Unqualified ‘teachers’

Let me start by stating my position on this important issue raised today by the opposition. In my view, the term teacher should be a reserved occupation term only allowed to be used by those appropriately qualified. Those on an approved training programme aimed at achieving licensed status could be designated as trainee teachers. Everyone else should use terms such as instructor; tutor; lecturer or any other similar term, but not be able to call themselves a teacher.

The data on unqualified teachers that has fuelled today’s discussions comes from the school level information collected through the School Workforce Census (SWC) by the DfE. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 There are two sets of tables in the regional dataset of the SWC for 2016 that are of interest; the percentage of teachers with Qualified Teacher Status and the percentage of unqualified teachers on a route to QTS: presumably either Teach First or School Direct Salaried route, plus a small number of overseas trained teachers or those on other accreditation only routes to QTS.

REGION Teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (%) Unqualified Teachers on a QTS Route as a Proportion of the Total Number of Unqualified Teachers (%)
North East 97.6 15.3
North West 97.4 10.3
South West 96.9 10.3
Yorkshire and the Humber 96.0 9.3
West Midlands 96.0 10.1
East Midlands 95.0 4.4
South East 94.8 14.1
East of England 93.9 9.9
Outer London 92.5 19.0
Inner London 92.4 18.1
ENGLAND 95.3 12.6

The SWC data show as strong correlation between the percentages of unqualified teachers employed by a schools in a region and the difficulty of recruiting teachers in that region. There is a 5.2% difference between schools in Inner London and schools in the North East in terms of the percentage of unqualified teachers employed. If one buys the argument that such staff are employed because of their special skills, then presumably their distribution would be similar across the country rather than showing this marked difference between regions. In London around 6-7% of teachers, and presumably more in terms of classroom teachers, don’t have QTS.

Part of the difference can be explained by the percentage of trainee teachers employed in schools. The range is between 4.4% of unqualified teachers on a QTS route in the East Midlands and 19% in the Outer London boroughs. This goes some way to explain why, in the SWC, 66 secondary schools in London revealed a measurable percentage of unqualified teachers on routes to QTS compared with just 98 in the rest of England. However, these figures obviously underestimate the number of schools involved in QTS preparation. This is due to the suppression of the data in many schools where such trainees were present, but not in sufficient numbers to be reported publically. There are also a number of secondary schools where the data was not reported.

Clearly, with recruitment being an issue, it is always going to be a challenge to recruit enough qualified teachers to staff schools, especially where the school population is growing fast. I am sure that parents expect pupils to be taught by those who understand the job at hand and have been prepared for it by achieving QTS.

There is, of course, a much larger issue that isn’t being addressed by the discussion about qualified teachers and that relates to the degree of subject knowledge required to teach any particular subject. This blog has raised that issue as matter for concern on several occasions. In some subjects, such as mathematics, steps are now being taken by the DfE to ensure post-entry subject knowledge enhancement for those teaching the subject. This may offer a better way forward than just trying to achieve sufficient subject knowledge from all entrants. However, ensuring all entrants are properly trained in the skills associated with teaching and learning should not be negotiable whatever their role in the process might be.



TeachVac issues end of term warning

Schools across England will find recruiting staff for unexpected vacancies in January 2018 challenging. This is the message from TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher vacancies across all schools in England that is already saving schools large sums of money in line with the DfE policy of reducing unnecessary expenditure by schools.

TeachVac is celebrating entering its fourth year of operation. At the end of the summer term of 2017, TeachVac have rated 7 of the 13 secondary subjects it tracks as in a critical state for recruitment. This means that TeachVac is warning schools of recruitment difficulties in these subjects that might occur anywhere in the country and not just in the traditional high risk areas for recruitment.

The high risk subjects are:



Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education



In the other six subjects tracked in detail by TeachVac, most schools will still find recruitment easier, although any specific demands such as subject knowledge in, for example, a specific period of history will always make recruitment more of a challenge. On the basis of current evidence, TeachVac expects schools will face the least problems in Physical Education and Art where, if anything, there is still some local over-supply against need in some parts of the country.

In Science overall, – but not in Physics and possible Chemistry – Mathematics; Modern Languages overall, but not in certain language combinations, and in History, supply should still be adequate to meet expected demand between now and January 2018.  Because most schools still advertise for teachers of languages and science and only specify within the advert the more detailed requirements it takes longer to analyse the data on vacancies in these subjects and that information is not yet fully available beyond the headline figures.

TeachVac can provide the data in a form useful to schools facing Ofsted inspection where recruitment may be an issue for the inspection team. For local authorities and others interested in the recruitment patterns over the past three years in specific locations and between different types of school such as academies and free schools, TeachVac now has a wealth of data available. TeachVac is also now looking in detail as senior staff appointments and especially leadership posts in the primary sector and the challenges some schools face in replacing a head teacher when they leave. The outcome of that research will form the basis of a further detailed report to follow the posts already written on the topic.

With recruitment to training for courses starting this September still below the level achieved last year, 2018 is also beginning to look as if it will be a challenging recruitment round, especially for schools not involved in training teachers either directly or through tie-ins with other training providers. This blog will update the situation regarding numbers offered places for September at the end of this month and again at the end of August.



Bursaries, fee remission or a training salary for all?

Why is paying a bursary to a trainee teacher seem as potentially having a deadweight cost attached to it, but paying a salary to a trainee army or navy officer does not seem to be regarded in the same way? The Education Policy Institute, where ex-Lib Dem Minister David Laws is Chief Executive, has just published at short review paper on teacher recruitment into training and other teacher supply issues https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EPI-Analysis-Teacher_Supply.pdf  The Review say that bursaries are not efficient because, when they are increased in amount, this extra has to be paid to everyone and not just to those extra trainees it would entice into the profession. I seem to recall a parable In Chapter 20 of St Matthew’s Gospel that deals with an analogous situation.

As might be expected by a body whose chief executive was associated with the famous Orange book, this issue of paying the same to everyone reads as if it may be troubling for the authors of the review and they discuss alternative and more efficient scenarios to bursaries, including the student fee forgiveness package promoted in the Conservative Manifesto, but presumably a casualty of yesterday’s funding announcement.

Personally, I favour the situation that brings trainee graduate teachers nearest to their colleagues in other public services, many of whom are paid during training. The EPI review doesn’t address the issue of fairness between the different routes into teaching; indeed it is very thin on a discussion of why higher education is still proving so attractive to applicants and it is the school-based routes that seem to be bearing the brunt of the fall in applications this year.

The other interesting observation in the review is that the pupil teacher ratio in secondary schools will worsen from 14.5:1 in 2016/17 to 16.0:1 by 2026/27. Much of this apparent deterioration will just be a reversal of an improvement achieved while pupil numbers were in decline in the secondary sector and some of the change can be brought about by relatively small changes in group sizes and Key Stages 4 & 5 where periods of generous funding always allow for smaller classes to be operated than in less generous periods for funding. Nevertheless, an expectation of a deteriorating pupil teacher ratio is not a great selling point for attracting new entrants into the profession or retaining those already there.

To me it reads as if the unidentified writer of the EPI review would have liked a real free market in salaries, both between schools and within schools between teachers, as if this had never been the case in the past. Within the tightly managed central control of salaries, (even though funding of schools was at the direction of local authorities), that existed in the post-war period up to the introduction of local management of schools after the great Education Reform Act of the late 1980s, there were marked differentials between promotion opportunities in the primary and secondary sectors and it was easier for teachers in some subjects to achieve additional payments if the school know that they would be difficult to replace. To that extent the market principles of supply and demand probably worked at least as effectively as they do at present.

Indeed, one interesting question is why there hasn’t been a return to the use of recruitment and retention allowances by schools, a favoured device during an earlier recruitment crisis.


Who remembers the OHP now?

The Centre for Education Economics has produced an interesting research digest on the ‘Evidence on uses of technology in education’.  http://www.cfee.org.uk/sites/default/files/CfEE%20Annual%20Research%20Digest%202016-17%20-%20web%20version.pdf?mc_cid=9c5c208670&mc_eid=11bc2206a8

Now, the use of technology isn’t new in education and much technology, such as the cassette tape-recorder, banda copiers and the OHP has come, gone and faded into the memories of those of us of certain ages. Throughout the whole of my life, the problem all too often isn’t the technology, but rather the way teachers and others are taught to make use of it in helping the learning process.

If I was still teaching geography, I guess I would have a string of web sites open on my interactive whiteboard to let pupils watch for a magnitude 6 earthquake; a volcanic eruption and at this time of year the development of hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, all so as to engage all my classes in knowing the dynamics of these natural events and possibly encouraging them to find out more. Today, I would have a web cam streaming live from somewhere in the USA celebrating the 4th July. All this is low level motivational use of technology.

I am convinced that data recording can help play an important part in pinpointing where resources are needed, although all too often teachers are required to create and input the data. The next generation of learning technology should address that issue. Indeed, I wonder whether we should be spending the cash currently expended on research into driverless cars into improving the learning process for those we fail at present in our education system. I always wonder whether, with the development of technology we need, those preparing the next generation of teachers are as open to new possibilities and to enthusing the next generation of teachers to be aware of the way the world is changing as I would like them to be.

I first used a word processor in 1979; it revolutionised the work I could undertake for the dissertation I was researching and eventually writing at that time. From mail merging the letters accompanying my questionnaire, to changing spelling mistakes the day before submission, there were lots of small advantages. However, the real benefit was longer to arrange and rearrange my thoughts and analysis to produce a higher standard of writing that would have been much more challenging to achieve with just pen and ink or that other disappeared piece of technology, the typewriter.

This blog would be possible without the developments in technology and I would only be able to communicate with the outside world if someone, as the TES did in 1998, offered me the opportunity to write a column for their magazine.

Indeed, TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk our free to schools and teachers job board is the product of disruptive new technology that has driven down the cost of communicating teaching posts to the audience seeking them out.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education act, I remain an optimist that technology can improve our lives for the better and reduce the learning deficit some many children still experience, especially at the start of their formal education.

Immediately after writing this post I came across the following BBC video posted today that raises many of the same issues about technology and learning


Well worth a view.

Young graduates still not attracted to teaching in large enough numbers

The good news is that offers for secondary teacher preparation courses aren’t generally any worse than last month. Indeed, in the humanities, the loosening of recruitment targets have probably helped propel offers in history and geography to new high levels. Whether it is fair to  offer places to students to train as a history teacher and take on the extra debt involved when there are likely to be far more trainees than vacancies available in 2018 is a question that presumably everyone involved with teacher preparation is happy to answer in the affirmative. After all, the students know the risk they are running and aren’t callow eighteen year olds fresh from school.

Generally, there must be concern about what is happening to recruitment in the sciences and in particular Chemistry. After several good years recruiting, offers are back to the level last seen in 2013/14, although even that represent an improvement on the situation earlier this year. Hopefully, a significant proportion of those in the unspecified science category are really looking to be Chemistry teachers. We won’t know until the ITT census in the autumn whether or not it is actually the case.

It is undoubtedly the fact that the figure for offers to secondary courses would be far worse if all routes had the same offer to application ratio of School Direct Salaried. This year, just 17% of applicants are currently shown as placed or holding an offer. Last year, the figure at this point in the cycle was 18%. In numerical terms that means a drop from 1,310 last year to just 900 this year, with 740 of those only conditionally placed. By contrast, the School Direct Fee route has a ratio of 22% and SCITTs and higher education have placed or made offers to 28% of their applicants. Indeed, the much maligned university sector has accounted for 6,930 of the 13,150 offers made so far this year: that’s 53% of the total in a sector that was supposed to have been removed from teacher preparation by now under Mr Gove’s school-based training plans. In the primary sector, higher education accounts for just about half of the places and there are more offers for School Direct salaried places than in the secondary sector. However, we don’t know how many of these may be already working in schools in another capacity before transferring onto a teacher preparation programme.

Last month, I raised concerns about the situation in London where offers across both primary and secondary courses now total 4,370 compared with 4,800 at this point last year. Total applicant numbers in England are still below the 36,000 mark, more than 1,000 down on this point last year.

Although there are more 23 year olds applying this year than last, applications from younger graduates  of 21 or 22 still remain below last year and there are fewer career changers in their 30s this year. Last night, I saw two of the Royal Navy TV adverts, but I cannot recall when I last saw a TV advert for teaching: perhaps I am looking at the wrong channels.

With many schools being less likely to recruit applicants over the summer months, despite incentives to do so, the next month is likely to represent the final opportunity to improve on the predicted outcome for this year and a resulting challenging job market in 2018.


Do schools employ teachers with QTS?

What can the School Workforce Census tell us about who is teaching in our schools? At the level of the individual school record there is some valuable data that can be mined by researchers looking to answer specific questions such as those in the newly published NfER study research into staffing and the role of MATs. https://www.nfer.ac.uk/about-nfer/media-and-events/being-part-of-multi-academy-trusts-may-help-schools-in-challenging-areas-to-recruit-and-retain-teachers/

Of course, such a study doesn’t discuss the important policy issue of whether schooling should be like the NHS and governed centrally or as they used to be, under local democratic control: parents could eject their local councillor if the schools wasn’t properly funded or performed badly. They are unlikely to eject an MP on the same grounds.

Anyway, the School workforce Census public tables contains a wealth of interesting material. Take the issue of secondary schools employing Qualified Teachers. Excluding trainees and schools such as Farringdon Academy in Oxfordshire, where there appear to be nil returns, most secondary schools employ teachers with QTS.

GOR % of schools  with less than 90% of teachers with  QTS
North East 6%
North West 7%
Yorkshire & Humber 11%
South West 11%
West Midlands 12%
East Midlands 14%
South East 21%
East England 23%
Inner London 24%
Outer London 25%
Oxfordshire 21%

Source DfE School Workforce Census 2016

What do we know of the schools with less than 90% of teachers with QTS.? Many are specific types of school. UTCs and Studio Schools for 14-18 year olds abound in the lists across the country. Then there are specific schools such as the Steiner Schools where teaching and learning outcomes follow a specific pattern, but there are limited teacher preparation courses leading to QTS. There are also schools with a specific religious character of which Jewish and Roman Catholic schools appear most frequently in the list of schools with less than 90% of teachers with QTS.

Schools also differ in their age profiles. There are over 120 secondary schools where more than a third of the teaching staff are over the age of 50 despite the general trend towards a younger teaching force across the system as a whole. These older teachers are less likely to be found in London schools than in some other parts of England.

Male teachers are also becoming rarer in secondary schools, with none of Oxfordshire’s 11-18 secondary schools reporting a gender balance: all have a majority of female teachers, albeit only a small majority in a few cases.  There is no doubt still something f a general imbalance at the Leadership level.

The School Workforce Census also includes some data on vacancies, but with the collection date in November, when most schools are fully staffed, it isn’t anything like as interesting as the TeachVac site that collects vacancy data throughout the year. TeachVac also has extra data on science, design and technology, mathematics and IT vacancies that can be of use to those interested in information about that group of subjects. We can collect the same detailed information on other subjects and leadership posts as well.





Good news on Mathematics teaching

Is the crisis in mathematics teaching over? According to the data in the 2016 School Workforce Census, if not over, then the problem is at least well on the way to being solved, if you use two important measures for the teaching workforce.

On the basis of the percentage of teachers with no relevant post A -Level qualification teaching the subject, the data for mathematics is the best for many years

2013 22.4%

2014 24.2%

2015 26.3%

2016 22.2%

The 2016 figure is a remarkable turnaround on the 2015 percentage and probably the largest single year change ever recorded. There are similar improvements across many other subjects, with only physics not really following the general trend.

2013 33.5%

2014 36.5%

2015 37.5%

2016 37.3%

The improvement in Physics is only a marginal 0.2% over last year and still far worse than in 2013, although the number of teachers has increased from 6,300 to 6,500, the best level for many years.

To triangulate the data it is worth also looking at the hours taught in a typical week to pupils in years 7 to 13 by teachers with no subject relevant post A-level qualification. This is the measure used last year by the Migration Advisory Committee in their seminal report. The data can be found in Table 13 of this year’s School Workforce Census.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Maths 16 16 18 17 20 18 12.8
Physics 21 24 26 26 28 25 24.6
D&T 11 15 18 17 19 17 14.2
ICT 48 4 41 39 44 38 30.6
English 12 13 15 15 17 13 9.6
Geography 11 16 18 18 17 14 12.5
History 10 13 15 15 15 11 8.6
PE 9 11 12 11 11 7 4

Figures are percentages and come from Table 4.19 of the MAC Report and Table 13 of the 2016 School Workforce Census

So, apart from in Physics, not only has the percentage of teachers with minimal qualifications been reduced, but the percentage of hours taught by such teachers is also down.

However, before everyone becomes too euphoric and proclaims the end of the teacher supply crisis, it is worth noting these are for Qualified Teachers only. It is not clear what impact both the School Direct Salaried and Teach First schemes have on these numbers. The ability of schools to correctly complete the School Workforce Census must also be taken into consideration. Recruitment into training in 2016 and the job market in 2017 may have played a part in helping the improvement as may the work undertaken by the government in mathematics in upgrading the knowledge and skills base of those teaching mathematics.

Whatever the reasons, these figures show an improving trend, although one in eight hours in mathematics taught be a Qualified Teacher with not even an A-Level in the subject is still not good enough. The fact that almost a quarter of Physics lessons are taught by such teachers, let along the hours taught by unqualified and trainee teachers in the subject even after several years of generous bursaries is not a happy situation. It also raises the question of whether the government is paying generous training bursaries to teachers that end up outside of the State school system. If that is the case, a loan forgiveness scheme or even better salaries for teachers in the State system might be better alternatives.

The concern about recruitment into training in 2017 together with the rising secondary school population means that even if the 2017 School Workforce Census produces similar results to the 2016, the 2018 Census may show a return to more concerning outcomes. But, since that won’t be published until 2019 that’s a world away in politics.