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.

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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.

 

Do we need to attract an increased number of older entrants into teaching?

Yesterday, I commented on one aspect of the new Secretary of State’s interview with The Times newspaper. Today, I would like to look at another area he talked about; recruiting older people into teaching. Although recruits into teaching have largely been thought of in the context of young new graduates, there have always been a stream of older entrants into the profession. These older entrants probably fell into two main groups: staff working in schools, either as volunteers or paid staff and those changing careers. The former were probably more numerous in the primary sector, in the past they often consisted of those entering through access courses and a first degree in teaching. Most career changers will have entered either through the PGCE route or via the various employment based routes that once recruited outside the main recruitment envelope, much as Teach First and Troops for teachers still do today. In 2006, there was also the Open University PGCE course that didn’t recruit through UCAS, but was entirely comprised of mature entrants to teaching.

The multiplicity of routes into teaching makes exact comparison over a period of time something of a challenge, as does the fact that UCAS reports the age profile of applicants to the current scheme in a different way to the predecessor GTTR scheme run by the same organisation.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make some broad comparison between say, the 2006 entry onto the GTTR Scheme; a year when applications to train as a teacher were still healthy, and before the crash of 2008, and 2017 applicant numbers for September via the UCAS ITT Scheme. These are not the final figures for 2017, but close enough to be possible to use for comparison purposes, based upon past trends.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – actual numbers

UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 11080 15798
23-24 8570 12699
25-29 9900 15454
30-39 6750 9848
40+ 5400 5095
41700 58894

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The first obvious point to make is that despite the school-based routes (except Teach First and Troops to Teachers) now being included and the Open University no longer offering a PGCE, there has been a drop of just over 17,000 in applicants wanting to train as a teacher. This decline is across all age groupings.

Applicants to postgraduate centrally administered courses – percentages

Percentages
UCAS/GTTR applicants
2017 2006
20-22 27% 27%
23-24 21% 22%
25-29 24% 26%
30-39 16% 17%
40+ 13% 9%
100% 100%

Sources: GTTR Annual Report 2006, Table A4 and UCAS Report A, Applicants September 2017.

The other interesting point to make is that with UCAS being responsible for entry to a greater part of the training market in 2017 than in 2006 and especially the part most likely to attract older applicants their share of the total made up of applicants over 40 has increased from 9% in 2006 13% in 2017. The percentage of those in their 30s has remained broadly the same. Teaching has lost more than 9,000 new graduates in their early 20s wanting to be teachers. In a previous post, I commented that so far this year teaching appeared to be seeing fewer young women applying to be primary school teachers. The loss of that group could have serious implications for teaching in future years, especially as younger teachers usually go on to provide the bulk of the leadership candidates in fifteen to twenty years’ time.

So, Mr Hinds, you many well want to attract older candidates to Teach Next and to the core programmes, but you must not neglect what is happening among new graduates saddled with more than £27,000 of possible debt, even before they enter training. In the case of primary teachers there is little chance of support during training and the debt on another £9,000+ to fund when they start teaching. This is not an attractive deal.

If the UCAS data, to be published next Thursday, shows a dismal January for applications then, now your predecessors have decided to take teacher supply fully into the DfE from April, the buck will stop at your desk. Spending £14 million by the NCTL on publicity and advertising didn’t work last year, so looking for older applicants could be a good idea, because you do need to find something that works.

Solutions needed to ITT crisis

In the early days of the think tank, Policy Exchange, I once wrote a pamphlet for them entitled ‘The labour market for teachers’. This was way back, a decade ago, in 2008 when I was less active for the Liberal Democrats than I am today as a councillor. As a result of this background, I was interested to read the latest piece by John Blake, Policy Exchange’s current head of education and social reform. The piece is entitled ‘The challenges behind the figures on teacher recruitment’. You can read it by following this link https://policyexchange.org.uk/the-challenges-behind-the-figures-on-teacher-recruitment/

Mr Blake doesn’t dispute the figures highlighted in my previous post that emerged from UCAS last Thursday. However, he claims that teaching is still a well-paid profession commenting that ‘given teaching is relatively well-paid on entry and has generous increment increases in the first few years to nearly £40,000 without having to take on any additional management responsibility, it seems unlikely it is the issue for recruitment either. This view stands in stark contrast to the Pay Review Body comments in their 2017 Report that ‘teacher’ earnings have undergone a further deterioration … continue to trail those of other professional occupations in all regions except the North East.’ (STRB, 2017 Report, page 31).

However, Mr Blake isn’t really interested in defending the pay structure, but in raising the oft asked question as to why so many show and interest in teaching, but don’t follow that interest through. For good measure, Mr Blake also attacks the profession for not producing enough teachers from those that do apply. This latter point needs careful attention. But, as to the former, he hasn’t been able to find any numbers and he doesn’t mention whether this is a general trend for other graduate occupations? By focussing on this narrow point, he misses the issues of more concern raised in my last blog that applications are down across the country; across all age groups and from both men and women and even more seriously, by a far larger amount for applicants to train as a primary teachers than as secondary teacher. By all means let us create an index of interest in teaching and see whether it is waxing or waning at the present time. We could also create an expected conversion rate, but that might mean recreating an agency to handle teacher recruitment, something Mr Blake doesn’t even consider.

But, let’s consider the key points Mr Blake makes about not converting applicants into teachers and then not doing enough to help those going through the process. We would benefit from UCAS providing more data on secondary subjects by applicants than just by applications as at present, since applicants can make up to three applications, but we have to manage with what there is available.

In the previous post, I pointed out that ‘So far, ‘placed and applicants holding offers, account for the same percentage of applicants [as in December 2016] at around 58%. Where accepting more than one in two applicants would be acceptable to most Human Resource departments is a matter for conjecture, but it seems a high percentage.’ What percentage does Mr Blake thinks schools and higher education should be aiming for and does he think it wrong for schools to turn down more applicants than higher education?

As to support during their courses, Mr Blake doesn’t offer any evidence either on the scale of loss of trainees in-course or what might be put in place to reduce such wastage? Personally, I would once again pay all tuition fees for all graduates training to be a teacher and pay them all a training grant. If that doesn’t work, then we really will have a problem.

Finally, I would be happy to join Mr Blake in researching just why applications are down for primary school teachers by such a large amount?

 

 

 

Reflections on 2017

This has been an interesting year in education. 2017 started with great anxiety over the proposed new common funding formula for schools. The government’s original version left many rural and small schools out of pocket and losing actual cash. The revised version just left them out of pocket. Indeed, from government data released in December, it seems secondary schools have been dipping into their reserves for the past three years; many primary schools are now having to do so as well.

The other key topic of interest a year ago, the creation of new selective schools, has fallen victim to the unexpected outcome of the general election. Apart from Brexit, it seems any contentious reform is not now being contemplated.

Selection as a topic has been replaced by social mobility as the key goal of government. Unfortunately for many areas, the funds are largely being targeted at key ‘opportunity areas’ that look suspiciously like the Education Action Zones once championed by the Blair government in the 1990s. Smaller pockets of deprivation, as can be found in many parts of the country, seem less likely to attract much if any additional funding above the Pupil Premium and free school meals.

There are worrying signs, including in the Report of the Chief Inspector, that some schools may be actually frustrating social mobility by offering challenging pupils the opportunity to be home educated or on a reduced timetable. Many of the parents do not have the background to challenge these decisions that can blight a child’s possible future almost as much as the alternative of a permanent exclusion.

Although there have been changes in the junior ministerial ranks, the Secretary of State has served throughout the year and is now approaching the point in her tenure when she is in the zone where many politicians find themselves either changing jobs or being removed from office in a reshuffle.

Teacher workload, pay and recruitment have once again dominated the teacher associations concerns during the year that has also seen the creation of a new association, with the coming together of the NUT and ATL.

The dead hand of the revolution initiated by Mr Gove, when he was Secretary of State, still affects schools, especially in the design of the curriculum and examinations where reforms take several years to reach full implementation.

The most worrying outcome of 2017 for schools was that following the general election spat between Labour and the Tories over university tuition fees, some £800 million appeared in the budget Red Book for student fee initiatives. That’s money that could have been spent in schools, FE or early years now diverted to the already most highly funded part of our education system.

So, what of 2018? Might we see a resolution of the academy and maintained school divide? Will the DfE really launch a free vacancy service in time for September 2018 and what will be the response of existing players if they do? How will the DfE save money to pay for social mobility programmes?

Above all, will the teacher supply crisis reach its zenith in 2018 and will the depressing numbers entering teacher preparation courses in September 2017, coupled with increases in school rolls, create a real sense of urgency to do something about the problem?  Perhaps the pressure on school budgets will finally mean secondary schools are really forced to cut teaching posts and the shortage of trainees won’t matter. Time will tell.

Requiem Collegium

So the long journey for teacher recruitment, training and development has finally come full circle. From the establishment of CATE (the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and creation of the TASC unit (originally, Teaching as a Second Career- Lucy Kellaway please note this is not a new idea) in the 1980s, to the brave new world of the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) as an NDPB or Quango in the 1990s and then its successor the TDA, through to the NCTL and the return to being an executive agency of the Department in 2012 (with a Chair but no board), to the final announcement of the re-absorption of teacher responsibilities, except regulation, back into what I assume will be the Teacher’s Branch or Unit of the DfE, the  journey has led us finally back where we started.

In practice, the latest change probably won’t really make much of a difference and, even at its height, the TTA didn’t manage all teacher recruitment programmes. For many years, employment-based routes and the short-lived Fast Track Scheme were outside their remint. Teach First has always operated on a different set of governance rules in relation to the DfE. Ministers will now be directly accountable for the success or otherwise of the annual teacher recruitment campaign and the presentation of data about recruitment. Once the writing was on the wall for the General Teaching Council in England, the return of all teacher matters into the Department was probably only a matter of time.

As a one time employee of the Teacher Training Agency, and a long-time monitor of the working of teacher supply, will I shed any tears over the latest announcement: probably not. There are fashions in government delivery mechanisms, as in so many other areas of life, and the trend has been for simpler and more direct reporting arrangements over the past few years.

If I have a concern about the announcement, it is over the responsibility for professional development and the articulation of what a teacher can expect in developing their careers during a working life of 40 years. It is general knowledge that preparation courses of all types in no way cover everything a teacher needs to know to undertake the basic work of a professional successfully.

To move to new levels and different responsibilities needs more development, alongside the general changes caused by both research outcomes and the march of technology, let alone changes in society. The College of Teaching, when it is fully successful will play an important role, but the Department, with its access to the purse strings, must create policy. It could start with ensuring there is adequate preparation for primary leadership across the country. The dual academy and local authority system of governance, complicated as it is by the extra layer in the primary sector of diocesan schools, needs much more careful monitoring and attention than it has generally received over the past few years in respect of this key development priority.

So long as civil servants continue to take advice and discuss with others the approach to the recruitment, training and development of the teaching profession this move won’t harm the profession. But, it is worth reflecting why the journey was commenced more than 30 years ago.

 

Free for all in ITT

Yesterday the DfE released the results of the operation of the Teacher Supply Model for 2018/19. These results will underpin the number of new entrants into the teacher labour market in September 2019 and January 2020. The suite of documents about the TSM can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tsm-and-initial-teacher-training-allocations-2018-to-2019 where there is also information about the allocations of the ITT places.

This year, yet another methodology is being tried to fill as many of the 19,674 secondary and 12,552 primary postgraduate places the TSM has identified as being required to maintain the overall stock of teachers in the 2019/20 labour market. Firstly, subjects have been protected in the TSM at no less than the number in the previous TSM. This affects biology, chemistry, classics, computing, geography and religious education. In all other subjects there has been an increase in numbers, albeit in the case of history, just an additional 20 places.

The second change has the potential to be more daring and far reaching. Overall the government received 73,100 bids for allocations, including from Teach First, for the 32,226 places identified as needed in the postgraduate sector by the TSM. The government has allowed providers not only to recruit to these places but, as mentioned in an earlier post about the allocations methodology published in September, to recruit beyond the number of places they have been allocated in all except primary and physical education. Even in physical education, where the TSM had an indicative number of 1,078, an increase of 79 places, the cap has been set at 1,300 places. I was provided with a rationale for this state of affairs, but as it was an off the record meeting, I cannot provide that explanation here. Suffice it to say, schools should still be able to use surplus PE teachers to fill vacancies in other subjects for September 2019.

This open enrolment policy is radically different from the rigid recruitment controls policy of a couple of years ago, and marks yet another attempt to fill as many ITT places in as many subjects as possible by trying a new approach. Should either Brexit suddenly cause a hiccup in the economy or a recession appear for any other reason, the government does retain reserve powers to intervene. While I would like the need for intervention to be required, as it would mean sufficient teachers were being for the needs of schools, intervening in the middle of a cycle might have other unintended consequences.

Interestingly, although Teach First can presumably recruit as many entrants as it wants and is able to, its allocations are only for 1,750 places, including 354 primary and 90 early years.

The 4,554 secondary School Direct Salaried places allocated looks an especially ambitious number if the number recruited this year turns out to be little more than 1,000. Generally, higher education and SCITT providers seem to have been more realistic in their application for places, with schools again being enthusiastic about how many places they can fill. Whether applicants will share the same enthusiasm for schools we will start to know from now onward, as applications through UCAS open. This should be another interesting recruitment round.