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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Most trainees teach close to where they train: no surprise there

Last week the DfE published the fourth in their series of publications about teacher supply. Entitled, ‘Analysis of teacher supply, retention and mobility’ it can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/682892/SFR11_2018_Main_Text.pdf Like the three earlier publications, it takes the School Workforce Census and the ITT Performance Profiles as the main sources for its data. As the authors make clear, this publication ‘aims to generate new insights, be an accessible resource to stimulate debate, improve the public understanding of our data, and generate ideas for further research, rather than to provide authoritative answers to research questions.’ (page2).

Much of the ground the document covers will come as no great surprise to those familiar with this field. However, there is a welcome aspect to this series of documents showing after many years of official neglect and even disinterest that these concerns are now finding more favour with the DfE as part of understanding the issues around the labour market for teachers. However, as our own TeachVac’s recent report into turnover of school leaders in the primary sector during 2017 shows, there remains much more work to be undertaken before the labour market can be fully understood.

Key features of the analysis by the DfE are that post ITT employment rates stand at 85% for the latest cohort where data is available, up from 75% for the 2009/10 cohort. However, the DfE still cannot count entrants into the independent sector; FE or Sixth Form Colleges so probably around 90% of postgraduates may enter some form of teaching after qualification.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, SCITTS have higher employment rates than HEIs. I suspect this is because more HEI trainees are likely to end up in teaching posts not covered by the DfE methodology and SCITT can offer teaching posts directly to their trainees. The existence employment outside the state funded school sector is given extra credence by the low outcomes on the employment measure for some pre-1992 Universities with only trainees in secondary ITT subjects.

Also, of no surprise given the distribution of ITT places, especially in the primary sector, is the fact that the North West region has the lowest outcomes for employment and the East of England the highest. A higher percentage of primary trainees end up in the state sector than do secondary trainees, again not really a surprise.

Most trainees start to teach close to where they train and then are more likely only to move locally. This means that many teachers may spend their careers in the same region. In 2015, possibly because of less competition from returners and a great number of vacancies than in 2010, a year during the recession, the distance travelled by new entrants was shorter. Young male graduates from HEIs were likely to move further than trainees from SCITTs.

Interestingly, teachers were more likely to move to schools with the lowest two Ofsted grades. This may be because such schools might shed staff after an inspection creating more vacancies than in schools with better ratings.  Overall, a part time female primary teacher has a 94.7% chance of moving 50 kilometres or less compared with 82.1% for a full-time male secondary teacher. Again, this is probably not surprising given that the former may have a stake in a community and a partner with employment locally. Their choice may be between either a local job or no job, whereas a male secondary teacher may be motivated to choose on a wider set of criteria including type of school and salary on offer.

The DfE conducted some interviews as a part of this work and recruitment difficulties featured as more of a concern than retention, with great concern over some secondary subjects: again, probably no great surprise.

Along with the recent work by NfER in the field of teacher retention, this study is worth reading and although the DfE support the value of a national teacher supply model, as indeed I do, there may be some benefit in evaluating whether some regional rebalancing of teacher preparation places might be appropriate.

However, if trainees cannot be recruited then, however, good the modelling, the outcome will always be that some schools will be unable to recruit the teachers they need and deserve. With rising pupil numbers driving demand for teachers, any shortfall in recruitment into training is eventually likely to affect school and pupil outcomes.

On Thursday, the next set of UCAS data on recruitment to training for 2018 will be published. The data will be watched closely and reported on this blog.

 

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.

 

 

A new Teacher Supply index from the DfE

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s report form the National Audit Office comes the DfE’s Analysis of school and teacher level factors relating to teacher supply. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643974/SFR86_2017_Main_Text.pdf

So hot off the press that the early on-line version still had formatting errors in the table of contents. There is now far more statistical information around about the teacher labour market than at any time since the 1980s although most is about teachers and we need more on leadership turnover. However, as in the 1980s, it is still largely statistics and not management information that is available from the DfE.

I have sent the last forty years, ever since I began counting head teacher turnover in the early 1980s, arguing that management information, what is happening in the labour market now, is at least as important and in some case more important than what happened in the past. This is especially important when trends are changing. If the relaxation of the pay cap attracts more teachers to remain or return in the 2018 recruitment cycle for September 2018 vacancies then we should not have to wait until spring 2019 to discover that fact when the results of the 2018 School Workforce Census will first appear; too late to influence recruitment in 2019.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy service was created to cut the cost of recruitment to schools in a period of austerity, but also to develop tools in real time that the DfE has provided historical data about in today’s report. If for 2017, the DfE publishes the outcome of the ITT census in line with the information in Figures 2.1-2.3 of today’s report, then TeachVac can translate that data into an analysis of the 2018 recruitment round and provide guidance to schools on the local labour market.

The lack of complete data in the School Workforce Census of 2016 from almost a third of secondary schools in London must raise issues with the quality of the data for the capital. TeachVac records more secondary vacancies in London than elsewhere. TeachVac has the data to update the DfE’s supply index for the 2018 recruitment round as a further reams of verification. The supply index needs to take into account future pupil growth and the effects of major policy changes such as the introduction of a National Funding formula and changes to the Pupil Premium. Not to do so makes it less of a policy tool and more of a historical record of what has been happened. In creating TeachVac, the decision was that there was a need for information in real time. That said, the factors identified are not by themselves a surprise, what matters is the need to be aware of what is happening now. The tools are available, as TeachVac has demonstrated, the DfE should not shy away from recognising that now local authorities cannot as easily provide information to all local schools there is a need for someone else to be able to do so. The focus should switch from a statistical unit to one that handles both statistics and management information.

 

Another small brick in the wall

The National Audit Office published a report today on Retaining and developing the teaching workforce. https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Retaining-and-developing-the-teaching-workforce.pdf Of especial interest to me is the section on the government’s knowledge of the deployment of the teaching workforce and what they are doing to improve matters after the failure of the National Teaching Service pilot last year.

Looking at the list of those the NAO talked to, there was seemingly a complete lack of engagement with the private sector over any of the issues discussed in the report. In the field of most interest to me, the understanding of the labour market for teachers in real-time, something TeachVac,  the free national vacancy service has pioneered, the report comments in para 2.28 that the DfE is developing approaches to improve understanding of local teacher supply, but these are at an early stage.

Well, TeachVac’s are far more advanced than that already and it was disappointing that the NAO didn’t approach us to discuss what can be achieved, especially as we had helped with discussions on their earlier report about teacher preparation. If the NAO had reviewed the evidence to the Select Committee discussions on teacher supply they would have found evidence of Teachvac’s approach and how it helps take the knowledge base forward.

In terms of the first two bullet points in paragraph 2.28, of the NAO Report TeachVac already has the software for the first, covering both academies and other maintained schools as well as a good portion of the independent sector. As an indicative matrix we have used the percentage of ITT trainees matched against jobs advertised in real time. Matched against regional ITT numbers this can provide data at quite local levels to match the growth in school centred teacher preparation courses over the past few years. Despite showing for three years an oversupply of physical education teachers, the DfE has continued to allocate more training places than needed while not training enough in some other non-EBacc subjects.

The section of the NAO Report on deployment is especially weak, as it does not get to grips with the essential question of whether the free market in teaching vacancies should remain. Limited deployment, as the Fast Track Scheme demonstrated a decade ago doesn’t work. What does is deployment into training, as with Teach First, something seemingly ignored in the report. There is also more room to discuss whether MATs with redeployment policies have had any success in moving teachers and leaders where they are most needed?

The NAO carefully downplay pay as a reasons for difficulties in retaining teachers and seemingly make no mention of geographical issues in this respect and whether the outer Home Counties in particular are suffering from a cliff face effect when faced with higher London salaries relatively close by. Workload and school reputation are undoubtedly important, but the NAO didn’t reflect on whether pay is an issue in not recruiting enough trainees over recent years and whether the chaotic mix of incentives on offer can be unhelpful.

The Survey provided some interesting outcomes, but overall there is not a lot new in this report. The Public Accounts Committee should invite those that understand the labour market to comment at their session as well as the DfE when they discuss this report.