STRB misses the point?

There is a lot of good data in the STRB Report published yesterday. School Teachers’ Review Body 32nd report: 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Sadly, most of it, as far as the teacher labour market is concerned, is based upon data collected by the DfE in November 2020 in the School Workforce Census, and thus relates to the labour market cycle of two years ago. Even if, when compiling the Report, the data from the November 2021 Census was used that was still from a previous labour market. As regular readers of this blog will know, the 2021-22 labour market for teachers has been anything other than normal in terms of demand for teachers.

The STRB has at least been able to use the ITT Census of 2021 that provided the data about the supply of new teachers for September 2022. Readers will find little in the STRB Report that hasn’t already been covered in this blog in relation to that data.

However, the Table on pages 49 and 50 of the STRB Report tells the story of this labour market in two simple charts regarding ITT recruitment; with history, PE and Art being the only secondary subjects where the supply of new entrants has been anything like at the level required to meet demand.

Interestingly, TeachVac today added art as a subject with a ‘red’ warning of shortages possible anywhere in England for January 2023 appointments. That just leaves PE and history as the two subjects where supply is still not yet at a level for a ‘red’ warning. PE might reach that level in the autumn: history, even with a contribution to humanities posts, almost certainly won’t. In view of the fact that almost double the number of trainees was recruited compared with the TSM figure that isn’t really a surprise. There is little problem with the primary sector labour market across most of the country.

The STRB Report is an interesting analysis of how the labour market responded to the sudden appearance of the pandemic just at the time when vacancies for September appointments were reaching their peak. Essentially, the market seems to have paused in 2021, and, as we know in 2022, there has been this surge of vacancies. As the end of term approaches, TeachVac has recorded not far short of 80,000 teaching vacancies across England so far in 2022, and more than 95,000 across the school-year as a whole.

The STRB has some interesting observations about leadership vacances, and the problems of recording trends when some posts in MATs are ‘out of scope’ to use the STRB terminology. However, as TeachVac has reported, there does not seem to have been any mass exodus of school leaders. This is despite the massive burdens placed on headteachers and other school leaders as a result of the pandemic, and the need to keep schools open at all times.

On pay, make of the Report what you will. I personally doubt that their recommendations for 2023/24 will last the test of time, especially if inflation continues to remain close to current levels and interest rates increase. With little new cash around for schools, it might be worth looking at the history books for how schools coped with the economic crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s to see what might happen over the next few years. Although, back then, there was no spending on computers and other IT equipment.  

Pay primary school teachers less?

A common pay scale for all teachers has been a feature of pay policy in England since at least the 1950s. It is a surprise to read in a study published today by the NfER; a study supported by The Gatsby Foundation, the following paragraph.

Separating the primary and secondary teacher pay scales could be effective at targeting resource where it can have greater gains in terms of overall teacher supply, in a way that is cost neutral within an existing spending envelope.The impact of pay and financial incentives on teacher supply – NFER

Adopting this solution would breach this long-standing arrangement of a common pay  scale for all qualified teachers subject to regional differences. Of course, there has never been pay parity between the two sectors because, as NfER comment, and readers of this blog with know, it is easier to recruit teachers to the primary sector than to some subjects in the secondary sector. Up to now, incentives have been targeted at specific subjects where there are shortages. So, on teacher preparation courses, some trainees receive greater encouragement than others through the use of bursaries on the largest route into teaching. However, on other routes, such as Teach First, this differential doesn’t seem to apply. Both history and physics trainees receive a salary.

Before schools were provided with budgets, and a National Funding Formula based on average salaries was introduced, the allocation of the number of promoted posts differed between primary and secondary schools, to the advantage of the latter. This was, I am sure an indirect way of creating pay differentials for classroom teachers between the two sectors that was acceptable to the then Trade Unions that recognised the differences in recruitment challenges between the two sectors.

The NfER make the point that paying teachers in different sectors at different rates is already to be found in some other countries. The cite the fact that starting salaries for secondary teachers in Finland are 15 per cent higher than their primary counterparts, and secondary starting salaries are 6 per cent higher in Sweden, as evidence of the case for introducing differential salary rates. It is an interesting argument, but I am not persuaded. Evidence about recruitment to the primary sector largely only available at the macro level as anyone with QTS can be recruited to any post, and it isn’t clear if there are specific challenges in some subject specialisms and age-related posts.

The NfER report that is well worth reading despite this recommendation does make the point that I have made regularly relating to the relationship between the wider economic situation and recruitment into teaching. This was last apparent at the start of the pandemic when a fear of mass job losses before the furlough scheme was introduced caused a short-term serge of interest in teaching as a career. The NfER study makes the point that at present the graduate labour market is stronger than the government seems to appreciate.

Perhaps the most depressing feature of the report is the fact that neither physics nor IT will ever meet the target number of trainee teachers required on any of their scenarios. The government really does need to address the issue of teacher supply, not only in these subjects but also across the board.

London teachers more likely to receive additional payments

On 11th February 2018, I wrote a blog post about pay flexibilities for teachers, and the use of allowances. Pay flexibilities for teachers | John Howson (wordpress.com) The DfE’s 2022 evidence to the STRB, referenced in recent posts on this blog, has a table on page 65 that allows an update for the position in November 2020.

According to the DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) in 2018 only 64%, just fewer than two out of three schools, paid any of their staff Teaching & Learning Responsibility allowances (TLRs as they are usually known). I guessed in 2018 that most of the remaining nearly 8,000 or so schools were mostly small primary schools, with only a handful of teachers and a head teacher? In November 2020, the percentage of schools paying a TLR was almost the same as in 2018, at 63.7% of schools. Presumably, it was still the small primary schools where there were no TLRs paid to staff.

Interestingly, the DfE record that 76.7% of schools in 2020, compared with 75.2% of all schools in 2018, make some form of payment to some of their teaching staff. The lowest percentages were for schools in the East midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber Regions.

In 2020, 20.7% of schools were using SEN payments, rising to 27.8% of schools in the South East of England. In the Yorkshire and The Humber Region only 14.2% of schools were making SEN payments: not far short of half the percentage of schools making such payments in the South East of England. This difference seems significant enough to need further investigation.

Even less common than SEN payments, despite all the talk about a recruitment crisis, has been the use of recruitment and retention payments to teachers; only 8.9% of schools across England were recorded as making such a payment in November 2020. However, the percentage does rise to 18.2% schools in the Inner London area – That’s not technically a region and the DfE evidence doesn’t define what it means by Inner London and whether it is pay area or some other definition. By contrast, only 4.7% of schools in the South West makes any payments to a teacher or teachers for recruitment and retention reasons. The DfE doesn’t make clear how many teachers in the schools receive such payments. It is enough for just one to teacher to receive a payment for a school to qualify for inclusion in the table.

The use of additional payments to teachers doesn’t seem to have changed much during the past few years. This despite the challenges schools have faced in recruiting teachers with some specific subject knowledge. The pressure on school budgets may well have accounted for an unwillingness to spend more of the school’s funds on extra allowances, over and above those already in the system.

It will be interesting to see how schools will react to the challenge of the £30,000 starting salary and the need to motivate more experienced staff if differentials are reduced, especially if new teachers retain the right to a lighter timetable.

Is £30,000 enough?

Congratulations to the team of civil servants at the DfE. Now that’s a sentence you probably didn’t expect to read on this blog. However, the detailed evidence from the DfE to the STRB issued yesterday 2022 pay award: Government evidence to the STRB (publishing.service.gov.uk) marks one of the most comprehensive analyses of the functioning of the labour market for teachers that has been published in recent years.

Perhaps, I can now retire, since the government has accepted almost everything that I have been pointing out for the past decade, and has also provided the evidence in minute detail that might provide some interesting posts for this blog over the next few weeks.

When a starting salary of £30,000 for teachers was first mooted, it was generous. Now with inflation running at a ten-year high, and the world looking like it might be facing a re-run of the 1972 oil price shock that led to a decade of high inflation and wage erosion, and incidentally did for the plans for much better CPD for teachers in the wake of the James Report, the £30,000 figure may not be as generous as intended. Time will tell.

There are two anxieties behind the good news. The first is whether small primary schools with falling rolls due to a decline in the birth rate will be able to afford the new pay structure? The DfE evidence could have done more to model this scenario, and the possible consequences for different parts of rural England in particular.  Church schools in urban areas may also be affected.

My second anxiety revolves around the extent to which the DfE has taken on board the relationship between training and employment and the global nature of the teaching profession. Of course, a willingness to work overseas might change, but with the growth in international schools being largely outside of Europe, might mid-career teachers witnessing their differential to less experienced colleagues diminish consider whether they could earn more teaching overseas? Perhaps, TeachTapp could ask that question?

Schools can restore differential for mid-career teachers by the judicial use of Recruitment and Retention Allowances, and it is interesting to see how these have been used across England, with areas where the labour market is tight seeing schools more willing to use such awards. Of course, it also depends upon having the cash in the budget to be able to do so.

Schools in parts of South East England outside the London pay structure, but with strong competition from the private school sector, such as in Oxfordshire, may well also be concerned about the likely consequences of this pay settlement.

One sensible move that doesn’t need to STRB involvement, would be to better match training to employment to guarantee sufficient supply to all areas. At present, the supply pattern isn’t anywhere near as effective as it should be, especially with the levelling up agenda.

If you are interested in teacher supply, do please read the DfE evidence as it is well worth the effort.

£30,000 starting salary for teachers by 2022?

The DfE has published the letter it writes each year to the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) about it view of the pay levels for teachers and school leaders. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-review-body-strb-remit-letter-for-2022?utm_source=HOC+Library+-+Current+awareness+bulletins&utm_campaign=e1c61ffa7d-Current_Awareness_Social_Policy_E_20-12-2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f325cdbfdc-e1c61ffa7d-103730653&mc_cid=e1c61ffa7d&mc_eid=ae5482b5b9 This year, there is mention of recruitment issues and teacher supply as a factor for the STRB to consider.

The government has clearly accepted the need for a £30,00 starting salary for teachers outside London, with presumably higher rates within the pay bands governing the salary ranges for teachers in and around London. The letter from the DfE states that:

I refer to the STRB the following matters for recommendation:

• An assessment of the adjustments that should be made to the salary and allowance ranges for classroom teachers, unqualified teachers and school leaders to promote recruitment and retention, within the bounds of affordability across the school system as a whole and in the light of my views on the need for an uplift to starting salaries to £30,000.

The cliff edge created by the boundary of the national pay scale and London scales is of importance to many county authorities around London such as Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Too large a gap and schools in those areas will face significant recruitment challenges for teachers at all levels from the classroom to the head’s office.

I am not sure why the DfE mentions capital spending in the letter as that is not within the remit of the STRB. However, the DfE does acknowledge that:

Teacher quality is the most-important in-school determinant of pupil outcomes. That is why, in June, my department announced over £250 million of additional funding to help provide 500,000 world-leading teacher training opportunities throughout teachers’ careers. We recognise that alongside this training and development, we also need to reward the best teachers as well as provide a competitive offer that attracts top graduates and professionals into the profession. It is therefore right that additional investment in the core schools’ budget is in part used to invest in teachers, with investment targeted as effectively as possible to address recruitment and retention challenges and, ultimately, ensure the best outcomes for pupils.

Of interest to TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk is the following.

Considerations to which the STRB should have regard

In considering your recommendations on the 2022/23 and 2023/24 pay awards, you should have regard to the following:

 a) The need to ensure that any proposals are affordable across the school system as a whole;

b) Evidence of the national state of teacher and school leader supply, including rates of recruitment and retention, vacancy rates and the quality of candidates entering the profession;

c) Evidence of the wider state of the labour market in England;

 d) Forecast changes in the pupil population and consequent changes in the level of demand for teachers;

e) The Government’s commitment to the autonomy of all head teachers and governing bodies to develop pay arrangements that are suited to the individual circumstances of their schools and to determine teachers’ pay within the statutory minima and maxima.TeachVac has recorded more than 64,000 vacancies for teachers during 2021, including a record number of vacancies during December 2021. The STRB might like to review the cost-benefits of the different recruitment methods in use at present and comment on their benefits to both teachers and schools.

After all, reducing recruitment costs paid by schools to a minimum will help release cash to pay for higher salaries while increasing the autonomy of headteachers and governing bodies. Perhaps there should be a Recruitment Czar?

Sunak’s blunt axe

The media is full of stories about a probable pay freeze for public sector workers, to be announced by the Chancellor next week in his Spending Review. The freeze might last for up to three years, and end in the run up to the next general election. Interestingly it is almost a century since the famous Geddes Axe was on public expenditure was announced in 1922. (cmd 1581) for anyone interested.

So what might be the consequences for schools of what I suppose we ought to call Sunak’s chainsaw to bring the technology up to date? Might there be winners and losers?

The consequences for teachers will depend upon the approach chosen, but the winners and losers may well be the same whatever method is used. It is worth saying that the government doesn’t employ many teachers, and since it made the pay scales advisory, rather than mandatory, it might be dependent upon the actions of individual schools and Trusts to achieve its goal. Local Authorities can sit on the side lines, as budgets are devolved to schools and it is Schools Forums that will have to wrestle with the consequences of any announcement on their local areas.

Let’s assume that it is the National Funding formula that is frozen at current levels for three years, without even an uplift for inflation. Unless the rules are changed, schools can decide how much of their budget to spend on salaries and whether to protect teachers over other employees? Schools in areas where there is still high employment might ask parents to increase their contributions to school funds to buy items to release cash for salary increases. Such a move won’t help the ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Who might win under a pay freeze? We might see the shortest upturn in teacher recruitment on record if maths and physics graduates identify better job prospects in the private sector once again. New entrants considering teaching or nursing, not an unusual choice for some school leavers, might opt for the latter profession if NHS workers are exempt from any pay freeze. So long as the down turn in the birth rate continues, a reduction in the supply of new primary sector teachers might be manageable. But only for a short period of time, and it will have consequences in a few years’ time on leadership appointments

Teachers that change jobs might be offered more pay, so firms involved in recruitment might benefit if teacher ‘churn’ increases as a way to gain a pay increase. As my previous blog post showed, there are ways to overcome such an outcome, but it will need more than just announcing a pay freeze.

Schools with rising rolls, and especially those with generous parents, will benefit, whereas those in areas of high unemployment and low incomes might see their best teachers enticed away to other schools or even overseas if the global economy improves on the back of successful vaccines.

Private schools, assuming they can recruit pupils, will also benefit as they won’t be forced to raise fees to pay their teachers more if state school teachers’ pay is frozen.

The ‘levelling up’ agenda might be the biggest casualty of a crude one-size fits all pay freeze. After all, it was only a few years ago, in 2014, that the Social Mobility Commission proposed a 25% pay increase for teachers working in schools in deprived areas, during a previous period of pay restraint.

Should the Chancellor work out how to include the ‘levelling up’ agenda in his announcement without totally removing schools’ autonomy over the budgets, I would be happy to reconsider my views.

More thoughts on school funding

Earlier this week I listened to the head of a leading group representing private schools tell us how much they saved the State, Their assessment of the amount was based upon the fees they received from parents.

Now, of course, the figure quoted was probably an exaggeration as even if it didn’t include income from overseas students, and the sector is a significant export earner in normal times, then the fees received for pupils resident in this country are higher than the State would be prepared to pay to educate these young people, except in the case of SEND places in specialist schools.

Even allowing for these caveats, if the unemployment associated with the pandemic really does slow down the economy, then, inevitably, some parents may decide that private schooling is something they can no longer afford. There will be bursaries and scholarship and grandparents will offer help, but every child that switches from the private sector to the State sector creates winners and losers and is an additional cost to the State.

Schools that gain pupils will receive extra funding in the fullness of time. However, unless the overall pot of cash increases, there will be less for everyone. With school rolls overall still increasing, especially in the more expensive to fund secondary sector, this possible demand for extra cash could not come at a worse point in the demographic cycles. Any switch to funding for vocational skills, and especially for the Further Education sector, will also make finding additional funding for schools more of a challenge for the Secretary of State in his talks with The Treasury. With pressure to pay the least well-off in society more, increasing teachers’ pay rather than that of support staff may well be a real challenge unless class sizes increase and teacher numbers are reduced.

So, how might schools react? Finding saving won’t be easy, but here are a couple of suggestions. Firstly, and not surprisingly, cut back on recruitment costs. The DfE vacancy site isn’t doing the job it was set up to do. As a result, the profession should create a working party to attack the recruitment costs with the aim of saving schools perhaps £20 million a year. A really effective scheme could save even more.

Secondly, take the profit element out of supply teacher costs. Thirty years ago, local authorities were inefficient and uncoordinated in carrying out this function for schools. Costs have been driven down, but market economics has created a business with a profit element. Removing this element by either taking it back in house or creating a fixed price model could again help save cash for schools.

The third, and most radical suggestion, is around the funding of teachers’ salaries. In the education governance revolution of thirty years ago, decisions about salary bills were delegated to individual schools, with each schools funding being based upon a notional average salary bill. Previously, schools had their salary bill paid for by local authorities based around a framework of school Group Sizes that generated numbers of promoted and leadership posts for each school.

These days. MATs can set salary policies for all their schools, but local authorities cannot for maintained schools. Such policies can affect wage bills, and especially the cost of promoted posts and leadership positions. Young teachers are cheap; older more experienced teachers cost more. Do we want our more experienced teachers leading our more challenging schools? Could a more logical system that took the wage bill for teachers away from schools save money? I don’t know the answer. But, the wage bill is the largest cost in education and it is worth asking the question: how can we protect the income of teachers and other school staff in a time when pressure on the public purse is immense and are their efficiencies that can be made? A notional staffing model that school could test themselves against might be a start. Now is surely time for some radical thinking around the goals we want education to achieve for Society. Depriving the deprived is not one of them.

The author is Chair of TeachVac, the job board for teachers http://www.teachvac.co.uk

Jam in 2022, but not cream as well

This blog has not so far commented on the largesse being promised to schools and the FE sector by the current government. I prefer to wait for specific proposals rather than broad gestures. As a result, the remit letter to the Teachers’ Pay Review body (STRB) announced today by the Secretary of State is worth considering for its implications for schools. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/30000-starting-salaries-proposed-for-teachers

Is there a risk that the announcement of a £30,000 starting salary in 2022 might be like David Blunkett’s maximum class size initiative for Key Stage 1 classes, something of a Pyrrhic victory for the government? Allowing for increases in teachers’ salaries of between 2-3% in both 2020 and 2021 then perhaps the starting salary will already be expected to be £26,000 by 2022 anyway.

The other question that will interest schools is how many teachers will be affected? It isn’t possible to work out how many full-time teachers are paid less than £30,000 – presumably less than £36,000 in Inner London? The School Workforce Census for 2018 revealed that there were nearly 103,000 teachers paid less than £30,000 at that time. However, this included both full-time and part-time teachers. The Census also revealed that there were 111,000 part-time teachers across the system, so it seems likely that a significant proportion of those earning less than £30,000 at that time might be have been part-time teachers?

If I were the STRB receiving the remit letter for Mr Williamson, I would want to look at the distribution of teacher shortages and ask two questions.  Firstly, is there a regional pattern to shortages and secondly, do we want to pay some teachers more than others in an overt manner by creating not just regional supplements but also supplements for specific subjects and other expertise that might be in short supply?

Failing to address the first of these questions could create a situation where the Secretary of State made matters worse by making teaching in lower cost housing areas more attractive than teaching in London and the Home Counties, just as David Blunkett made teaching in the suburbs more attractive than teaching in the inner cities by reducing class sizes in the suburbs, but not in the inner cities where they were already below 30 pupils per class in most Key Stage 1 classes.

All the evidence points to the teacher shortage being worse in London and the Home Counties and that these areas are also finding it more difficult to attract graduates onto teacher preparation courses. Personally, I would uplift the London salary rates more than those elsewhere. (See pages 36 onward of the 29th Report of the STRB for why I say this.)

The government also needs to remember that teachers start earning a year later than most graduates, including those being trained in other public sector graduate roles. For this reason, they might also consider returning to a training salary for all postgraduates and not just those on Teach First and the diminishing numbers on the School Direct Salaried route.

 

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?

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.