A new Teacher Supply index from the DfE

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s report form the National Audit Office comes the DfE’s Analysis of school and teacher level factors relating to teacher supply. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643974/SFR86_2017_Main_Text.pdf

So hot off the press that the early on-line version still had formatting errors in the table of contents. There is now far more statistical information around about the teacher labour market than at any time since the 1980s although most is about teachers and we need more on leadership turnover. However, as in the 1980s, it is still largely statistics and not management information that is available from the DfE.

I have sent the last forty years, ever since I began counting head teacher turnover in the early 1980s, arguing that management information, what is happening in the labour market now, is at least as important and in some case more important than what happened in the past. This is especially important when trends are changing. If the relaxation of the pay cap attracts more teachers to remain or return in the 2018 recruitment cycle for September 2018 vacancies then we should not have to wait until spring 2019 to discover that fact when the results of the 2018 School Workforce Census will first appear; too late to influence recruitment in 2019.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy service was created to cut the cost of recruitment to schools in a period of austerity, but also to develop tools in real time that the DfE has provided historical data about in today’s report. If for 2017, the DfE publishes the outcome of the ITT census in line with the information in Figures 2.1-2.3 of today’s report, then TeachVac can translate that data into an analysis of the 2018 recruitment round and provide guidance to schools on the local labour market.

The lack of complete data in the School Workforce Census of 2016 from almost a third of secondary schools in London must raise issues with the quality of the data for the capital. TeachVac records more secondary vacancies in London than elsewhere. TeachVac has the data to update the DfE’s supply index for the 2018 recruitment round as a further reams of verification. The supply index needs to take into account future pupil growth and the effects of major policy changes such as the introduction of a National Funding formula and changes to the Pupil Premium. Not to do so makes it less of a policy tool and more of a historical record of what has been happened. In creating TeachVac, the decision was that there was a need for information in real time. That said, the factors identified are not by themselves a surprise, what matters is the need to be aware of what is happening now. The tools are available, as TeachVac has demonstrated, the DfE should not shy away from recognising that now local authorities cannot as easily provide information to all local schools there is a need for someone else to be able to do so. The focus should switch from a statistical unit to one that handles both statistics and management information.



Another small brick in the wall

The National Audit Office published a report today on Retaining and developing the teaching workforce. https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Retaining-and-developing-the-teaching-workforce.pdf Of especial interest to me is the section on the government’s knowledge of the deployment of the teaching workforce and what they are doing to improve matters after the failure of the National Teaching Service pilot last year.

Looking at the list of those the NAO talked to, there was seemingly a complete lack of engagement with the private sector over any of the issues discussed in the report. In the field of most interest to me, the understanding of the labour market for teachers in real-time, something TeachVac,  the free national vacancy service has pioneered, the report comments in para 2.28 that the DfE is developing approaches to improve understanding of local teacher supply, but these are at an early stage.

Well, TeachVac’s are far more advanced than that already and it was disappointing that the NAO didn’t approach us to discuss what can be achieved, especially as we had helped with discussions on their earlier report about teacher preparation. If the NAO had reviewed the evidence to the Select Committee discussions on teacher supply they would have found evidence of Teachvac’s approach and how it helps take the knowledge base forward.

In terms of the first two bullet points in paragraph 2.28, of the NAO Report TeachVac already has the software for the first, covering both academies and other maintained schools as well as a good portion of the independent sector. As an indicative matrix we have used the percentage of ITT trainees matched against jobs advertised in real time. Matched against regional ITT numbers this can provide data at quite local levels to match the growth in school centred teacher preparation courses over the past few years. Despite showing for three years an oversupply of physical education teachers, the DfE has continued to allocate more training places than needed while not training enough in some other non-EBacc subjects.

The section of the NAO Report on deployment is especially weak, as it does not get to grips with the essential question of whether the free market in teaching vacancies should remain. Limited deployment, as the Fast Track Scheme demonstrated a decade ago doesn’t work. What does is deployment into training, as with Teach First, something seemingly ignored in the report. There is also more room to discuss whether MATs with redeployment policies have had any success in moving teachers and leaders where they are most needed?

The NAO carefully downplay pay as a reasons for difficulties in retaining teachers and seemingly make no mention of geographical issues in this respect and whether the outer Home Counties in particular are suffering from a cliff face effect when faced with higher London salaries relatively close by. Workload and school reputation are undoubtedly important, but the NAO didn’t reflect on whether pay is an issue in not recruiting enough trainees over recent years and whether the chaotic mix of incentives on offer can be unhelpful.

The Survey provided some interesting outcomes, but overall there is not a lot new in this report. The Public Accounts Committee should invite those that understand the labour market to comment at their session as well as the DfE when they discuss this report.


Shifting sands

The news that the public sector pay cap is effectively dead in the water should come as helpful news for schools facing recruitment issues. I have already suggested that the use of recruitment and retention allowances could be a way around the present pay cap as it was in previous times of recruitment difficulty. Such measures are often unfair on teachers already at the school, but they also recognise the additional costs of taking up a first job or a new position in a different area.

Of course, the cost of these measures, as I suspect with the relaxing of the pay cap, will no doubt have to come from existing school budgets. I don’t see the government offering large amounts of additional funds to schools when the pupil population is on the rise and that increase has to be paid for regardless of whatever else happens. This may mean larger classes; fewer small optional subjects and the continued encouragement of older and more expensive teachers to consider early retirement so that they can be replaced by younger cheaper teachers that no longer need a guaranteed annual salary increase.  I don’t think the Teacher Supply modelling process has taken this last factor into account and it may be partly why demand has outstripped supply in some subjects.

This blog was one of the first to catch on to the penal management fee the government has inflicted on those with student loans from this month. So, it is also good news that over the weekend there has been suggestions that the government will look again at the 3.1% rate. I hope that they will bring it into line with management fees on other financial products. Even so, many families might still find extending the mortgage on the family home a cheaper option that taking out a student loan.

Reintroducing maintenance grants for those from low income families attending university is also a sensible suggestion. Far more sensible that Labour’s idea of abolishing fees and paying for the university education of those young people whose families have been happy to pay for their education up to that point in time. I know the issue that post eighteen they are adults, but as the recent NUS Report on FE launched by Vince Cable showed, there are more deserving areas of limited government funding than paying for those that have not needed or wanted to use the State for education up to the point of entry into higher education.

The other area the government needs to reconsider is the funding of trainee teachers. The lack of any coherent policy between Teach First, School Direct and SCITTs and university courses is damaging to recruitment. A common policy of fees paid by the government and a training bursary for all graduates is both clear and coherent and worked well after 2002 when it became government policy. It has no more deadweight funding attached to it than any other government employment area where new entrants are paid a proper salary during their training period. The Treasury should be reminded of that fact. It is just that the numbers are so large.  However, cutting wastage through better retention of new teachers means that the scheme could even be self-financing if trainee numbers could be significantly reduced over time.

More news from TeachVac

As we start a new school year, TeachVac, the national vacancy service for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk has introduced the first of its new suite of developments that marks its continued growth. TeachVac is now the largest single source of free teaching vacancies for both schools and teachers in England across both state-funded and private schools.

Supporting the public face of the platform, where schools place vacancies for free and teachers can receive daily notification of vacancies meeting their requirements, is an important back office of statistical information. From today, TeachVac has widened the range of subjects where we collect more than the basic data on vacancies, to include both languages and English. These new subjects join mathematics, the sciences, design and technology, and computing in the list of subjects where additional data about every recorded vacancy is now being recorded.

For many of these subjects, such as the design and technology, the sciences and languages, it allows TeachVac to understand the real aims of schools when advertising generically for a teacher of science or languages. What sciences or combination of languages are these schools really seeking? How much are they willing to pay for particular specialisms? Is there really a growing demand for teachers of Mandarin? Up until now such information hasn’t been easily available. TeachVac now codifies the information on a daily basis. If you are interested in knowing more about the project and exactly what data are being collected then contact the team at TeachVac via the web site. Sadly, unlike the free to use basic vacancy matching service, data requests are not provided free of charge, but involve a small fee.

In addition to data about teaching vacancies at all levels, and in both primary and secondary schools, TeachVac also collects data about technician posts in secondary schools. This can be a good guide to how funding issues are affecting schools, since turnover among these posts tends to be higher than for teachers and resignations are not fixed to the same termly cycle as for most teaching vacancies. This can make them more sensitive to changes in funding an act as a barometer for the market.

As August is the holiday month, TeachVac is delighted to have welcomed visitors from more than 70 countries to the site so far this month; another new record. Overall visits to the TeachVac site have once again doubled over the past year and the trend continues to be upward. In January 2018, TeachVac will publish its first look at trends in the labour market for head teachers. This will continue a trend of such reports first started in the mid-1980s.

Over recent months there has been intense interest in how vacancies are communicated to teachers by schools and how the cost of recruitment can be reduced. TeachVac has a credible free service that costs both schools and teachers nothing to use and has the capacity to save millions of pounds for schools, especially those with large recruitment budgets as a result of both the growth in pupil numbers or increasing teacher turnover as recorded by the DfE in their annual School Workforce Censuses.


A matter of semantics?

Is it headteacher or head teacher? The DfE generally seems to favour the former, as indeed I have always done since I started collecting data about headteacher turnover way back in the early 1980s. However, in an idle summer moment I thought that I would see whether there was any uniformity on the way the term was used? In an on-line search, the Oxford dictionaries and the Collins dictionaries provide a definition using the two words ‘head teacher’ for a school leader, whereas the Cambridge dictionary used the one word headteacher to describe the person in charge of a school. So, no agreement there then. There have been a number of different threads on bulletin boards and other question and answer sites over the years than seem to have come to no definite conclusion. Some now some use terms such as principal instead, and I also wonder if it is generally accepted that headmaster/headmistress seem to belong to a different age?

Whether either to split a word into two in order to describe a position or to use the concatenated version is a relatively trivial issue suitable for discussion in the dog days of summer as we await the deluge of the results season; clearing and the start of the new school term that is fast approaching.

This blog has campaigned, albeit soto voce, for the term teacher, and by extension headteacher, to be a reserved occupation term that can only be used by those accredited by a recognised body such as the General Teaching Councils outside England in the other home nations and the College in England. This could be a morale boost for teachers that would cost the government nothing in relative terms to achieve and would reverse the ‘govian’ notion that anyone can teach as opposed to the fact that anyone can instruct those that want to be taught. Teaching and instruction are not the same occupations, as the Newsom Committee observed more than half a century ago, (in passing it was 64 years last week that Sir John Newsom submitted his report – see blog post – Half our Future) when citing evidence on the issue of teacher preparation from the then Committee charged with discussing the subject. In those days, discussions between civil servants and others with an interest in schooling often took place in advisory committees and were more transparent than today when so much happens behind closed doors.

Anyway, this was a blog about words and not deeds, so to return to the original theme for one last time; should there be a new term for someone responsible for more than one school? I have never liked the term ‘executive headteacher’ especially since it is something of an oxymoron as their role is often strategic and not executive in nature. Historically, the strategic role was that of education officers up to an including chief education officers, but that role became blurred with the creation of Children’s Services under Labour for good, if not always helpful, reasons.

Diocese often still have education officers, perhaps showing how little some have changed despite the revolution in the education world around them. MATs prefer business terms, such as chief executive and, at least like the term education officer, these titles recognise the lack of any teaching in the role. By reminding headteachers of the origin of their role we can hopefully help them to focus on what is still the essential heart of the work of a headteacher: teaching and its leadership in a school.


More post BREXIT confusion

This week the DfE announced a new tender for someone to recruit, train and support overseas teachers in England for the next four years, presumably up to 2022. The information was contained in the teacher Recruitment Bulletin for August https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-august-2017 put out by the National College.

The tender states that the NCTL are seeking a framework of suppliers to assist schools and academies in recruiting, supporting, training and acclimatising international teachers in shortage, priority subjects such as maths, physics and modern foreign languages. The framework will be in place for up to 4 years and will be directly available to schools and academies. The subject list goes wider than that identified as Tier 2 subjects by the Migration Advisory Committee at the start of this year in their report, but does not specifically mention computer science or Mandarin, two subjects added to the list of shortage subjects by the MAC in January along with Science. Whether other language teachers will be able to obtain Tier 2 visas is not clear from the notice about the tender. Whether the use of ‘such as’ is meant to include other priority subjects not regarded as shortage subjects by the MAC also isn’t clear from the announcement.

The Recruitment Bulletin for August also gave further proof of how challenging this year’s recruitment round is into training, offering providers a reminder that:

“You can still request additional ITT allocations for a September 2017 start.

If you’ve already achieved 90% or above of your original allocation, you can request additional places up to 125%. Further requests beyond this increase will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

This offer applies to higher education institutes (HEIs), school-centred initial teacher training providers (SCITTs) and School Direct partnerships in all category one subjects (drama, history and primary, excluding PE and undergraduate courses); it applies to HEIs and SCITTs in all category 2 subjects (art and design, biology, chemistry, English and music), with School Direct partnerships continuing under the same methodology as before.

Please note the 10% tolerance in each subject remains for all allocated subjects, including PE and undergraduate courses, and is in addition to the subjects listed.”

No doubt the relaxation of recruitment rules has already lead to the reported surge in offers in history and geography: the latter reaching new record highs for offers.

In an attempt to keep up the pressure on the government the Sun newspaper has reported that the Labour Party has looked at the time series data in the School Workforce Census and discovered that teacher numbers in secondary schools fell by around 11,000 between 2011 and 2016. Had they probed a bit deeper they would also have noticed that the pupil teacher ratio worsened from 15.6 to 16.4 in the same period, with most of the deterioration being since 2014. How much of the worsening is due to increased pupil numbers not being fully funded and how much by the worsening funding situation is still partly a matter of conjecture but the evidence is mounting of school budgets under pressure.

This will be the sixth year in succession that some training targets are likely to have been missed unless there is a late surge in applications to train as a teacher.





PE trainees find jobs: but what are they teaching?

Last week the DfE published the ITT provider profiles for 2015/16.  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016  The data provides the final look at the cohort that were seeking work for September 2016 and January this year. One of the most interesting tables is the completion rate by subject.

  Percentage awarded QTS Percentage in a teaching post
All Primary and Secondary 91% 95%
Primary 91% 96%
Secondary 92% 94%
of which:    
Computing 84% 92%
Physics 85% 91%
Chemistry 87% 93%
Total Science 88% 93%
Mathematics 89% 92%
Biology 90% 95%
Religious Education 91% 96%
Design & Technology 92% 95%
Geography 92% 97%
Modern & Ancient Languages 93% 92%
English 93% 97%
Other 93% 92%
History 94% 95%
Music 95% 93%
Art & Design 95% 93%
Physical Education 96% 94%
Drama 96% 96%
Business Studies x 91%
Classics x 97%

There seems to be something of a link between subjects where recruitment was challenging and the percentage of entrants awarded QTS at the normal point of completion of the programme. For instance, only 85% of physics trainees were awarded QTS compared with 96% of Physical Education trainees. Now, physics is a subject with perennial recruitment problems, whereas Physical Education faces the opposite situation with many more applicants than places. Indeed, this was the first year where recruitment controls were in place, so that makes the data even more interesting.

The percentages of those in a teaching post must be treated with a degree of caution since a footnote records that: “When calculating the proportion “in a teaching post”, we exclude those with an unknown employment status from those awarded QTS.” SFR page 10. There is also the issue of what “in a teaching post” actually means? It does not mean only fully employed teaching the subject against which you are shown as having trained. Neither does it mean teaching in a maintained school nor even in a school. Once the DfE can link the identification number for a trainee with the School Workforce Census it should be possible to be much more specific in the presentation of the data. In the meantime, it appears as if 94% of Physical Education trainees are in a teaching post compared with only 91% of Business Studies trainees. This is the opposite of the situation shown in the TeachVac data www.teachvac.co.uk based upon an analysis of vacancies advertised by schools. So, either many of the Physical Education trainees aren’t teaching PE in state funded schools or there is a mis-match between vacancies and trainee numbers that needs exploring further if public money isn’t to be wasted on training teachers for non-state funded schools.

The other interesting subject is English. Here trainee numbers were much high than the previous year, but 97% are shown as in a teaching post. This suggests that the complaints of the previous year that the ITT allocations had been too low were fully justified. Looking ahead, the profiles for next year are likely to show similar percentages in employment, but lower numbers having obtained QTS in a range of different subjects.

The DfE are proposing to make changes to the profiles and the Statistical Bulleting invites comments about the new proposals. The proposals seem eminently sensible to me, but still don’t answer the question about where and what trainees are teaching. There also is nothing about Ofsted and their findings of the link between training and employment mooted some years ago as of great importance in measuring quality.