ITT Census 2019: few surprises

The DfE published the ITT Census this morning https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-trainee-number-census-2019-to-2020 I suspect that it escaped the purdah rules as it is an annual publication and the date was announced well in advance.

Regular readers of this column, and especially those that read my post earlier in the autumn predicating the outcome, will find few surprises in the data. Indeed, most of my conclusions for the 2020 labour market for teachers still stand.

The headline news is that only English; PE; Biology; history and geography recruited more trainees across all platforms than the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model suggested would be required at postgraduate level. Design & Technology; Computing; Religious Education and music all had better years than last year, but still failed to pull in enough trainees to meet likely demand from schools in 2020 as measured by the DfE Model.

Mathematics; Modern Foreign Languages; Physics; Chemistry; Art & Design and Business Studies all recruited a lower percentage of those seen as needed than they achieved last year. English and PE were also in that category, but still pulled in more than 100% of identified need. In both cases, this may cause problems in 2020, especially if the DfE number has been pitched too low, as it almost certainly has in English.

Overall, thanks to the 26% increase in history numbers; the 34% increase in geography – where the DfE number was reduced, but a lack of recruitment controls meant a similar number of trainees was recruited to last year – and Religious Education where there was a surge in trainee numbers this year to a level last seen before 2013, overall secondary trainee numbers increased by 2% to 17,098 from 16,327 last year. That’s 85% of target compared with 83% last year.

As predicted by many providers, recruitment to primary postgraduate courses fell below target at 98%, down from 103% last year. The 12,400 recruited is the second lowest number of recruits for primary postgraduate courses in the past five years. .

Undergraduate numbers continued to fall, with 4,777 primary and just 184 secondary students shown as new entrants. Some 75 of the secondary entrants at undergraduate level are on PE degree courses. The only other subject worthy of note is Mathematics, with 59 undergraduates.

So, what else can we glean from the data? Taken together, primary and secondary postgraduate entrants hit a new low in percentage terms this year when compared to the DfE target; only 89% of target. That’s two per cent down on last year, and is due entirely to the fall in the primary percentage against target.

Men accepted onto primary postgraduate courses hit a new six year low, at just 2,153 compared with 2,415 last year and 2,852 in 2014/15. However, there were more men starting secondary courses, up from 6,285 last year to 6,587 this year, the highest number since before 2014/15. However, it still means that men account for only 17% of primary and 39% of secondary trainees this year.

Minority ethic entrants also reached a new high this year at 19% of postgraduate entrants and broke through the 5,000 level for the first time. Numbers were also up at undergraduate level as well.

Under 25s still account for 50% of new postgraduate entrants, but, as predicted earlier this year, numbers for the 25-29 age group were slightly down on last year. This was compensated for by a rise in the number of those over 45 starting ITT postgraduate courses. The 1%increase in those declaring a disability was also a new record.

Non-UK EEA nationals represented 5% of postgraduate recruitment, the same as in recent years. The percentage for ‘other nationals’ increased to three per cent, while UK national fell to 92% of postgraduate trainee numbers.

There is more to mine from this data, but that will form the basis for another post.

 

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

More about Middle Leaders

In the previous post, I discussed the issue of how many new entrants to teaching this September were likely to end up as a middle leader, and whether the supply pipeline was sufficient to meet the likely needs of schools. Since the DfE now provide a useful compendium of statistics from the Teacher Workforce Census, it is possible to look back and compare the data in the previous post with what might be happening this year, based upon the number of NQTs entering service from the 2014 cohort, including late entrants.

ITT 2014 ITT 2018
Subject Revised % as HoDs Revised % as HoDs
Design & Technology 16% 75%
Art & Design 28% 57%
Business Studies 33% 153%
Drama 38% 72%
Religious Education 53% 85%
Computing 72% 89%
Music 83% 126%

Source: TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk

The cohort of 2014 were the first cohort where real evidence of a potential teacher supply crisis was beginning to emerge during the period when they were applying for teacher preparation courses , during 2013 and the first nine months of 2014.

As the table reveals, the number of new entrants in 2104 was generally sufficient to provide for a pipeline of middle leaders for 2019. However, even in music and to a certain extent in computing, that had a poor year for recruitment that year, there would have been signs of possible difficulties, had anyone wanted to look for them. Music is an interesting subject, since most departments are small and many teachers are forced into leadership roles as middle leaders quite early in their careers, as well as conducting orchestras, managing jazz ensembles and probably handling one or more choirs.

The real turnaround is in the vocational subject areas, such as business studies and design and technology, where recruitment into teaching has really fallen away since the end of the recession and the downward trend in unemployment rates. Whereas just 16% of the 2014 design and technology NQTs might be expected to be a middle leader after five years, this has increased to 75% of the 2018 trainees that are likely to be expected to take on middle leadership roles.

Fortunately, there were a few years of good to adequate recruitment that will allow some slack from which to provide the necessary supply of heads of department. However, the longer the crisis in ITT recruitment continues, the more there will be a crisis in middle leadership at some point in the 2020s.

As the IAC said in 1991, and I quoted in an earlier post, remuneration in teaching does need to keep pace with the rest of the economy if there are to be enough teachers. It is not good enough just for some head teachers and officers in some MATs to pay themselves market competitive salaries and for the government to ignore the pay and conditions of everyone else in teaching and other jobs in schools.

Also, as I warned in an earlier post, if potential applicants expect lower tuition fees, and don’t see that happening in the autumn, will they hold back their application this autumn in an expectation of lower fees at some point in the future?

Shortage of maths teachers in 2019?

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

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

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

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

At the other end of the scale, some EBacc subjects are not creating enough vacancies to absorb the number of trainees on ITT courses this year. Both history and geography trainees may struggle to find jobs in large parts of England for September and even January 2020 even when humanities vacancies are taken into account.

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

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

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

 

Bumping along the bottom

The alternative title I thought about for this commentary on the February 2019 UCAS data about applications to post-graduate teacher preparation courses was, ‘the Goldilocks effect’; some good; some bad and some results in the middle. Indeed, the final outcome of this year’s recruitment round is more difficult to call than for many years. The outcome is likely to differ by individual subjects.

However, one trend that is becoming apparent is the continued decline in interest from applicants in non-EBacc arts and quasi vocational subjects. Thus, art, music, design and technology; computer studies and business studies are all either recording new lows in the number of offers for February or are bumping along the bottom. The government must look seriously at this problem if it does not want to impoverish a future generation of school students and wreck many important export earning industries by depriving them of home grown talent first nurtured in our schools.  By the same token, the independent schools ought also to be worried about this trend, to the extent that they recruit trained teachers with QTS.

As might be expected, history, geography and biology are performing well in terms of the number of offers that have been made. Biology will help ensure there will be sufficient teachers with a scientific background in 2020, even though chemistry and physics are in a similar position to this point last year. Both these subjects are unlikely to attract enough candidates to meet the Teacher Supply Model requirements on the present trajectory for offers.

Overall, applicant numbers, at 18,510 on the 18th February this year, are similar to the 18,830 recorded on the 19th February 2018, but still well down on the 24,700 of February 2017. It is worth recalling that in February 2012, without the School Direct route applicants, numbers stood at almost 35,000, not far short of double where they currently stand.

There is more detail about applicants than applicants in the data. Applications for primary are down on 2018 at 24,710 compared with 26,430 in 2018, but applications for secondary subjects are higher at 28,380 this year compared with 27,910 in February 2018. That could mean about 200 more applicants spread across all the different subjects.

Looking at the applications in more detail, primary higher education continues to witness a decline in applications, down to 10,680 this year from 12,570 in 2018. On the other hand, School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are up by around 600 applications.

In the secondary sector, higher education still dominates applications, although School Direct fee applications have seen a significant increase, from just over 8,000 applications in 2018 to 9,000 this February. However, applications for School Direct Salaried plus Apprenticeships are still below the February 2018 figure in the secondary sector.

Young graduates and final year undergraduate applicant numbers are almost back to last year’s, level in terms of overall applicants, but young career changes are still behind the number of applicants at this point in 2018. Compared with the 10,671 men that had applied for courses in 2012, the present number of 5,900 male applicants, including the School Direct applicants, is probably little more than half the 2012 total.

Still, Mr Gibb should be pleased that two thirds of applicants have been made an offer, although only 330 have been unconditionally placed. Nevertheless, making offer to two out of every three applicants is a very generous ratio indeed.

 

More or less: which way for the future?

The BBC has recently run an interesting piece about the relationship between class sizes and teachers’ salaries, based upon some OECD data. The article headed ‘when class sizes fall so does teachers’ pay’ is an interesting thesis. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47281532 However, how does it relate to the first law of economics that when there is a shortage of supply, and demand remains consistent, either the price will rise or substitution will take place?

The nightmare scenario for government is that facing the secondary sector in England at present. Pupil numbers are on a rising curve, at least until the middle of the next decade. This means more funding will be required, even if the unit of funding per pupil falls in real terms. At the same time, there is a labour shortage that is growing worse in some parts of the curriculum.

Hence, demand for more cash for schooling since, as the BBC pointed out, it is a fact of school life that staffing costs, and especially the cost of teachers, consumes the largest part of any school budget. However, schools are competing with other government services for cash and it seems likely that in England, however hard the teacher associations press their case, the cash needed for the extra pupils will come before any significant uplift in funding per pupil.

So, to that extent, larger classes is one way to fund better pay for teachers. However, most schools, and especially secondary schools, are constrained about how far class sizes can be increased, due to the physical nature of their buildings and the dependence on a classroom based building model.

In England, there may be the space to increase pupil-teacher ratios, perhaps back to where they were around the turn of the century, but that is likely to come from altering contact ratios – the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom – as much as from increasing class sizes. The trade-off of worsening contact ratios will almost certainly be a rethink about workload, since making the job of a teacher look even harder won’t help recruitment into the profession.

There is one helpful point for the government in England, but probably not for parents, and that is the fact that in England children have no right to be taught by anyone with knowledge and training in the subject they are teaching. Indeed, in extremis – nowhere defined except in very vague terms – children can be ‘taught’ by those with no background knowledge or training in what they are asked to teach. So long as there are enough people willing to be teachers, then pay can be kept under control. And, as everyone knows, there are plenty of arts and social science graduates for whom a teaching salary can still look attractive.

Today The Pearson Group published its annual results. Might their experience point to another way forward? The substitution of capital – in the form of IT and AI – for labour? So long as the learner is engaged, as there are in higher education, this may well be part of the way forward. But, for those that see schooling as a struggle between the generations, rather than the development of future wealth and happiness, the physical presence of a teacher overseeing learning has much to recommend it.

Who that teacher might be, and how well they will be paid, will, I am sure, still feature large in the future debates about the economic of education.

 

Recruiting teachers from overseas post BREXIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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