STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-review-body-29th-report-2019 Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?

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More cash likely; but please don’t forget the FE sector

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has today published the report of their inquiry into funding in schools and further education. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/969/96903.htm#_idTextAnchor000

It is worth reporting their key proposals in full in the light of the excellence of the Report.

  • urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760 (amounting to around £970 million per year), rising in line with inflation;
  • increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value;
  • increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected deficit of at least £1.2 billion, and ensure any funding uplift takes proper account of the costs of providing Education, Health and Care plans up to the age of 25;
  • implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible; make the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors; and investigate how best to account for the individual circumstances of outliers;
  • develop an official statistics publication for school and college funding to provide greater clarity on the data and trends;
  • grant Ofsted the powers to conduct inspections at MAT level, and require MATs to publish more detailed data on their financing structures;
  • ensure all eligible students attract Pupil Premium and overcome existing barriers to automatic enrolment as a matter of priority;
  • secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated Pupil Premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children;
  • extend Pupil Premium to provide for 16–19 year olds; and
  • set out the timetable for providing apprenticeship transport subsidies, as per the Government’s manifesto commitments.

It is good that further education tops the list, even though it is school funding that has made the headlines. The Committee concluded that

… total school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18. Per pupil funding for 2019–20 is expected to be similar to 2011–12 levels. Teachers, unions and parents have described to us in detail the scale of the impact this has had on children and young people, and on those working in the education sector.

Further education has been hit the hardest. Participation in full time further education has more than doubled since the 1980s, yet post-16 budgets have seen the most significant pressures of all education stages. Per student funding fell by 16% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2018–19 – twice as much as the 8% school funding fall over a similar period. This funding gap is the result of policy choices that now need to be addressed urgently. The social justice implications of the squeeze on further education colleges are particularly troubling, given the high proportion of disadvantaged students in these institutions.

It is a shame that these two paragraphs were not reversed in order, to ensure that FE funding issues were fully recognised. This is not to belittle the crisis in school funding, but to emphasise that funding in FE, and for the 16-8 age group that affects both sectors is in a state of real crisis.

The idea from the Committee for a ten year plan for funding, while headline grabbing, is unlikely to find favour with The Treasury, and would seem to be unrealistic in the context of a government that cannot even manage a three year financial settlement this year.

Finally, it is interesting that this report appeared on the same day that ministers appear to have accepted the evidence of a need to increase public sector workers’ pay, at least where they are review bodies. Noise in the media that schools may also receive extra funding also suggests a degree of realism now inhabit Sanctuary Buildings but, please ministers, don’t forget the FE sector: their needs should be first in the queue for additional funds.

 

 

More pay for teachers?

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for teachers’ pay? The latest update on projected pupil numbers through to 2027, issued by the DfE earlier today, suggest that the Treasury might now be able to see the point where teacher numbers will stabilise and, thus, the pay bill can be estimated with a greater degree of accuracy than when pupil numbers are on a rising curve.  The data is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-pupil-projections-july-2018

Civil servants will probably have had access to this data for some time, and it is possible to at least theorise that recent indications of more cash for schools, and specifically for teachers’ pay, might be as a result of an awareness of these numbers. I haven’t heard anything about the pay of other workers in schools, many of whom are far less highly paid than teachers, and don’t have the advantage of a Pay Review Body to provide oversight and guidance. Hopefully, they won’t be forgotten.

So, what are the latest numbers suggesting? In the primary sector the annual rate of increase is expected to fall gradually to NIL for 2020 and 2021, before decreases are projected (between 0.3% and 0.7% each year) until the end of the projection period. This is principally due to the lower birth projections in Office of National Statistics new population projections. The overall population in state-funded primary schools was 4,607,000 in 2018, and is projected to be 112,000 lower in 2027 at 4,494,000. Depending upon how class sizes are affected and the future for smaller schools under the present funding arrangements, this decline might mean 5,000 to 6,000 fewer teaching posts if cash goes into increase pay for existing teachers rather than reducing class sizes. As the teaching force gains more experience it also costs more to employ, so the level of retention is also important in determining the number of teachers that can be employed, especially once the decline in pupil numbers reaches Key Stage 2 where class sizes are not controlled by law.

In the secondary sector up to the end of Key Stage 4, the rate of increase in pupil numbers is expected to reach around 3.1% for the next two years before slowly dropping to NIL by the end of the projection period in 2027. As a result of these increases, the overall population in secondary schools is projected to reach 3,267,000 in 2027, some 418,000 higher than it was in 2018 and a 14.7% increase over the whole projection period. The increases will continue to feed through to the Key Stage 5 school population until at least the end of the 2020s. These numbers suggest that over the time period under discussion there might be a need for between 20,000 to 25,000 extra teachers, and possibly even more depending on the shape of the curriculum and any changes in teaching methods.

As the DfE points out, ‘There are inherent uncertainties in projecting the future size of the pupil population. This is particularly true for early age cohorts, which are the most immediately dependent on projections of future birth rates.’ Higher fertility rates and lower than expected migration could mean a difference of around 100,000 either way on the central projection. As the time period shorten, then the level of certainty can become greater and projections on teacher numbers also become firmer.

However, teaching might once more start looking like an attractive career, if you take the long-term view.

 

Treasury woes

Teacher recruitment crises are not a new phenomenon in England. Indeed, almost 30 years ago, at the start of the 1990s, the country was experiencing a very similar sort of teacher recruitment and retention crisis to that seen now. As a result, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by the then Interim Advisory Committee on Teachers’ Pay and Conditions, the forerunner of the present School Teachers’ Review Body, and the successor to the Burnham Committee.

In Chapter 6 of their 1991 report, at paragraph 7.13 the IAC said:

Our final key principle has been to support the provision of proper rewards for additional responsibilities and high performance. Put, bluntly, the teaching profession is no different from any other in needing to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people. Whatever the details of the pay structure, it seems self-evident to us that if adequate levels of differential rewards are not available, as they increasingly are elsewhere, then there will be serious difficulties in tackling the recruitment and retention problems we have highlighted.

(IAC, 4th Report January 1991 para 7.13 page 49)

I found this comment of interest, as I discovered it when I was trying to determine whether more teachers had access to allowances now than at that time before devolved budgets and the total freedom for schools to decide how to pay their teachers. At that time, in the early 1990s, although the pay scales were different and local management of schools was on the horizon, there was still a national structure for responsibility payments, and schools had little choice over the number of such posts that they could create. School size, as determined by the number and age of the pupils, was the key source factor affecting the chance of promotion for a teacher.

Interestingly, a quick look at DfE statistics for both 1989 and 2013, suggests that far more teachers in secondary schools than in primary schools had access to payments above their main scale salary in 1989, and that in both sectors the percentage of teachers paid above the main scale was higher in 1989 than in 2013. Additionally, in 2013, you were less likely to receive a TLR if you worked in an academy than if you worked in a maintained school.

Since 2013, the DfE has changed how it reports teachers’ pay, and it now uses cash amounts in bands as the reporting measure that doesn’t allow an easy identification of the percentage of teachers paid a TLR in addition to their main salary.

Of course, a few teachers have benefited from an opening up of extra posts on the Leadership Scale. But, could this lack of incentives, suggested as important by the IAC in 1991, be partly responsible for the problems with retention in years five to seven of a teacher’s career that have become a feature of recent years?

Conservative politicians, as the previous post on this blog has noted, are aware that current funding for schools is not only insufficient to pay support staff their pay award but also to reward and retain teachers in many parts of the country. The problem is, where to find the cash to pay for schools to recruit and retain effective and ambitious people, the same requirement as the IAC pointed out all those years ago.

 

 

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.

 

More evidence that London is different

In a previous post about the DfE’s evidence to the Teachers’ Pay Review Body (STRB) in 2019 I mentioned that the DfE cited that the wastage rate for Inner London schools was 14% in 2017. This was the highest for any area in England.

After reflecting upon this statistic, I went back to the data in the School Workforce Census to see whether high wastage rates were confined to specific schools or a more general matter for concern? The basic data on the Census, as it appears on the DfE’s web site, doesn’t allow that question to be answered. The DfE provides information on vacancies and temporarily filled posts at the school level, but not wastage rates. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2017

Percentage of schools in the region reporting a vacancy (%) Percentage of schools in the region reporting either a vacancy or a temporarily filled post (%)
REGION  
 
North East 3.2 9.1
North West 2.6 9.4
Yorkshire and the Humber 3.4 11.0
East Midlands 2.9 8.2
West Midlands 3.4 11.3
East of England 3.2 12.0
Inner London 5.3 22.5
Outer London 4.1 24.8
South East 3.8 12.2
South West 2.2 7.4
 
ENGLAND 3.3 11.9
School Workforce Census 2017    

Looking at the table abstracted above, from the 2017 School Workforce Census, it seems that around twice as many schools in Inner London reported a vacancy in November 2017 as did schools in the North West region. The gap was even wider between those London schools and schools in the South West.

Once the percentage of schools reporting a temporarily filled post in the November Census was added in, the gap between schools in London and the South West was even greater. Now, it just may be that there are more temporary posts in London than other regions because more teachers are on maternity leave in London than elsewhere in England. Since London does tend to attract many teachers at the start of their careers, this is indeed a possibility. However, the size of the gap does seem to call into question whether this is the only reason for such a large difference.

Taken together with the wastage figure, it does seem that schools, and especially a small number of secondary schools in London, were facing a problem with staffing at a time of year when schools would expect to be fully staffed.

Previous staffing crises have been based upon data that was collected in January, the census date before the School Workforce Census was introduced. However, if the current census covers the whole period from November to November that change of date would not be an issue. Should the data only relate to the situation at the time of the census, it would be or more concern, as the consequences of departures of any staff at the end of December would not be captured in the data.

What are the implications for the STRB if schools in London were finding the staffing situation challenging in 2017. The STRB will certainly want to know whether the early returns from the 2018 Census reflect any improvements or whether the situation has deteriorated further. If the DfE is unable to answer that question, then I am sure that the teacher associations and others providing evidence will be able to do so.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has consistently reported that London schools top the list of schools advertising the most vacancies.

With separate London pay scales, will the STRB look to increase them more than the national scale this year? Only time will tell.

At least one alarm bell is ringing

The demands associated with employing new staff for TeachVac means that I have been a little delayed in catching up with the DfE’s latest submission to the Pay Review Body (the STRB).  This document is more than just an instruction on how much teachers working in school probably should be paid according to the government. It also brings together lots of other useful data about the workforce in our schools.

This year, the document can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evidence-to-the-strb-2019-pay-award-for-school-staff and probably the scariest figure in the document is buried on page 44, where there is a table on wastage rates for the teaching profession. According to the 2017 School Workforce Census wastage at that point was 14% among classroom teachers employed in Inner London schools. I make that one almost one in seven teachers in London quit. If that isn’t including turnover, but just those leaving the School Workforce Census it frightening, but even if it is all departures, including those taking a job in another London school, the figure is still pretty scare, especially since this is the average.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has consistently provided data for this blog showing London schools creating the highest percentage of vacancies per school. Indeed, so far in 2019, London schools are averaging around two vacancies per school according to TeachVac. It is worth noting that London is in an area where Teach First supplies a significant number of teachers, without their help the numbers would undoubtedly be even higher.

By contrast, in the rest of the county, wastage among classroom teachers is around the 10% mark. High, but manageable if supply is sufficient. The fact that in the secondary sector, (and the wastage figures aren’t separated into primary and secondary sector figures), recruitment into teacher preparation courses continues to fall short of need, as demonstrated in table 10 on page 48 of the document for EBacc subjects, is a cause for concern.

The figure for entrants into state schools in 2017, shown in the table on page 43, was just 23,300 teachers across both primary and secondary sector. This is 2,800 fewer teachers the peak of 26,100 reached in 2016. Again the DfE don’t break this number down in the STRB submission between those entering the primary and secondary sectors. I assume the STRB can ask for this data?

Much of the rest of the document puts the best possible gloss on a deteriorating situation. DfE officials have been required to undertake that task on many previous occasions and I am sure, having myself appeared before the STRB on several occasions that its members are well equipped to dig beneath the surface if the teacher associations don’t bring the missing data to their attention.

Finally, a little bit of history. In 2002, when wastage rates were collected in January not November, the total wastage rate calculated from the Database of Teacher Records was 9.9%, the second highest level since 1992. The highest wastage rate was 10.1% in 1998, but that may have been artificially inflated by departures ahead of a significant change to the pension scheme. Sadly, the DfE’s evidence to the STRB in 2019 doesn’t provide an overall national figure for the period November 2016 to November 2017, but I am sure that someone will provide the STRB with the figure.