10 Adverts per school in 2019

The average secondary school has placed 10 adverts for teachers during 2019. The figure is higher for most schools in London and the Home Counties and lower for many schools in the north of England.

The data are from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the leading job boards for teachers looking for posts anywhere in England.

Of course, the average is a crude measure, as it isn’t related to the size of the school in terms of its pupil population. There are schools with more than 2,000 pupils and also at the opposite end of the scale there are those with only a few hundred pupils.

Once the year is over, TeachVac will link the number of vacancies to the pupil roll of the school, as supplied by the DfE in its data, and compare the outcome with indicators such as the percentage of pupils with Free School Meals. As TeachVac has data for several years, it will be possible to start to identify trends and whether there are certain types of school where staff turnover is more common.

Of course, now that the number of pupils entering secondary schools is on the increase, and there are also new schools being established, the picture is not as clear cut as if it were a steady state in relation to the size of the secondary school population.

The data also reveals how the demand for teachers corresponds to the supply, at least for new entrants. Data on returners seeing work is still patchy, and a national register might be a useful tool for the new government to consider.

After all, what is the point of training teachers if there are also returners willing to work as teachers? As I have said before on this blog, enticing mature entrants into teaching and then not offering them work is a wasteful misuse of human resources. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the Humanities.

There are far more history and geography trainees than required by schools. History trainees, unless lucky to be on Teach First or School Direct Salaried Scheme, have to pay fees and find the cost of looking after themselves during their training, all this expenditure with no guarantee of a job.

This year, 2019-2020, according to DfE figures, some 178 history trainees are being supported by public funds (65 on School Direct Salaried Scheme and 113 on Teach First). By comparison, some 1400+ trainees are using student loans and other funds to train as a teacher.

With such over-recruitment into training, it isn’t clear why the government allowed spending on 178 history trainees at a cost of perhaps £400,000 of public money? That’s unnecessary public expenditure. Add in those 130 geography and PE trainees also on salary schemes, subjects where supply of trainees also exceeds demand for teachers, and the cost to the public purse is well over half a million pounds.

The current hybrid system of training teachers looks overdue for a re-think. Whether it will get one from the next government is probably unlikely while planning for Brexit continues to dominate the agenda.

 

No Great Flood: ITT data November 2019

November data from UCAS on applications to postgraduate ITT courses, published yesterday, is always the first data from the new cycle; a cycle that will end next September. As such, the numbers already offered places, holding offers or already placed are small. However, we now have four years of data from November, so something might be inferred about trends from even these small numbers.

Suffice to say, in secondary subjects at least, there is no great change, at the offer level, in most subjects areas, with six of those subjects followed showing higher offers than last year; six lower and three the same. Of course, with rounding and such small numbers, the inferences must be limited.

However, modern foreign languages; music; mathematics; geography; computing and chemistry are all lower than last year in terms of all the offer categories. Of these, mathematics, chemistry and computing will be the subjects where even now there should be a watch on what is happening, because the DfE’s ITT Census, published yesterday, revealed lower numbers this year compared with 2018. In mathematics and chemistry, the Teacher Supply Model number for September 2020 is higher than last year: the mountain peak just became a bit further to climb than last year.

So, what about overall applications? Applications for primary phase courses are down this November on both last year and the year before at 7,980 compared with 9,750 two years ago. In the secondary sector, the number at 9,860 is 50 above this point last year and 700 up on two years ago: so that’s good news at the overall level. But, just taking mathematics as an example, the all states number this November is 830 compared with 930 last year: still well above the 640 of November 2017, but heading in the wrong direction.

As with the ITT Census, it seems as if the trend towards older applicants has continued. More over 30s and fewer early applicants from final year undergraduates and those in the 22 year old age bracket. Applications are down from both men and women; women by just under 400 applicants and men by around 80 applicants, to only 1,950. At this stage, we don’t have the gender breakdown by phase or subject in term of applicants.

In terms of overall applications, there has been a modest increase in applications for Teaching Apprenticeships at the postgraduate level, up from 80 applications to 150. Applications to SCITTs are at similar levels to this point last year, but other routes have seen declines in overall applications. In the case of higher education down from 9,230 two years ago to 7,910 this year. For School Direct Salaried, applications are down from 2,760 last year to 2,360 this year; about the same level as two years ago.

I don’t know whether the strikes in the university sector will affect offers being made to candidates over the next month or so, but it shouldn’t make much, if any, difference to applications since UCAS is the first point of entry.

So, no great tidal wave of applicants this year as the recruitment process opened. The increase in the starting salary and the funds for schools being offered as part of the general election campaign have yet to bear any significant fruits, at least in terms of increased applications for teaching as a career by graduates.

However, it is only the start of the cycle and at this point one must remain positive and hopeful.

 

Regional differences in teacher vacancy levels

By the end of 2019, schools in England will have advertised around 60,000 vacancies for teachers. After removing repeat adverts and re-advertisements, as well as schools now placing rolling adverts on their web sites to attract potential candidates, there will have been somewhere in excess of 50,000 vacancies that schools across England have sought to fill this year. The data comes for TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the largest free site for both schools and teachers in England.

However, anyone seeking a classroom teacher post this year will have discovered that there are important differences between the different regions of England in terms of how easy it has been to find a teaching post.

Percentage of total vacancies for teachers January-October 2019

Region % of Vacancies % of Schools
London 21 16 More Vacancies
South East 21 17 More Vacancies
East England 13 12 More Vacancies
North West 9 12 Less Vacancies
South West 9 10 Less Vacancies
West Midlands 9 11 Less Vacancies
East Midlands 8 8 Same
Yorkshire & Humber 7 9 Less Vacancies
North East 3 4 Less Vacancies

Less Vacancies

Source: TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk (From November onwards vacancies for September 2020 start appearing, as well as a few last minute vacancies for January 2020 as a result of unforeseen events)

There is a clear difference in demand for teachers between London and the Home Counties and the rest of England. London, in particular, has five per cent more of the share of vacancies than its share of schools across England. This is despite London having an above average number of private schools compared with some other parts of England.

How much of the difference in vacancy levels is down to challenges in filling posts leading to higher re-advertisement levels is difficult to quantify without each vacancy having a unique reference number: something this blog has long advocated, and the DfE might want to consider now it has had a year of managing its own vacancy site. Incidentally, the DfE site still only contains a fraction of the number of vacancies found each day on TeachVac. Why the teacher associations haven’t protested at this waste of government money is something I haven’t been able to fathom.

The numbers in the table also suggest that the government’s policy of rewarding excellence in teacher preparation might be sound in one respect, but isn’t delivering the teachers where they are needed by the schools.

The government might need to rethink a policy that doesn’t provide enough teachers for the fastest growing parts of England. If a London Allowance is available for teachers, why is it not available for trainees? Do new graduates joining the civil service or the police suffer the same fate as trainee teachers in London? Even with bursary payments, rates are set at a national level and there is also the need for most to pay tuition fees while in training as a teacher.

 

Some reduction in workload, but not enough

The DfE has recently published the result of the 2019 Teacher Workload Survey, carried out on its behalf by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER). https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/838457/Teacher_workload_survey_2019_report.pdf

From the results, it seems as the high level of publicity given to the term-time workload of teachers has produced results, since teachers and middle leaders report working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016. Senior leaders also reported working fewer hours in total in 2019 than they did in 2016.

Primary and secondary teachers and middle leaders reported spending broadly similar amounts of time on teaching in 2019 as they did in 2016. However, most primary and secondary teachers and middle leaders reported spending less time on lesson planning, marking and pupil supervision in 2019 than in 2016, so the reduction hasn’t come in face to face teaching but in all those other activities that make up the task of a teacher.

Primary teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders were less likely than those in the secondary phase to say that workload was a ‘very’ serious problem. I wonder whether this relates to the fact that secondary classroom teachers have to manage interactions with far more pupils than do their primary counterparts and many senior leaders.

Even with the reduced workload from the last survey in 2016, most respondents reported to the NfER that they could not complete their workload within their contracted hours, that they did not have an acceptable workload, and that they did not achieve a good work-life balance. So, the reduction reported is not enough to create a profession satisfied with its term-time workload.

Interestingly, most teachers, middle and senior leaders were positive about the professional development time and support they receive according to the Report. While I am pleased with this outcome, I do find it slightly surprising. Maybe the bar is set very low in the minds of many teachers these days.

Certainly there seems to be much less leadership development than there was in the past, and the abolition of the National College looks like a retrograde step that may still haunt the profession for years to come unless action is taken to properly develop future generations of school and system leaders. To a great extent, the profession is living on investment from the past, and not looking to the future.

As the report concludes:

with about seven out of ten primary respondents and nine out of ten secondary respondents still reporting workload is a ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ serious problem, it is also clear that there is more work to do to reduce unnecessary workload for teachers, middle leaders, and school leaders.

If the government is to solve the recruitment crisis facing schools, then it has to ensure teaching is a profession that offers not only a good salary, but also a satisfactory work-life balance. On the basis of this report, although progress has been made since 2016, the goal of profession satisfied with its lot has not yet been achieved.

£26,000 for some trainee teachers in 2020

Why should a new teacher of mathematics starting work at one of the best selective schools in England receive a £1,000 a year bonus for staying in the school for up to five years, while a similar teacher starting in a non-selective school anywhere in South East Essex won’t receive this salary boost?

Are house prices higher in Reading than in Southend on Sea? Is the level of deprivation far greater in Reading than on Canvey Island or in Thurrock? Teachers in Bracknell Forest will also be favoured with this extra cash, while their compatriots working in Slough won’t be so lucky.

The government’s recent announcement on support for trainees and new teachers reveals an ever yet more complex scheme as Ministers and officials try to stem the teacher recruitment crisis now entering its sixth year https://www.gov.uk/government/news/up-to-35k-bursary-and-early-career-payments-for-new-teachers

Long gone are the days when DfE officials and Ministers tried to deny there was a crisis building in teacher recruitment and retention. Now, the answer seems to be ‘throw money at the perceived problem’, but still favour EBacc subjects over the more vocationally orientated areas of the curriculum.

Thus, the announcement for trainees being recruited to start training in September 2020 of the following postgraduate bursaries and scholarship.

Postgraduate bursaries and scholarships

Scholarship Bursary (Trainee with 1st, 2:1, 2:2, PhD or Master’s)
Chemistry, computing, languages, mathematics and physics £28,000 £26,000
Biology and classics No scholarship available £26,000
Geography £17,000 £15,000
Design and technology No scholarship available £15,000
English No scholarship available £12,000
Art and design, business studies, history, music and religious education No scholarship available £9,000
Primary with mathematics No scholarship available £6,000

Almost the only subjects missing from the list are physical education and drama. Why classics should merit a bursary of £26,000 when art and design and business studies only merit £9,000 is for Ministers to explain. The level of payment to geography trainees also seems out of line with demand unless the DfE is expecting these trainees to help fill gaps elsewhere, such as a shortage of mathematics teachers.

The School Teachers’ Review Body needs to consider evidence as to how these schemes have been working over the past few years? Is the School Direct Salaried route now ‘dead in the water’ for secondary trainees in the face of bursaries and scholarships that cost schools nothing like the School Direct Scheme?

On the evidence of recruitment into training in 2019, discussed in a previous post, the fact that both mathematics and physics are recording some of their lowest levels of new entrants into training for many years suggests that it isn’t just cash incentives that are needed to attract talent into teaching.

Teacher workload and morale are as important as pay in a labour market where many other employers can offer better conditions of service and more flexible working conditions. Yes, teachers still have a better pension scheme than many, although not as good as when I entered the profession. But, how much of an attraction is this to the average 20-30 year old seeking a career?

By Christmas, it will start to become clear whether these levels of support for trainee teachers are working or whether yet another recruitment strategy might need to be developed in 2020?

 

TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Who wants to be a teacher: changes over time

As we approach the end of the current recruitment round for entry to postgraduate teacher preparation courses, I thought it might be worth looking back at some of the data on the gender of applicants that I have collected over the years.

In 1996, I wrote an article for the then NUT journal, Education Review, in its special number on re-asserting equal opportunities. This coincided with celebration for the 125 years of the NUT. For anyone with access to a library, it was Volume 10 Issue Number 1 of Summer 1996.

It is interesting to see the data about the gender of applicants to postgraduate courses. In 1983, men made up 43% of applicants to PGCE courses. By 1986, the figure had fallen to 36% ,and was also at that level in 1996. By 2018, the UCAS end of year data shows that male applicants accounted for 32% of applicants. This August, in the most recent monthly data available, men accounted for 31% of applicants. By the end of the round it seems likely that the percentage will be similar to that of last year, since men have more of a tendency, at least in many years, to apply towards the end of the recruitment round than do women.

As men have formed a smaller proportion of the applicant pool, so their chance of being offered a place has increased. In 1989, 53% of male applicants were offered a place. By 2018, this had increased to some 62% of male applicants and by August this year the figure for the current recruitment round was standing at 66%. This percentage may drop by the final analysis of the recruitment round as it might include a small proportion of applicants holding or having been ‘offered’ a place by more than one course provider. Still, it shows an interesting trend.

In the days when I wrote the 1996 article, there was considerable data in the public domain about both the ethnicity of applicants and their ages, as well as their gender. Sadly, little is now in the public domain about ethnicity, so we don’t know if some ethnic groups are still being rejected in greater numbers than those from other groups?

We do still know about the age profile of applicants. It is interesting to look at the age profile of applicants in 1993, and the age profile of those applying 25 years later in the 2018 round. (The 1993 data are for England and Wales and the 2018 are for England alone.)

1993                       2018

Under 22             9598                       8060

23-24                     7396                       5510

25-29                     9387                       6050

30-39                     5778                       4640

40+                         2929                       3660

It would appear that teaching still holds attractions as a career for those straight from university, and also those older career switchers in the second half of their working lives. But, teaching seems less attractive to those in their mid to late-20s, now settled into working life. Of course, picking a different year to 1993 might have produced a different result, but this data does provide some food for thought.