TeachVac can offer a solution for free

The House of Commons Select Committee has now produced their report into teacher recruitment and retention. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmeduc/199/19902.htm

After reports by both the National Audit Office and the Migration Advisory Committee in the past twelve months, the Education Select Committee has wisely opted for a tightly focused report. After all, the evidence is well known to everyone interested in the subject.

However, it is interesting that the Committee has opted for the use of the word ‘challenge’ rather than the more emotive term, ‘crisis’. In their choice of language, the Committee might have offered an analysis of when a challenge might become a crisis? Why does missing the supply target five years in a row not constitute a crisis? Is the problem across the county nowhere a regional crisis: not even in Suffolk and parts of Essex? After all, the Committee took evidence for the head of a Southend Grammar School.

Nevertheless, one must not be too critical, the Committee has put the issue back on the agenda and tasked the government to come up with a plan to tackle the shortages. I am sure that the government will rightly point to their proposals to increase skill levels of those teaching the subjects. I think that is an excellent proposal, but it doesn’t do anything to address the suppressed shortages where subjects have been taken off the timetable or had reduce the amount of teaching time because of a lack of qualified teachers. I was also glad to see a reference to primary specialist teachers: a sector where little is really known about the skills base.

As you might expect, I am happy to discuss with officials both the working of the Teacher Supply Model and the operation of a free national vacancy service. I would hand over TeachVac to the government tomorrow if they agreed to pay its operating costs.

Over the past two years, TeachVac has shown how we can both provide high quality data not currently available to government and cut recruitment costs to schools across the whole of England. The evidence is in the TeachVac submissions to the Select Committee for anyone to judge. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmeduc/199/19913.htm#_idTextAnchor027 (links 46 and 47) Perhaps the DfE could broker TeachVac as a part of the College of Teaching offering to the profession?

The section on continuing professional development is also to be welcomed. With a relatively young profession there is a need for much more investment than has been the case in recent years. However, the Committee didn’t really discuss the issue between CPD for the needs of the profession and CPD for the needs of an individual’s career. The development of teachers for pupils with special needs can highlight both aspects of this issue. Why would a school invest in developing the skills of a teacher that will then move elsewhere and how does the profession suffer if they don’t?

The government will now, hopefully, provide a formal response to the Committee and Ministers will certainly be asked about their views when they next meet the Committee. Will the DfE produce a long-term plan by the summer? We must wait and see.

 

The place of people and technology in learning

Last August I wrote a post called ‘Back to the future’ where I discussed a story then doing the rounds about a possible apprenticeship route into teaching. (blog post 22nd August 2016) In the post I discussed Physics as a subject where recruitment challenges might require a new look at how we recruit and train teachers. If you need a higher point score to study for a physics degree than say for a degree in another subject that then allows for entry into a teacher preparation programme, are we artificially curtailing the possible supply of new physics teachers?

This week the think tank Reform has published a study about the future shape of employment in the public sector up to say 2030. http://www.reform.uk/publication/work-in-progress/ Following on from the publication, the Head of Education at Reform tweeted on a twitter account I used last year during the Police & Crime Commissioner elections asking what the institute of Physics (IoP) response was to the apprenticeship route. Teachvac www.teachvac.co.uk (the free recruitment site) was copied in on the tweet, so it eventually reached me.

The answer, Louis, is that I don’t know what the IoP thought, as they didn’t comment to me. As Louis then noted in a later tweet, there is a site for apprenticeships in schools, but such apprenticeships currently only cover support roles. The article in a recent Schools Week about the a speech by the Secretary of State http://schoolsweek.co.uk/greening-promises-qts-wont-be-scrapped-and-7-key-findings-from-her-college-of-teaching-conference-speech/ suggests that any move to create non-graduate teachers won’t find much support. That doesn’t make the apprenticeship idea a non-starter, but calls for an innovative approach. The issue is partly about the minimum level of knowledge, both academic and practical, you need before you can work in a secondary school classroom and how this has changed over the past fifty years.

As the Reform report mentioned teaching and Teach First, there is more of a debate to be had about teaching. I expect Reform will come back to this issue. In one sense the debate is, as elsewhere in the public sector, and as Reform acknowledge, around the issue of teachers and technology. Reform’s thesis seems to be some work will be replaced by technology and jobs will change their skill levels so the number of workers can be reduced. Seen through the other end of the telescope, the views is of fewer, but more skilled workers each being more productive.  My example is the horde of market porters that have been replaced these days by the software engineers writing the code used in the automated warehouse: far fewer, but far more skilled and locatable anywhere in the world, as a recent BBC story about India showed.

With a largely highly skilled workforce in teaching, the issue at one level is, can the government afford to pay for such numbers of teachers as the 3-18 engagement with education demands? As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Liberal government’s requirement for universal state schooling available to all parents that didn’t provide any other form of education for their children there is a real need to debate both the shape and staffing of the schools during the next 50 years.

This was a point I made in my recent talk to the Merchant Taylor’s Company Education seminar (see blog post January 2017) Think tanks can provide a place to discuss new ideas and stimulate debate as can blogs. Is this a debate worth starting about the relative place of people and technology in the learning landscape?

 

 

Counting Jobs

The recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee was full of lots of useful data.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/migration-advisory-committee-mac-report-teacher-shortages-in-the-uk One area of especial interest to me was the analysis the Committee undertook into how the labour market for teachers was functioning. As the Committee has a remit that covers the whole of the United Kingdom and also has to pay especial attention to Scotland, as a result of devolution, it was not a surprise that they commissioned a company that looks at the labour market across all four home nations.

As a result, they used a Boston based company called Burning Glass that studies labour markets across the world. One approach that Burning Glass use is to study the output of job boards as a means of counting vacancies. The results of this for the teacher job market in the United Kingdom can be seen in Figure 4.4 of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report (pages 66 & 67). As the figure notes in the heading, these are figures for teacher job postings.

Now job postings may not be the same as real jobs. There is certainly a possibility that at least some job postings are  actually more of a recruitment tool to attract teachers to sign up to a recruitment agency than the listing of an real vacancy in an actual school, especially when no school is mentioned in the listing. This might be one reason for the apparent uncovering by Burning Glass of what looks like some 4-6,000 job listings in the secondary sector during the August months in both 2015 and 2016, with possibly even higher numbers in the primary sector. I seriously doubt, even across the four nations, whether there were that level of real jobs available in either August 2015 or August 2016.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the recruitment matching service I helped found only counts vacancies that can be attached to an actual school. Our numbers for both July and August 2015 and 2016, albeit only for England, but covering both state-funded and private schools, are very much lower than the Burning Glass totals.

As I have said before on this blog, creating a unique job number for every vacancy that was then attached to the vacancy wherever it appeared until the job was filled and allowed identification of whether the vacancy was removed before being filled or filled by a new entrant, a returner, a teacher changing school (part of the churn), a supply teacher or an unqualified person would provide much needed on-going data to improve the discussion about teacher supply. In this day and age it wouldn’t take very long for any school to keep the records up to date. Indeed, TeachVac could already produce lists of vacancies by school that are able to be annotated with the background of the person that filled the vacancy very quickly and easily.

In the Migration Advisory Committee report it is interesting to note that appendix B provides a detailed conversion factor to change the Burning Glass job listing outcomes into to Office of National Statistics equivalent vacancy rates through a two stage process. At TeachVac we measure the flow of real vacancies posted by schools and our only conversion factor is for re-advertisement rates.

Finally, looking through the Migration Advisory Committee report, I note that in Annex D the number of returners in each subject has been estimated. The total for the three subjects used in Annex D comes to 4,800 returners whereas the total for the whole profession, primary, secondary and special is only shown as 14,000 in the preceding Annex C. So, either these three subjects take up nearly a third of the returner totals or one of the sets of numbers may be less than 100% accurate.

At TeachVac we will continue to develop reporting that aims to provide the highest quality data to help understand the workings of the labour market for teachers in England. With sufficient resources we could, like Burning Glass do the same for the whole of the United Kingdom.

 

500th post

Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. The first posting was on 25th January 2013. By a coincidence this is also the 500th post. What a lot has happened since my first two posts that January four years ago. We are on our third Secretary of State for Education; academies were going to be the arrangements for all schools and local authorities would relinquish their role in schooling; then academies were not going to be made mandatory; grammar schools became government policy; there is a new though slightly haphazard arrangement for technical schools; a post BREXIT scheme to bring in teachers from Spain that sits oddly with the current rhetoric and a funding formula that  looks likely to create carnage among rural schools if implemented in its present form.

Then there have been curriculum changes and new assessment rules, plus a new Chief inspector and sundry other new heads of different bodies. The NCTL has a Chair, but no obvious Board for him to chair, and teacher preparation programme has drifted towards a school-based system, but without managing to stem concerns about a supply crisis. Pressures on funding may well solve the teacher supply crisis for many schools, as well as eliminating certain subjects from the curriculum. In passing, we have also had a general election and the BREXIT decision with the result of a new Prime Minister. What interesting times.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 40,000 or so visitors that have generated 76,000 views of this blog. The main theme started, as I explained in the post at the end of 2016, as a means of replacing various columns about numbers in education that had graced various publications since 1997.

Partly because it has been an interest of mine since the early 1980s, and partly because of the development of TeachVac as a free recruitment site that costs schools and teachers nothing to use, the labour market for teachers has featured in a significant number of posts over the last three years (www.teachvac.co.uk). I am proud that TeachVac has the best data on vacancies in the secondary sector and also now tracks primary as well and is building up its database in that sector to allow for comparisons of trends over time.

I have lost count of the number of countries where at least one visitor to the site has been recorded, although Africa and the Middle East still remain the parts of the world with the least visitors and the United States, the EU and Australia the countries, after the United Kingdom, with the most views over the past four years.

My aim for a general post on this blog is to write around 500 words, although there are specific posts that are longer, including various talks I have presented over the past four years.

Thank you for reading and commenting; the next milestone in 100,000 views and 50,000 visitors. I hope to achieve both of these targets in due course.

Bursaries Matter?

Yesterday, UCAS published the December 2016 data for applications to teacher training courses starting in the autumn of this year. The figures are for graduate courses. The data shows that compared with December 2015, applications for courses to train as a primary teachers were very similar this year to levels seen in December 2015. However, there has been a worrying dip in applications from those under the age of 22 for some secondary subjects. Applications from older graduates are much closer to the figures for December 2015; indeed, applicant numbers from those over the age of 40 were exactly the same as in December 2015.

The worry is around the fact that those under the age of 22 make up around a third of applicants, even at these reduced levels. Now it may be that this is a one month dip that will be rectified next month when the January data is published but, if it isn’t, then there is more concern going forward. This is because we we traditionally see final year undergraduates being more concerned in the February to June period in completing their studies and graduating than in filling in applications forms for life after university.

Another explanation might be that the referees of these students are more dilatory in completing their comments than those from older applicants; but why especially in this round, this year? That theory would have more credibility if all subjects were affected. However, applications are actually up in Physical Education and geography. Both were strong subjects in recruitment terms last year and easily met their national recruitment levels.

More worrying are the declines in applications to courses in business studies, design and technology and even English, some of these are subjects where recruitment has been insufficient for some years. It is interesting that the decline in applications for mathematics, where there are generous bursaries available, is very small, with just a few less applications in 2016 than last year. In physics, the numbers seem lower, but that is complicated by the manner in which UCAS report applications for science courses.

Apart from the observed decline in applications from younger candidates, there seems to be an issue in London where the number of offers made is down by around 30% on December 2015. Now, were are only talking of just over 1,000 compared with 1,400 at the same point last year, but with primary numbers probably holding up, this may mean greater issues with secondary numbers in London.

Could it be that the higher costs associated with studying in the capital, plus the requirement to pay another year of fees at around the £9,000 level with no bursary, is finally having an impact on undergraduate thinking and that the class of 2017 are thinking twice about entering training to be a secondary school teacher where there are obvious alternative careers in the private sector?

One shouldn’t make too much from two months data, but a quarter of a century of studying the numbers does make me uneasy. If the January data revels a three month downward trend, then I will be more concerned.

Subject expertise

The DfE recently published an interesting document about specialist and non-specialist teaching in schools. The original can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/analysis-of-specialist-and-non-specialist-teaching-in-england

The DfE accepts that data collection methods currently mean it cannot link data about pupil outcomes directly to individual teacher’, as is possible in some jurisdictions, including, I believe, some US School Board districts. As the DfE note:

As a consequence of this data limitation, it is not possible to directly evaluate the impact ‘specialist’ teachers have on pupil outcomes by comparing them to ‘non-specialist’ teachers. This report employs a variety of analytical strategies to estimate the impact indirectly using school level data. New analysis of the impact of ‘non-specialist’ teaching presented in this report is therefore based on the proportion of ‘specialist’ teaching calculated at school level.

Now, there is a further difficulty about what determines a specialist teacher and especially the place of un-reported post-entry professional development. This is a direct consequence of the fact that QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) is not linked throughout a teacher’s career to a subject or even a phase of education. Thus a teacher qualified on a PGCE in physical education and with a sport science degree could take a second degree in say, physics, but this would not necessarily be recorded and they wouldn’t receive access to funding for a new teacher preparation course unless there was a specific government re-training initiative.

Some years ago, I looked into who was teaching mathematics at Key Stage 5. Some successful schools didn’t seem to employ teachers with mathematics degrees, but rather those with degrees in other subjects. This didn’t seem to affect examination results. So, an interest and liking for the subject may be an important ingredient in successful teaching, but in some circumstances it may not be enough as standards are raised. I guess I would struggle to teach English even at Key Stage2 now, because my knowledge of the technical underpinning of our complex language is limited, as this blog regularly displays to its readers. However, even with a degree in economics and geography I happily taught geography, including physical geography, for a number of years in a comprehensive school, although even now I am not sure I could still do so as the subject has move don so much since then.

Anyway, back to this interesting DfE report. Using their definitions ,the authors of the DfE report state that:

The available data show that for a suite of subjects the extent of ‘specialist’ teaching in secondary schools in England is comparable or higher than the international averages. The vast majority of hours taught in England to pupils in years 7-13 in most subjects are taught by teachers with a relevant post A-level qualification. In November 2015, the respective proportions were 88.9% for all subjects, 90.2% for EBacc subjects, 89.2% for Mathematics, 91.5% for English, 91.5% for History, 89.0% for Geography, 79.0% for Modern Foreign Languages, 80.2% for Physics, 88.8% for Chemistry and 95.1% for Biology.

This, of course, raises the question, why then don’t we do better at international tests such as PISA? Is it because we do different things. Or, is it that the 10% of teaching not taught be specialists has a disproportionate effect on outcomes?

Table 2 on page 23 of the report provides a useful timeline of changes in percentages of specialist teaching in a typical week. It confirms that in the aftermath of the recession most subjects reached their peak of percentages taught by a specialist. Since 2013/14, possibly due to the start of increased pupil numbers and the falling interest in teaching as a profession, percentages have started to decline in key subjects, most notably in Physics, where, form a peak of 83.3% in 2010/11 there had been a decline to 80.2% in 2015/16.

Table 4 is worth reproducing here in part, as it shows the proportion of hours taught in a typical week in November 2015 to pupils in years 7 to 13 by the highest relevant post A-level qualification of teacher using a matched database of teacher qualifications and the TSM subject mapping.

Subject Degree  BEd PGCE Other None Total
Mathematics 60.6 3.9 20.1 4.7 10.8 100
English 78.2 2.0 7.7 3.7 8.5 100
Any Science 87.3 1.9 5.1 1.1 4.6 100
Physics 66.9 1.8 10.4 1.2 19.8 100
Chemistry 79.2 1.2 7.8 0.6 11.2 100
Biology 86.9 1.3 5.8 1.2 4.9 100
Comb/General Science 90.8 2.1 4.0 1.2 1.9 100

The low percentage for Physics is especially noticeable. Presumably, it is even higher at Key Stage 3. The significant percentage of teachers of mathematics with a degree in a different subject is also worthy of note.

This post cannot do justice to the wealth of information in the report and I would urge those interested in the topic to read the full report as it repays the time taken, but not on Christmas Day.

Banning teachers from work

In the light of the NCTL still seemingly not having published the overall targets for ITT numbers to be recruited for the 2017 entry into the profession, I thought would look at what was on their web site. The ITT data will, I assume, eventually have to come from a parliamentary question at some point in 2017.

Another aspect of the NCTL’s work is to conduct the hearings into misconduct by teachers and report the findings on their web site. If you like, the potential for ending a teacher’s professional life, at least in the United Kingdom. I estimate that there were just over 130 hearings reported so far for 2016; not bad for a profession with 500,000+ active members and a lot more with the right to teach in state funded schools. As a percentage of the profession, the figure is so small as to not be worth calculating.

However, one aspect worth recording is a large discrepancy in the gender of those facing misconduct hearings. Although the teaching profession is now predominantly female, in terms of the active population, misconduct hearings in 2016 related to close to three men for every women summonded in front of a panel. Many hearings are in absentia as the teacher doesn’t bother to attend to learn their fate. In these cases, they often seem to have left the profession, at least in this country. There have been some worryingly ill-prepared statements of facts in a small number of cases. In one case, even a court record didn’t really make sense, although whether that was the fault of the Magistrates’ Court or the case officer wasn’t clear from the judgement.

In two cases, both relating to male teachers, no finding was made as the facts were not proved. In the case of 14 male teachers and 5 women teachers where cases were taken out, the facts were proved, but no Prohibition order was made. In all other case Prohibition Orders were made. Sexual conduct or the viewing of pornography amounted to over a third of the reasons for issuing a Prohibition Order, although in a small number of cases, some historical in nature, no Order was made. The second most frequent reason for issuing a Prohibition Order was as a result of a successful conviction in a criminal case of a teacher. In some instances, this related to matters taking place at a school, in other not. There were a small number of cases resulting from actions to do with tests or examinations, that breached the standards required of teachers. The remaining cases were accounted for as a result of a variety of matters, including misuse of school funds.

Teachers from across the country were issued with Prohibition Orders, although relatively few from the midlands. All the cases relating to alcohol concerned teachers from the same region. Although most cases were of teachers that had worked in state-funded schools, some cases involved teachers that had worked in the private sector.

Clearly, head teachers under pressure and in charge of challenging schools need to be mindful of the extra risks associated with their role, as it is too easy to let the paperwork and attention to detail slip.

Young teachers, need to be aware of the need for appropriate professional boundaries with any pupil, of any age, especially in high risk situations. Beware the School Prom.

No doubt, these cases heard in public are the most extreme in nature and there may be others where a teacher has been warned of their conduct and it has stopped. By publishing the cases, the NCTL allows a body of case law to emerge and also a debate about issues such as where boundaries should be drawn. In all cases the Secretary of State, through a civil servant, has the final say in the outcome.