Fewer teachers, classroom assistants and technicians

Today is the day that the DfE publishes two important datasets: the results of the 2017 School Workforce Census and the data providing the identification of schools and their characteristics. You can find the details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics?departments%5B%5D=department-for-education

There are a large number of tables to assimilate, but the DfE helpfully publishes what used to be known as a Statistical Bulletin on the School Workforce data at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719772/SWFC_MainText.pdf Now it only has a title.

The headline figure is the reduction in staffing levels almost across the board, whether teachers, technicians or classroom assistants. This is the manifestation of the funding issues facing schools that have been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere. As the DfE note states’ ‘The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%’, between November 2016 and November 2017. The note is not totally accurate, because the figure includes centrally employed teachers, but since there are now less than 4,000 of these the latitude in the wording can be overlooked.

There was also a fall in the number of entrants to teaching, meaning that entrants and leavers were both recorded as at 9.9% of the qualified teaching force. This is the first year for some considerable time and probably since the School Workforce Census has been collected at its present November data that entrants into the profession have not exceeded departures as a percentage of the qualified teacher workforce.

As noted in the previous post on this blog, older applicants were taking more training places as younger graduates seem less interested in becoming teachers. The same trend is visible in the workforce data. Table 7b shows a large increase in departures among teachers in the 25-44 age brackets and especially among the key 25-34 age group where just over 14,000 were recorded as leaving compared with just 10,400 of this age group in 2011. Are we losing the leaders of tomorrow and where are they going? Are international schools tempting them overseas with better pay and easier working conditions?

Although much is made of working conditions and workload, teacher absence rates still continue to fall as Table 16 reveals. There was a one per cent rise in the percentage of teachers taking sickness absence, but the total days lost was the lowest for many a year.

After some years when the match between teachers’ qualifications ad subject expertise had been improving, there was something of a setback between 2017 and 2018 in some subjects. This may be due to the increasing challenge in recruitment into training and can be expected to show further declines in key subjects when the next set of data are published next June. In 2017 among EBacc subjects, only German and ‘other’ Modern Languages saw an improvement in the percentage of hours taught by a teacher with a relevant post A level qualification. Spanish and Chemistry recorded no change.

Now that secondary pupil numbers are on the increase and primary numbers are falling among the entry age groups, it is likely that we will see more rebalancing of the teacher workforce over the next few years. Unless funding improves, it also seems likely that more support staff will also lose their jobs as schools strive to protect teaching posts.


A thank you to Schools of Education

Michael Gove didn’t like Schools of Education in Universities. He effectively set out to reduce their leading role in teacher education and especially their role in training new teachers. He wasn’t alone in that regard among Conservative Secretaries of State for Education. Mr Gove took the decision to create the two School Direct routes – fee based and salaried – to replace the former Graduate Teacher Training Route (GTTP) that had been operating for just over a decade as a replacement for earlier schemes designed to help alleviate teacher shortages; he also decided to allow Teach First to expand.

I recall a meeting in Whitehall with David Laws, when he was Minister of State during the coalition, where I explained that the policy then in operation would have effectively destroyed many higher education secondary teacher preparation courses, especially where they were not under-pinned by a large primary cohort, because they would simply not have been economic to run.

Had all the requests from schools that year for arts and humanities places been accepted, there is no doubt in my mind that there would have been considerable changes in the landscape of university provision across England and possibly course and even department closures. Fortunately, increasing secondary pupil numbers and a degree of common sense, plus I suspect a degree of lobbying by others more influential than myself, meant that the doomsday scenario for higher education didn’t come to pass.

So what has happened over the past four years in terms of the percentages of applications via the different routes? The month of May is a good time to consider this question as, although universities and most SCITTs remain open all year for applications, some schools tend to close their books with the end of their summer term. As a result, the data for the end of the year may be skewed in favour of higher education providers. I was also asked the question by a course provider in response to yesterday’s post ‘a sigh of relief’.

So here are the percentages for applications in May over the past four years, as derived from the UCAS monthly data reports.

Primary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 45 48 47
SCITT 8 9 9 10
SDFEE 24 27 25 25
SDSAL 17 19 18 18
Secondary 2015 2016 2017 2018
HE 51 47 50 52
SCITT 8 10 11 12
SDFEE 29 31 29 28
SDSAL 12 12 9 7

Source; UCAS Monthly data reports on ITT – percentage of applications

The key point to note is the different position of higher education in the two sectors. In the primary sector, schools have been adding market share in terms of applications every year since 2015, although the School Direct Fee route seems to have stalled this year. Some of the change may be due to the reduction of new women graduates looking to train as a primary teacher, as the decline in their numbers may have dis-proportionally affected higher education providers. It is worth noting that in May 2015 there were just over 49,000 applications for primary courses, compared with just 38,100 in May 2018.

In the secondary sector, as numbers applying have reduced, so higher education has started to regain market share, reaching 52% in May 2018. The big decline is in School Direct Salaried – down from 12% of applications to seven per cent in 2018. Had SCITTs not taken up part of the decline, higher education might now have an even larger market share of the just under 47,000 applications this year. This compares to more than 53,000 applications to secondary courses in May 2015.

Without higher education and its willingness to train teachers and to fight for the right to do so, our schools  might now be in an even worse situation than they find themselves in when trying to recruit new teachers.

it is a salutatory lesson to politicians such as myself that we need to look not only at the immediate consequences of our actions, but also ensure resilience for the longer-term. That isn’t an argument for never changing anything, but for being aware of the consequences of our actions. A new system would have emerged from any collapse of existing higher education providers, but would it have been worth the pain and turmoil?



Not very ambitious

I understand that the Secretary of State is going to tell the NAHT Conference of another plan for sabbaticals for teachers as part of a retention drive to keep teachers from leaving. Dangling the odd carrot here and there isn’t the same as having a comprehensive policy for the training and development of the teaching profession.

I looked back through this blog and saw what I wrote in a post on the 17th April 2013 – it is still there and readable https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/mrs-thatcher-as-education-secretary/ The post was written following the death of Mrs Thatcher. Her time as Education Secretary, best known for ending school milk also contained the excellent 1972 White Paper from which the following extract is taken:

Teacher Training and Professional Development

The Government propose to work towards the achievement of a graduate teaching profession. During probation teachers should receive the kind of help and support needed to make the induction process both more effective and less daunting than it has been in the past. Also they should be released for not less than one-fifth of their time for in-service training. For the remainder of their time probationer teachers would be serving in schools, but with a somewhat lightened timetable, so that altogether they might be expected to undertake three-quarters of a full teaching load. The Government propose to give effect to the James Committee’s recommendation that teachers should be released for in-service training for periods equivalent to one term in every 7 years of service. It is their aim that a substantial expansion of such training should begin in the school year 1974–75 and should continue progressively so that by 1981 3 per cent of teachers could be released on secondment at any one time. This involves a four-fold increase in present opportunity.

(my emphasis in bold)

Of course apart from the first point it didn’t happen as planned, because the Oil Crisis at the end of 1972 plunged the country into recession and the hamstrung Labour government of 1974-79 wasn’t able to move the ideas forward. But, there were ambitious targets for the whole profession. For much of this century, successive governments have neglected the professional development of the teaching force and much more is need that is currently on offer from Mr Hinds.

I gather that Bath Spa University has also decided to pay a scholarship of £500 to all its students joining teacher preparation courses next September in recognition of the costs of such courses. I applaud this action, but would rather the government returned to a training grant for all postgraduates in training as a teacher. Stand up to the Treasury Mr Hinds and point out that we need teachers and present policies aren’t working. A thriving modern economy depends upon a successful education service and you cannot achieve that end if you fail to recruit enough teachers.

Scap the work on a new vacancy service for teachers and use the cash saved for more support for trainee teachers. Then use the power of the profession and the many organisations within it to create the free service TeachVac has pioneered at no cost to the DfE. That way ‘all could be winners’.


Few teachers from ethnic minorities outside London

According to the School Workforce Survey, in November 2016, just over half of the secondary classroom teachers in London schools were from ethnic minorities. This compared with just five per cent of classroom teachers in the North East of England.

The percentage of teachers from ethnic minorities in London secondary schools only changed marginally between 2010 and 2016, increasing from 52% to 53%, whereas in Inner London primary schools the percentage, although lower, had increased from 40% to 44%. In the North East, the percentages had stayed the same at 5% in secondary sector and just two per cent in the primary sector.  The data comes from the tables in the DfE’s new leadership study discussed in the previous post on this blog. The data reveals the gulf in employment of teachers from ethnic minorities in the different regions of England.

Senior leaders and head teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds are still relatively rare in schools outside of London and parts of the West Midlands. What this study doesn’t highlight is the difficulties some ethnic minority candidates have in even entering the teaching profession in the first place. The now departed NCTL undertook a number of different studies identifying this problem and it is to be hoped that the data from those studies won’t just disappear from sight along with the NCTL.

There is some encouraging data from this DfE study, showing that in 2016 more ethnic minorities were appointed as a percentage than in 2010, except for primary classroom teachers, where the percentage ‘new to post’ remained the same at 12% in both years even though the total stock increased by two per cent over the period to 14%. The percentage of primary places on teacher preparation courses being offered to ethnic minority candidates bears further examination, since many courses are in areas where few such candidates may be applying putting greater pressure on a relatively small number of courses. Such an arrangement can produce a ceiling for the number of ethnic minority candidates that can be accepted if applicants are not spread around the country more widely.

Women continued to make headway in the secondary sector between 2010 and 2016, taking a great percentage of all post up to headships, where there was no change, with a disappointing low figure of 38% in both years. However, in the primary sector the picture was almost exactly the opposite, with women taking a lower percentage of posts in 2016 than in 2010 up to deputy head level. There was a slight increase in the percentage of both deputy and heads that were women in the primary sector between 2010 and 2016, to 80% and 73% respectively.

Not surprisingly, as the retirement boom ran its course, the result was a younger teaching force at all levels by 2016, although, as pointed out in the previous blog post, the length of time required to become a head teacher didn’t decline in the same way as it did between 2010 and 2016 for other promoted and leadership posts.




Is London leading the teacher job market in 2018?

Will the STRB have to take a long hard look at where teachers are needed when deciding how to make the pay award this year? I ask this question because TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the free to use recruitment site that matches vacancies for teachers with applicants, where I am the Chair, can reveal the importance of London in the teacher job market during the first quarter of 2018.

According to DfE statistics, in January 2017, London schools taught some 16% of the nation’s children educated in state-funded schools. The assumption might be that these schools might require a similar proportion of the nation’s teachers.

There are several challenges to this assumption. Firstly, more teachers may be required because pupil rolls are rising faster in London that elsewhere in the country, especially in the secondary sector. Secondly, London, as a region, educates more children in independent schools than other regions. While London accounts for some 16% of children in state-funded schools, it accounts for 26% of those educated privately in recognised independent schools. As such schools generally have smaller classes and larger numbers of post-16 pupils than many comprehensive schools, their presence will probably increase the demand for teachers needed to work in London. TeachVac handles vacancies from both state and private schools. Thirdly, teachers in London may be more prone to either move around or move out of teaching: including going to teach overseas.

So what did TeachVac find during the first quarter of 2018?

Recorded main scale vacancies placed by secondary schools January – end of March 2018

London England % Vacancies in London
Business 110 355 31%
Music 68 244 28%
RE 75 301 25%
Social Sciences 55 227 24%
Geography 142 595 24%
PE 87 382 23%
Science 500 2229 22%
History 92 412 22%
IT 75 358 21%
Languages 195 936 21%
Art 54 278 19%
Total 2379 12423 19%
Mathematics 318 1813 18%
English 274 1566 17%
Design & Technology 62 454 14%
Humanities 16 129 12%

Source TeachVac.co.uk

As far as the levels of vacancies for main scale teaching posts in the secondary sector are concerned, London schools seem to be advertising more vacancies than might be expected, even allowing for the higher than average number of pupils in private sector schools.

The most interesting feature of the table is how it is the smaller subjects where the relative demand is highest in London. In English and mathematics, London’s share of the national vacancy total is possibly even below what might be expected, given the percentage of pupils in the private sector. I think this may be explained by the significant presence of Teach First in London schools and the importance of both these subjects to the Teach First programme. On the other hand, the subjects at the top of the table mostly do not feature so prominently in the Teach First programme: perhaps they should.

April is the key month for recruitment at this grade, and TeachVac has already experienced a bumper start to the post-Easter period, even though many schools are officially on holiday. TeachVac can link every vacancy on its site to a job posted by a school. The TeachVac site contains no vacancies from agencies or other sources, a factor, as the Migration Advisory Committee found some years ago, resulting in an inflation of the figures to a point where they can become almost meaningless. As a ‘closed site’ that only sends jobs to registered applicants TeachVac also cannot be browsed by those wanting to extract a finder fee from schools.

Finally, it seems as if the DfE may launch a trial of their own service later this month. do test TeachVac at the same time and with the same parameters and let me know how TeachVac measures up to the DfE’s millions of pounds of expenditure on the project?



Thank you Sir Ridley Scott

Teaching is the most important of all professions’. Sir Ridley Scott’ in his BAFTA acceptance speech.

I don’t watch the BAFTAs, so this blog post comes curtesy of my sister emailing me that I need to watch the speech. You can find it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0SZSB_5cO4

It lasts just over eight minutes and I recommend you watch it if you are at all interested in the power of education to change lives. Sir Ridley attended a secondary modern school, presumably having failed to pass the examination at eleven for a selective school. He wasn’t successful at academic subjects, but enjoyed woodwork and art. He left with one GCE to attend Hartlepool School of Art where he learnt the difference between teaching and learning. His time at art school was the beginning of the journey to last night’s BAFTA lifetime award at the Royal Albert Hall

Could Sir Ridley Scott flourish in the same manner today on leaving school? It seems unlikely that anyone with one GCSE would be considered for Art College? Would he even receive the encouragement in art and design and technology – the modern replacement for woodwork – that allowed him to enjoy these subjects when he was a schoolboy?

Successive governments have failed to understand the importance of the creative industries to our nation. Their worth, especially in the primary schools, has been consistently eroded in favour of more basic skills in literacy and numeracy. Now, we know English and mathematics are important and good teaching of these subjects is especially important. However, that good teaching should be complimented in the primary sector by the space for good teaching in the creative subjects, sport, the sciences and humanities. A full and rounded curriculum is vital for young children. The challenge for the government is how to create learning outcomes in the basics in the most time effective manner for the greatest number so as still to allow time for all the other purposes of schooling.

I have reminded readers before that I probably wouldn’t be allowed into many sixth forms these days, due to a failure to pass English Language and only a scrapped pass in mathematics. Two years later three ‘A’ levels and a merit pass in the geography Special Paper set me on the start of my career. Had I been turned out of school at sixteen, my life would almost certainly have taken a very different route.

Perhaps the government might want to use part of Sir Ridley Scott’s speech as the introduction to their advertising campaign for teaching as a career. It has echoes of the 1997 talking heads campaign where leading celebrities spoke a name to camera and the end strapline was ‘no-one forget a good teacher’. The current campaign isn’t working and for years has concentrated on the excitement of the classroom. Perhaps it is time for a new approach.

Finally, on the day that the government announces a review of tuition fees, it is certainly time to review the cost of becoming a teacher.

Thank you

A big thank you to all readers. Whether you are one of the regulars or just coming across this blog for the first time, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading these posts. Today is the fifth birthday of this blog. It started on the 25th January 2013 with a post about the level of reserves then being held by schools. In the five years I have been writing the blog it has had 50,000 visitors – this landmark was passed earlier this month – and the 100,000 views landmark will be reached early next month as the total currently stands at 98,668 or just fewer than two views per visitor. The day with the most views was the 8th March 2014, when there was a reference to the blog in a national newspaper.

I think it is reasonable to claim that this blog helped lead the way in terms of highlighting the deteriorating situation in relation to the flow of new entrants into the teaching profession. Because much of my working life was spent in and around the area of teacher supply, it is perhaps not surprising that issues about teacher numbers should have remained a prominent theme across the years.

In August 2013 the DfE was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying what I had written in this blog was scaremongering and based upon incomplete evidence (blog post 14th August 2013, if you want to look it up). It wasn’t then and what I say isn’t now. But, I do sympathise with DfE press officers having to try and come up with an answer when the negative stories appear. The media is less interested in the good news, for instance, when applications increase. The easing of the concerns over maths teacher numbers during 2017 also wasn’t really reported, but that may be an issue of quantity not matching the quality needed?

Along with teacher supply, I have tried to keep an eye on the stories behind the numbers in education; or at least some of them. From rural schools in London to the profit companies make from education there is always something to write about and the blog has now reached more than 650 different posts in its five year lifespan. 130 of the posts have drawn comments and again, my thanks to those that comment regularly on what I have written; my especial thanks to Janet Downes for her insightful comments on many different posts.

Regular readers know that I am a Liberal Democrat politician and have fought two general elections (unsuccessfully) and two county elections (both successful) as well as one election for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner, all during the life of this blog. It is good to have some time off this year; assuming that nothing goes wrong and there isn’t another general election.

This blog is now on its fourth Secretary of State and I predicted the change this January in a post at the end of 2017, before the reshuffle was announced.

My one regret is that schools are still not doing enough to share in the challenge to cut Carbon emissions. My one hope is that someone will come up with an energy scheme that can utilise the vast acreage of school playgrounds that lie unused for more than 99% of the year.

Thank you for reading: my best wishes for the future.