Going down

There was a certain amount of coverage of the UCAS end of cycle report on the 2015/16 application process for graduate teacher preparation courses when it appeared last month.  The UCAS Scheme covers almost all such provision in England except for Teach First.

I find it illustrative to compare the data in the 2015/16 report with 2012/13, the last year of the previous GTTR Scheme that provided for a cascade model of applications rather than the present model where all three applications are considered together.  The current system of applications is much more expensive for both trainees and providers, whereas both models are probably cost neutral to UCAS that charges both providers and applicants a fee.

Anyway, enough comment on the system – you may deduce I am not a great fan of the change – and back to how applications compared with past cycles? In 2015/16 there were 46,000 applicants, of whom 41,400 were domiciled in England. Sadly, we don’t know how many applicants applied to providers in England, a useful but missing statistic if there has been a trend to apply for places in Wales and Scotland. The 46,000, let alone the 41,400 figure for those with a domicile in England, is well below the record 67,000 applicants of the 2010 entry round, but, that number was a consequence of the recession and associated slowdown in the graduate labour market.  However, the 46,000 was also significantly below the 52,254 of 2013 that was itself below the pre-recession figure of 53,931 applicants reached in the 2007 round.

How much further can applicant numbers be allowed to fall before alarm bells start ringing loudly in Sanctuary Buildings? The fact that so far in 2017/18 there has been a further decline must be cause for concern.

Male applicants totalled some 38% of the total, probably in line with recent years and indicating an overall lack of interest in teaching since the fall cannot be attributed to just disinterest from this group. We no longer have data in relation to ethnicity, a sad loss since there was evidence in the past that applicants from some ethnic groups found it harder to secure a place on a course.

Interestingly, after falling as a percentage of all applicants, the percentage of career switchers over the age of 30, when applying, reached 29% of applicants in 2015/16. That suggest a falloff in applications from new graduates, perhaps finally being deterred by the level of fees and lack of support in some subject areas.

I have long campaigned for all entrants to be treated the same and not for the Treasury to hide behind the fiction that because so much teacher preparation takes place in and around universities those on teacher preparation courses should be treated as students, not entrants to teaching undergoing training in a university-led course. A subtle, but not unimportant distinction.

I am sure that the DfE have much more detailed data than that which has been released to the general public, but UCAS should consider reviewing what is available and whether it might be helpful to return to the level of data provided previously by the GTTR Scheme.

First red alert from TeachVac in 2017

There is a certain irony that on budget day TeachVac has issued its first red warning of teacher shortages in 2017 www.teachvac.co.uk . After matching the demand for teachers as measured by vacancies recorded against the supply of trainees not already working in a classroom, Business Studies as a subject, today reached the 20% level of remaining trainees available for employment. At this point, TeachVac suggests that there will not be enough trainees to fill their share of vacancies during the remainder of the recruitment round until December 2017, for January 2018 appointments and codes the subject red. At the level of a red alert, a school anywhere in England may experience recruitment difficulties in this subject from now onwards. Such has been the number of vacancies recorded since January that it is entirely possible that the stock of trainees in Business Studies will be exhausted before the end of April this year.

The next subject on the radar is English. Although currently at an amber warning, meaning schools in some areas may face a degree of challenge in making an appointment, we are watching the number of vacancies posted every day with great attention in order to see how quickly the trainee pool is being reduced. Schools that use TeachVac’s free service are told the latest position when they input a vacancy and they can also find out the state of the local job market should Ofsted come calling and ask for this information. Teachvac’s monthly newsletters also provide useful updates on the overall situation

Teachvac staff will also be delighted to talk with Sir Michael Barber about his new role improving public sector efficiency for the government that was announced in the budget, especially since TeachVac offers schools a free service in a manner that can save both the government and schools considerable amounts of money and provide much needed rea-time data about the working of the labour market for teachers.

The other budget announcements regarding education were fairly predictable, subject to anything in the small print not revealed in the Chancellor’s speech. I would have liked to see the situation regarding the levying of the apprenticeship levy on schools tidied up, so all pay the same if they have to pay anything. The wording on free transport to grammar schools for pupils on free school meals is frankly perplexing. I am sure the situation will be clarified over the coming days. The capital for refurbishing schools, spread a sit is over several years, isn’t going to go very far once urgent problems have been attended to.

The big loser in education are the self-employed tutors that will now pay more in National Insurance and face big penalties if they don’t declare their income for tax. The same may apply to supply teachers, depending upon how they arrange their affairs.

 

Uphill task, but not yet panic mode?

At the end of January, when that month’s UCAS data on applications to ITT postgraduate programmes was published, I wrote in a blog ‘The next four weeks are vital ones for teacher supply and the number of teachers entering the labour market in 2018.’ So, it has turned out to be.

The February data was published earlier today. It is worth noting that it is data up to 20th February this year, whereas the comparative data for 2016 was up to the 15th February. On that basis there are several more days for applications included in this year’s figures.

As a result, the fact that applicants with a domicile in England are down from 26,130 last year to 24,720 this year is disappointing to say the least. Applications aren’t just down in one region, but across most of the country. In London, a key area of need for teachers, applicants are down by around 200 and in the usually buoyant North West, numbers are down by around 300.

Most alarming is the haemorrhaging of applications form those under 22. Compared with 2016, there have been around 1,000 fewer applicants from this age-group, to just 7,850.

The loss of keen bright new graduates has not been fully offset by additional applications for career changers and other older applicants. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, before the School Direct programmes were included in the process, there were 34,936 applicants at this point in the cycle. So in five years, teaching has seen around 10,000 fewer applicants by February As that month marks the half-way point in the application cycle, time is already slipping away to make up this deficit.

Of course, if the smaller number of applicants are of high quality, this may not matter. But, assuming no change in the profile or even that fewer doesn’t mean better, this poses a problem for providers. Do they lower the quality mark when offering places?

Interestingly, this is a dilemma for higher education as much as for school-based providers thus year since applications to higher education are holding up better than for school-based training. HE institutions have attracted 36,260 of the 73,440 applications. School Direct salaried has only attracted 10,350 compared with 11,680 last February. This is despite the greater proportion of older applications that would be eligible for the School Direct Salaried route. Of course, there may be fewer places on offer, but that fact remains a mystery since government won’t publish the national targets.

In terms of subjects, geography and history are doing well, several other subjects are holding their own and schools might well start making room for PSHE by axing business studies since there are likely to be few teachers. After all, it isn’t a subject we are going to need post BREXIT anyway.

Teaching seems to be looking less attractive as a career to women. In February 2012, some 24,265 women has applied for courses in England. This year, the number was just 17,360. Down by nearly 7,000 or more than a quarter. In the same period applications from men fell from 10,600 to around 7,400: some 3,200 fewer.

With the exam season approaching and no obvious reason for career switchers to increase their level of applications, the remainder of the recruitment round looks like being a real challenge. Not yet a crisis, but the problem of recruiting the next generation of teachers certainly hasn’t been solved despite three reports in the past twelve months.

 

Have you tried TeachVac yet?

Recently, a head teacher told me he wasn’t using TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk because there must be a catch. I don’t see how you can offer a free service without there being a catch, the head told me. Clearly, this head wasn’t a user of twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the other disruptive new technologies that are free to use. I wonder if this head grumbles about the cost of recruiting staff, but doesn’t do anything about it.

Now let me be absolutely clear, and please do pass this on to others, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk was established to do two things. Firstly, to offer a free recruitment service to schools, teachers, trainees and returners and, secondly, to use the information to collect better data on the working of the labour market for teachers about which in recent years, since the decline of the local government employers surveys, we have known relatively little.

I suppose it is the cynicism of the current age that many in education don’t believe a group of individuals would have set up TeachVac in the way it was just for altruistic reasons. But they did.

Does TeachVac pass on details of those that register to anyone: no it don’t. Does TeachVac bombard users with adverts every time they log on or receive a match; no it doesn’t. Is TeachVac a front for a larger organisation trying to corner the recruitment market that will then charge monopoly prices once it has removed the competition: no it isn’t.

My motivation in gathering a group of like-minded individuals around me to establish TeachVac was based upon putting back something into the education world in the only area where I had some expertise. A decade ago, the government tried to help the recruitment of teachers through the School Recruitment Service: it failed. Why it failed makes for an interesting story and tells us much about the nature of schooling in this country. Happily, most of those that lead our schools are more interested in teaching and learning and the pupils in their charge than worrying about the systems that support them. Unhappily, without a supportive middle tier this can lead to heads relying on those that don’t seem to have an understanding about driving down costs.

Now, it may well have been legitimate to say when we started nearly three years ago; we will wait and see if TeachVac succeeds. After all, nobody wants to sign up for a one-day wonder. But, Teachvac has now into its third recruitment round and hasn’t missed a day of providing matches when there have been new vacancies to match. You cannot do better than that for service.

With the demise of the National Teaching Service, before it even ventured beyond the pilot stage, and the Select Committee today endorsing the need for a national vacancy web site as a way forward, as I mentioned in my previous post, TeachVac is there for the sector to take-over. In another post, I will explain what is stopping that happening.

 

January blues for secondary ITT?

The next four weeks are vital one for teacher supply and the number of teachers entering the labour market in 2018. As that date will see the start of the real rise in secondary school rolls what happens this year is of real concern. While the idea of apprenticeships sound great for the future, what matter for 2018 is the state of the current recruitment round for September this year.

As I hinted, when the UCAS data was published for December, there were concerns about a slowdown in applicant numbers for secondary courses. The January 2017 number for applicants, revealed this week, is 20,360, down from 21,790 or just over 1,400 fewer applicants than last year at this time. Looking back at the former GTTR scheme in January 2011, on the 16th January that year there were 37.016 applicants. Of those, 10,864 were men and 26,152 were women. This compares with 6,550 men across all UK countries this year and 15,600 women, of whom 14,390 were domiciled in England. Non-UK domiciled totalled 500 this January, so can largely be ignored in any comparison figures.

In the early years of this century, when I was following the applications data on a weekly basis, the number of women applying to teaching was on a rising curve. The loss of some 10,000 women by this point in the application cycle compared with 2011 is worrying. Yes, 2011 was when graduate recruitment was low across the labour market because of the after-effects of the recession, and by 2012 the number had dropped to just below 22,000, but even so, a figure of around 15,000 female applicants must be concerning. Happily, it was even worse two years ago, so that may offer some comfort, but not much.

Last month, I reported on the decline in applications from those under the age of 22. That trend continues, but this month there are also fewer 30 somethings than last year although applications form the 40+ group are holding up.

Each applicant can make up to three applications, so any reductions in applications could be down to applicants making fewer applications. However, the reduction is applicants must account for some of the reduction in applications. The greatest reduction in applications seems to be for school-based programmes whether the fee or salaried routes. SCITTs and higher education seem to be holding up better in terms of applications. This trend, if it continues, needs further investigation by NCTL.

Geography, Mandarin and PE are some of the areas where there are more applications this year than last year at this date. Design & Technology seems to have suffered a larger than average decline, but some of that may be due to the way the data is presented by UCAS each year. Generally, in terms of the offers made, the position is similar to this point in 2015, so that 2016 is looking as if the effect of recruitment controls did affect the pattern of early offers as providers raced to fill courses lest they be closed before they were full. Even in history and PE, offers this year are lower than last year, so over-recruitment might also be lower come the end of the cycle.

More on BREXIT

Tomorrow, the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee reports on its review of teaching. This follows a consultation that closed in September. At present, mathematics and some science teachers are covered by the current Tier2 visa scheme. It will be interesting to see what the report says tomorrow. Although physics is a shortage subject and the ITT targets have been missed ever since science was dis-aggregated into the three subject areas, the issue is less clear cut in mathematics, especially if vacancies are related to the number of trainees. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk submitted evidence to the consultation.

As I have noted before, there is the matter of design and technology and possibly business studies. Both are subjects where training targets have been missed in recent years and the supply of teachers doesn’t seem able to keep up with the demand. This was even in the years when the subjects were unfashionable with Ministers. Presumably, that isn’t the case now the government has an Industrial Strategy. It will be interesting to see if these subjects are mentioned in the MAC’s Report.

On a similar topic of recruiting teachers from overseas, in December the DfE issued tender RFX159 – Supply of teachers qualified outside of England. This specified within the terms:

‘The Contractor must work in consultation with the Client Organisation to prepare a Business Brief, which may include, but not be exclusive to, the following: a. scoping of the work required by the business area in respect of; i) single or multiple recruitment campaigns targeting qualified maths and physics teachers primarily from Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and USA. Further high performing countries subject to agreement. Ii) Any other recruitment and supply of teachers to English schools.’

Now I thought we were about to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU, so it is rather surprising to see the government offering to fund a recruitment campaign in these EU countries. One wonders what France, The Netherlands, Spain and probably several other EU countries may think about not being specifically mentioned. I am sure it isn’t because of any view of the quality of their teachers. Perhaps the DfE just thought there might be a pool of unemployed teachers of these subjects in say the Czech Republic, but not in neighbouring Slovakia or Austria or even Hungary.

The inclusion of the USA is interesting as, unless they have a right to work here, they will need Tier 2 visas.  Presumably, the DfE either knew what the MAC was going to say or assumed the MAC would still be including these two subjects in the Tier 2 scheme. We will know tomorrow. The USA was a country where the qualified teachers were granted the right to QTS by Mr Gove during his period as Secretary of State. In recent years, several hundred teachers from the USA have been granted QTS on the basis of their qualifications according to NCTL data.

Finally, it is worth noting the contractor can be paid ‘for any other recruitment and supply of teachers to English schools.’ This is a very wide brief and can be open to lots of different interpretations.

500th post

Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. The first posting was on 25th January 2013. By a coincidence this is also the 500th post. What a lot has happened since my first two posts that January four years ago. We are on our third Secretary of State for Education; academies were going to be the arrangements for all schools and local authorities would relinquish their role in schooling; then academies were not going to be made mandatory; grammar schools became government policy; there is a new though slightly haphazard arrangement for technical schools; a post BREXIT scheme to bring in teachers from Spain that sits oddly with the current rhetoric and a funding formula that  looks likely to create carnage among rural schools if implemented in its present form.

Then there have been curriculum changes and new assessment rules, plus a new Chief inspector and sundry other new heads of different bodies. The NCTL has a Chair, but no obvious Board for him to chair, and teacher preparation programme has drifted towards a school-based system, but without managing to stem concerns about a supply crisis. Pressures on funding may well solve the teacher supply crisis for many schools, as well as eliminating certain subjects from the curriculum. In passing, we have also had a general election and the BREXIT decision with the result of a new Prime Minister. What interesting times.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 40,000 or so visitors that have generated 76,000 views of this blog. The main theme started, as I explained in the post at the end of 2016, as a means of replacing various columns about numbers in education that had graced various publications since 1997.

Partly because it has been an interest of mine since the early 1980s, and partly because of the development of TeachVac as a free recruitment site that costs schools and teachers nothing to use, the labour market for teachers has featured in a significant number of posts over the last three years (www.teachvac.co.uk). I am proud that TeachVac has the best data on vacancies in the secondary sector and also now tracks primary as well and is building up its database in that sector to allow for comparisons of trends over time.

I have lost count of the number of countries where at least one visitor to the site has been recorded, although Africa and the Middle East still remain the parts of the world with the least visitors and the United States, the EU and Australia the countries, after the United Kingdom, with the most views over the past four years.

My aim for a general post on this blog is to write around 500 words, although there are specific posts that are longer, including various talks I have presented over the past four years.

Thank you for reading and commenting; the next milestone in 100,000 views and 50,000 visitors. I hope to achieve both of these targets in due course.