Buddy, can you spare a job?

On Wednesday, during his appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, the Secretary of State’s attention was drawn to existence of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk. The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Gateshead MP, Ian Mearns, asked Mr Hinds about the DfE’s new vacancy site and the number of vacancies posted on it at present. At the same time he also mentioned the free vacancy service for schools and teachers already being provided nationwide by TeachVac. The exchange is at 1108 on the video at https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/58da6df3-da79-4b92-99cb-64a2a96d03de

Regular readers of this blog will know of my involvement with TeachVac, in my capacity as Chair of the company operating TeachVac and TeachVac Global, the site for international schools.

The DfE vacancy site is only accepting jobs at present from schools in Cambridgeshire and the whole of the North East region. Earlier today the DfE site had a total of just nine vacancies listed, and only four of those were teaching posts. Of the teaching posts, three posts had a closing date of today and the fourth closes on Monday. As a result, unless new vacancies are posted, the DfE site will have no vacancies for teachers by Tuesday of next week. All four vacancies are from two areas of the North East: there are already no vacancies posted by Cambridgeshire schools on the site.

By comparison, TeachVac has 5 vacancies for teaching posts in Cambridgeshire and 12 vacancies across the North East; all with closing dates extending into next week or beyond. One of the DfE vacancies had its closing date extended earlier today, but that is not yet apparent on the DfE site; it is on TeachVac. This is the quietist part of the year for vacancies, so the next few weeks will provide little evidence about the working of the DfE site and its capacity to handle the large number of vacancies posted during March, April and May.

The DfE site also has a significant problem with one of the posted vacancies, for a Head of Languages, with the result that most applicants probably wouldn’t find the vacancy. TeachVac uses a ‘defined’ vacancy search system, unlike the DfE’s open system that follows the type of systems used by others such as the TES.

The DfE would have saved the taxpayer a lot of money if it had just produced a portal with a list of free sites with national coverage, such as TeachVac; free sites with local coverage and paid for job sites. This would have produced a national coverage at minimal cost of time and money. Instead, there is a site that is spending public money competing with the marketplace. But, that’s alright as the Public Accounts Committee gave the DfE the green light. However, the DfE won’t have any useful data about vacancies until at least 2020 at the current rate of progress.

I also wonder how many millions will be spent on marketing their site. Again, there is a low cost solution that has political attractions for the Secretary of State, but he is going to have to ask if he wants to know what it is. Should the Select Committee want to ask me, I am happy to respond I am already updating the professional associations and other key players about TeachVac whose revamped site went live this week handling vacancies in schools across England.

 

 

 

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Workforce worries over retention

Yesterday, this blog took its first look at the School Workforce Census data for 2017. Jack Worth at NfER, their authority on the school workforce, has also written a much more extensive blog about the same data. This can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/ It is well worth a read.

One interesting dataset in the DfE Tables is that on teacher retention. The DfE has updated the numbers used in their submission to the STRB as part of their discussions on pay and conditions for teachers still covered by the national pay and conditions. The updated data doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Year
NQT enter-ing service
YEAR 1
YEAR 2
YEAR 3
YEAR 4
YEAR 5
YEAR 6
YEAR 7
YEAR 8
YEAR 9
YEAR 10
1996
18100
16471
15204
14299
13213
12851
12308
12127
11584
11222
10860
1997
18900
17010
15023
14553
13986
13419
13041
12663
12285
11718
11340
1998
17800
15842
14418
13706
13172
12816
12282
11926
11392
11214
11036
1999
18300
16104
15006
14091
13542
12993
12810
12261
11895
11712
11346
2000
17600
15664
14608
13728
13024
12672
12144
11792
11616
11264
10912
2001
18600
16554
15252
14508
13950
13206
12648
12462
12276
11904
11904
2002
20700
18423
17181
16146
15318
14904
14490
14076
13662
13455
13248
2003
23000
20700
19090
17710
17020
16330
15870
15640
15410
14950
14490
2004
25200
22428
20412
19404
18648
17892
17388
17388
16884
16380
15624
2005
25700
22102
20817
19789
19018
18247
18247
17733
16962
16448
15677
2006
24000
20880
19440
18480
17760
17520
17040
16320
15840
14880
14400
2007
24400
21472
20008
19032
18788
18056
17324
16592
15372
15128
14640
2008
24400
21472
20008
19520
18788
18056
17324
16104
15860
15372
2009
22300
19401
18509
17617
17394
16056
15164
15164
14272
2010
24100
20967
19762
18557
17593
16870
15906
15424
2011
20600
18128
17098
15862
15038
14214
13390
2012
23300
20504
18873
17475
16543
15611
2013
23800
20706
19040
17612
16660
2014
25100
21837
19829
17374
2015
26100
22707
20358
2016
24900
21165
2017
23300

Abstracted from DfE Table 8 School Workforce Census June 2018

Although the number of NQTs fluctuates from year to year and is uprated as new entrants arrive in the profession as deferred entrants, either for the first time or from another sector, the loss of teachers is concerning. It is probably worth ignoring the 2011 data where the NQT number looks somewhat out of line for the period since 2006.

The DfE notes that numbers also underestimate teachers in part-time service, but, if the underestimate is consistent, this is only an issue where part-time working among this group of teachers is changing significantly.

The table does show how quickly teacher recruitment and retention can become an issue, especially where school rolls are on the increase, if the profession doesn’t hold on to its teachers.

The real concern must be with retention from years 6-10, where the next generation of middle leaders should start to be emerging. Assuming the 2007 cohort is split equally between primary and secondary sectors, this would mean a cohort of around 7,400 primary teachers. As the primary sector currently needs more than 1,000 new head teachers each year, the likelihood is that approaching 15% of the cohort may need to become head teachers at some point in their careers. Adding in deputy posts means that the percentage of the cohort needed for leadership positions probably exceeds 25%.

If you factor in specific demands, such as the need to be a Roman Catholic to lead an RC primary school, future leadership issues can already be predicted if the workforce isn’t prepared for leadership.

There are no regional breakdowns for retention in the tables. Such breakdowns would be helpful in predicating the pressures on future leadership appointments at a sub-national level and identifying the areas where there is the need to take early action. Perhaps, the Select Committee might ask for that data next time they talk to the Secretary of State for Education.

Fewer teachers, classroom assistants and technicians

Today is the day that the DfE publishes two important datasets: the results of the 2017 School Workforce Census and the data providing the identification of schools and their characteristics. You can find the details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics?departments%5B%5D=department-for-education

There are a large number of tables to assimilate, but the DfE helpfully publishes what used to be known as a Statistical Bulletin on the School Workforce data at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719772/SWFC_MainText.pdf Now it only has a title.

The headline figure is the reduction in staffing levels almost across the board, whether teachers, technicians or classroom assistants. This is the manifestation of the funding issues facing schools that have been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere. As the DfE note states’ ‘The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%’, between November 2016 and November 2017. The note is not totally accurate, because the figure includes centrally employed teachers, but since there are now less than 4,000 of these the latitude in the wording can be overlooked.

There was also a fall in the number of entrants to teaching, meaning that entrants and leavers were both recorded as at 9.9% of the qualified teaching force. This is the first year for some considerable time and probably since the School Workforce Census has been collected at its present November data that entrants into the profession have not exceeded departures as a percentage of the qualified teacher workforce.

As noted in the previous post on this blog, older applicants were taking more training places as younger graduates seem less interested in becoming teachers. The same trend is visible in the workforce data. Table 7b shows a large increase in departures among teachers in the 25-44 age brackets and especially among the key 25-34 age group where just over 14,000 were recorded as leaving compared with just 10,400 of this age group in 2011. Are we losing the leaders of tomorrow and where are they going? Are international schools tempting them overseas with better pay and easier working conditions?

Although much is made of working conditions and workload, teacher absence rates still continue to fall as Table 16 reveals. There was a one per cent rise in the percentage of teachers taking sickness absence, but the total days lost was the lowest for many a year.

After some years when the match between teachers’ qualifications ad subject expertise had been improving, there was something of a setback between 2017 and 2018 in some subjects. This may be due to the increasing challenge in recruitment into training and can be expected to show further declines in key subjects when the next set of data are published next June. In 2017 among EBacc subjects, only German and ‘other’ Modern Languages saw an improvement in the percentage of hours taught by a teacher with a relevant post A level qualification. Spanish and Chemistry recorded no change.

Now that secondary pupil numbers are on the increase and primary numbers are falling among the entry age groups, it is likely that we will see more rebalancing of the teacher workforce over the next few years. Unless funding improves, it also seems likely that more support staff will also lose their jobs as schools strive to protect teaching posts.

A thank you to Schools of Education

Michael Gove didn’t like Schools of Education in Universities. He effectively set out to reduce their leading role in teacher education and especially their role in training new teachers. He wasn’t alone in that regard among Conservative Secretaries of State for Education. Mr Gove took the decision to create the two School Direct routes – fee based and salaried – to replace the former Graduate Teacher Training Route (GTTP) that had been operating for just over a decade as a replacement for earlier schemes designed to help alleviate teacher shortages; he also decided to allow Teach First to expand.

I recall a meeting in Whitehall with David Laws, when he was Minister of State during the coalition, where I explained that the policy then in operation would have effectively destroyed many higher education secondary teacher preparation courses, especially where they were not under-pinned by a large primary cohort, because they would simply not have been economic to run.

Had all the requests from schools that year for arts and humanities places been accepted, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been considerable changes in the landscape of university provision across England and possibly course and even department closures. Fortunately, increasing secondary pupil numbers and a degree of common sense, plus I suspect a degree of lobbying by others more influential than myself, meant that the doomsday scenario for higher education didn’t come to pass.

So what has happened over the past four years in terms of the percentages of applications via the different routes? The month of May is a good time to consider this question as, although universities and most SCITTs remain open all year for applications, some schools tend to close their books with the end of their summer term. As a result, the data for the end of the year may be skewed in favour of higher education providers. I was also asked the question by a course provider in response to yesterday’s post ‘a sigh of relief’.

So here are the percentages for applications in May over the past four years, as derived from the UCAS monthly data reports.

Primary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 45 48 47
SCITT 8 9 9 10
SDFEE 24 27 25 25
SDSAL 17 19 18 18
Secondary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 47 50 52
SCITT 8 10 11 12
SDFEE 29 31 29 28
SDSAL 12 12 9 7

Source; UCAS Monthly data reports on ITT – percentage of applications

The key point to note is the different position of higher education in the two sectors. In the primary sector, schools have been adding market share in terms of applications every year since 2015, although the School Direct Fee route seems to have stalled this year. Some of the change may be due to the reduction of new women graduates looking to train as a primary teacher, as the decline in their numbers may have dis-proportionally affected higher education providers. It is worth noting that in May 2015 there were just over 49,000 applications for primary courses, compared with just 38,100 in May 2018.

In the secondary sector, as numbers applying have reduced, so higher education has started to regain market share, reaching 52% in May 2018. The big decline is in School Direct Salaried – down from 12% of applications to seven per cent in 2018. Had SCITTs not taken up part of the decline, higher education might now have an even larger market share of the just under 47,000 applications this year. This compares to more than 53,000 applications to secondary courses in May 2015.

Without higher education and its willingness to train teachers and to fight for the right to do so, our schools  might now be in an even worse situation than they find themselves in when trying to recruit new teachers.

it is a salutatory lesson to politicians such as myself that we need to look not only at the immediate consequences of our actions, but also ensure resilience for the longer-term. That isn’t an argument for never changing anything, but for being aware of the consequences of our actions. A new system would have emerged from any collapse of existing higher education providers, but would it have been worth the pain and turmoil?

 

 

A sigh of relief

The UCAS data on postgraduate applications to train as a teacher as recorded for May appeared today. The combination of the arrival of offers affected by the Easter holidays plus the addition of almost an extra week of data compared with last year means the government can breathe a small sigh of relief. On the evidence of this data meltdown has been averted for 2018, except perhaps in music, religious education, design and technology and probably physics.

Overall applicant numbers have recovered to 29,890 in England, still down on last year, despite the extra days and some 10% down on May 2016 applicant numbers, but it could have been worse. The decline is still national in scope, with all regions recording lower applicant numbers than in 2016. The almost 3,000 fewer applicants than last year are also spread across the age groups, although the loss is probably greatest among early career changers in their mid to late 20s. This fact shows up in the further reduction in the number of ‘placed’ applicants compared with those with either ‘conditional firm’ places or ‘holding offers’. By domicile region of applicants, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 2,330 last year to 1,890 this May. In London, ‘placed’ applicants are down from 380 to just 300.  Of course, over the next few months the ‘placed’ number will increase as ‘conditionally placed’ applicants receive their degrees and complete any other requirements needed to move them into the ‘placed’ category.

All routes, apart from applications to secondary SCITTs, have been affected by the reduction in applications. Primary courses have lost more than 6,000 applicants compared with last year and numbers ‘placed’ only just exceed 1,000, with fewer than 10,000 applicants with ‘conditional places’ and a further 700 holding offers. In total, this is barely more than 11,000 potential trainees and marks the continued downward trend for the primary sector.

In the secondary sector, SCITTS have attracted just a couple of hundred more applications than this point last year, but that must be regarded as a success. Applications to School Direct Salaried courses have nearly halved over the past two years, although whether that is a drop in applicants or a decline in interest in this route on the part of schools isn’t clear from this data. At this rate there will be fewer than 1,000 secondary trainees with a salary come September (leaving aside those on Teach First).

Looking at some of the individual secondary subjects, music has just 200 possible applicants with offers of any type, compared with 260 in May 2017. Design and Technology is down to only ten ‘placed’ applicants compared with 30 in May 2017. Even in mathematics, numbers placed or holding offers is little more than 1,500; a new low for May in recent times.

Finishing on a good note, English is doing relatively well, with 1,640 offers, although that still isn’t enough to meet the Teacher Supply Number of just over 2,500 trainees.

Overall, perhaps the sigh of relief might only be a small one at the moment. Let’s hope for better times next month as new graduates that haven’t done anything about a job while studying start to decide how to spend their future.

 

Why the TSM matters

The TSM, or Teacher Supply Model to use its full name, is the mechanism used by the DfE to identify the changes in the labour market for teachers that will determine how many training places will be needed and thus funded in a future given year. It also provides indicative numbers for other years, mostly assuming current policies and other inputs don’t change during the time period under consideration.

For many years the workings of the TSM under its various iterations were largely concealed from public view. However, over the past few years, the outcome of the process and how the numbers were created has been exposed to public gaze. Not that many members of the public have probably taken the opportunity of open government to work through the DfE’s calculations. If you are interested, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-supply-model and immerse yourself in an interesting read.

Why bring this up now. Well, apart for the fact that the TSM for 2019 to 2020 will appear sometime soon, tomorrow is the last day for resignations for teachers wanting to leave their jobs this summer. At that point in time, it is often possible to see how well the TSM has worked. However, in periods where recruitment into training is a challenge and the TSM or any other figure for trainee numbers set by the DfE isn’t reached, the outcome is more complicated.

Nevertheless, if there are still far more trainees than jobs in the recruitment round by the end of May, then something isn’t working as efficiently as it might. There are two subjects where, based upon the vacancy data collected by TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk where I am the Chair, questions might be asked? These are physical education and history. Both are important because students training to be teachers on these courses bear the whole cost of their training through fees and living costs. Should such students have an expectation that the DfE will not create too many training places resulting in a proportion not being able to secure a teaching post in their subject in either a state or a private school?

The over-supply of physical education trainees has been apparent for some time now and many find jobs in other subjects where they are not fully prepared for their teaching timetable. Potential teachers of physical education presumably do their homework before apply to train as a teacher and decide the risk is manageable, since numbers of applicants hold up very well every year.

The situation in history is more complicated. The advent of the English Baccalaureate created an expectation in the DfE TSM modelling process that more teachers of history would be required as more pupils studied the subject at Key Stage 4. How far that expectation has come to pass will be revealed next month when the data from the 2017 Teacher Workforce Census is revealed. However, even allowing for post for teachers of Humanities as well as teachers of History, this recruitment round does not seem to have created enough vacancies to absorb anywhere near the number of trainees.  Indeed, the risk to history trainees looking for a teaching post is now little different to that for physical education trainees in some parts of the country.

I don’t think that this means the DfE should no longer model teacher needs through the TSM, but I do wonder whether its regime should be so market orientated in how it deals with those that want to be a teacher.

 

Frugal innovation

I heard this term used this morning in an interview broadcast on the BBC from the Hay Festival. My first thought was that is exactly what TeachVac has been trying to achieve. The best solution at the lowest price. Next week marks a key point in the 2018 recruitment cycle for schools. Serving teachers must have resigned by the 31st May, in most schools, if they are to leave at the summer and either retire or take up another position. Some may also opt to change to part-time working.

By the end of next week schools will know the shape and size of the challenge facing their staffing arrangements for September. Most will either be fully staffed or perhaps have a last minute vacancy because of the promotion of an existing colleague. A few schools will be facing real challenges in completing their staffing and may be looking to either change the curriculum or find the best fitting person still available in the market.

At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we have provided a free service to schools and teachers for the past four years and alerted thousands of teachers to possible job opportunities. All this has cost nothing to anyone.

Since 2016, the DfE has been engaged in a process of establishing a similar service and the £984,000 contract was awarded in February to digital specialists DXW according to a recent article in SchoolsWeek. This sum is far in excess of the total operating costs of TeachVac since its inception. I don’t regard the DfE’s efforts as a frugal innovation even to meet government IT standards.

There has been changes across the recruitment market in the past two years. The TES has launched a subscription service and from next month SchoolsWeek will revise its recruitment advertising rates and stop its print version https://schoolsweek.co.uk/schools-week-is-changing-were-going-digital-first/ Along with other players such as eteach and The Guardian, as well as many local authorities, these services all charge schools for advertising vacancies.

TeachVac is free and up and running successfully. The DfE site doesn’t appear to have made it into BETA testing before the end of the key 2018 recruitment cycle. Ministers really do need to ask whether they are creating a value for money service and whether a joint arrangement between interested parties from across the education scene might create a better and cheaper option that could be operational nationally from September.

Next week TeachVac will be looking to identify the schools with the most vacancies so far in 2018 and comparing them with their profile on free school meals and attendance measures. I was asked about this at the recent APPG on the teaching profession, held last Monday at Westminster. The DfE won’t be able to answer this question before 2020 at the current rate of progress, whereas TeachVac can do so now. TeachVac can also identify the requirements of schools advertising vacancies in composite subjects such as modern languages – is German dying out as a language being studied – and how bad is the crisis in physics – do schools ever mention the word in their adverts for science teachers? TeachVac has already altered schools to teacher shortages in various subjects and expects to publish more alerts next week.