Education matters

Last evening saw the termly meeting of the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on the Teaching Profession at Westminster. Chris Waterman has continued to do sterling work with this Group that morphed out of a previous ad hoc gathering, primarily established to discuss issues surrounding the teacher labour market as the country moved from surplus to shortage. No doubt those that attended had to ensure they dodged the TV cameras as they made their way through Central Lobby to the committee room for the meeting.

As I had other duties in Oxford, I was unable to attend last evening’s meeting, but did provide Chris will some extracts from recent relevant posts on this blog to distribute to those that were able to attend.

For those with even longer memories that stretch back beyond the creation of SATTAG by Chris and myself, they will recall that this blog started soon after I stopped writing a weekly column for the then TES, now branded as tes. After more than a decade of writing for that paper, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms, and a blog seem a good way to relieve them in a manner that didn’t take up much time.

Of course, the big concern at this present time must be about where the candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party stand on Education? For selection at eleven; complete academisation; more pay for teachers; cash for Children’s Centres? We all have a list of what we would want to ask our next Prime Minister, but are only likely to be able to do so through the professional associations taking a lead and quizzing the eventual finalist on behalf of the profession.

From the candidates’ point of view, they might want to reflect that being too radical can affect what will happen in the real world. Make teaching look too unattractive, and the present teacher supply problem could become even worse, especially if the exodus from the profession were to accelerate. With insufficient numbers entering the profession, losing those already in service at an even greater rate than at present wouldn’t just be unfortunate, but could be disastrous for both our society and the future of the economy.

Teaching is now a global activity and teachers trained in England are able to secure posts in many other countries in the ever-growing private school market of ‘international’ schools, increasingly run by those with the bottom line in mind. With UK higher education an attractive draw for many overseas students and their parents, being taught by teachers that understand the system here can be a help when it is time to apply to university.

So, my key question for Tory Candidates’ is, what support will you provide for your Secretary of State for Education and what will be the key priorities you will ask that person to address? If they don’t mention all of Further Education; funding levels and staffing then education will clearly not be a significant priority for them in the word post October 31st.

 

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Non to EBacc recruitment?

Schools don’t want EBacc teachers. Apart from mathematics, where recruitment into training was poor for last September (as has already been noted), schools seeking to fill vacancies in the other main Ebacc subjects aren’t having the same issues as they are with recruitment in some non-Ebacc subjects.

Computer Science will be the next Ebacc subject to see a Red Warning posted on TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk but it will be a close run thing with Religious Education as to which subject reaches the level of a red warning first.

The Ebacc subjects of history, geography and modern languages are still a long way away from seeing any posting of a red warning, and even English and the Sciences overall still have a distance to go before we reach that level of concern. However, schools looking for specific curriculum experience will always find the pool smaller than the overall total.

As ever, in determining the outcome of this recruitment round, much depends upon the numbers seeking to return to teaching after a career break and the rate of departure from the profession.

The DfE could do far more with ‘Keep in Touch‘ schemes for those leaving and the STRB might want to look at reversing the rule that a salary on departure for a career break isn’t protected. Schools can look at offering other less demanding roles for those on a career break to earn some money once maternity leave has finished, such as invigilating, lesson planning or even help with marking. Some of these tasks can be undertaken at home and can provide extra cash, as might helping with one to one tuition. Helping teachers keep in touch and stay up to date is a certain way of ensuring a greater rate of return to the profession probably earlier than in some other circumstances.

The balance between small sixth form numbers and growing KS3 numbers is also causing headaches for some schools, and no doubt adding to the financial problems some schools are facing. In a more cooperative age, schools might pool timetables in minority subjects. This is another area where competition and devolved budgets make sensible arrangements more of a challenge to organise than when there was a great willingness to make the best use of limited resources. Now the demand is for more resources as the only way forward.

How are schemes to recruit and retain teachers from the EU faring? It might be worth a PQ or two from some MP to ascertain what the DfE think is happening compared with recent recruitment rounds? And how are overseas teachers from what one might call the Gove countries reacting to the need for teachers in England? Are we seeing more Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US teachers than in recent years flooding to our shores?

This week looks set to be the peak of the 2109 recruitment round with probably 6-7,000 new vacancies posted by schools during the course of the week.

 

 

Shortage of maths teachers in 2019?

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the recruitment site where I am chair of the Board has issued an amber warning for mathematics vacancies. This means that based on the number of vacancies tracked so far in 2019, TeachVac believes that at the current rate of advertisement of vacancies in the subject schools in some parts of England will likely find recruiting qualified teachers of mathematics a challenge. Part of the problem is down to a dip in the number of trainees recruited for ITT courses starting last September that feed into the 2019 labour market.

In September 2018, only some 2,190 trainees started ITT courses and with 265 of these already on courses that place them in the classroom, such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route, the free pool of trainees was only around 1,900. Allowing for those that either don’t make the grade or decide not to teach in state funded schools, the pool of available new entrants this year is likely to be around 1,800 or little more than one new entrant for every two secondary schools. Schools can also recruit existing teachers from other schools or returners from a career break or another non-state funded school, but such teachers are generally more expensive than new entrants to the profession.

In February, TeachVac issue both an Amber and a Red warning for Business Studies and an Amber warning for Design and Technology as already noted on this blog. The latter warning is likely to be upgraded to a Red warning sometime soon.

A Red warning means that schools anywhere in England might experience difficulties recruiting in that subject and by the autumn more vacancies will have been recorded that there were trainees entering the labour market to fill them. Red warning mean vacancies for January 2020 will be especially hard to fill from new entrants to the profession.

At the other end of the scale, some EBacc subjects are not creating enough vacancies to absorb the number of trainees on ITT courses this year. Both history and geography trainees may struggle to find jobs in large parts of England for September and even January 202o even when humanities vacancies are taken into account.

As every year, physical education trainees are well advised to play to any second subject strengths and may be especially welcomed if they offer to plug the gaps in maths teacher numbers. However, they need to ensure that some teaching in their main subject is also on offer.

Despite the concern over the teaching of languages, these teachers face challenges in finding a teaching post. TeachVac track the subjects within adverts for ‘a teacher of modern languages’ and can provide information if asked.

Will the announcement of 1,000 graduate posts for trainee detectives in the police forces impact on those thinking of teaching as a career? Police salaries are generally higher than teaching and the lower ranks can earn overtimes, so there is a risk some might switch.

 

Recruiting teachers from overseas post BREXIT

The time left to complete the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) survey on shortage occupations is fast running out. The time limit was extended until the 14th January. The MAC is the government’s advisory body that can determine whether vacancies are sufficiently difficult to fill that in the teaching profession they should be regarded as a shortage subject and eligible for working visa arrangements.

Since the MAC’s last report on the teaching profession, published two years ago in January 2017, the outlook for the labour market for the secondary sector, where pupil rolls are on the increase, has deteriorated markedly. The MAC needs to be persuaded to look at a wider range of subjects than they accepted for their 2017 study. The MAC also needs to confront the issue of regional shortages within a national picture of sufficient supply. Is it realistic to accept shortages in London and the Home Counties just because there are no shortages in the North East or South West?

In the private sector, it can be argued that wages can be altered to encourage movement between regions. Such an argument is more difficult to sustain when there is a national pay review body setting national wage structures, as in the teaching profession. Although academies can pay whatever they like, and other schools can use recruitment incentives, it seems logical that the Treasury will use national pay norms when calculating the funding for schooling allocated to the DfE. The fact that private schools can set fees only makes matters worse, since 50% of such schools are located in and around London, just adding to the demand for teachers in that part of England.

The Data from the DfE in the ITT census of 2018, Table 10, also shows a decline back to the levels of 2012/13 in QTS awards to teachers trained in other EEA countries, with a decline of more than 300 awards to teachers from Spain, a country that has supplied nearly 2,000 teachers each year awarded QTS since 2010/11.

The MAC does need to consider the evidence they use of the demand for teachers. I will declare an interest here as chair of TeachVac. The use of data from an American company, Burning Glass, in the 2017 MAC report may have produced a slightly distorted picture, as Burning Glass seem to have counted not just ‘real’ vacancies, but also apparent vacancies. It is difficult otherwise to explain figure 4.4 of the MAC’s 2017 Report that identified several thousand vacancies being advertised in August of each year from 2014-2016. Any detailed analysis of the labour market for teachers would reveal much lower ‘real’ advertisements during that month, but lots of placed by agencies for ‘a teacher of’ not related to a specific post in a specific school. Since TeachVac only counts jobs attached to a specific school, the evidence is of a better quality. The same will be the case for the DfE’s new site and for publications such as the TES.

Better quality data might reveal a different profile of shortage subjects to those identified by the MAC in 2017, including both design and technology and business studies. The MAC will also have to discuss the fact that schools generally advertise for a teacher of science and the supply of biologists means there is not a shortage of science teachers per se, but of teachers of physics and to some extent chemistry as well.

I look forward to the MAC review and I hope that they will consider the ‘real’ evidence about teacher shortages when conducting their new analysis.

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?

 

 

Leavers, remainers and entrants – new data from the DfE

Last week, the DfE published the snappily titled Teacher Analysis Compendium 4 that brought together a series of notes about the state of recruitment, retention and training within the state-sector teacher workforce. The link to the document is: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-4

I am highly delighted to recommend the new tool that analyses the data relating to entrants; leavers and remainers. Regular readers will know that I have complained regularly that the percentage of the cohort remaining wasn’t backed by the actual numbers of the cohort remaining. Now everyone can see both sets of data: a great improvement and one worth saying thank you to civil servants for taking the time and effort to create.

If you have an interest in teaching take time to drill down into the data for say, secondary remainers by government region and compare inner London with the North East. I won’t put a spoiler alert here. There are many different combinations that interested researchers can create from the data and I am sure that it won’t be long before research papers and conference talks start using this data.

The one drawback is the historical nature of the data. Sadly, it cannot tell anything about whether the direction of travel has changed since the latest year in the tables – now two years ago – and that can be important information when there are changes in the labour market and alterations in the direction of the size of the school population. Fortunately, job boards such as TeachVac, and presumably the DfE’s own site, can provide up to the minute information of the operation of the job market.

Another shortcoming of the DfE data it that it cannot tell anything either about the crossover between the state funded and private sectors or between schools and further education. Both are useful pieces of data for policy makers. Job boards can advise on trends in recruitment in the private sector and it ought to be possible to link schools and further education data together at least at a high level.

University teacher trainers will no doubt be pleased with what the data says about retention over both the longer and shorter terms of their trainees in non-LA maintained schools. However, it would be helpful to have definitions of reference groups such as EBITT and where non LA Maintained schools refers to the school only when it was a non-maintained school or all data for that school during the time period by linking URNs together where a school has changed status?

Perhaps the most frightening of the tables is the one showing an age breakdown of teachers leaving the state sector. The table identifies three age groupings that might be described as; younger; mid-career and approaching retirement age. The increase across many of the subjects in departure percentages among the younger age group and also the actual numbers must be of concern, especially against the background of a rising secondary school population. These young teachers are the leaders for tomorrow. To provide but one example: the number of female teachers of English under the age of 35 leaving increased from 770 in 2011 to 1,123 in 2017 and that must be a concern.

For anyone interested in teacher recruitment and retention this is an invaluable resource. Thanks again to the DfE.