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.


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.


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.




Who was right?

Four years ago, in August 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘STEM subjects lead retreat from teaching’. Shortly afterwards a DfE spokesperson, helpfully anonymous, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying of my delving into the then current teacher training position that there was no teacher shortage, adding ‘This is scaremongering and based on incomplete evidence.’ Well, four years on and the sixth year some training numbers are going to be missed, I wonder how we might view that exchange in the light of subsequent events.

Of course, in some ways, the newspaper article said more about journalists and the need to identify both sides of a story than about the real situation regarding recruitment into training at that time. Did the Daily Mail journalist check whether the DfE spokesperson was doing anything more than trying to put the government in a good light? Did they ask what the complete evidence showed or did they just print the DfE line? I cannot now recall exactly what happened, but I don’t remember being presented with any DfE evidence and asked how it challenged my thoughts and comments.

Making statements about teacher supply that show governments up in anything but a perfect light is never going to make one popular, even with the Party you belong to, and especially when it is in a coalition government. However, to be fair to officials at the DfE, the press office line was replaced by the only Statistical Bulletin ever issued in August containing the final allocations into training through the various routes, although at that time Teach First was still being excluded from the overall totals, much as employment based routes had been earlier in the century. Happily, Teach First totals now appear in the national data sources with regard to numbers being prepared to achieve qualified teacher status. I hesitate to say, prepared to teach since they are in classroom from September, albeit after an extensive and demanding summer school. The publication of those allocations allowed a debate about the number of offers identified through the recruitment process and the decisions about how the training place totals were reached that probably helped David Laws to agree to publish the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model and its working for debate when he was the Minister responsible for that aspect of the DfE’s work. We now live in a much more open culture, although the UCAS data is still being presented in what might be regarded as a less than helpful manner.

As I write this blog, a second journalist has been in contact with me this summer about the position schools will face this September with regard to staffing: editors are clearly looking for the start of term story for 2017 after the examination outcomes have been fully discussed. As I have made clear for some time, 2017 is likely to have been an easier recruitment round than last year, partly due to funding pressures, but also because recruitment into training was higher than in the previous year.

As I have also made clear, 2018 looks as if it will be a more challenging recruitment round for schools if teacher preparation numbers turn out as I expect this autumn. Of course, the current advertising campaign and the millions of pounds being invested in recruiting teachers from overseas might tip the balance and, suddenly, there will be a surfeit of Physics teachers, but then teachers might also be paid more than 1% in a pay rise. We can always hope.




ITT allocations 2017-18

The government has finally published the ITT allocations and associated Teacher Supply Numbers for 2017-18 recruitment onto UCAS recruited teacher preparation courses. This year they have chosen not to reveal allocations to Teach First, although they do say that they will publish recruitment numbers in the ITT census. At the same time the government has also published the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) outcome and methodology for 2017-18 and forward looking implications for teacher supply into the middle of the next decade based upon present assumptions. More of that in a later post.

As far as the TSM for 2017-18 is concerned, there are reductions in the TSM compared with the previous year in Art & Design (not a surprise); Business Studies (probably a mistake based on TeachVac data) and Design & Technology. There are increases in English; Geography; History; Religious Education and Primary. All other subject areas are probably in line with the previous year.

However, and this may have been the reason for the delay in publication compared with previous years, the overall allocations are often wildly in excess of the TSM number as this table revels.

Subject TSM number UG allocations PG allocations Overall Allocation as at 19th February 2017 Allocation as % of TSM
Art & Design 577 0 1216 1216 211%
Biology 1188 15 2339 2354 198%
Business Studies 218 0 762 762 350%
Chemistry 1053 27 2468 2495 237%
Classics 69 0 91 91 132%
Computing 723 139 1924 2083 288%
Design & Technology 917 65 1622 1687 184%
Drama 345 0 440 440 128%
English 2426 75 3763 3838 158%
Geography 1531 12 422 2434 159%
History 1160 0 1393 1393 120%
Mathematics 3102 258 4879 5164 166%
Languages 1514 128 3070 3198 211%
Music 393 20 922 942 240%
Other Subjects 812 0 1404 1404 173%
Physical Education 999 137 1157 1294 130%
Physics 1055 84 3124 3208 304%
Religious Education 643 45 1552 1597 248%
Secondary All 18726 1005 34548 35600 190%
Primary 12121 5667 15468 21135 174%
All 30847 6672 50016 56735 184%

Source DfE allocations published 9th May 2017

As the regional breakdown isn’t easy to determine by subject, it isn’t clear whether the Public Accounts Committee view about regional need has been met in the overall allocations or whether some areas will do better than others.

As we know, the 2017-18 recruitment round is proving challenging, so the over allocations in many subjects are likely to be of little overall importance whatever their regional effects, except that is to the trainees paying out £9000+ for their fees and then competing for jobs next spring.

The 6,335 trainees offered a salaried place with no doubt be alright, as will those with the generous bursaries, but those in the other subjects ought to look long and hard at the cost of training to be a teacher compared with the likelihood of finding a teaching post in 2018 or 2020 for those offered an undergraduate place. Of course, without the Teach First or High Potential Teacher Training route as we must now seemingly call the scheme data, they cannot really know how well the odds of finding a teaching post will stack up next year.

Heading towards disaster?

The latest UCAS data on the number of trainees offered or holding places for 2017 graduate courses to train as a teacher makes for grim reading. This blog has been warning, without trying to use sensational language, for some months now that all wasn’t going well. The figures issued today, based upon offers recorded up to Easter, show new lows over the last four cycles at this point in the year in terms of offers made and accepted in some subjects. So far, the serious issues are only in Business Studies, Chemistry, IT and music, and in two of these subjects a decline in teaching time over recent years means the Teacher Supply Model may be over-estimating the likely demand for teachers. In Chemistry and Business Studies, the lack of offers so far this year may be more serious for schools in 2018, especially where there are rising rolls.

The one crumb of comfort is the increase in offers in both history and geography. Elsewhere, in Mathematics and English, the trend line look unpropitious for the remainder of the recruitment round, unless there is a major shift in direction. This may be less of an issue in Mathematics than English. There are already shortages in English in 2017 according to TeachVac’s data. In Mathematics, as ever, it is not just the numbers, but also the quality of mathematical knowledge and the teaching ability of trainees that matters to schools. Hopefully, lower numbers don’t mean fewer high quality applicants.

Overall, around 2,000 less offers have been made in this recruitment round across England compared with April last year. Applicant numbers are down in all age groups, but significantly down for the younger age groups. For instance, women 21 and under are down from 3,990 applicants last year to 3,490 this year, with a similar fall of 410 in applicant numbers for those aged 22, but smaller falls among the older age groups. Only 1,100 men age 21 or under have applied so far this year; a drop of around 10% on last year at this point in time. Overall, applications from men are down by just over seven per cent, a greater decline than for applications from women.

In total applications are down to only just over 90,000, meaning most applicants have made full use of all their choices.  The good news is that there are 10 more applicants in the South West than last year; the bad news, 500 fewer in London. Indeed, there are 770 fewer offers to applicants applying to London than this point last year: with rising rolls that is really bad news for 2018.

School Direct Salaried has attracted around 500 fewer applicants for the secondary sector this year, with only 80 confirmed placed applicants so far in 2017. As these are all graduates with work experience, this number is disappointingly low and down on the 120 of April last year. The conditionally placed number is also down, from 790 to 530. Undoubtedly, some of the decline is due to the Easter holidays, but that would also have been true for 2016 figures. The one potentially bright spot is the increase in applicants holding offers, but until these numbers turn into placed applicants they are always at risk of disappearing. On the face of it, and without overall allocation numbers, primary offers seem to be holding up relatively well. It is the secondary sector that remains the key area for concern.

With purdah upon us, we can but hope that the increased DfE marketing budget, the topic of an earlier post, will help to attract more applicants over the summer. However, uncertainty over the future direction of secondary education and selective schools might put off some would-be teachers educated in the comprehensive system. Either way, 2018 looks like being a challenge for schools in London and the South East needing to recruit teachers. You will need TeachVac’s free service more than ever: have you signed up yet? http://www.teachvac.co.uk

The dog ate my homework

How much money does it take to persuade a graduate to become a teacher? More than it used to do. For more than three decades it has been known that when the economy is doing well the government finds it more of a challenge to recruit trainee teachers and also to retain those it already has. As a result, the amount of cash spent on marketing soars.

A recent article in PR week http://www.prweek.com/article/1430786/dfe-doubles-campaign-budget-attract-people-teaching suggests that the marketing budget in 2017/18 to encourage new entrants to train as a teacher will be more than £16 million. That’s a fourfold increase on what was spent in 2013/14 just four years ago. Put another way, four years ago, £114 per trainee was spent on advertising; this year, assuming all places are filled, it will cost some £474 per trainee. In reality, it is likely that the actual cost per trainee recruited will be in excess of £500.

Actually, the cost is near £1,000 per additional trainee encouraged into teaching as, even if nothing was spent, there would probably be a sizeable number of people wanting to train as a teacher, especially as a primary school teacher. So, the cost is largely to entice additional Physics, mathematics and languages teachers. The marketing bill needs to be added to the sizeable bursaries these students also attract making the real cost even higher. There are also the marketing costs of individual course providers competing with each other plus the not insignificant budget being spent by Teach First that’s not included in the £16 million.

Now that all young people have to stay in education or training until eighteen, it is worth asking whether the use of specialist teachers should be delayed in some subjects so that the costs of acquiring new teachers can be reduced. Would the money spent on marketing be better spent on up-skilling the expertise of existing teachers already having to teach subjects where they are under-prepared? How much higher will the marketing budget be allow to rise if the labour market for graduates remains tight over the next few years? Fortunately, compared with the spending from the Ministry of Defence the cost per place of recruiting teachers is probably far less than the marketing budget to recruit personnel for the armed forces.

One thing the DfE has to do is to demonstrate that it has learnt the lessons of history. Although current corporate memory in Sanctuary Buildings may not be very detailed, there are presumably copies of the studies conducted by various market research agencies for the Department during previous recruitment crises around the turn of the century. Discussing whether they are still relevant should, at least, ensure the £16 million is spent wisely and not wasted on campaigns that would never bear fruit in terms of teacher recruitment.

Making the term teacher’ a reserved occupation title would cost little, but raise the status of the profession overnight. It would also gain good press publicity. Good PR is often cheaper than poor marketing, although the reverse is sadly also true.