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.

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£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.

 

Recruiting Teachers – the cost effective option

I am delighted to announce that TeachVac will be adding the small number of vacancies from the DfE site that TeachVac doesn’t already carry to the TeachVac site. These vacancies are mostly either in new schools recruiting for the first time or primary schools in small MATs with a central recruitment page.

As TeachVac also includes vacancies from independent schools, this will make it the most comprehensive site for anyone interested in either applying for a teaching vacancy or interested in what is happening in the labour market for teachers.

As a result, I have written the following piece as an overview of recruitment in what remains a challenging labour market for teachers. You can sign up to Teachvac at http://www.teachvac.co.uk; it free and easy to do.

There are a number of different options for schools and academy trusts seeking to recruit teachers and school leaders. Put briefly, these are:

  • Free sites such as the DfE site and TeachVac (national coverage) and local authority job boards (local and in some cases regional coverage)
  • Traditional national paid for advertising sites such as The TES, eteach and The Guardian.
  • Local paid for advertising via local newspapers and their websites.
  • Recruitment Agencies of various types, including agencies focused on the supply teacher market.
  • Direct marketing to universities and other providers of teacher preparation courses as well as offering vacancies to teachers in schools during preparation courses.
  • School web sites, including the use of talent banking.

Each of these comes with different costs and benefits.

A single point of contact for free advertising of vacancies for teachers and school leaders has been identified by the National Audit Office; the Education Select Committee and in the 2017 Conservative Party election manifesto as the best way forward.

During 2018 and early 2019 the DfE developed and implemented such a product to operate alongside the already existing TeachVac site designed and operated by a company where Professor John Howson, a long-time authority on the labour market for teachers is the chair of the board.

The advantage of the DfE site is that it has the backing of the government. Potential disadvantages include the fact that it requires schools to upload vacancies and that it only handles vacancies from state funded schools and colleges. A minor distraction is that the site also handles non-teaching vacancies mixed in with the teaching posts. Requiring schools to upload vacancies can be both time consuming and also requires training for new staff to ensure that they can operate the system. The information is limited to that required by the site and isn’t easy to alter without informing all schools of the change.

TeachVac uses technology to collect vacancies every day from school websites and then eyeballing to verify their accuracy. The amount of information collected is greater than on the DfE web site.  A potential disadvantage of TeachVac is that it does not allow users to browse vacancies, but requires specification of a set of requirements for the vacancy sought. This approach has the advantage of also collecting data about the level of interest in specific types of vacancies in specific parts of the country. TeachVac covers both state funded and private schools so provides a one-stop shop for teachers seeking vacancies.

Both sites have the advantage of being free to use for both schools and teachers. The DfE site is subject to the need for government funding and TeachVac must fund itself.

All other approaches, save for schools own web sites and direct marketing by schools to teacher preparation courses, are subject to the profit motive and thus have a cost to schools.

The use of modern technology allows for the combination of approaches by schools, starting with the free options and allowing for the best paid-for alternative should the free option not provide an adequate response to a generated vacancy within a short period of time.

Do let me have your thoughts on how you see the future for the market? Will free sites reduce the ability of paid-for sites to attract vacancies? Will the DfE site become the default site or does it lack of breadth mean teachers will want a site offering all teaching vacancies in one place? Will recruitment agencies become the normal route for entry into the profession for newly qualified teachers and returners? Do the Local government Association and the teacher associations have a role to play in the marketing of vacancies to teachers and monitoring the labour market independent of government?

Let me know what you think?

Uncertain Times

One of the consequences of the prorogation of parliament has been the cancellation of the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Teaching Profession that was scheduled for the 9th September. Below is the paper I would have presented to the APPG meeting. The text represents my first look at what might happen to the teacher labour market in 2020.

APPG Labour Market for Teachers: A first look at the outcome for September 2020.

In 2020, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act that brought state schooling to the whole population for the first time in our history.

The job market at the start of September 2019 is probably facing another year where the supply of teachers will not meet the demand, especially in many secondary subjects, and most notably across the South of England. The further North and West in England you move away from London, and in much of the classroom teacher market in the primary sector, there is less pressure overall on supply, but shortages in specific subjects remain, especially for January 2020 appointments.

However, the picture might change quite radically post-Brexit on 31st October. If there is a general slowdown in the world economy in the autumn and through to the start of 2020, as many economists seem to be expecting, this may be good news for schools. Recessions in the past have meant fewer teachers leaving the profession and more seeking to either train as a teacher, as other career avenues recede, or return to teaching as a secure, if not well-paid, profession. Additionally, if demand internationally for teachers from England reduces that may help retain teachers and reduce wastage rates, especially amongst teachers with 5-7 years of experience.

At present, reading the runes of teacher preparation courses starting this September that will provide the bulk of new entrants into the labour market in 2020, the picture is still one of shortages. In mid-August 135 preparation courses in London had vacancies, compared with only five in the North East of England.

As a result of this analysis, there are three possible scenarios for the teacher labour market in 2020:

Continuing shortages

Assuming no changes to the supply situation, and a cash injection into schools that is not entirely absorbed by increased salaries for the existing workforce, then the present supply crisis will continue and could intensify in some subjects and the parts of the country already most challenged by teacher shortages and increases in the secondary school population. This will make it the longest running supply crisis since the early 1970s.

A return to normal market conditions

As the supply of new entrants will be less than required to meet the demands of schools in 2020, this state of affairs is only likely to occur if both the rate of departure by the present workforce slows down and there is an increase in teachers seeking to return to work in state schools. A worsening economic and geopolitical situation, especially in the Middle East and in China might be catalysts for such an outcome, as might less that fully funded salary increase for teachers used as an incentive to help attract more recruits in the future into teaching as a career. In the short-term for 2020, any pay increase would likely attract returners in greater numbers if accompanied by improvements in workload and pupil behaviour initiatives.

More teachers than vacancies

This situation usually only occurs during a significant recession, such as that experienced ten years ago after the financial meltdown. It is extremely unlikely scenario for 2020, unless EU teachers also opt to remain teaching in England post-Brexit rather than return home, and there is a flood of returners to teaching concerned about redundancies elsewhere in the economy and a lack of other job opportunities. Such a scenario would also lead to increased applications for teacher preparation courses making it a more likely prospect for the labour market of 2021 than in 2020.

 

 

Teachers always needed in London

Four out of every ten teaching vacancies in England, advertised between January and the end of July this year, were placed by schools located either in London or the South East. Add in vacancies from the northern and eastern Home Counties, including Essex, Hertfordshire and schools located in a clutch of unitary local authorities and the figure for vacancies comes close to half of all teaching posts. This data come from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the company where I am Chair of the Board.

By contrast, the North East and North West together account for only 12% of vacancies. This increases to 20% if the Yorkshire and The Humber Region is added into the total. Of course, these are smaller regions than London and the South East, but that doesn’t account for all of the difference.

Undoubtedly, the school population is rising faster in London and the Home Counties than elsewhere, both because of the birth rate increase a few years ago and also because of the amount of house building, especially in parts of the South East. Oxfordshire has had three new secondary schools over the past few years, with more to come. This after a period when no new secondary schools were built in the county.

Although Teach First is now a programme spread across England, its influence in London can still be seen. Schools in the Capital generally topped the list for percentage of vacancies recorded by region, but were in second place in terms of the percentage of demand for teachers of English and only in joint first place with the South East in demand for teachers of mathematics, both accounting for 19% of the national total of advertised vacancies.

Another reason demand may be high in London and the South East is the significant number of private schools located in these regions.

Interestingly, ‘business’ in is various forms was the subject where London was further ahead of the rest of the country; accounting for a third of all vacancies advertised so far in 2019. Add in the percentage for the South East and the total for the two regions is more than half the total for the whole of England.

In business, as in a range of other subjects, schools needing to recruit for vacancies that arise for January 2020 are going to find filing those vacancies something of a challenge. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit and the state of the world economy, there won’t be a reserve of newly qualified teachers still looking for work in many subjects. Languages, history and geography within the EBacc being exceptions, although even here there are likely to be local shortages, regardless of the national picture.

Recruiting returners and persuading teachers to switch schools may be the best options for schools suddenly faced with a vacancy, for whatever reason. There will be some teachers coming back from overseas and TeachVac has seen more ‘hits’ on the web site from Southern Hemisphere counties over the past few weeks. But such numbers may only be of marginal help unless there is a really deep global recession.

One option the government might consider is offering teacher preparation courses starting and ending in January as well as September. The Open University used to be very good at offering courses that graduate teachers in time to meet the needs of schools looking to fill their January vacancies.  It might be worth considering such an option again.