Headline news looks good, but beware headlines

The data produced by UCAS earlier today on applicants to ITT postgraduate training course up to 21st January 2019 looks good on the surface. There were 14,650 applicants this year compared with 14,210 last year: an increase of around 450. This is a small increase, but heading in the right direction. However, the 2018 data were for 15th January and the 2019 data were for 21st January. The difference in reporting dates can account for a proportion of the difference in the two totals. So the picture may not be as good as the headline figure might suggest. This is especially concerning since the 2018 data was a low point in the January numbers for recent years.

In the secondary subjects, the picture is much as expected. The number accepted or holding offers is down on last year in Computing and IT and design and technology and similar to last year in Business Studies; English, music and art. Business Studies currently has just 30 applicants placed or holding an offer: all conditionally placed.

By contrast, Mathematics is doing well compared with last year, up from 410 to 520, but there is still a long way to go to reach the 3,000+ trainees identified as needed by the Teacher Supply Model. Religious Education and languages, as well as Biology, are also experiencing good increases compared with this point last year. However, in some cases, this just returns the subject to the January 2017 level.

Applications for primary courses have nearly returned to their January 218 levels; with 19,840 compared to 20,590 in 2018: but don’t forget the extra week may matter here, so there is still more work to do. Secondary courses have approaching 2,000 more applications – not applicants- even here, as noted above, work remains to be done if targets are to be met. Otherwise, 2020 will be another challenging year for recruiting teachers, as there will be even more secondary school pupils to teach than in 2019.

School Direct salaried numbers in the secondary sector continue to fall, with just 80 offers and fewer than 10 ‘placed’ trainees so far this year out of a total of 1,280 recorded applications. There are also fewer than 10 recorded placed candidates or offers for secondary PG Teaching Apprenticeships out of the 50 applications. This is compared with 30 out of 150 applications for those courses in the primary sector.

There is still work to do attracting young graduates into teaching. The number of applicants under the age of 24 is still below last year’s level, and that wasn’t an encouraging number. The good news is that there are 60 more men that have applied than last year: most are over 30 and balance further falls from new graduates. However, there are 260 more conditional placed applicants among the 4,060 men. Last year, it was 1,450 out of 4,000, but remember the difference in date may account for part of the difference.

So, this remains a challenging recruitment round if the outcome is to hit the first overall goal of doing better in shortage subjects than last year. Finger remain firmly crossed.


Calculating Teacher Numbers

Today, Thursday 25th October, The Department for Education, DfE announced its latest Teacher Supply Model (TSM) projections for 2019/20. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2019-to-2020  These projections are a vital component in the eventual determination of the number of teacher training places the government needs to allocate each year.

However, the TSM is less directly important these days than it was at some points in history. This is because in many secondary subjects recruitment has not reached the required level for some years. Nevertheless, the TSM still performs an important function, not least in providing a long term analysis of teacher numbers needed that can become important if circumstances change post-Brexit and were there to be a downturn in the world economy. In such a scenario, keeping a tight rein on teacher supply might once again be an important and necessary task for the DfE.

The TSM appears to work well in the subjects that are taught to all pupils, such as English and mathematics. The overall number in the sciences is also a good projection of demand, but there are questions, about the balance between the different subjects that make up the sciences total. The Model seems to work less well, in my view, in predicting teacher demand in subjects that are part of options at Key Stages 4 and 5.

Civil servants are also bound by the policies set out by Ministers when operating the TSM process and that appears to be a factor in setting the allocations for Modern Foreign Languages, where the expectation of 75% of pupils studying a language to KS4 by 2024 has had an effect on allocations for 2019/2020. This is even though few practitioners actually expect the 75% level to be reached in reality, especially in a post-Brexit world, unless that is there is a rapid take-up of Mandarin to help facilitate trade with China.

Ironically, the DfE has reduced the allocation for Classics to a level that may well be lower than the demand generated by the independent sector. This could have two implications for 2020; all trainees being recruited by the private sector and a pay war among independent schools seeking to recruit these teachers. Happily, since recruitment into ITT in the subject is unrestricted, training providers can recruit more than their allocated number and prevent such a situation developing.

In some subjects, such as history, unrestricted recruitment can lead ta situation where too many teachers are being trained: this wastes government funds, as these trainees can apply for student loans to cover the fees on their courses. It also leaves many trainees facing difficulties finding teaching posts in England. It would be ironic if the UK government were funding teacher training posts for teachers only for some of them to find jobs working in schools in China or other Far East countries, where UK trained teachers are in high demand.

The DfE also updated their recently published Teacher Compendium 4 with data about the outcomes of trainees with bursaries. Sadly, a relatively low percentage of trainees in Physics with a higher bursary ended up teaching in state funded schools in the period between 2009 and 2016. More about that in another post tomorrow.




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.


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.

UK Music Talent pipeline concerns

UK Music, is the industry-funded body established in October 2008 to represent the collective interests of the recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry.

To quote from their website, UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies through collective representation. https://www.ukmusic.org/about/

At the Liberal Democrat Conference this week UK Music published a pamphlet entitled ‘Securing our talent pipeline’ https://www.ukmusic.org/news/securing-our-talent-pipeline

As they acknowledge, the UK music industry is doing well at present. It grew by 6 per cent last year and is now worth £4.4 billion to the economy with the live music industry contributing around £1 billion. However, that is exactly the time to reflect on the future.

UK Music say that while the immediate outlook is promising, there is growing evidence of a looming crisis in the music industry’s talent pipeline – a pipeline that they rely on for future stars and one that is a vital part of their industry’s eco-system.

Schools form an important part of developing that talent pipeline, so I thought I would take a look at the evidence from TeachVac, the vacancy site for teachers where I am chair of the board. www.teachvac.co.uk about recruitment and the supply of teachers of music.

The headline statistic is that music in our schools, as a classroom taught subject, is more of a shortage subject than mathematics. Sadly, TeachVac doesn’t keep data on instrumental and other specialist music teaching at this point in time.

Despite cuts to the curriculum in state funded schools, there have been more than 600 vacancies for main scale classroom teachers recorded so far in 2018 by TeachVac. This is slightly down on the 632 vacancies recorded by this point in 2017, but not significantly so. The previous two years, 2015 and 2016 recorded around the 550 vacancies mark by this point in September.

Allowing for better coverage in 2017 and 2018 by TeachVac, there doesn’t seem yet to have been a collapse in demand for classroom teachers of music. However, there are significant regional differences. Around half of the vacancies recorded in 2018 were from secondary schools in either London or the South East, the regions with the largest concentration of independent schools and the best funded state schools. Relatively few vacancies have been recorded from schools in the North East so far in 2018.

The real cause of any shortage of teachers of music is the failure of the DfE to attract enough trainee teachers of music over the past few years, and especially for entry into teacher preparation courses in 2017. Last September, the DfE estimate in the Teacher Supply Model was for 409 music teachers; 295 were recruited according to their census of trainees. This year, by the middle of August, potential trainee numbers were slightly below the same period in 2017 and on target for around 280 trainees overall.

Allowing for failure to complete for various reasons, this means the number of new entrants in 2019 could be in the range of 250-275 for the 4,000 or so secondary schools across England. Turnover would need to be as low as five per cent to ensure sufficient new entrants, even assuming the distribution across the country was as required: an unlikely situation.

So, music may well be a subject of concern in 2019 and UK Music are right to worry about the long-term consequences for their industry and the UK Economy.




Law of unintended consequences

The news that Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars is long overdue recognition for her part in this research. Her decision to use the award to donate her £2.3m winnings is a noble gesture, to be applauded and hopefully recognised in other ways by a grateful nation.

The money will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. Such a use for a scheme, to be administered by the Institute of Physics, is also an inspiring use of the cash from the award, especially if it attracts additional funds from other sources, since by itself even £2.3 million won’t go very far these days. If it generates £150,000 of annual interest at current rates it will be doing well.

So a good idea but, if the scheme is to fund undergraduates in Physics to conduct graduate research that they currently cannot afford to undertake, who will be the loser. Keen readers of this blog can anticipate what will come next. Assuming the stock of undergraduates remains the same, at least in the short-term, and the number undertaking research increases, rather than just substituting under-represented groups for existing entrants into research, then some other post-degree employment routes will find a reduction in the supply of Physics graduates. Might this affect the numbers going into teaching? Of course, if the pool of research places remains the same and we substitute under-represented groups for those currently taking the places that won’t be the outcome.

Much may come down to how the Institute of Physics designs the scheme and works with providers of research places to implement it, especially in the early days of the scheme.

There is a need for more undergraduate places in Physics, again to facilitate more entrants from under-represented groups in society, and from those where the teaching they receive isn’t at the highest level.

The DfE calculates that the state-funded school sector will need around 1300-1350 new entrants in each of the next few years, to maintain the required teaching stock of teachers of Physics. Fortunately, the age distribution of the present Physics teacher workforce seems unlikely to create a retirement boom anytime soon.

However, the last few years have seen insufficient new entrants to meet the DfE number for the expressed need. As a result, any further diversion away from teaching and into research would potentially affect some schools ability to recruit teachers of Physics, even if only for a few years, if these researchers then chose to enter teaching at a later date. If they didn’t, having been provided the opportunity to conduct research, then there would be further pressure on teacher supply. Of course, a recession either resulting for problems in emerging markets of because of Breixt might create a new cadre of potential Physics teachers. However, is that a risk worth taking? The DfE could try to import Physics teachers, but it is not clear how well such schemes have progressed in the recent past. Creating more university undergraduate places linked to teaching as a career might well be worth exploring further. The only other suggestion on the table seems to be paying Physics teachers more than those in subjects where there is no shortage. I discussed that idea in an earlier post.


More secondary age pupils, but fewer pre-school entrants

This is the time of year when the DfE publishes its annual look at pupil projections for the next few years. This year’s output can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-pupil-projections-july-2018 There isn’t a lot in the document to surprise those that follow the data about pupil numbers. Secondary school pupil numbers are on the increase, but the downturn in births in 2013 is starting to affect the primary sector and will continue to do so over the next few years.

These numbers are a key component of the Teacher Supply Model that helps determine the number of new teachers needed. Clearly, becoming a secondary school teachers might be seen as a wise career choice, since rising numbers means more teachers to be employed – even if class sizes rise further – and more promoted posts to oversee the larger schools and the new schools that will be built. A yet to be built free secondary school in Oxford has just appointed someone in their early 30s as head designate. However, entering undergraduate training to be a primary school teacher may need slightly more thought. Yes, there will be jobs in 2021, when the class of 2018 emerge with their degrees, but there will be fewer pupils to be taught regardless of what happens to Brexit.

In Oxford, it was revealed this week, we have maintained primary schools with more than 20% of pupils with non-GBR EU citizenship. Of course, some will be Irish citizens and presumably unaffected by Brexit in terms of living and their parents working in Oxford. Some 90 out of the 2,100 teachers employed by the county are from outside the UK, but that includes Commonwealth and USA citizens as well as EU citizens.

Leaving Brexit aside, the future pupil population tables only predict any shift from the private sector to the state sector or, indeed, visa versa on past and current numbers in independent schools. The tables may also have to take into account the effects of home schooling in the future, if that really were to take off in a big way, especially for certain age-groups.

Indeed, this might be why training to be a primary teachers might also offer an alternative job opportunity as a tutor to one of the family’s that look to employ such a staff member. The day of the governess is now dead, but they have been replaced by the term tutor that like the term teacher seems to have become accepted as the term for employees of any gender.  Like the term teacher, it is also a term anyone can use to describe themselves and their occupation.

Disappointingly, there is no sub-national breakdown of future pupil projections in the data published by the DfE to allow for consideration of where might be an interesting place to base a career in teaching and where promotion might be slower in the future, especially in the primary sector.

Of course, the main concern is not calculating the number of teachers needed as a result of these projections, but filling the training places each year. As I have pointed out many times, the government seem unlikely to meet that requirement again this year. Hopefully, it will persuade those that do train to work in state-funded schools.