A new source of teachers?

How much appetite do teaching assistants have to become a teacher? Might this be a way of solving our current teacher supply crisis? The DfE has just published some research it commissioned to answer the first question. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exploring-teaching-assistants-appetite-to-become-teachers

Some 64 people, mostly women, working in 51 schools, and with various job titles, were interviewed for the research. Most didn’t already have a degree although a small number that took part did have a degree. Most were also working full-time, and this may have been a factor in their answers.

Some, took on their current role wanting to progress to become a teacher. Most of the others hadn’t started out with that intention, but some were open to the possibility. Not surprisingly, how to train without losing income was a factor in the responses. How big a factor isn’t clear, as respondents don’t seem to have been asked to weight or rank the various factors that might prevent them training as a teacher?  That seems a drawback with the research.

Those with a long memory will recall that there has always been a route from the role of assistant to that of a teacher. Indeed, there is a post on this blog from 2015 https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/congratulations-mrs-clarke/ congratulating a head teacher on her appointment. Mrs Clarke had started as a as a volunteer and worked through a range of posts including lunch-time supervisor, teacher, deputy head and twice acting head teacher before becoming the substantive head teacher of a first school.

When I was leading a School of Education, in the early 1990s, there were courses at the local further education colleges that provided a foundation route for undergraduate teaching degrees: some attendees were already working in schools.

In this research, commissioned by the DfE, the participants were broadly split between primary and secondary schools, with a small number working in the special school sector. I am not aware of any major teacher supply issues in the primary sector at present, so it would have been interesting to know whether interest in becoming a teacher differed between those working in the different sectors. At least the sample was weighted towards the parts of the country where there is more of a teacher supply issue, but less so among those working in the secondary sector than those working in the primary sector.

Perhaps the DfE might want to push the apprenticeship route and possibly even recreate the Queen’s Scholar title for such trainees, to provide a sense of status. It would also help if the DfE would make the term teacher a ‘reserved occupation’ term as this would also enhance the status of the profession, but cost nothing.

At the same time as commissioning this research, I hope the DfE is also looking at ‘keep in touch’ schemes for teachers that leave for a career break and also making sure teachers working overseas can access teaching vacancies through a single site. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has lots of visitors from around the world.

 

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More lows than highs

Schools are going to have to rely upon reducing wastage rates among serving teachers and encouraging returners back into teaching in order to survive the 2020 recruitment round, if the data released by UCAS today about offers for teacher training courses starting this September don’t show dramatic improvements over the next couple of weeks. The DfE is doing a valiant job fast tracking enquiries received by their ‘get into teaching’ site, but so far it isn’t enough to prevent another potential year of problems for schools.

Let’s start with the good news: history has more offers than ever before, and languages; religious education and design and technology have recorded more offers than in August last year. However, design and technology is still way below target numbers needed to meet the Teacher Supply Model number for this year.

Biology, English, geography and physical education are at similar levels to this time last year in terms of recorded ‘offers’ and should produce sufficient teachers to meet needs next year on a national scale, even if there are local shortages because of where training is located. Chemistry is also at a similar level to last year, but that may not be sufficient to meet demand for teachers of the subject.

Now for the bad news: some subjects are recording lower offer levels than at this point in 2018. Business Studies and art, although lower than last year are not at their lowest levels for August during the past six recruitment rounds. However, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording offer levels that are lower than at any August during the recruitment rounds since 2013/14. Schools across England are likely to experience recruitment challenges in these subjects in 2020 that could be worse than this year unless supply is boosted in other ways.

This grim news, is backed by a depressing 500 fewer placed applicants in England and slightly fewer ‘conditionally placed’ applicants. The additional 30 applicants ‘holding an offer’ do not make up the difference. Overall, some 72% of applicants domiciled in England have been made an offer (73% at August 2018). The published monthly statistics don’t allow for easy comparison by subject for applicants as opposed to applications which, as I have pointed out in the past, is a disappointment.

Nevertheless, most of the reduction in offers is to male applicants, where ‘placed’ applicants are down from 9,250 in August 2018, to 8,800 this August; a reduction of around 450 or the majority of the reduction in offer numbers. It is career switchers that have disappeared, especially those between the age groups of 22-29. The youngest ‘new’ graduate numbers are very similar to last year, but there are more applicants in their 30s than last year.

The School Direct Salaried route continues to be the big loser in terms of offers, but not in terms of applications. Only 770 applications are shown as with offers of any sort compared to 990 last August for the secondary sector. In the primary sector the number is higher at 1,840, but last August the number was higher at 2,000.

There are still very many offers recorded as ‘conditional’ even at this late point in the cycle. Only in history, Mandarin, PE and Religious Education, among the larger subjects, are ‘placed’ numbers shown as higher this August than in August 2019.

Next month will mark the end of the monthly date for this recruitment round. I wish I could say that I was optimistic, but despite the potential turmoil faced by the country over the political situation, I cannot be anything other than concerned for the teacher labour market in 2020 based upon these data.

 

Vacancies still a concern

The recent data on the workforce in state schools at the time of the 2018 School Workforce Census conducted by the DfE shows vacancies rates overall at similar levels to the previous year in percentage terms, but on the increase in terms of absolute numbers. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

Given that the data is collected in November, when schools ought to be fully staffed, any vacancy is of concern. Data from before 2010 was collected each January, when vacancy levels might be expected to be affected by those teachers that departed at the end of December and how easy it was to replace them.

Nevertheless, the 1,725 recorded vacancies in the secondary sector in November 2018 was the highest number since 2014, and more than three times the level recorded in 2011, after the financial crisis. Vacancy levels fell in mathematics between 2017 and 2018. This can partly be attributed to the subject having a relatively good year in terms of ITT recruitment in 2015-15 that fed through to recruitment for teaching posts in September 2018. I expect the ground gained between 2017 and 2018 in mathematics to be lost in the 2019 census, with little indication of any improvement in 2020.

Business studies has the largest percentage vacancy level. The subject includes both commercial studies and economics.  It remain a mystery to me why this important subject group for the British Economy does not attract more help for trainee teachers through the scholarship/bursary scheme. Mr Hunt’s idea of paying off student loans for young entrepreneurs seems only likely to make the situation worse if it was implemented. Indeed, I have yet to hear about a solution to the teacher recruitment problem from either of the candidates for the Troy Party leadership.

The other measure of concern is that of the percentage of hours taught in a typical week to pupils in Years 7 to 13 by teachers with no relevant post-A Level qualification. The trend in many secondary subjects continues to worsen, even among EBacc subjects, where recruitment into ITT is buoyant. However, that may be due to changes in teaching methods as much as to a shortage of teachers in history and geography. Where schools employ a classroom teacher approach to some or all of their pupils, generally either Year 7 pupils or those having trouble learning in large classes, these teachers may not be specialists, and this can cause the number of hours taught be a non-specialist in a subject to increase for perfectly sensible reasons.

Of more concern, and not provided in the Tables, would be any evidence of increasing levels of teachers lacking subject knowledge teaching groups in Years 11 to13. Although even here a case can sometimes be made on the basis of teaching experience and non-formally acquired subject knowledge, such as through high quality Professional Development activities.

Within the detailed tables, there is far more data on these matters, but it will take a little more time to work through the data. However, there is no room for complacency over retention and every reason, as the school population increase over the next few years to continue to express serious concern at the trends emerging in relation to mid-career retention of teachers.

 

 

 

An Auger effect already?

The publication of the data on ITT applications for June 2019 coincided today with the DfE’s date for publishing its annual raft of statistics on teachers and schools. The DfE data is, of course, backward facing, whereas the UCAS data tells us what to expect in the teacher labour market in 2020.

With only three months left in the current recruitment round, it is usually easy to predict the actual outcome of the recruitment round. However, with the current levels of uncertainty over issues such as the funding of schools after the new Prime Minister is elected by Conservative Party members, and assuming there isn’t a general election in the autumn, as well as what happens to tuition fees in the short-term, the past may not be a guide to the future. Nevertheless, this blog will try and made some inferences from the data as it currently stands.

Overall applications are down on last year. The current total of 32,720 applicants is some 490 below the figure for June 2018. Perhaps of most concern is the decline in ‘placed’ applicants in London and the South East, where the figure is down from 900 last year to 710 this year. There has also been a decline in ‘conditionally placed’ numbers in these two regions, although numbers ‘holding offers’ are similar to last year at this point.

There has been a reversal in the recent trend in age profile of applicants, with fewer applicants than last year in all age groups, except for new graduates 21 or under, where the number is up from 4,630 last year to 4,670 this year. ‘Placed’ applicants over the age of 25 are down this year by 130 to some 1,440. In the past, this age group has help keep applicant numbers up as younger applicants have fallen away.

The number of applications are down from both men and women, mostly as a result of fewer applicants being ‘placed’. As degree results are confirmed over the next month or so, the number of ‘placed’ applicants should increase rapidly over the next two months. This is a number that will need watching very carefully.

The data on application status by provider region (Table B6 of the UCAS monthly data) confirms that there needs to be a focus on what is happening in London. Placed numbers are down by 100, and ‘conditionally placed’ by 160, with only those ‘holding offers’ up by 50, for a net change across the three categories of around 200. Application numbers to providers in London are down by around 600. With London schools seeing growth in pupil numbers, and so far in 2019 having advertised 10 vacancies per secondary school (www.teachvac.co.uk data) these numbers must be of concern.

So far it is primary courses that have borne the brunt of reduced applications, down from 41,180 in 2018, to 38,880 in 2019, whereas applications for secondary courses are up from 52,530 to 53,250. But, before anyone hangs out the bunting and declares a ‘dance and skylark’, it is worth delving deeper into the statistics for individual subjects. History, English and biology al doing extremely well, and could recruit their largest numbers of trainees in recent years.

On the other hand, art, chemistry, IT, mathematics, music and physics are recording new lows for June in terms of those ‘placed’ and either ‘conditionally placed’ or ‘holding an offer’. Based on the evidence of previous years, none of these subjects will hit the required Teacher Supply Model number in 2019.  That’s bad news for the 2020 recruitment market for teachers.

Has the Auger Report with its suggestion for lower fees already had an effect on recruitment onto UCAS courses for this September? If so, the government must react sooner rather than later to stem any further losses ad protect teacher supply.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Growing pains, but not for TeachVac

Should the latest American owners of the TES be worried by the DfE’s vacancy site? Probably not in the short-term, but looking on a longer perspective there must be some anxiety. TeachVac, the other free service offering teacher vacancies to trainees, teachers and returners, where I am the chair of the board, monitors how the DfE site is doing compared with TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk on a weekly basis.

Below are our figures for 2019, up to this morning, with one day to go before the end of the first quarter of 2019

04/01/2019 11.26
11/01/2019 13.22
18/01/2019 17.57
25/01/2019 17.69
01/02/2019 21.44
08/02/2019 22.72
15/02/2019 24.46
22/02/2019 11.71
01/03/2019 31.25
08/03/2019 25.11
15/03/2019 25.20
22/03/2019 25.10
29/03/2019 28.20

Source: Oxford Teacher Services Ltd

Apart from the February half-term period, this week is the first time that the DfE site has broken through the 25% barrier in relation to TeachVac. Of course, the two sites aren’t directly comparable, since the DfE site carries non-teaching vacancies, but not vacancies from independent schools, and TeachVac carries the latter, but not the former.

Still, the DfE clearly won’t have a full analysis of the 2019 recruitment round as they will be missing so many vacancies in the first quarter of the year. The interesting time will come in the summer, when schools paying a subscription to advertise their vacancies on paid-for platforms will need to decide whether or not to renew their subscriptions or switch back to using them only when the free site such as TeachVac or the DfE fail to provide enough applicants to make an appointment.

This assumes that the DfE site is still in operation by the summer. With the start of the new government financial year next week, it must be expected that funding has been agreed to operate the DfE’s site for the whole of the financial year. From a point of view of schools, it is to be hoped it doesn’t follow the private sector approach of taking booking, or in this case vacancy adverts, right up to the point where the plug is pulled.

I think that schools have a right to expect a statement from the government that either the DfE site will continue for another year or that if it doesn’t it will be replaced by links to other sites providing details of vacancies, such as TeachVac. The latter would, of course, be a much cheaper option for the DfE, but I assume having spent money on the software for their site they will want to see a return on their expenditure.

TeachVac is breaking new records this year, both on the number of vacancies listed, and on the rate of applicants signing up to receive job matches. This on minimal marketing and in the teeth of indifference from all the teacher associations. Teachers, however, know a good thing when they see it and the fact that a job posted this morning can be matched to a teacher that has requested it by late afternoon shows what can be achieved.

 

Bumping along the bottom mark 2

Today’s data from UCAS revealing the latest data about applications for postgraduate ITT courses shows a picture very similar to that of March last year. Applications for courses in England were 22,100 by the 18th March this year, compared with 22,430 on the 19th March 2018. Really little changed. By the end of the recruitment round last year not enough applicants were recruited in a range of subjects and, unless the Brexit fiasco causes an upset of significant proportions, the same result seems likely again this year.

Casting around for items of good news, it seems as if applications from those 21 or younger is the same as last year at this point in time, and applications from those above the age of 30 are higher than last year, by around 500 applicants. But, applications from the other age groups are down on last year. Chemistry, Biology and Religious Education are doing well for applications this year, but many other subjects are only around the same level as in March last year and in a few cases hitting new lows.

The decline in applications is greater for men than for women, with men now only accounting for 29% of applicants to ITT postgraduate courses. Overall numbers placed are still down on this point in 2018, at 570, compared with 750 in 2018, and although conditionally placed numbers are up, those holding offers are at a similar level to last year.

There must be serious concerns about Business Studies, with just 360 applications, of which just 70 have been placed; all conditionally. Similarly, in design and technology, there are only 730 applications across all aspects of the subject, with just 150 of these having been placed; again all conditionally. both these subjects are already in short supply in the teacher labour market.

Never fear, 1,140 physical education applications have resulted in places being accepted along with 670 in history and 560 in geography. 690 of the 3,180 applications for Biology have resulted in applicants being placed. However, for Physics, the number is just 190 out of 960.

Can the School Direct Salaried route survive? So far only 220 applications have resulted in either a place or an applicant holding one or more offers out of 2,070 applications in the secondary sector. Things are a bit better in the primary sector, with 1,190 placed or holding offers, out of 6,140 applications. However, neither sector seems to be attracting many applications for postgraduate teaching apprenticeships. So far, there have only been 330 applications for these course across both sectors.

The loss of interest among applicants is still mainly in the primary sector, but the figures for applications to courses to train in the secondary sector are affected by the few subjects where there has been growth in the number of applications.

As noted earlier, most shortage subjects are still bumping along the bottom, and with pupil numbers increasing again in 2020 when these applicants will enter the labour market for teachers that is not good news.