Should trainee teachers be job hunting?

Laura MCInerney the teacher turned editor turned commentator, and also a successful businesswoman has been discussing the question of whether trainee teachers will want to apply for jobs since their training having been so disturbed?

As a former teacher trainer, and someone that has spent many years studying trends in teacher supply I have two observations on this question. Firstly, by the end of Term 2 of their preparation most graduates fall into one of three categories; those that can be told that providing that they keep up their momentum they will pass the course and can apply for jobs if they haven’t been snapped up by the schools where they have already been working; secondly, the small group where either the selection process failed or some other factor has intervened to ensure the trainee is highly unlikely to successfully complete the course. Clearly, even in normal circumstances this group won’t be expect to be applying for teaching posts, or if they do, then their reference might not be fully supportive and draw attention to the challenges they have faced. Finally there is a small group not yet ready to be told that they ‘not yet ready to be on track to complete the course successfully’. This group might be helped to identify their needs by a supportive final term , whether to develop those classroom skills or hone their planning or assessment abilities. This group might want to defer applying for a job, but then they would in any other year be likely to be advised to do so.

The anxiety is no doubt over whether the third term learning will take place, but I don’t see why the manner in which trainees adapt to the changed , and the work currently being undertaken, should not be regarded as just as valuable as the normal curriculum of teacher preparation.

No doubt of more concern in the minds of trainees is whether the job market for teachers, that is still operating, albeit at a much reduced pace than normal for late April, will be swamped with returners to teaching that have lost their current source of income? Such is the normal pattern of events in a recession, and schools have to weigh up the value of trainees over the experience either former teachers or teachers returning from abroad can offer.

Because of the risk of an avalanche of returning teachers seeking a teaching post, I would suggest trainees don’t delay making applications and that they cast their net as wide as possible, especially if they are training for the primary sector or are history or PE teachers. Such vacancies may be in short supply and competition will be fierce.

As ever, I suggest using TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk where I am Chairman to search for vacancies. It’s free and as far as England is concerned more comprehensive that the DfE site, as TeachVac contains both state and private school vacancies.

Good luck with job hunting whether you are a trainee looking for your first job; a current teacher seeking to change jobs or a returner for whatever reason.

 

1000 and out?

Seven years ago, in January 2013, I started writing this blog. Over the years the number of posts have fluctuated, as the table below reveals.

Year Total Posts Total Words Average Words per Post
2013 108 72,284 669
2014 121 76,579 633
2015 113 66,337 587
2016 146 83,869 574
2017 164 92,350 563
2018 183 107,223 586
2019 161 88,792 552
2020 4 2,073 537
total 1,000 589,507 590

Source WordPress data

Seemingly, I have become less wordy over the years, with 2019 posts containing around 120 fewer words on average than the 2013 posts. There have been more than 1,000 likes for these posts, and slightly more comments from readers. I am especially indebted to Janet Downs for her many and helpful comments over the years.

Since early 2018, visitors numbers to the blog have started to reduce, and although Christmas Day 2019 saw someone view the whole archive of posts, making it highest day for views ever recorded, the trend has been for fewer and fewer views.

If this trend continues, is it worth my making the effort to write this blog? I started it in 2013 because I was concerned that there would be a teacher supply crisis, and I wanted a platform after writing regularly for the TES for over 10 years, and for Education Journal for a couple of years after that. It is interesting to look back at the discussions over teacher supply during the summer of 2013 that so upset some within the DfE. I would like to be able to predict when teacher supply will no longer be an issue, but on present trends that may not be until the second half of this decade for the secondary sector. There should be less of a problem in the primary sector.

Since 2013, I have established TeachVac, the largest free vacancy service for teachers, and also been elected as a county councillor in Oxfordshire – and, incidentally, stood in three general elections as a candidate– and found time for a range of other activities as well.

So I am conflicted as to whether or not either to continue this blog in its current form or just to sign off at this the 1,000 post? TeachVac continues to expand, listing more than 60,000 vacancies last year, and is already on track for more in 2020, and is consuming more and more of my time. Happily, it remains the largest free job site open to both schools and teachers in England, so is well worth the effort.

With the DfE’s move to take over the application process for graduate teacher preparation being trialed with some providers this year, even that monthly update provided by this blog may become impossible, unless the DfE allow access to the data on at least the same basis as UCAS have done over the past few years.

So, perhaps it’s time for a rest and a search for new horizons. Thank you all for your comments and questions.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Not a bribe, but a gift or Scholarship?

It is difficult to know what to call the payments to teachers of mathematics and physics in parts of the north of England and the Opportunity Areas, announced by the DfE today. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-mathematics-and-physics-teacher-retention-payments

As the DfE make clear in their announcements, these payments are neither part of a teacher’s salary nor an allowance, as they don’t require either the teacher receiving the cash or the employer to pay either National Insurance or tax and presumably are not part of pensionable pay. I am not sure how HM Treasury regards this handout that has similar characteristics to the bounty paid to reservists with the forces.

Paying someone just for teaching specific subjects in particular geographical areas might have unintended consequences. There are some great schools in Harrogate, one of the areas included in the scheme, and I haven’t noticed that the schools in that area have any more challenges recruiting that do schools in London boroughs, so might we see a flight from London to teach mathematics in the Yorkshire Dales and Wolds. Interestingly, the Lake District and deprived Cumbrian Coast is not included in the list of qualifying local authorities. Surely an oversight?

This scheme looks like a blunter form of the Mrs Thatcher’s Schools of Exceptional Difficulty payments of the early 1970s, although that cash went to all teachers in the qualifying schools, but not to other staff.

How biologist and chemists teaching physics at Key Stage 3 will feel about this payment that they won’t receive unless they have the appropriate academic qualification in the subject, even if they have undertaken considerable professional development, is, no doubt, something the teacher associations will have to discuss with their members. Such teachers cannot just stop teaching physics, since head teachers can require staff to teach any subject where timetabling or other reasons require them to do so.

Making this announcement on EU election day does make it seem a bit like a Jo Moore story, one to be buried in the middle of a lot of announcements on a busy news day – the announcements were 12th and 13th down the list issued by the DfE this morning, although The Times newspaper, did carry the story today, so presumably the press was forewarned.

By not making this a salary supplement, the DfE presumably hopes to head off the question of equal pay for work of equal worth from other teachers working alongside the lucky recipients. I suspect head teachers will also want to ensure they can claim for these payments and not have to pay out of existing budgets. There was no mention in either of the government announcements about the mechanics of the scheme other than the statement that ‘details about the application process and the first year payment process will be available soon.’

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will monitor trends in vacancies for teachers of physics and mathematics and report any changes seen. However, the way the scheme will be organised it should not have much immediate impact on the labour market.

 

Business Studies teachers wanted

Schools located in all but four of the London boroughs have advertised for a teacher or business or business studies during the first four months of 2019. If promoted posts are included, the number of boroughs where no advertisement for teachers in these subjects has been recorded falls to just three; all in South London.

London schools account for more than a quarter of the total adverts for teachers in these two subjects so far recorded in 2019. So far, more than 80 schools in the capital’s boroughs have advertised a vacancy for a teacher of business or business studies. Even with more than 70% of the ITT places for courses that started in 2018 being filled, schools may now struggle to attract teachers to fill their vacancies advertised during the rest of 2019, especially where they are not able to offer the Inner London rate of pay. For those seeking a job, negotiations over starting pay may well be in the teacher’s favour.

The number of vacancies in London, where salaries are higher but property not always more expensive than some other parts of the South East, must be a concern for schools only able to pay the national pay scale and funded at that level.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has a wealth of data that is far more comprehensive that the DfE’s vacancy web site and includes analysis of whether a job is likely to have been re-advertised.

Over the coming days, data about vacancies in other subjects will be processed to allow more comments about the current state of the teacher labour market.

Steady as you go is not good enough

Overall applications by mid- April through UCAS were almost exactly the same as at mid-April last year, 25,570 this year, compared with 25,550 in 2018. As a result, there is little new to say. I am aware that there are some that suggest I predict a supply crisis every year, presumably on the basis that I will be correct some years and can forget the others. In fact, during the early years of the economic crisis, I actually stopped writing about teacher supply because there wasn’t an issue and only returned when I felt the tide was turning and government should start to take action.

With two thirds of the current recruitment round now over, I feel able to suggest that the outcome for this recruitment cycle for trainees will be very similar to last year and that will impact on teacher supply in 2020, especially in those parts of England where pupil numbers are on the increase.

So here are my predictions:

There will be an adequate supply of biology, English, geography, history and physical education trainees that will match or surpass the numbers the government think are needed.

Modern Languages, design and technology and chemistry trainee numbers are better than last year, but unlikely to be enough to meet government projections of need.

Business Studies, IT and computing, mathematics, music, physics and art will not recruit enough trainees to meet the projected levels of need identified by the government’s Teacher Supply Model.

There are likely to be enough primary trainees to satisfy the demand even if recruitment of trainees is challenging in some parts of the country.

Of the 40,560 applications for places on secondary training courses so far recorded this year, only 2,540 have been for School Direct Salaried scheme places, and there have only been 290 offers, with just 20 actually shown as ‘placed’. The apprenticeship scheme has not taken off in the secondary sector. Higher Education still accounts for almost 50% of applications for secondary places, although its grip on primary is slightly lower. This is somewhat curious given the nature of the course to train to be a primary teachers as a graduate. It leads me to worry about the skills in mathematics and English that can be taught to such trainees let alone their knowledge development of creative and other subjects. But, perhaps there are many classroom assistants converting to become teachers in the primary total of 32,250 applicants.

Of the 7,350 men that have applied to courses in England, almost two thirds have been offered a place.  The percentage for the younger age groups is even higher, with almost three quarters of those age 21 offered a place. However, that percentage is still lower than the 84% of women in this age group that have been offered a place this year.

There is still time to recruit more trainees in the remaining four months before courses start. There is also the contribution from Teach First whose applicants are not included in these figures. Perhaps that Scheme is having a better year than last year.