Celebrating Diversity

Twenty years ago this autumn, the then Teacher Training Agency (TTA) launched an advertising campaign to attract new recruits to train as a teacher. There were two adverts. The talking heads one with the strap line, ‘no one forgets a good teacher’ remains memorable, but the other, although more innovative as an advertisement, doesn’t register in the collective memory to the same degree. In a sign of how far society has changed since 1997, when published, neither advert contained either a web site or email contact address; unthinkable these days.

At the same time the TTA was launching its advertising campaign it was also starting its first drive to recruit minority groups into teaching, starting with a focus on ethnic minority groups. There were a series of conferences to launch the policy, including one in East London addressed by the new Minister, Estelle Morris, newly launched on her career in government.

A decade later I conducted a detailed study for the then TDA into progress in recruitment of minorities into teaching and some years later I replicated the work just on the progress of recruiting ethnic minority candidates both into training and into teaching. As a result, it is interesting to see the data in the recently published ITT provider profiles about the change in percentages of minority groups recruited into training. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/initial-teacher-training-performance-profiles-2015-to-2016

n many respects, 2015/16 as a good year for minority groups seeking to enter teaching. The percentage of male recruits broke through the 30% barrier for the first time since 2010/11; the percentage of students with a declared disability increased to its highest in the past decade, to reach nine per cent of postgraduate students; similarly, students from a minority ethnic background reached a new high for the decade of 14% of postgraduate entrants. There was even an increase among older trainees over the age of 25, although, at 54%, is still well below the record 62% of trainees over 25 that was reached 2010/11.

How far these percentages reflect either a genuine change in policy or just the outcome of falling overall application levels isn’t clear from the data. An analysis of the provider data for trainees from an ethnic minority background, where numbers are large enough to be reported, shows that London providers dominate the scene, with half the top twenty providers with the best ratio of ethnic minority trainees to overall numbers of postgraduates recruited being located in London. Of the other ten providers, five are located in the West Midlands; two in Yorkshire and The Humber and one in each of the South East, East Midlands and East of England. There were no providers north of the West Midlands or in the South West in the top 20 providers for graduate trainees where data is reported. Indeed, six of the next ten are also in London and the first identified provider in the South West is only in the 39th highest position.

In this context, the reduction in offers to new applicants for 2017 by London providers, reported in previous blogs, will be watched with interest to see what effect it has on recruitment profiles. However, it won’t be until the summer of 2019 that we will know the outcomes.


Heading towards disaster?

The latest UCAS data on the number of trainees offered or holding places for 2017 graduate courses to train as a teacher makes for grim reading. This blog has been warning, without trying to use sensational language, for some months now that all wasn’t going well. The figures issued today, based upon offers recorded up to Easter, show new lows over the last four cycles at this point in the year in terms of offers made and accepted in some subjects. So far, the serious issues are only in Business Studies, Chemistry, IT and music, and in two of these subjects a decline in teaching time over recent years means the Teacher Supply Model may be over-estimating the likely demand for teachers. In Chemistry and Business Studies, the lack of offers so far this year may be more serious for schools in 2018, especially where there are rising rolls.

The one crumb of comfort is the increase in offers in both history and geography. Elsewhere, in Mathematics and English, the trend line look unpropitious for the remainder of the recruitment round, unless there is a major shift in direction. This may be less of an issue in Mathematics than English. There are already shortages in English in 2017 according to TeachVac’s data. In Mathematics, as ever, it is not just the numbers, but also the quality of mathematical knowledge and the teaching ability of trainees that matters to schools. Hopefully, lower numbers don’t mean fewer high quality applicants.

Overall, around 2,000 less offers have been made in this recruitment round across England compared with April last year. Applicant numbers are down in all age groups, but significantly down for the younger age groups. For instance, women 21 and under are down from 3,990 applicants last year to 3,490 this year, with a similar fall of 410 in applicant numbers for those aged 22, but smaller falls among the older age groups. Only 1,100 men age 21 or under have applied so far this year; a drop of around 10% on last year at this point in time. Overall, applications from men are down by just over seven per cent, a greater decline than for applications from women.

In total applications are down to only just over 90,000, meaning most applicants have made full use of all their choices.  The good news is that there are 10 more applicants in the South West than last year; the bad news, 500 fewer in London. Indeed, there are 770 fewer offers to applicants applying to London than this point last year: with rising rolls that is really bad news for 2018.

School Direct Salaried has attracted around 500 fewer applicants for the secondary sector this year, with only 80 confirmed placed applicants so far in 2017. As these are all graduates with work experience, this number is disappointingly low and down on the 120 of April last year. The conditionally placed number is also down, from 790 to 530. Undoubtedly, some of the decline is due to the Easter holidays, but that would also have been true for 2016 figures. The one potentially bright spot is the increase in applicants holding offers, but until these numbers turn into placed applicants they are always at risk of disappearing. On the face of it, and without overall allocation numbers, primary offers seem to be holding up relatively well. It is the secondary sector that remains the key area for concern.

With purdah upon us, we can but hope that the increased DfE marketing budget, the topic of an earlier post, will help to attract more applicants over the summer. However, uncertainty over the future direction of secondary education and selective schools might put off some would-be teachers educated in the comprehensive system. Either way, 2018 looks like being a challenge for schools in London and the South East needing to recruit teachers. You will need TeachVac’s free service more than ever: have you signed up yet? http://www.teachvac.co.uk

Debt hike for teachers

PGCE students to pay 6.1% interest on loans from the day that their courses starts. That’s not what you want to hear, but what the government has announced as likely from September if there isn’t a loud and sustained public outcry starting at the teacher association conferences this Easter. If the same rate of interest also applies to those on the school-based fee routes as well as undergraduates training to be a teacher then BREXIT is seriously bad news for trainee teachers. The reason is the hike in inflation to 3.1% last month, an increase partly fuelled by the post referendum slump in Sterling as a currency. Add to the inflation increase the 3% fee on top that the government charges plus the fact that interest starts accumulating as soon as the loan is taken out and we are talking serious money and an annual rate of 6.1%.

Career changers would almost certainlybe better off raising an extra mortgage on their house than paying these rates and younger intending teachers not eligible for bursaries should probably consult their parents to see whether they will do the same. Those starting work as teachers in September may find that their take home pay is below what it would have been in earlier years due to the rise in interest rates.

Whether intending teachers wanting to work in state funded schools should be expected to pay for their training is a moot point. Readers of this blog will know I don’t believe any trainee teachers should pay for the privilege of training to be a teacher. Few others, except would-be journalists and possibly fashion models pay for their training; until recently nurses also benefited from a scheme created by Frank Dobson when Blair’s Labour government first introduced tuition fees. The scheme for graduate trainee teachers, introduced in the early 2000s, was expensive, but fair to all trainees. The present situation is confusing, and at these rates of interest and a public sector annual pay rise of probably just one per cent, potentially off-putting to trainees in many subjects. Whether it deters the best or just those most likely to find other work, I leave others to judge.

One solution would be to employ all graduate trainees as part of a national trainee pool that also provided for their pension contributions and with an agreement to pay-off their undergraduate students loans at the rate of 25% of the outstanding interest and principle from the end of year two of teaching. They would be employed form the central pool by schools, so that the schools didn’t have the extra cost of writing off the loans for new teachers. This should be a central cost if loans are to continue. By involving the State directly in the employment of teachers it would allow the DfE to understand directly what was happening with both recruitment and retention. It would also make the DfE responsible for the consequences of mistakes with the Teacher Supply Model. Some PE and maths trainees won’t find jobs in teaching this year, but will still be faced by the increase in interest rates on their loans.

For maths trainees, with bursaries, the pain will be slight: for PE teachers this is punishment for choosing the wrong subject to train in as a teacher.



Regional recruitment patterns are still largely an unknown quantity

Easter is early this year, so, although the teacher conference season will undoubtedly discuss the issue of teacher recruitment and retention, the full implications for September 2016 won’t be known. This is because the main recruitment period for September vacancies is during April, and that is the period immediately after Easter this year.

No doubt, when the government has its free recruitment site up and running, as foreshadowed in the White Paper, they will be able to tell schools what the current position is regarding the state of play in the recruitment cycle.

Until then, schools and journalists may have to rely upon the data from TeachVac. One of the drawbacks with the current version of TeachVac is that the government has continually refused to provide data on a sub-national basis for the ITT census. As a result, TeachVac has only been able to provide a national figure for the rate of decline in the trainee pool. This lack of regional data in all but a few subjects has continued in the recently DfE’s published methodology document that accompanied the White Paper.

However, there was some ITT data at a regional level for mathematics in the methodology document. However, the data was only in the form of overall regional totals, so it hasn’t been possible to remove either Teach First numbers or School Direct Salaried trainees as TeachVac does in its other modelling processes. As a result, the data is less than helpful in respect of some regions, especially London, where the bulk of Teach First trainees are still located. Nevertheless, the rankings are interesting

Yorkshire & The Humber 82
London 77
North West 75
West Midlands 72
South West 67
South East 63
East Midlands 59
North East 59
East of England 22

The 77% remaining in the pool figure in London is obviously an over-estimate, it might be closer to a percentage in the high 50% range once Teach First and School Direct Salaried trainees have been removed.

However the dramatic figure in the table is the fact that the trainee pool in the East of England might be down as low as 22%. This is even before a figure for School Direct Salaried and non-completers has been factored in to the dataset. The 22% might be an over-estimate because, in a few cases, a school uses the terms mathematics and maths in the same vacancy advert and where the school hasn’t directly entered the vacancy there is a small risk of double counting these vacancies. This just illustrates how complicated the government will find it to create their own version of TeachVac.

Since the publication of the White Paper, TeachVac has seen an increase in registrations from both schools, trainees and teachers. The more directly entered vacancies there are, the more accurate TeachVac becomes.

If you read this and know anyone that is either responsible for teacher recruitment or interested in the topic please do draw their attention to TeachVac. www.teachvac.co.uk There are helpful videos of how to register and, yes, it really is as simple as it sounds.



Recruitment Controls 3

The news that recruitment controls have been applied to higher education recruiters of PE shouldn’t come as a surprise to any reader of this blog. On the 5th November, I wrote:

‘Earlier in the week I estimated it might be some time next week when recruitment controls would be introduced in PE’

So, it was a little surprising that rather than issue a warning civil servants apparently said on the 13th November

It has been two weeks since recruitment for 2016/17 began through UTT and we are pleased to report applicants are showing an interest in ITT. However, whilst recruitment is looking healthy – especially in some of the popular subjects such as Physical Education (PE) and Primary – there is no need to panic as we are not close to stopping recruitment just yet.

We have heard fears of recruitment controls being implemented in the coming weeks and recruitment being stopped altogether and wanted to reassure you that NCTL will announce whenever recruitment has reached around 50%, 75%, 90% and 95% of national recruitment controls. There will be no unexpected or immediate instruction from NCTL to stop recruitment.

Well, I don’t know what you interpret those two paragraphs to mean, and I am sure my blog comment didn’t lead to the line about rumours, but it seems disingenuous to put out such a statement and introduce controls a week later with no advance warning. I am sure it was just a lack of familiarity of the speed with which applications can arrive in our new electronic age compared with old days of postal sacks winging their way to UCAS at Cheltenham that forced the hand of civil servants.

Still, it does raise the issue of ‘Wednesbury reasonableness’ it anyone wanted to mount a judicial review. Is it reasonable to offer candidates three choices but to be able to cut off some of these after a person has booked an expensive train ticket or should an applicant be able to expect the same rules for all of their choices?

It is not for me to answer that question, but it would surely have been better to introduce controls alongside a fixed application date. This would have allowed all applications by that date to have been considered and if the overall total exceeded the point at which controls would need to have been introduced the course providers could each have been told how many offers they could make and would, presumably, have selected the best rather than the fastest to apply as has now happened. The current system also discriminates against late applicants and if it can be shown that it has favoured certain groups over others that won’t help defend a charge of it being a reasonable system.

Whether it is reasonable to use public money to favour certain types of provider is also a question for the lawyers. But, I hope that a better and fairer scheme will be devised for next year.

Election manifestos are starting to appear

Right of centre think tank Policy Exchange this week published its education manifesto. Not quite in the league of Kenneth Baker’s call for a coalition with Labour in terms of headline grabbing policies it did however have some surprises. I am delighted that they recognise that charging fees for trainee teachers is wrong. Their solution is slightly more nuanced than mine which regular readers will know is to make training free at delivery. Policy Exchange only want fees paid off for those working in state schools. This presumably means that the private sector will have to pay extra to attract teachers as such teachers would still be required to repay their fees. That’s an interesting idea, but it leaves a third group, including possibly many PE teachers where government training numbers are too high, in limbo. What of the trainee that wants to work as a teacher but cannot find a job: should they be penalised for training if they have to take a job outside of teaching because the government mis-calculated training numbers? For those reasons I am still personally in favour of remitting fees for all trainees.
Policy Exchange also wants to allow city regions to create incentives for teachers to work across the country. This seems like a thinly disguised version of regional pay and I wonder whether it is based on serious research since most of the teacher shortages that don’t affect the sector as a whole are likely to be in and around London where teacher turnover is at its highest. A more radical move would have been to hand the training to regions or even local authorities to administer.
The think tank’s idea that all 16-18 year olds should study maths, but not seemingly English, is a sensible proposal that most would now agree is worth implementing once an acceptable curriculum can be devised.
Earlier this week I attended the launch of the DataLab project funded by the Fischer Family Trust. This initiative should be a useful source of independent research into education using the large databases on pupils and teachers that are now available. Their first projects showing that learning isn’t a linear process but has its ups and downs and their work on pupils that just gain a place at a selective schools and those that just miss out is well worth reading. The fact that those that just miss out on a grammar school place often outperform those who just gain a place must give pause for thought to the lobby wanting to expand selective schools on academic grounds.
Next week is national apprentice week and it is really good to see the focus on those young people not going to university. One of the great failings of the Blair Labour government was to cast aside the Tomlinson Report without really understanding what it was trying to do. Perhaps if there were a Labour/Tory coalition we might see some more progress. But, we might also see a Liberal Democrat as leader of the opposition facing the PM every Wednesday: now there’s a thought to cheer me up.

First data from matching

www.teachvac.com the data information system for teachers that monitors the job market for trainee teachers* wanting to work in the secondary sector has made its first matches after going live on Monday. With trainee teachers, schools, SCITTs and local authorities all registering and the system monitoring more than 3,000 secondary schools http://www.teachvac.com is creating a real-time database of the labour market for teachers.

Schools, local authorities, dioceses and others that register jobs will receive updates of the changing state of the market as part of the registration process. This provides participants with information on how the market for classroom teachers is developing for September 2015 appointments when they register jobs.

Take the example of design and technology as a subject where the ITT census last November revealed around 420 students on one-year preparation courses. Allowing for non-completion, there are likely to be around 400 possible trainees looking for jobs for September 2015. However, as a proportion of these trainees are in schools working on the School Direct salaried scheme they may be expected to be employed by the school where they are currently training. This reduces the ‘free’ pool to less than 350 trainees likely to be job hunting. The DfE estimates that 50% of main scale vacancies are taken by trainees. If that proves the case, then after we have recorded vacancy 700 in the subject there is a risk that the trainee pool will have been exhausted.

Using data from trainee notification of where they are seeking to work we can also identify both hot spots and areas where there may be shortages even before the ‘pool’ has been exhausted. The TeachVac team are able to create reports for interested parties on request, but at a cost as the basic service is free to both schools and trainees. For information can be obtained from enquiries@oxteachserv.com

Trainees also receive a helpful monthly newsletter about recruitment and tips on how to make the most of their application. Later we hope to offer a catch-up seminar programme for trainees once they have secured their first teaching job and can identify areas where they feel they need more preparation to cover issues and topics that they didn’t expect to be teaching.

If you know a trainee or secondary teacher looking for a classroom teacher vacancy for September 2015 please invite them to register at www.teachvac.com The same goes for schools wanting to publicise vacancies. As it is free to both schools and trainees they will be helping develop an entirely new system that tracks the changing labour market for teachers on a daily basis. Sadly, at present it is only England and just secondary. If anyone wants to extend it to primary schools then I know that the team at TeachVac would be delighted to talk with them.

* I am involved with the TeachVac project especially on the data and information side so declare an interest in the contents of the post. As the service is free to users they aren’t being asked to buy anything but encouraged to use the service for free.