Frugal innovation

I heard this term used this morning in an interview broadcast on the BBC from the Hay Festival. My first thought was that is exactly what TeachVac has been trying to achieve. The best solution at the lowest price. Next week marks a key point in the 2018 recruitment cycle for schools. Serving teachers must have resigned by the 31st May, in most schools, if they are to leave at the summer and either retire or take up another position. Some may also opt to change to part-time working.

By the end of next week schools will know the shape and size of the challenge facing their staffing arrangements for September. Most will either be fully staffed or perhaps have a last minute vacancy because of the promotion of an existing colleague. A few schools will be facing real challenges in completing their staffing and may be looking to either change the curriculum or find the best fitting person still available in the market.

At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we have provided a free service to schools and teachers for the past four years and alerted thousands of teachers to possible job opportunities. All this has cost nothing to anyone.

Since 2016, the DfE has been engaged in a process of establishing a similar service and the £984,000 contract was awarded in February to digital specialists DXW according to a recent article in SchoolsWeek. This sum is far in excess of the total operating costs of TeachVac since its inception. I don’t regard the DfE’s efforts as a frugal innovation even to meet government IT standards.

There has been changes across the recruitment market in the past two years. The TES has launched a subscription service and from next month SchoolsWeek will revise its recruitment advertising rates and stop its print version https://schoolsweek.co.uk/schools-week-is-changing-were-going-digital-first/ Along with other players such as eteach and The Guardian, as well as many local authorities, these services all charge schools for advertising vacancies.

TeachVac is free and up and running successfully. The DfE site doesn’t appear to have made it into BETA testing before the end of the key 2018 recruitment cycle. Ministers really do need to ask whether they are creating a value for money service and whether a joint arrangement between interested parties from across the education scene might create a better and cheaper option that could be operational nationally from September.

Next week TeachVac will be looking to identify the schools with the most vacancies so far in 2018 and comparing them with their profile on free school meals and attendance measures. I was asked about this at the recent APPG on the teaching profession, held last Monday at Westminster. The DfE won’t be able to answer this question before 2020 at the current rate of progress, whereas TeachVac can do so now. TeachVac can also identify the requirements of schools advertising vacancies in composite subjects such as modern languages – is German dying out as a language being studied – and how bad is the crisis in physics – do schools ever mention the word in their adverts for science teachers? TeachVac has already altered schools to teacher shortages in various subjects and expects to publish more alerts next week.

 

 

 

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Time to smell the coffee

A consortium of organisations involved in preparing postgraduates to become teachers have written to the Secretary of State about the state of teacher recruitment and made some sensible suggestions for steps that could be taken to attract more people into teaching. You can read the contents of their letter at https://www.ucet.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DHindsNASBTTUCETTSCletter-FINAL.pdf

All the suggestions are sensible, and I would go even further and ask for a return to a training salary for all on postgraduate ITT courses. As regular readers know, I don’t believe it is equitable to offer a salary to trainee army officers at Sandhurst and not trainee teachers. I also think a trainee teacher on a PGCE is working just as hard as one on Teach First and has sacrificed the right to earn. Even if teachers were guaranteed a job at the end of their training, assuming they met the standard for qualification, I still believe that they should be paid a salary. The fact that there is no guarantee of a teaching post just places all the risk and financial burden firmly on the trainee.

As I have written on this blog before, the laws of economics tell us that you can impose what conditions you like where demand exceeds supply and then see how demand is affected. When supply exceeds demand, as it now does in the provision of training places (PE and history excepted), then looking to see what can be put in place to stimulate demand is a more sensible move. The letter above recognises this truth. The DfE has yet to convince the Treasury, a Department always concerned about the dead weight effect of paying those that would have trained anyway. With such a large number of trainees the figure for revenue spending seems massive, but compared to say purchasing a single armoured vehicle or helicopter it is not out of line with the size of the overall education budget.

However, as the National Audit Office pointed out, improving retention is the best way to reduce training costs, as you then need to train fewer new entrants. I sense some of the suggestions to the Secretary of State are also aimed at helping retention. Early entrant retention doesn’t seem to be a big issue, it is more retention after 5-7 years that is now the concern.

Interestingly, entry into the profession and retention often doesn’t fall when training numbers take a dip. This may be because a greater proportion of applicants to train as teachers are there by choice rather than because they couldn’t find anything else to do or are forced to look for a new career. Sadly, this fact helps the Treasury mandarins with their ‘dead weight’ argument. However, even potentially committed teachers can be forced out of joining the profession when the financials turn sufficiently negative.

The writers of the letter clearly see that:

 We are now in the second year of graduates completing three year degree programmes having accumulated annual tuition fee debts of £9,000, as well as significant maintenance loans. With a relatively small number of exceptions, even those trainees receiving bursaries will be expected to accumulate more debt to become qualified or, at the very least, forgo the opportunity to embark on alternative salaried careers.

These are powerful arguments that should not be ignored. As an employee of the then TTA, I spent the summer of 1997 arguing with civil servants that postgraduate trainee teachers should have their fees waived and paid by the government. That was the position until the Coalition Government changed the rules. It is now time to once again waive fees and re-introduce a training grant for all postgraduate trainee teachers.

 

 

Worrying signals on ITT applications

A happy New Year. Well, I am afraid that it isn’t if you take a look at the latest data from UCAS on applications for postgraduate teacher training in the period up to just before Christmas. Overall, there were 11,430 applicants domiciled in England by mid-December 2017, compared with 17,420 at the December 2016 measuring point and 18,880 in 2015. That’s a loss effectively, 6,000 applicants in a year; effectively a reduction of a third in just a year! Perhaps even more worrying is that the gap has widened compared with last year by a thousand or so, even though it represent a smaller percentage of the total.

Of as much concern to those that follow the data, the loss in the number of applicants is across all age groups: so it is not just young new graduates not yet applying to teaching, but also career switchers and other older applicants. If there is any crumb of comfort, it is that applications, as opposed to applicants (where the data aren’t published), are holding up better for secondary courses overall than for primary. Applications for all secondary courses in England are down from 23,260 to 16,070 whereas for primary for primary, applications are down from 27,590 to just 16,870. If everyone has made three applications that would be less than 6,000 applicants so far for primary courses.

Applications are down for all types of course. Higher Education establishments account for just over 48% of applications, similar in percentage terms to this point last year. The number of applications for the School Direct Salaried/Apprenticeship route has dwindled from 7,350 in December 2016 to 4,270 in December 2017. That could mean as few as 1,450 applicants overall for this latter route.

Applications for secondary Salaried courses are down from almost 2,000 to little more than 1,000 this year, whereas for primary, applications via this route have declined from 5,370 to 3,260; potentially, a loss of 700 or so applicants.

The number of male applicants domiciled in England is down to 3,150 from 5,060 last year and the number of female applicants is down from 12,360 to 8,270. Many years ago, I wrote that if graduate women in large numbers ever turned away from teaching as a career then there would be real problems filling the places on offer.

We can but hope that it is not the quality end of the applicant spectrum that is disappearing from the applicant pool. So far, placed and applicants holding offers, account for the same percentage of applicants at around 58%. Where accepting more than one in two applicants would be acceptable to most Human Resource departments is a matter for conjecture, but it seems a high percentage.

Perhaps early applicants are those that know they want to teach and are some of the best quality applicants, thus justifying an offer to application ratio this high.

Applications are down across England, with those living in London applying down from 2,570 in December 2016 to 1,640 in December 2017.

As it is early in the cycle, data for individual secondary subjects reveals little, but the decline does seem to be across most subjects.

It won’t be until the February data is published in early March that it will be really possible to predict the outcome of this recruitment round for ITT postgraduate courses. However, unless there is an upturn, the labour market for September 2019 is going very challenging indeed. Government officials will be watching their daily and weekly data for signs of improvement. Without an upturn, there really will be a crisis in teacher supply, unless, of course, there is a downturn in the economy and a late flood of applicants.

 

 

Free for all in ITT

Yesterday the DfE released the results of the operation of the Teacher Supply Model for 2018/19. These results will underpin the number of new entrants into the teacher labour market in September 2019 and January 2020. The suite of documents about the TSM can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2018-to-2019 where there is also information about the allocations of the ITT places.

This year, yet another methodology is being tried to fill as many of the 19,674 secondary and 12,552 primary postgraduate places the TSM has identified as being required to maintain the overall stock of teachers in the 2019/20 labour market. Firstly, subjects have been protected in the TSM at no less than the number in the previous TSM. This affects biology, chemistry, classics, computing, geography and religious education. In all other subjects there has been an increase in numbers, albeit in the case of history, just an additional 20 places.

The second change has the potential to be more daring and far reaching. Overall the government received 73,100 bids for allocations, including from Teach First, for the 32,226 places identified as needed in the postgraduate sector by the TSM. The government has allowed providers not only to recruit to these places but, as mentioned in an earlier post about the allocations methodology published in September, to recruit beyond the number of places they have been allocated in all except primary and physical education. Even in physical education, where the TSM had an indicative number of 1,078, an increase of 79 places, the cap has been set at 1,300 places. I was provided with a rationale for this state of affairs, but as it was an off the record meeting, I cannot provide that explanation here. Suffice it to say, schools should still be able to use surplus PE teachers to fill vacancies in other subjects for September 2019.

This open enrolment policy is radically different from the rigid recruitment controls policy of a couple of years ago, and marks yet another attempt to fill as many ITT places in as many subjects as possible by trying a new approach. Should either Brexit suddenly cause a hiccup in the economy or a recession appear for any other reason, the government does retain reserve powers to intervene. While I would like the need for intervention to be required, as it would mean sufficient teachers were being for the needs of schools, intervening in the middle of a cycle might have other unintended consequences.

Interestingly, although Teach First can presumably recruit as many entrants as it wants and is able to, its allocations are only for 1,750 places, including 354 primary and 90 early years.

The 4,554 secondary School Direct Salaried places allocated looks an especially ambitious number if the number recruited this year turns out to be little more than 1,000. Generally, higher education and SCITT providers seem to have been more realistic in their application for places, with schools again being enthusiastic about how many places they can fill. Whether applicants will share the same enthusiasm for schools we will start to know from now onward, as applications through UCAS open. This should be another interesting recruitment round.

Big week for the outcome of 2018 teacher labour market

The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession holds its autumn meeting and AGM at Westminster tomorrow afternoon. Among topics on the agenda are an update from Dame Alison Peacock, head of the College of Teachers; a discussion of the state of recruitment and retention of teachers and an update about the progress made by the DfE on the idea for a National Vacancy Service, as reported in a previous post on this blog.

This week the DfE should publish the overall ITT numbers for 2018 entry into teacher preparation programmes, as identified by the Teacher Supply model and UCAS opens the 2018 application round for graduate courses – except Teach First – on Thursday 26th.

As the National College has bowed to the inevitable and is allowing unrestricted applications in all graduate recruitment areas except for primary and physical education, the closeness of the two dates shouldn’t matter. However, some primary providers will need to watch that they don’t exceed their allocation, especially if overwhelmed by an early rush of applicants.

Re-reading the NCTL 14th September document on the methodology behind the allocation of ITT places, two things struck me. Firstly, unrestricted allocations are a tacit admission that it will be challenging at best to meet the Teacher Supply Model suggested numbers and secondly, the battle between awarding quality and matching regional need has been resolved by the government abandoning either position in favour of a ‘free for all’. Whether this will help areas like Suffolk, and the East of England generally, train more teachers is a moot point. The National Audit Office Report of 2016 identified the East of England former government region as having the lowest number of training places per 100,000 pupils. In some subjects there have been no training places in the south of the region. will that change now?

This new approach might seem like a complete turnaround from the brave new world of the Gove era when the then head of the NCTL, Mr Taylor, said at one of the last North of England Education conferences in January 2013 that:

In the future I would like to see local areas deciding on the numbers of teachers they will need each year rather than a fairly arbitrary figure passed down from the Department for Education. I have asked my officials at the TA to work with schools, academy chains and local authorities to help them to devise their own local teacher supply model. I don’t think Whitehall should be deciding that nationally we need 843 geography teachers, when a more accurate figure can be worked out locally.

(DfE, 2103)

Now, it seems that would-be teachers will decide by selecting where they would like to train and providers can accept them. In reality, the number of schools willing to take trainees on placements, especially if School Direct continues to decline, will be one limiting factor. The other will be the willingness of providers to risk allocating staffing to create extra places above what they have planned. Nevertheless, to make both history and biology unrestricted across all routes is, at least in the case of history, to risk candidates paying out lots of money to train as a teacher without the opportunity of a teaching post, especially if schools’ interest in EBacc is reaching its peak.

I am also unsure about the PE plus programme, although it may be bowing to the inevitable. Where a provider will find time to add subject knowledge in a second subject in the present arrangements of a 39 week course is an interesting question. But, presumably, something is better than the nothing they presently receive before being asked to teach another subject. What is needed is controls over what QTS means and tighter restrictions on unqualified teachers.

 

 

Psst …Want a physics teacher?

It is only somewhat ironic that the government chose the day the House of Commons was discussing Brexit legislation to invite schools to recruit from their newly minted stock of overseas teachers.

  1. Trained teachers ready to teach in England – international recruitment

NCTL has access to a pool of fully qualified mathematics, physics and Spanish teachers recruited internationally; further subject specialisms are in the pipeline. Every teacher has been recruited using a thorough sifting and interview process and meets the high standards required to teach in England. Schools will also have the opportunity to interview candidates.

All teachers will receive an extensive acclimatisation package, inclusive of continuing professional development that will both support their transition into life in England and increase their knowledge of the national curriculum.

The recruitment and acclimatisation service is free to schools; we recommend that schools assign a teacher buddy or mentor to support faster integration.

If your school has a vacancy for a mathematics, physics or Spanish teacher and you’d like to access this opportunity to recruit, please contact us at international.teacherrecruitment@education.gov.uk with a name, school name, telephone number and vacancy details.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-16-february-2017

If the NCTL contact TeachVac, they can identify the schools currently recruiting, so that the government can offer these teachers directly and save schools the cost of recruiting. However, it seem a little late in the year for this exercise to be really effective. Hopefully, if allowed to continue as part of permitted migration post 2019, the timing will fit better to the annual recruitment round in future years. If it doesn’t, then there is the risk of a lot of disillusion teachers from parts of Continental Europe that signed on only to be told there was no job despite the shortages everyone knows about.

I am not sure how certain the government is about a shortage of teachers of Spanish say, compared with German or Mandarin? TeachVac is looking in depth at what schools are seeking in both languages and design and technology to better understand the market as Teachvac already does for Science and some other subjects.

For those that want to see the new 2017/18 TV advertising campaign to attract people into teaching as a career, it is apparently airing during the Educating Manchester TV series. I assume that the thinking is that those that watch aren’t ghouls, but potential teachers that can be persuaded to take the first step on the recruitment ladder. Not, of course, that they can apply until November when UCAS opens the application process for next year. If the government keeps to its timetable at least the allocations for autumn 2018 ITT places will have been published by then at the end of October, along with the latest version of the Teacher Supply Model.

Perhaps the new Select Committee might like to review the progress to a fully staffed education service as part of its work once the full membership is finally announced.

 

 

 

More post BREXIT confusion

This week the DfE announced a new tender for someone to recruit, train and support overseas teachers in England for the next four years, presumably up to 2022. The information was contained in the teacher Recruitment Bulletin for August https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-august-2017 put out by the National College.

The tender states that the NCTL are seeking a framework of suppliers to assist schools and academies in recruiting, supporting, training and acclimatising international teachers in shortage, priority subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages. The framework will be in place for up to 4 years and will be directly available to schools and academies. The subject list goes wider than that identified as Tier 2 subjects by the Migration Advisory Committee at the start of this year in their report, but does not specifically mention computer science or Mandarin, two subjects added to the list of shortage subjects by the MAC in January along with Science. Whether other language teachers will be able to obtain Tier 2 visas is not clear from the notice about the tender. Whether the use of ‘such as’ is meant to include other priority subjects not regarded as shortage subjects by the MAC also isn’t clear from the announcement.

The Recruitment Bulletin for August also gave further proof of how challenging this year’s recruitment round is into training, offering providers a reminder that:

“You can still request additional ITT allocations for a September 2017 start.

If you’ve already achieved 90% or above of your original allocation, you can request additional places up to 125%. Further requests beyond this increase will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This offer applies to higher education institutes (HEIs), school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITTs) and School Direct partnerships in all category one subjects (drama, history and primary, excluding PE and undergraduate courses); it applies to HEIs and SCITTs in all category 2 subjects (art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music), with School Direct partnerships continuing under the same methodology as before.

Please note the 10% tolerance in each subject remains for all allocated subjects, including PE and undergraduate courses, and is in addition to the subjects listed.”

No doubt the relaxation of recruitment rules has already lead to the reported surge in offers in history and geography: the latter reaching new record highs for offers.

In an attempt to keep up the pressure on the government the Sun newspaper has reported that the Labour Party has looked at the time series data in the School Workforce Census and discovered that teacher numbers in secondary schools fell by around 11,000 between 2011 and 2016. Had they probed a bit deeper they would also have noticed that the pupil teacher ratio worsened from 15.6 to 16.4 in the same period, with most of the deterioration being since 2014. How much of the worsening is due to increased pupil numbers not being fully funded and how much by the worsening funding situation is still partly a matter of conjecture but the evidence is mounting of school budgets under pressure.

This will be the sixth year in succession that some training targets are likely to have been missed unless there is a late surge in applications to train as a teacher.