In the early days of the think tank, Policy Exchange, I once wrote a pamphlet for them entitled ‘The labour market for teachers’. This was way back, a decade ago, in 2008 when I was less active for the Liberal Democrats than I am today as a councillor. As a result of this background, I was interested to read the latest piece by John Blake, Policy Exchange’s current head of education and social reform. The piece is entitled ‘The challenges behind the figures on teacher recruitment’. You can read it by following this link https://policyexchange.org.uk/the-challenges-behind-the-figures-on-teacher-recruitment/
Mr Blake doesn’t dispute the figures highlighted in my previous post that emerged from UCAS last Thursday. However, he claims that teaching is still a well-paid profession commenting that ‘given teaching is relatively well-paid on entry and has generous increment increases in the first few years to nearly £40,000 without having to take on any additional management responsibility, it seems unlikely it is the issue for recruitment either. This view stands in stark contrast to the Pay Review Body comments in their 2017 Report that ‘teacher’ earnings have undergone a further deterioration … continue to trail those of other professional occupations in all regions except the North East.’ (STRB, 2017 Report, page 31).
However, Mr Blake isn’t really interested in defending the pay structure, but in raising the oft asked question as to why so many show and interest in teaching, but don’t follow that interest through. For good measure, Mr Blake also attacks the profession for not producing enough teachers from those that do apply. This latter point needs careful attention. But, as to the former, he hasn’t been able to find any numbers and he doesn’t mention whether this is a general trend for other graduate occupations? By focussing on this narrow point, he misses the issues of more concern raised in my last blog that applications are down across the country; across all age groups and from both men and women and even more seriously, by a far larger amount for applicants to train as a primary teachers than as secondary teacher. By all means let us create an index of interest in teaching and see whether it is waxing or waning at the present time. We could also create an expected conversion rate, but that might mean recreating an agency to handle teacher recruitment, something Mr Blake doesn’t even consider.
But, let’s consider the key points Mr Blake makes about not converting applicants into teachers and then not doing enough to help those going through the process. We would benefit from UCAS providing more data on secondary subjects by applicants than just by applications as at present, since applicants can make up to three applications, but we have to manage with what there is available.
In the previous post, I pointed out that ‘So far, ‘placed and applicants holding offers, account for the same percentage of applicants [as in December 2016] 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.’ What percentage does Mr Blake thinks schools and higher education should be aiming for and does he think it wrong for schools to turn down more applicants than higher education?
As to support during their courses, Mr Blake doesn’t offer any evidence either on the scale of loss of trainees in-course or what might be put in place to reduce such wastage? Personally, I would once again pay all tuition fees for all graduates training to be a teacher and pay them all a training grant. If that doesn’t work, then we really will have a problem.
Finally, I would be happy to join Mr Blake in researching just why applications are down for primary school teachers by such a large amount?