4th Report January 1991 para 7.13 page 49)

I found this comment of interest, as I discovered it when I was trying to determine whether more teachers had access to allowances now than at that time before devolved budgets and the total freedom for schools to decide how to pay their teachers. At that time, in the early 1990s, although the pay scales were different and local management of schools was on the horizon, there was still a national structure for responsibility payments, and schools had little choice over the number of such posts that they could create. School size, as determined by the number and age of the pupils, was the key source factor affecting the chance of promotion for a teacher.

Interestingly, a quick look at DfE statistics for both 1989 and 2013, suggests that far more teachers in secondary schools than in primary schools had access to payments above their main scale salary in 1989, and that in both sectors the percentage of teachers paid above the main scale was higher in 1989 than in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, you were less likely to receive a TLR if you worked in an academy than if you worked in a maintained school.

Since 2013, the DfE has changed how it reports teachers’ pay, and it now uses cash amounts in bands as the reporting measure that doesn’t allow an easy identification of the percentage of teachers paid a TLR in addition to their main salary.

Of course, a few teachers have benefited from an opening up of extra posts on the Leadership Scale. But, could this lack of incentives, suggested as important by the IAC in 1991, be partly responsible for the problems with retention in years five to seven of a teacher’s career that have become a feature of recent years?

Conservative politicians, as the previous post on this blog has noted, are aware that current funding for schools is not only insufficient to pay support staff their pay award but also to reward and retain teachers in many parts of the country. The problem is, where to find the cash to pay for schools to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people, the same requirement as the IAC pointed out all those years ago.

 

 

Lower Fees: a threat to teacher education?

Will the promise of a possible cut in tuition fees held out in the recent Augar Review harm applications to teacher preparation courses, especially those courses for postgraduates?

Due to an accident of history, postgraduate teacher preparation courses with a higher education component are still usually linked to the student fee regime, at least in England. This anomaly has worked well for course providers in recent years, as they have mostly been able to charge the full fee or something close to that amount.

Although not generous, in terms of the cost of running these courses, the fee has generated more income than was possible during the period when the fee income meant that it was almost impossible to cover the cost of running a course from the income received and university management would every year have to write off deficits, often amid suggestions that teacher education would not survive.  Apart from in one or two institutions, it did survive, as it has survived the Govian era of regarding higher education as part of ‘the blob’.

Still, Augar poses new threats. In the short-term, probably the 2019-2020 recruitment round, will would-be teachers postpone applying for courses until the issue of a fee cut and changes to the interest rate on student debt are decided.

Any such reduction in applications would be a worry since noises from Whitehall now suggest that the government’s planned spending review may be delayed because of the change of Prime Minister.

Hopefully, those concerned with policy on teacher education will have raised the issue of the effect on recruitment of a possible future cut intuition fees with DfE civil servants. However, until their political bosses (is that a non-sexist word?) take a decision, there may be little that can be done in the short-term, except monitor what happens to applications and even that may be easier said than done next year.

I also hope that those on the teacher education side are talking both to civil servants and to the teacher associations about what happens to funding if fees are reduced to say £7,500? Will the shortfall from current levels of funding be made up by the government, and will that mean closer monitoring of recruitment again?

Course providers will need reassurance that the cost of running their courses will be covered if fees are reduced for students. If not, will we see further changes in the landscape, with some schools unwilling to participate for anything less than the current level of funding, especially with the pressures on school budgets at present?

Of course, I favour a return to the situation where all fees for post-graduate courses are paid by the government, and training to be a teachers doesn’t require an increase in the level of debt to the individual, especially if the length of time repayments must be made is also increased by ten years as Augar suggested.

With probably another five years of increased secondary training targets to come before the bulge of pupils passing through secondary schools can be provided with sufficient teachers, even if not the right mix of subjects, anything that deters new entrants should be avoided. A delay by applicants awaiting a decision on lower fees might end up as a loss of a number of potential teachers to the system.

Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.

 

Was I right?

At the end of December 2018, I wrote a post on this blog entitled

Some trends for 2019 in teacher recruitment (Posted on December 31, 2018)

As the closing date for resignations looms ever closer and the 2019 recruitment round reaches its peak, it is worth asking how well my predictions have stood up to the reality of the real world in 2019. (original post in italics)

 As mentioned in the post that initially analysed the ITT census for 2018, the position in physics is once again dire, with less than half of the ITT places filled. Fortunately, there won’t be a shortage of science teachers, since far more biologists were recruited into training that the government estimate of the number required. However, recruitment of chemistry teachers will prove a problem for some schools as 2019 progresses, since one in five ITT places were left unfilled; the highest percentage of unfiled places in recent years. Perhaps some early professional development on increased subject knowledge for biology teachers required to teach the whole science curriculum at Key Stage 3 might be a worthwhile investment.

The position for physics is difficult to determine exactly, since most schools advertise for a teacher of science. At TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk  the team look in detail at the adverts placed by schools, but it will take a little while to do the analysis of more than 4,000 vacancies so far this year for teachers of science. Overall, the large number of trainee biologists means there is not yet  significant shortage of potential applicants for science teacher vacancies and TeachVac has not yet issued a Red Warning; only an Amber warning.

In 2018, there were not enough trainee teachers of English to meet the demand from schools for such teachers; it 2019 that subject will be less of a problem, but finding a teacher of mathematics might be more of an issue for schools once again, although various CPD initiatives may have helped improve the mathematical knowledge of those teaching the subject and may have helped to reduce demand. Only time will tell whether a shortage of teachers of mathematics will once again be a headline story for 2019.

English is still at an Amber warning, but a Red Warning of national shortages for the remainder of the recruitment round has already been issued for mathematics. The problem will intensify for January 2020 appointments.

Although state schools may have reduced their demand for teachers of art, the independent sector still generates a significant demand each year for such teachers. The fact that more than one in five ITT places weren’t filled in 2018 may have some important regional implications for state schools seeking such a teacher, especially where the demand is also strong from the private sector schools. The same issue is also true for teachers of religious education, where demand from the state sector was weak in 2018. Any increase in demand during 2019 would see schools experiencing more problems with recruitment than during 2018.

TeachVac is on the verge of upgrading its Amber warning for art to a Red Warning, meaning that schools anywhere in England might face challenges with recruitment for the remainder of the recruitment round.

All these assumptions are predicated on the belief that rising pupil numbers, and the associated funding per pupil, will more than cancel out the pressure on school budgets across the country. Once again, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk expects that London and the surrounding areas to be the focus of most demand for new teachers and the North East, the area where schools will experience the least difficulty in recruiting teachers.

 

London schools again lead in the number of vacancies per school in 2019. Although a cruder measure than vacancies per pupil, it does confirm the trend of recent years with Schools in the north of England advertising far fewer vacancies than schools in the south of the country.

 

The autumn term may well be a challenging time for schools required to recruit a replacement teacher for January 2020 across many different subjects. Fortunately, there should be fewer problems in the primary sector.

 

 

How to advertise a teaching vacancy

Many schools still don’t seem able to work out how to achieve the best results from the changing world of advertising for teaching posts. The concept of ‘free’ adverts for schools is now firmly established as a key part of the marketplace, with the DfE’s site following along in the footsteps of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that created the first free site for schools and teachers more than four years ago. Additionally, most schools now also place their vacancies on a specific part of their site.

However, schools don’t seem to have reviewed their policy towards how they make the most use of the changing landscape for recruitment. Take science vacancies as an example. When you are paying to advertise a vacancy it makes sense to create an advert that will maximise the chance of making an appointment, especially if you are paying for each advert individually. Hence, a schools is most likely to advertise for a teacher of science, with some specific indication in the text of any desired skills or subject knowledge, such as physics or chemistry beyond ‘A’ level.

Reviewing vacancies placed by London schools so far in 2019, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has recorded more than 700 ‘advertised vacancies across the sciences by secondary schools in the capital. Of these, 73 are adverts for teachers of chemistry; 98 for teachers of physics and just 60 for teachers of biology, but 487 for science teachers. So, almost overwhelmingly, schools are still advertising for science teachers and nothing else. Many of those with adverts for chemistry and physics teachers are independent schools or schools that have a specific interest in teaching the sciences.

So here are a few suggestions for schools as the 2019 recruitment round reaches its peak. If it costs you nothing, try placing both an advert for a teacher of a specific science, say physics as well as an advert for a science teacher if you really want a teacher of physics. Sure, it makes some people’s task of analysis more challenging, but that’s not your problem. With lots of possible teachers of biology, if that’s what you want, say so.

Putting two different adverts on your web site costs a school nothing. The same with either registering and entering two different science jobs in TeachVac or letting TeachVac deal with them. For maximum effect, it is probably worth placing the vacancies a day apart. In most cases, where a school has a subscription to a paid service that doesn’t limit the number of adverts placed in a given period, the school could use the same tactics. Indeed, between January and the end of April it is worth considering precautionary advertising based upon the experience of previous years in order to build up a register of interested teachers. But, do remember that most teachers are mainly interested in finding a job, not specifically a job in your school, and if one comes up elsewhere, then they could no longer be interested in your vacancies.

Schools should also note that some candidates searching for vacancies may register only for physics, biology or chemistry vacancies and not for science vacancies as a generic term. Some sites create more restrictive matches than others. In those cases, some possible applicants might not see your vacancy.

A word of warning to MATs that use central recruitment sites, are you ensuring this works to the advantage of your schools?

Finally, a plea, do please check your vacancy adverts for simple errors such as out of time closing dates and text that differs between headlines and copy text. You will be surprised how often TeachVac staff either cannot match a vacancy or have to contact a school for clarification if time allows them to do so before the end of the daily routine.