School Direct in trouble in the secondary sector?

The wider world seems to be receiving the message in the Conservative manifesto. At least as far as graduates looking to train as teachers are concerned. The latest data on applications and offers was published by UCAS earlier today.

Offers in geography and history, EBacc subjects, have reached new highs for this time of year, easily exceeding the numbers reached last year and the year before at the same time. At the other end of the Range, for business studies, chemistry, music and physical education, offers are below both last year and the year before at this point in the cycle. In IT the number of offers is the same as last year, but below the year before. In the other subjects tracked, biology, design and technology, English, mathematics, physics, Religious Education, art and modern languages, the number of offer made so far this year is below this point last year, but still above the figure for two years ago at this point in time, albeit in some subjects only just.

Time is running out, with only three months of the recruitment round left before courses commence and less than two months before school start the summer holiday period. This means how new graduates react to the possibility of a career in teaching once finals are over is key to the outcome of the recruitment round and whether some subjects will confront a sixth year in a row of not meeting the government’s identified trainee numbers needed. Frankly, with the present economic climate and demand for graduates, I don’t currently expect a large rush into teaching, even with a vague promise from the Conservatives of some debt forgiveness for those that stay in teaching.

So, how bad is it looking overall? The crisis, to the extent that there is one, is most severe in School Direct in the secondary sector. Offers made for secondary School Direct Salaried route places are down from 1,130 at this point last year to just 730 this year. Of these, only 100 firm placed students are on this route, compared with 160 at this point last year. Uniquely, there are even fewer potential trainees holding offer than last year. Elsewhere, the increase in applicants holding an offer is the one bright spot in a generally dismal picture for secondary training places. Secondary higher education applications have actually increased from nearly 25,000 last year to 25,260 this year, as have applications to SCITTs. The two School Direct routes have seen a drop of round 4,000 in applications. This is a significant decline by any standards.

This blog has remarked on the decline in applications from recent graduates in previous posts looking at the earlier months of this recruitment round. The trends continues, with more than 1,000 fewer applicants under 22 than last year; a drop almost ten per cent from this age group. As this group cannot apply for the School Direct Salaried route it would seem that older applicants are applying to higher education rather than School Direct, although the reason for this trend cannot be determined from the data.

Overall, the assessment must be that School Direct in the secondary sector needs the attention of the in-coming Secretary of State as a matter of urgency. The ideological battle to take secondary teacher preparation away from higher education seems under challenge from the behaviour of the very applicants it was designed to serve. After so many –U- turns, perhaps this is another one that might be worth considering by the new government.

ITT allocations 2017-18

The government has finally published the ITT allocations and associated Teacher Supply Numbers for 2017-18 recruitment onto UCAS recruited teacher preparation courses. This year they have chosen not to reveal allocations to Teach First, although they do say that they will publish recruitment numbers in the ITT census. At the same time the government has also published the Teacher Supply Model (TSM) outcome and methodology for 2017-18 and forward looking implications for teacher supply into the middle of the next decade based upon present assumptions. More of that in a later post.

As far as the TSM for 2017-18 is concerned, there are reductions in the TSM compared with the previous year in Art & Design (not a surprise); Business Studies (probably a mistake based on TeachVac data) and Design & Technology. There are increases in English; Geography; History; Religious Education and Primary. All other subject areas are probably in line with the previous year.

However, and this may have been the reason for the delay in publication compared with previous years, the overall allocations are often wildly in excess of the TSM number as this table revels.

Subject TSM number UG allocations PG allocations Overall Allocation as at 19th February 2017 Allocation as % of TSM
Art & Design 577 0 1216 1216 211%
Biology 1188 15 2339 2354 198%
Business Studies 218 0 762 762 350%
Chemistry 1053 27 2468 2495 237%
Classics 69 0 91 91 132%
Computing 723 139 1924 2083 288%
Design & Technology 917 65 1622 1687 184%
Drama 345 0 440 440 128%
English 2426 75 3763 3838 158%
Geography 1531 12 422 2434 159%
History 1160 0 1393 1393 120%
Mathematics 3102 258 4879 5164 166%
Languages 1514 128 3070 3198 211%
Music 393 20 922 942 240%
Other Subjects 812 0 1404 1404 173%
Physical Education 999 137 1157 1294 130%
Physics 1055 84 3124 3208 304%
Religious Education 643 45 1552 1597 248%
Secondary All 18726 1005 34548 35600 190%
Primary 12121 5667 15468 21135 174%
All 30847 6672 50016 56735 184%

Source DfE allocations published 9th May 2017

As the regional breakdown isn’t easy to determine by subject, it isn’t clear whether the Public Accounts Committee view about regional need has been met in the overall allocations or whether some areas will do better than others.

As we know, the 2017-18 recruitment round is proving challenging, so the over allocations in many subjects are likely to be of little overall importance whatever their regional effects, except that is to the trainees paying out £9000+ for their fees and then competing for jobs next spring.

The 6,335 trainees offered a salaried place with no doubt be alright, as will those with the generous bursaries, but those in the other subjects ought to look long and hard at the cost of training to be a teacher compared with the likelihood of finding a teaching post in 2018 or 2020 for those offered an undergraduate place. Of course, without the Teach First or High Potential Teacher Training route as we must now seemingly call the scheme data, they cannot really know how well the odds of finding a teaching post will stack up next year.

Peak time for vacancies

The period two weeks after Easter usually proves to be the peak of the recruitment cycle for teachers by schools seeking to be fully staffed for September. Vacancies due to promotion have been identified; school rolls for September can be calculated as admission numbers are now known; most teachers deciding to retire or leave the profession for other reasons will have made their decisions known to the leadership of the school and budgets, including Pupil Premium, can be calculated with some degree of certainty.

At TeachVac we are seeing that profile again this year. Indeed, I am somewhat surprised how resilient the job market has been after all the dire pronouncements during the teacher association annual conferences about the lack of funding for schools. However, as I wrote in an earlier post, teaching posts are often the last thing a school will cut when finances are tight. I suspect that the position would also be a lot worse if there hadn’t been such a severe restriction on the growth of the teachers’ salary bill in relation to other costs. Once the line gives way on the 1% per annum pay increase, then that is when teaching posts will come under real pressure, unless there is an injection of more funds.

At least, this year, there are more trainee teachers around than last year and probably than there will be next year, judging by the evidence discussed in a previous post based upon the UCAS data for April. As might be expected, the number of recorded vacancies for business studies teachers has exceeded both the trainee numbers and likely returners, so schools can expect to find that subject difficult to staff for the next twelve months, and probably beyond.

The pool of teachers of English not on preparation courses linked to schools is shrinking rapidly and those schools that have to trawl in the open market, especially in and around London, may increasingly find recruitment a challenge. There should be less of an issue in mathematics, based upon the absolute numbers of trainees, but, of course, there may be issues with quality and depth of knowledge of the subject. At the other end of the scale, there are still plenty of art and PE teachers along with those training to be teachers of IT. Despite the talk of reductions in the amount for time being allocated to design and technology, the supply of trainee teachers has diminished rapidly over the past few weeks, as the pool was not overly large to start with this year.

TeachVac, as the free services to schools and teachers, continues to provide matches on a daily basis to direct teachers to the vacancies, so that schools can know very quickly whether they are receiving expressions of interest. We note at this time of year schools often cut and paste vacancies when placing them on their web sites, and common issues are with out of date closing dates; wrong salary scales and even a mismatch between the headline subject and the details of the vacancy. We advise applicants to check for errors; schools should also mystery shop their vacancy web sites on a regular basis to ensure they aren’t wasting money because of mistakes in the information provided.

Bank holidays for teachers?

The Labour Party’s announcement of wanting to introduce four new bank holidays on Saint’s Days (I thought Corby’s Labour didn’t do religion) is either an attempt to lose the education vote or the parents’ vote.

Either way, if implemented, it would likely harm the education system. Drop 4 days from the education year, reducing it down to 186 and school staff including teachers benefit, unless on term-time only contracts and these are seen as not being term-time days. Parents have to find four more days of childcare if they have to work on bank holidays. Since these days move around, they won’t even create long weekend every year.

However, keep the school year at 190 days and teachers and other workers in schools won’t see the benefits of the extra holidays. This reminds me of my previous post about Labour and pay policies in the 1970s and the effects on teachers working conditions and benefits when non-pay benefits were more important than pay rises.

Labour needs to tell the education community what the announcement means for them, apart from more disruption in November, March and sometimes April as well. I wonder why they Labour didn’t go for celebrating the Tolpuddle Martyrs; Annie Besant’s birthday; Emily Pankhurst Day and perhaps Revolutionary Figures (non-sexist) Day to celebrate those that fought against Empire and oppression around the world. Saint’s Days seem just a bit passé and what we might have chosen as a country to take as holidays before the Reformation.

With an economy that doesn’t boast the best productivity record, adding another four days to the paid holiday calendar doesn’t seen a great way to run the economy either. Perhaps Labour is really thinking of the trade union workers that can charge extra pay for working on bank holidays: do they still have a day off as well? For them, it will be a great bribe to vote for Corbyn, especially if the Conservatives really don’t pledge not to raise taxes in the next parliament.

At least none of these Saint’s days fall within the examination system, so there won’t be the disruption there has been in higher education where the summer term bank holidays all on a Monday. But, perhaps Labour has given up on increasing manufacturing as the solution to our nation’s economic problems post a hard BREXIT and sees the way forward as a dance and skylark economy.

Going down

There was a certain amount of coverage of the UCAS end of cycle report on the 2015/16 application process for graduate teacher preparation courses when it appeared last month.  The UCAS Scheme covers almost all such provision in England except for Teach First.

I find it illustrative to compare the data in the 2015/16 report with 2012/13, the last year of the previous GTTR Scheme that provided for a cascade model of applications rather than the present model where all three applications are considered together.  The current system of applications is much more expensive for both trainees and providers, whereas both models are probably cost neutral to UCAS that charges both providers and applicants a fee.

Anyway, enough comment on the system – you may deduce I am not a great fan of the change – and back to how applications compared with past cycles? In 2015/16 there were 46,000 applicants, of whom 41,400 were domiciled in England. Sadly, we don’t know how many applicants applied to providers in England, a useful but missing statistic if there has been a trend to apply for places in Wales and Scotland. The 46,000, let alone the 41,400 figure for those with a domicile in England, is well below the record 67,000 applicants of the 2010 entry round, but, that number was a consequence of the recession and associated slowdown in the graduate labour market.  However, the 46,000 was also significantly below the 52,254 of 2013 that was itself below the pre-recession figure of 53,931 applicants reached in the 2007 round.

How much further can applicant numbers be allowed to fall before alarm bells start ringing loudly in Sanctuary Buildings? The fact that so far in 2017/18 there has been a further decline must be cause for concern.

Male applicants totalled some 38% of the total, probably in line with recent years and indicating an overall lack of interest in teaching since the fall cannot be attributed to just disinterest from this group. We no longer have data in relation to ethnicity, a sad loss since there was evidence in the past that applicants from some ethnic groups found it harder to secure a place on a course.

Interestingly, after falling as a percentage of all applicants, the percentage of career switchers over the age of 30, when applying, reached 29% of applicants in 2015/16. That suggest a falloff in applications from new graduates, perhaps finally being deterred by the level of fees and lack of support in some subject areas.

I have long campaigned for all entrants to be treated the same and not for the Treasury to hide behind the fiction that because so much teacher preparation takes place in and around universities those on teacher preparation courses should be treated as students, not entrants to teaching undergoing training in a university-led course. A subtle, but not unimportant distinction.

I am sure that the DfE have much more detailed data than that which has been released to the general public, but UCAS should consider reviewing what is available and whether it might be helpful to return to the level of data provided previously by the GTTR Scheme.

No return to pupil teachers

Teaching should be a reserved occupation. You should only be able to call yourself a teacher if you have a nationally recognised professional qualification. Others can style themselves as tutors, instructors, lecturers or even childminders, but not teachers. After all, not just anyone can be a solicitor, doctor, and accountant, or use many other professional titles.

The next question is then: how do you obtain the qualification of a teacher. For most of the past fifty years, it has been accepted in the majority of advanced economies that teachers need both intellectual knowledge up to a certain level, (degree level in England), plus an appropriate preparation course to add to subject knowledge for those teaching in the secondary sector and proof a certain intellectual standard for those teaching younger children a range of different areas of knowledge in order to gain certification as a recognised teacher. So, where do apprenticeships fit into this model?

I have argued that advanced apprenticeships for graduates might not look very different from the existing post-1991 partnership model of teacher preparation, with a recognition of the need to marry time spent in schools with an understanding of how to be successful at managing the teaching and consequent learning of young people. Whether schools or higher education takes the administrative lead is really of little consequence. For most, higher education may be better equipped to handle the process as it is geared up to do so. Large MATs and even dare one say it local authorities operating on behalf of a group of schools may offer a sensible alternative as some of the successful and now almost middle-aged SCITTs have demonstrated. Such graduate apprenticeships might exempt schools from the punitive apprenticeship levy tax they currently face.

So, is there a place for a short course for eighteen year old as apprentice teachers: emphatically not. Any such course would fail the test of sufficient academic and intellectual knowledge and understanding. It is not the place of an apprenticeship to deliver such qualifications. After all, that is why Robbins moved teacher preparation for school-leavers into higher education in the 1960s, as I have pointed out before. To move back the other way would be an unbelievably stupid move. So, is there a route for apprentice classroom assistants that might later convert into teachers by taking a degree while at work? That might be worth discussing, but not unless the term ‘teacher’ has been reserved as otherwise the temptation to blur the edges of who does what is too great for both schools and governments faced with financial problems to ignore.

We cannot ‘dumb down’, to use a once popular phrase, our teacher preparation programme and still expect to achieve a world-class education system. I am sure that Mr Gibb, the Minister of State, will have realised that fact when preparing for his speech earlier this week on the nature of teaching and knowledge. I don’t always agree with him, but learners do need structure and signposting at the early stages before going on to develop their inquiring minds into independent thinkers. They also need teachers educated to graduate level.

 

Talk to APPG for the Teaching Profession

ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSION

MARCH 2017 Meeting

Teacher Supply, the current position, an update by Professor John Howson, Chairman TeachVac

There are three issues that I want to touch on in these brief remarks:

Vacancy rates for September 2017

The supply of new entrants for 2017

Applications for teacher preparation courses starting in September 2017 and consequences for 2018 labour market.

In passing, I will say something about the labour market for head teachers in the primary sector so far in 2017.

Vacancy rates for September 2017

Over the first two months advertised vacancies for secondary school classroom teachers have exceeded the numbers identified during the same period as in 2016 and are closer to the levels seen in 2015.

The largest demand has once again been in London and the counties and unitary authorities surrounding the capital. Demand has been lowest in the north of England and parts of the Midlands.

With so much discussion about funding pressures, the reasons for the increased demand in some regions might include, the upturn in pupil numbers creating a demand for more teachers; increased losses to the profession from wastage of teachers early in their careers; a buoyant independent sector following the drop in the value of Sterling and a re-balancing of the curriculum in favour of EBacc subjects, notably Geography.

The supply of new entrants for 2017

This is largely dependent on the intake last September to teacher preparation courses. With some teachers on these courses likely to fill vacancies in the schools where they are currently working (Teach First and School Direct Salaried trainees) the overall number in training is not the ‘free pool’ of trainees available to the remaining schools seeking to make an appointment. This divergence between the overall trainee numbers and the ‘free pool’ can be significant and is one of the risks associated with a move to an overwhelmingly school-based teacher preparation regime.

At this stage of the 2017 recruitment round that covers September 2017 and January 2018 vacancies, TeachVac has already issued a red alert for business studies. A read alert means that on the current number of recorded vacancies we do not expect there to be enough trainees to fill all vacancies during the recruitment round. In business studies, a non-bursary subject largely ignored by the DfE, we expect the trainee pool to be exhausted before the summer.

The other subject where TeachVac data reveals the potential risk of a shortage is English. We expect to issue a red alert sometime in late April or early May, but it could be sooner if present trends persist. Apart from in art, PE and Music the other core subjects of the secondary curriculum are flagged as ‘amber’ by TeachVac, based upon the current vacancy levels. This means later in the recruitment round some schools in certain locations may experience recruitment challenges and may have to rely more upon returners or teachers moving schools. For schools and MATs that use TeachVac, we update the data on a daily basis so they receive the most up to date assessment when posting a vacancy.

Posting vacancies to TeachVac is free for schools.

The remainder of the talk is available on request from Teachvac