8,000 computer teachers: Leak, pre-release or pressure on the Chancellor?

These days I am no longer sure what constitutes either a pre-budget announcement or a leak ahead of the speech. The £100 million for 8,000 more computer science teachers included in a Reuters report https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-economy-budget/driverless-cars-set-for-uk-budget-boost-finance-ministry-idUKKBN1DJ003 fall into this category of uncertainty. Is it a response to the recent Royal Society Report and does it cover the whole UK or just England since education is a devolved activity. Is it an inspired pre-release a leak or even just speculation on the part of commentators? It might even be a red herring put up to encourage a response to the recent Royal Society Report. We will all still have to wait until Wednesday to be absolutely certain.

Dividing the sum mentioned by 8,000 brings up a figure of £12,500 per teacher. Nowhere near enough to train that many new teachers, especially if they were all to be offered a bursary. So, perhaps a large number of the 8,000 are either teachers destined for the primary sector and expected to train at their own expense or the money covers the cost of re-training existing less than adequately qualified teachers already working in schools.

What is an absolute certainty is that there will never be 8,000 vacancies for his type of teacher in any one year in the secondary sector without mass redundancies of existing teachers. Even spreading the programme over four years, assuming that enough recruits could be found to enter teacher preparation courses each year, would mean a high risk of unemployment for the newly trained teachers unless schools were mandated to recruit these teachers.

Now the DfE knows how many teachers there are working in state schools and teaching computing in some shape or form through the annual School Workforce Census, and through the annual working of the Teacher Supply Model can estimate demand each year for training places. Indeed, it doesn’t do too bad a job at the estimation bit; recruiting them into training is another story entirely.

When the DfE has its own version of TeachVac’s National Vacancy Service that has been fully operational for a year it should know the demand profile from state funded schools. Whether, like TeachVac, it will know the demand from the private schools sector is another as yet, presumably, unresolved matter.

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.

What isn’t needed is a vast hike in training places.

 

 

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First thoughts on ITT recruitment for 2018

Half-way through the first month of applications by graduates to train as a teacher on courses recruiting through the UCAS system and starting in the autumn of 2018, I thought that I would have a look at what was happening? At the end of the month it will be possible make a comparison with previous years, but as there is a new allocation regime in place, I wondered whether this year might have seen a shift in behaviour by the early applicants.

Sadly, the regional information isn’t detailed enough to identify any trends. Higher Education providers still seem to be favoured amongst many of the early applicants, although it is impossible to tell whether there is also a degree of mix and match going on by applicants between school and higher education providers in the same location.

What is clear is that it was correct to treat physical education differently to other subjects. The nearly 4,000 applications for physical education received by the count point today is little short of 80% of the total for all applications for other secondary subjects. Depending upon how the applications are spread regionally, almost all courses could now have received enough applications, should applicants have used their maximum of three choices.

English is the second most popular secondary subject, followed by history, although taken together they only account for the equivalent of half the physical education applications. Mathematics is in third place, with the sciences in fourth place if you amalgamate the numbers across the three sciences: physics, sadly, contributes very little to the total and has the fourth lowest number of applications in the list. Only, business studies, classics and design and technology have lower totals.

Overall, there is very little to surprise in the rank order, although I might have expected a higher figure for primary even this early in the cycle, so that number will need watching over the next couple of months to see how it compares with previous recruitment rounds.

Although it is early days, indeed very early days, in the recruitment round, there is clearly not a large number of applicants that were awaiting the opening of the recruitment cycle except in physical education. That does not bode well for the recruitment round as a whole, unless the pattern changes to that seen in previous years. Although late applications, especially in mathematics and physics have been a feature of recent years, such behaviour cannot be relied upon. However, as the Brexit date draws nearer that may influence the view of teaching as a safe haven, especially should the wider economy and the graduate job market start to turn sour. If, however, it booms, as some would have us believe, that might be less good news for teaching: certainly we might expect fewer applications for EU nationals, unless that is there is a last minute rush to beat any deadline.

So far, just under 200 applicants have been accepted with conditional firm offers. The largest number is in primary, with just under half as many conditional firm offers in physical education and a handful in history, English and languages. But, it is early days.

 

 

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

MATHEMATICS  % LEFT
Yorkshire & The Humber 82
London 77
North West 75
West Midlands 72
ALL ENGLAND 69
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.