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.

 

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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.

 

How do you teach politics today?

One of the more interesting side effects of what is happening in Westminster, Paris and Washington at the present time, is how those staff teaching politics syllabuses prepare candidates for examinations this summer? Do they a] ignore everything happening at present and assume the status quo ante in terms of what they expect in answers to questions and essays, regardless of what they teach in lessons, or b] do they try and provide students with an understanding that they can convey in their essays when by the time the examinations arrive the situation might yet be different again.

Take the following section from a syllabus published on the internet:

 Parliament and government relationships
  • Accountability 
  • Executive dominance 
  • Elective dictatorship 
  • Bicamera

 The roles of the House of Commons and House of Lords in scrutinising legislation and holding the government to account. The influence of backbenchers, frontbenchers, whips and the Opposition.

Answering that section after the events of the past ten days is going to be interesting, let alone what might happen over the next four months leading up to the examination day. The same is true of the section about ‘The role of parliament in the political system’.

I guess the safe way forwards will be to start any answer with something such as ‘Received wisdom and understanding up to the start of 2019 was …. This is expressed by writers such as …’ and then delve into what has changed if the candidate feels comfortable with being able to explain the new reality.

Earlier today I posed this dilemma to a well-known educationalist and former teacher of politics and was reminded by her that there have been occasions in the past, such as a change of Prime Minister between the setting of the exam paper and the date the examination is taken that can make the expected predicable answer no longer accurate, unless it is place in a historical context.

I guess this is the risk with a subject that deals with contemporary life. Fortunately for economics and business studies examiners, stock market crashes has a greater tendency to occur in the autumn, after the harvest has been gathered in, than at other times of year. Although the same cannot be said for inflation or interest rate changes.

Nevertheless, it is politics lessons that must be the most interesting lesson on the curriculum this week. In higher education, students can often attend courses just out of interest and one wonders whether some sixth formers might want to do so for politics lessons at present. Alternatively, for most it might be a big bore, even though it is up there with Peel and reform of The Corn Laws and the decline of the Liberal Party in the 1920s and the effects of the Great Crash of 1929 in terms of its magnitude as a parliamentary event.

Finally, I understood the term bicameral for a parliamentary system of two chambers, but the syllabus quoted above was the first time I had come across the use of ‘bicamera’ to describe such a system.

 

 

 

 

Teaching as a global career

Should the DfE set up a specific Unit to help teachers trained in England return from working overseas? They might want to work on this with the British Council. Recent data from research organisation ISC suggests that UK private schools are leading the charge into overseas markets, with several new schools established overseas this year alone by schools with headquarters in England. Many of these new schools will have a high percentage of UK trained teachers working in them.

In the past, the international school market was mainly a market serving expat communities, by providing a home country style education that allowed executives to take their families with them on overseas posting. This meant that they were secure both in the knowledge that their children’s education would be protected, and that their children would also benefit from a new set of cultural experiences, together with the opportunity to mix with others from a range of cultures in an increasingly global world.

However, in our increasingly global and digital world, the use of so-called international schools has changed. The pupils in such schools are now predominantly not the children of expats, according to ISC research, but mostly local children of parents than can afford to pay the fees in what are increasingly ‘for-profit’ schools. This raises the question, why should the UK, and England in particular, be supporting the staffing of these schools if we cannot provide enough teachers for our own schools? Making teaching in England more attractive as a career is an obvious way forward, but the DfE should also be examining how difficult it is for teachers that want to return from working overseas to find a job back home. Can more be done to assist these teachers in their quest to return and can more of them be helped and encouraged to return?

This is not an idle question, if the ISC research is correct. Such schools around the world are growing at a rate that will see the number of teachers working in them possibly approach the million mark before the end of the next decade. That’s double current numbers. I have long worried audiences at conferences by pointing out that an entrepreneur wanting to start a chain of new international schools could recruit the whole cohort of NQTs for a particular year. With India now expanding faster than China, and UK Education being highly valued in the sub-continent, the warning signs are there for all to see.

Maybe the DfE should now sponsor a return to teaching in England event in Dubai, a location where there are more than 300 English medium schools, many employing teachers from England. They might do the same event in China and even Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in India and Hong Kong.

I confess to an interest in this issue as TeachVac Global provides a recruitment service to these schools at www.teachvacglobal.com The TeachVac team has seen this growth in demand in the period that the service has been operating. At present TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment site for teachers and schools in England, is separate from the international site, but here is pressure from schools to be able to interact with the large number of teachers in England looking for jobs.

 

Should you train to be a teacher?

This is the time of year when final year undergraduates; recent graduates unhappy with their current lot in life and career changers often start to consider teaching as a possible career.

Teaching in England requires more than half a million graduates to provide an education to all children. Even a low departure rate of around five per cent would require more than 25,000 replacement teachers each year, either through new entrants or by those return9gn to teaching. So, even if the economy goes downhill thanks to trade wars and Brexit, there will still be lots of children to educate.

If you are a potential teacher reading this blog, you can visit the DfE’s advice service for potential teachers at https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/

One of the questions you might want to ask the advice line is, will I find a teaching post where I want to teach and doing what I want to do when I qualify? May, I suggest that if the person answers ‘yes’ to that question, you press them for some hard evidence. After all, the DfE is now running a vacancy web site for teaching posts, so should be able to answer a simple question such as ‘what are my chances of finding a teaching post?’

Unlike many graduate training programmes, only some teacher preparation courses will guarantee those that complete the course successfully a teaching job. Most, however, will require you to take on extra student debt to pay for the course: in some cases this is ameliorated by a bursary payment made tax-free. In other subjects, where the government considers the supply of entrants is sufficient then there is no bursary available. This fact might be a warning sign about job prospects.

Even where there are bursaries, do you want to commit a year of your life to training to become a teacher only to find there are not enough jobs to meet the supply of teachers where you want to teach? Hence the need to quiz the government’s recruitment advisers about vacancies.

If the government cannot answer your question, then local authority might be able to do so, as many still have teacher recruitment services or at least operate job boards and should know something about the local demand for teachers. However, they may not know what is happening in academies in their area, with regard to job prospects for teachers.

You can also ask course providers during any interviews how successful their trainees are at finding jobs and where they find them?

Finally, I recommend you sign up with a job board that can tell you about real vacancies. Beware vacancies not tied to a specific school: the job might not exist. Some schools these days operate talent pools and collect applications even when they don’t have a vacancy. The best make this clear; some don’t.  You can often spot these apparent vacancies by a lack of any starting date and a long period to the closing date with a comment that appointments may be made before the closing date if a suitable candidate appears.

If you want a job board that is free to both schools and teachers and tries to only match real vacancies with teachers looking for those jobs in specific parts of England, then may I recommend TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk This free national vacancy service was established more than four years ago and currently handles more vacancies than any other free service, including that operated by the DfE.  I am happy to be the Chair of its Board.

If you are considering becoming a history teacher, a teacher of PE or of Modern Languages or indeed a teacher of any subject or a teacher working in the primary sector, then signing up when you are considering teaching as a career can provide evidence of the job market that may help you assess the risk of training to be a teacher.

As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be delighted to welcome you to join with many other teachers, trainees and returners already making use of our free service.

Should you have a wish to teacher overseas, then our global site www.teachvacglobal.com  may be able to help you find a teaching post almost anywhere in the world.

 

 

 

Signs of some relief

You can just see the picture from earlier today. A civil servant rushes into Private Office and announces, ‘some good news on teacher recruitment at last!’ There have been 1,000 offers in English over the past two months and the subject is off the danger list, joining geography, history, biology, modern languages and physical education in the category of ‘should meet their targets in 2018, if these numbers are meaningful’.

However, that still leaves a slightly larger group of subjects where accepted applicants to teacher preparation courses won’t be enough to meet predicted need according to the DfE’s modelling process. Time is running out for these subjects and some, such as music and physics, are recording not only levels this month, where the Teacher Supply Model number won’t be met, but the number of offers made are also below the number of offers in July 2017.

Equally of concern is the further drop – compared with 2017 – both in the number of applicants (now down by slightly less than 2,000 on July 2017) and in the number of ‘placed’ applicants.

Although there are more applicants with a ‘conditional place’ than in July last year, there are around 900 fewer ‘placed’ applicants compared with July last year and around 3,000 fewer than in July 2015. This matters, because ‘placed’ applicants are the most likely applicants to turn up when the courses starts. Conditional placed applicants remain slightly more of a risk.

Age Group 2017 2018 Difference
21 and under

430

270

160

22

750

670

80

23

800

690

110

24

640

570

70

25-29

1550

1250

300

30-39

810

720

90

40 and over

610

500

110

All age groups

5590

4670

920

Numbers rounded to nearest ten, so total may reflect that fact.

The decline in ‘placed’ primary applicants in England, to 2,590 from 3,270 is clearly of concern, even though demand for primary teachers may be slackening compared with a couple of years ago as pupil intake numbers start to decline, mostly due to the fall in the birth rate since 2013.

There are only around 60 recorded ‘placed’ candidates in physics this year, compared to around 80 in July 2017. Even in history, ‘placed’ numbers are down from around 280 to around 240 this year. However, there 410 ‘placed’ candidates in biology compared with around 160 last year. This is another rare bit of good news and even figure is partly balanced by a decline in the number of ‘placed’ applicants in ‘science’.

The STRB Report, published earlier this week, showed a decline in the percentage of trainees on School Direct courses in 2017/18 over the previous year. In terms of ‘placed’ applicants, that decline has continued, with School Direct numbers of ‘placed’ candidates on Primary phase courses down from 1,270 to 1,060 and for Secondary phase courses, down from 1,000 to 790, with only around 130 ‘placed’ applicants on School Direct Salaried secondary courses in July this year. By contrast, placed applicants on Secondary phase courses in higher education are actually up this year compared with July 2017, from around 1,340 to around 1,390: another welcome piece of good news. Higher education courses also have more conditionally placed applicants than in July 2017 in the secondary phase, but not in the primary phase.

As we approach the summer season and the start of courses in less than two months’ time, 2018 looks like being another challenging recruitment round and it is possible that the 29th STRB Report in 2019 will have to record the seventh straight year that recruitment targets were not met. Of course, Brexit might change all that: only time will tell.