Am MIS system for teachers?

Does the government need a Management Information System (MIS) for teachers? In the past the answer was obviously no, as teachers were employed by schools operated by local authorities, diocese or various charities, including some London livery company foundations. The government needed a register of Qualified Teachers, not least so it has something to bar miscreants from that prevented them working as teachers, but presumably not as always calling themselves teachers, since ‘teacher’ isn’t a reserved occupation term that can be only used by appropriately qualified professionals. However, a barred teacher might still be guilty of an offence, such as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’, if they held themselves out to be a teacher when on the barred list.

But, I digress from the question of whether the government needs an MIS system? It clearly also need to know who are members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and their service record, but again, that isn’t an MIS system.

What the government does have, in place of an MIS system, is the School Workforce Census, taken annually in November that records teachers currently in service. Since the mistaken abolition of the General Teaching Council for England, in the bonfire of the QUANGOs that also saw several other useful bodies disappear for little good reason, it hasn’t had a registration scheme to track both current teachers and those that might possibly be available at some point in the future to the profession, although it knows the number of ‘out of service’ teachers not working in state-funded schools.

Now, as can be seen by the manner in which the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model uses the School Workforce Census data for planning purposes, what data there is can be helpful to government in managing the future shape of the workforce. However, it is always out of date and backward looking. As a result, unlike a good MIS system, it cannot spot changes that might be vital for future planning as they happen in real time, and certainly not as early as the end of the recruitment round for September of any year.

Just to provide one example; how is the battle between tighter resources for schools and the growth in secondary school pupil numbers at Key Stage 3 while they are still falling or level at Key Stage 5 playing out in the labour market for teachers in 2018? And, is the fall in pupil numbers at Key Stage 1 already affecting the demand for teachers?

If a curious MP asks a question in September of the DfE about the recruitment round for 2018 they will be referred to the 2017 School Workforce Census that provides the most recent data available to the DfE. Is that good enough in this day and age?

The School Workforce Census has been amended and is likely to be further amended in 2019 to ask questions both about recruitment and why vacancies have arisen, thus making it more like a MIS system.

Schools already have complex databases about their staff and TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk already tracks the majority of vacancies in state-funded schools across England as they arise. To create a MIS system would be to create a dynamic system that recorded changes in the workforce as they happen.

For instance, how many NQTs will leave their first jobs in the autumn term and is there anything similar about the characteristics of the schools, the new teachers, or the type of school in which they were working?

In 1991, I visited Pakistan to help with some CPD for school leaders. At that time the government’s MIS system for teachers, provided by an aid package could have answered that question. Ministers here, still won’t be able to answer it until spring 2020, and the results of the 2019 School Workforce Census are published. Not good enough?

 

 

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Good news for Didcot

Well done to the Oxfordshire UTC. The 14-19 school received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted this week, after its first ever inspection. In the same week the UTC in Derby was placed in special measures.

You can read the Ofsted report on the Oxfordshire UTC at  https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/141111 Schools week had some interesting statistics on UTCs recently. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/derby-manufacturing-utc-placed-in-special-measures/ Apparently, according to the report by Schools Week

almost a quarter of the 33 UTCs inspected so far have received Ofsted’s bottom grade.

Sixty-one per cent of all UTCs inspected have been rated less than ‘good’.  Six, all grade three or four, have since closed.

 Of the remaining 27 that are still open, 14 are rated either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Most UTCs have struggled since they were established in 2010, mainly because of problems attracting enough pupils to stay financially viable. Eight have so far closed.

 In January, Schools Week revealed that almost every UTC missed its recruitment targets last year, leaving them with combined debts of over £11 million.”

The UTC in Didcot is clearly bucking the trend for UTCs as a whole and I am grateful to the person that emailed me last night after the Ofsted Report had appeared to draw it to my attention. However, I still have anxieties over its long-term future if it cannot fill all the places it has on offer.

What Ofsted have revealed is that although the Oxfordshire UTC is still a work in progress it has strong leadership and a clear vision of what it is seeking to achieve.  The school and its staff are also aware that a proportion of their pupils come to them at fourteen with a less than successful record of achievement in the school system. Unlike some 14-18 schools they are not only aware of this but also set out to change the relationship with these pupils and the education system. That’s a tough job, but like Meadowbrook, the alternative provision in Oxfordshire, where Ofsted also commented on the work with teenagers that have reacted against schooling, the Oxfordshire UTC is also winning the hearts and minds of these young people. As Ofsted commented in their summary:

Pupils, including some who had previously struggled to engage with education, are inspired by the UTC’s ethos.

The Inspector went on to add that:

Since the UTC opened, some pupils have arrived in Year 10 having had negative experiences of schooling. Staff quickly get to know the pupils well, and support and reassure any experiencing stress or anxiety. Pupils gain a sense of community, security and pride during their time at UTC Oxfordshire. This equips them with great confidence and maturity.

Inspection report: UTC Oxfordshire, 22–23 May 2018

Schools cannot succeed without strong and purposeful leadership and the Oxfordshire UTC certainly has a leader creating a successful school backed by a strong team and supportive sponsors.

My more general anxiety is how the next generation of leaders for the school system will be developed? Some MATs will ensure that they create leadership pathways, but how will the stand alone academies and the remaining maintained schools ensure a leadership pipeline that is sufficient to meet the needs of all schools. This question is especially pertinent at a time when the need for career pathways for teachers that doesn’t involve whole school leadership is once again being discussed.

There are other reasons why I have concerns about 14-18 schools, but in this case I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the Oxfordshire UTC.

Job listings for teachers

There was an interesting meeting/workshop at the DfE yesterday. The focus was on their embryonic (and expensive to produce) ‘job listing service’, to use its current working title. There were more DfE representatives in the room – were they being paid London salaries – than the whole workforce of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that is located on the Isle of Wight. This is surely the sort of project that could have been outsourced to an area of high unemployment to boost a local economy, maybe it is and I am doing the DfE an injustice?

Anyway, private BETA testing is now taking place in part of Cambridgeshire and the North East of England. The aims include providing better data for the DfE. They won’t have any for this recruitment round, so they might like to view this post https://wordpress.com/post/johnohowson.wordpress.com/2542 where I commented on the situation in London.

Those of us attending the event were told not to take photographs of the slides of the entry screens to be used by schools to log jobs. However, anyone that wants to see what the system might look like has only to log on to https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/secondary-school-teacher to have some sort of idea of what the site might look like, as the DfE team are using the gov.uk standards and templates from ‘scheme.org’.

In her introduction, the deputy director at the DfE responsible for this work area said the goals included:

  • reducing the time and cost to schools – TeachVac does both of these already and
  • making finding jobs easier – but no evidence was provided as to what was wrong with current job boards and other means of finding vacancies for teaching posts.

However, the Deputy Director did say that job seekers had told them that poor quality listings make finding jobs difficult. I challenged her to publish the evidence on this point, as TeachVac welcomes feedback and the team in Newport want to know if the DfE has evidence from users about TeachVac. Sadly, I didn’t receive an answer to the direct question.

There is a hunger out there for a vacancy listing service from schools and I believe TeachVac offers the best free national vacancy service currently in operation. TeachVac hasn’t required a penny of public money. If you agree there is a need, go to https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/214287 and add your name to the petition. But also go to www.teachvac.co.uk and register as a teacher and make a free search. Then ask yourself what more do I need to know when looking for a teaching post? Let the team know your thoughts.

TeachVac may not look like a wonderful up to the minute site, but it works and you only see the front end screen when you register or change your preferences, so all the investment goes on making the system work for you.

TeachVac is a closed system – you cannot view all the jobs on offer and that is deliberate. No agency can download all the jobs. The risk of the DfE’s ‘open’ system is it provides an incentive for commercial companies to capture applicants – especially new entrants from training – and sell them to schools for a finders’ fee.

An outcome where the DfE destroyed the present market, only to create new commercial opportunities in the recruitment market at even greater cost to schools than the present system would not be a sensible or desirable outcome. But, it is a risk of the present approach using an ‘open’ system.

Is the DfE work value for public money/ That’s for others to judge, but if you haven’t tried TeachVac yet, www.teachvac.co.uk then please do so before making up your mind.

AI and education – The view of the House of Lords Committee

The section on education in the recent House of Lords Report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) was one of the more confusing sections in terms of understanding exactly what was being suggested as the way forward. You can read the Report, published earlier this week, at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldai/100/10010.htm#_idTextAnchor094

Not surprisingly, industry representatives told the Committee how badly prepared young people were in this country and more needed to be achieved lest we fall further behind. Then, there was the counter argument about not cutting other subjects to make time for developing these new skills and knowledge. If you want creative industries then you need to include creative subjects in the curriculum not to relegate them to some cultural backwater and just treated by schools as an afterthought.

The Committee heard that there is the downside of our modern digital world, once it was the bad effects of posters and newspaper adverts and video nasties on children, now it is reduced attention spans, shallower cognitive capabilities and experience a loss of identity as a result of time online and using social media. One witness warned the Committee, “that the idealised world represented on social media “leads to many illnesses including eating disorders … and serious mental illnesses”.   The implication being that schools must put in place strategies to prevent such outcomes among future generations exposed to the perils of the modern world.

The Committee recognised that the 2014 change to the curriculum on IT in schools across England needed time to take effect. However, the removal of any consideration of moral and ethical issues to do with social media and digital technology from the curriculum was regretted by some witnesses; no doubt more so over recent weeks as the various concerns over social media and the handling of personal data have emerged. Personally, I think the downgrading of Religious Education at examination level, where there was a real opportunity to discuss issues of ethic, morality and philosophy, by excluding the subject from the EBacc was a mistake.

The cCmmittee went on to welcome the projects outlined in last autumn’s budget for more computer science teachers and the establishment of a National Centre for Computing with industry to produce training material and support schools with the teaching of computer science. But, they didn’t really seem to probe very deeply on what is actually happening on the ground in our schools. IT and computer science teacher vacancies remain at the lower end of range seen over the past four recruitment cycles according to TeachVac’s data http://www.teachvac.co.uk; so perhaps those already in post are staying put and there aren’t large numbers of new posts being created. Whether there would be jobs for 8,000 extra teachers by the end of this parliament as envisaged in the budget seems highly unlikely.

As I wrote in my blog post when the number was leaked the weekend before the budget:

If the 8,000 number does make it into the budget, then so as not to look as if the Treasury doesn’t talk to the DfE there will have to be some form of explanation. Personally, I would add 10% to the Teacher Supply Model and split the rest between for professional development for existing teachers: spending 40% on those on professional development for secondary school teachers already teaching computer science and not fully qualified; 40% for lead teachers in the primary schools, starting with a programme for MATs and dioceses and the allocated the remaining 20% for programmes for teachers of other subjects to embed areas such as geographical information and other subject-related techniques into curriculum development. I might keep a small pot of cash back for new methods of preparing teachers that don’t rely upon face to face contact.

Finally, the Committee said: “the Government should explore ways in which the education sector, at every level, can play a role in translating the benefits of AI into a more productive and equitable economy.”

You try and work out what that really means.

Quality Assurance or Quality Control?

Just after 7am this morning I was telephoned by a researcher from BBC 5 Live to ask what I thought about the new ‘tables’ tests for Year 4 pupils? Not a great deal at that time of the morning was my first and honest thought. However, early morning phone calls are an occupational hazard for anyone prepared to make a comment on issues of public interest and that response wouldn’t do. Some calls of this nature develop into big stories and make headlines: others disappear onto the modern equivalent of the editor’s spike, either dumped or relegated to a footnote in a news bulletin.

Sometimes, you don’t get a call back, as promised, but a text message saying that the item isn’t proceeding either due to other stories taking precedence or some similar phrase, as happened this morning and you then wonder whether the point of view you expressed to the researcher was too similar to those everyone else was expressing and what they were looking for was a different view to balance the debate?

On the story about multiplication tests  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43046142 or ‘checks’ as they are being called, my view is that they should be scrutinised through the lens of whether they are a quality control or a quality assurance measure? If the former, then they are likely to be required of all teachers at the same time. The results then tell us on that day how well the age group are doing. We would possibly expect summer born children to do less well than those with a longer exposure to schooling and those that have remained in the same school to do better than those pupils that have already been subject to changing school one or more times. Pupils will a poor attendance record, for whatever reason, might also do less well.

A quality assurance check would allow the DfE to provide both an expected level but also to help teachers diagnose why those pupils that don’t reach the level expected fail to do so. The DfE might them provide some research into what will work with these pupils to help them reach the standard expected of most children at that point in their education. Such an approach, rich in a developmental approach aimed at helping the system, is more expensive than a simple check that will allow Ministers to blame failing schools and by implication their teachers through the medium of the Ofsted inspection.  If I was in charge of Ofsted, I might want to take the DfE to task for making the job of improving our school system a bit harder if it further reduced trust in the inspection system.

I guess that the DfE cannot afford to spend money on diagnostic tests and a simple pen and paper exercise to be marked by teachers in their own time looks more profitable in terms of political capital.

Take this new the test when a pupil is  ready; collect the data electronically and then let the results tell the DfE if their choice of Opportunity Areas is the correct one or whether key areas such as South East Oxford City have been consistently overlooked for intervention and extra resources? In this technological age, we need to harness the resources at our disposal to help both teachers and their pupils to learn effectively not just impose more burdens on everyone.

A new direction for education?

The speech from the Secretary of State, Mr Hinds, to the world Education Forum was interesting in several respects. This blog will reflect upon two points; technology and teaching and the curriculum.

I have long been an advocate of the use of technology to improve learning. Ever since I was responsible for technology hardware when teaching in the 1970s and bought a Sony video pack to record both PE lessons and rehearsals for the school play I wondered whether the age of didactic memory dependent learning was coming to an end? Of course it isn’t, as children need to learn and internalise the basic of literacy and numeracy as well as survival and communication skills and many other aspects of learning for life. But, I guess we don’t teach logarithms these days and many might no longer know their northings from their eastings yet successfully manage to navigate using their mobile phones: technology has meant changes.

Personally, I think the Secretary of State might want to start any quest for greater understanding of the role of technology in learning in the future of schooling with teacher preparation and the views it inculcates into new entrants. Do preparation course of all types from Teach First to a Russell Group university find space for thinking about the future. Are they helped by the DfE informing them of cutting edge research into learning and the use of technology? Indeed, does the DfE fund enough research projects into this area, especially to help raise the learning achievements of pupils with special educational needs? Can we close the gap for these children and enhance their life chances through a better use of technology?

Mr Hinds mentioned the curriculum in his speech and the recognition in business, where he was previously a junior Minister, of the importance of soft skills. What he didn’t mention is the importance of culture. In that respect, teachers with experience of the world of business can bring invaluable insights into the lives of pupils and the understanding for the many teachers that have progressed from classroom to university and back to the classroom. I don’t in anyway denigrate that pathway but, especially for the school leaders of tomorrow, there is a need to broaden horizons in a way that hasn’t bene possible for much of the past twenty years.

The Secretary of State might want to ask why the DfE has a target of training about 1,000 PE teachers, but only just over 200 business studies teachers. I don’t doubt the PE number is correct, especially if we are to provide the Olympic champions of the future and possibly ever win the football World Cup again as a nation. But, do we need more teachers of business studies in our schools? The sector failed to even meet the low target the DfE set using the Teacher Supply Model for 2017 trainees; it was missed by 20%. Yesterday, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk issued an amber warning for the subject to schools registered with them. Already, in 2018, sufficient vacancies have been advertised to mean there won’t be enough trainees to go around again this year. At this rate of progress, the trainee pool with be exhausted before the end of March, even earlier than last year.

Education needs to take both business and technology seriously: the new Secretary of State might be just the person to help them do so.

 

A National Vacancy Service

Tomorrow, the DfE is holding a meeting to brief recruiters about its plans around a service publishing vacancies for teachers and school leaders. In the light of the demise of Carillion, is this new service a move based upon foresight by officials of the need to protect services from private sector enterprises or a belief that State operated services can do the job cheaper than private companies?  This is an important issue, since there are many in the government and among its supporters that see nationally operated services, of the type a vacancy service would presumably offer, as little more than a return to recreating nationalised industries.

At this point I must declare an interest for new readers of this blog. Some years ago, I helped form TeachVac to provide a free national vacancy service for teachers and for schools to save money on recruitment advertising, through the use of modern technology to bring together schools with vacancies and those looking to apply for such posts. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk and its offshoot for international schools, TeachVac Global, www.teachvacglobal.com are now the largest since source for teaching posts in England and can help to attract teachers back to work in England. All at no cost to the public purse.

TeachVac also had the added bonus, of providing real time information on the labour market: something the DfE will no doubt also want to play up about their service. This week, TeachVac will have already a recorded record number new vacancies for teachers and school leaders since schools returned from holiday just over a week ago.

As I pointed out recently in the blog post about business studies teacher recruitment – blink and they are gone – a large proportion of vacancies recorded so far in 2018 are in and around London. As of yesterday, 58% of recorded vacancies in 2018 were from schools in London; the East of England or the South East with just 32% located in the other six regions. The percentage was the same for both vacancies in the primary and secondary sectors.

Is this because these areas are seeing the fastest growth in pupil numbers and are already adding new vacancies in expectation of their growing rolls? Is it because teachers in these areas are leaving in larger numbers. TeachVac Global is certainly seeing interest from teachers wanting to consider working overseas. Is it because these schools feel the new National Funding Formula doesn’t hurt as much as it could have done and they now feel more confident on their spending for 2018/19? There are other ways of answering these questions: TeachVac at least points out what to ask.

TeachVac will shortly be publishing two reports on aspects of the teacher labour market during 2017. One reviews primary school leadership and the other considers main scale vacancies in the secondary sector across England. Details of the cost and how to obtain them will be available on the TeachVac web site. As a free service, TeachVac is happy to discuss data provision for teacher trainers, schools, MATs, diocese, local authorities or indeed anyone interested in labour market real time data on teacher vacancies.