Apprenticeships and schools

The government has published some experimental statistics around the use of apprenticeship by those providers registered with the central service for administration. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/apprenticeship-service-registrations-and-commitments-august-2017 The most interesting feature of the numbers is the fact that there were more apprenticeships registered for those over the age of twenty five than in either of the other two younger age groups. Under nineteens were the smallest numerical grouping. If this reflects the overall pattern, then apprenticeships are not reaching young people who might previously have left school at sixteen. These numbers also don’t suggest a wholesale flight from higher education into apprenticeships, at least in the first year of the apprenticeship levy for centrally registered employers.

Locally, in Oxfordshire, I have asked for information about the amount of cash collected by the local authority from the maintained school sector. There is a silly system whereby academies and voluntary schools only pay the apprenticeship levy if their pay bill is over £3miliion per year whereas all maintained schools will pay, except perhaps in the smallest local authorities, as the collective authority pay bill will almost certainly be over £3million even when many services have been contracted out.

I am keen to see how much of the cash collected is being spent on apprenticeships and what happens if the fund is underspent this year? I would hate for the cash to be lost either into the general budget or returned to government as unspent: effectively representing a tax on hard pressed schools.

Looking at school web sites, the apprentice learning assistant seems the most common type of school-based apprenticeship on offer. I worry, in a few cases, whether this is really an apprenticeship leading to a qualification or a cheap way of paying just £3.40 an hour to someone to do the job for most of the week. I don’t know who is monitoring the provision of apprenticeship and where an apprentice can complain if they think they are just being exploited: although I am sure that wouldn’t be the case by a school.

I have seen science and IT technical type apprenticeship offered by schools and MATs that seem obvious areas for providing skill based training. There are also some in the area of supporting physical education in schools. This is another area where the job description risks creating quasi-teachers.

Then there is the issue of teacher apprentices, as discussed in an earlier post, will they replace the School Direct Salaried route as a more cost effective approach for schools and, if so, will they be attractive to adult career changers on the one hand and the teaching profession on the other? Will professional associations embrace them or tell their members not to support such trainees as they undermine the notion of an all graduate profession let alone the dream of a Masters level profession for the future?

As I suggested before, could such apprenticeships could also lead to the return of the In-service BEd degree. I well recall teaching Certificate teachers on this course in the 1980s and 1990s and a great experience it was. But, it shouldn’t be necessary again.

 

 

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The eye of the recruitment storm?

The National Governance Association (NGA) published its latest survey last Friday https://www.nga.org.uk/News/NGA-News/Key-findings-of-NGA-TES-annual-school-governance-s.aspx Carried out in association with the TES, it not surprisingly reveals governors worried about funding pressures and thus supports the view taken by this blog over the past twelve months.

The DfE has now published the individual school by school potential outcomes of the Mark 2 National Funding Formula. I have had a quick look at the Oxfordshire schools and the change in the method of calculation has produced some improvements, in that no school is now forecast to be facing a reduction in funding.

However, the bulk of the primary schools seemingly only face a per pupil increase of around 1%. This is not enough to fend off rising costs and will be a real problem when the pay rise eventually kicks in if it isn’t fully funded. With all the promises Labour is making at their conference, it is difficult to see how they can fund a public sector pay rise with additional cash. A Conservative government might not find it much easier either unless they can identify some new sources of funding.

Funding pressures two to three years out means that the future for small schools is still in doubt under NFF Mark 2 and the two main churches with schools across the country may face a real challenge if the present distribution of primary schools is no longer sustainable.

I was interested to see that the governors questioned thought this year had been easier in terms of recruitment, but not by much. In view of the better recruitment in 2016 to teacher preparation courses and the record numbers on School Direct and Teach First courses such a finding probably wasn’t a great surprise.  2018 may not be as easy a recruitment if the predictions already aired by this blog are accurate in terms of trainee numbers, unless the squeeze on funding really does mean schools reducing their staffing levels as some governors questioned suggested will be the outcome.

Towards the end of next month the DfE expects to reveal the Teacher Supply Model data that will underpin the allocations to 2018 preparation courses and hence numbers likely to be available to fill teaching positions in September 2019 and January 2020. By that year, the increase in secondary school rolls should really be underway, so the funding debate will really be starting to make a difference.

Should school-based training numbers reduce, as may happen this year, then more schools will be recruiting in the open market. That at least would be good news for those providing recruitment services, unless the DfE has stepped in by then with its own service. Taking recruitment away from the private sector clearly fits in with labour’s narrative, but seems less easy to sell to Conservatives stepped in the tradition of the free market.

Either way, the price of recruitment should be on the way down: good news for hard pressed schools and another win for modern technology.

 

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.

 

 

Recruiting Teachers for September 2018

Next week UCAS opens the recruitment round for ITT courses starting in the autumn of 2017. So far the government seems to have kept those that watch the annual recruitment round in the dark as to the outcome of the Teacher Supply Model and the total number of places allocated to each route for next year. Perhaps the Select Committee can ask the Minister for the figures when he appears before them next Wednesday to talk about teacher supply. It is a slightly odd time for the Minister to appear before the Select Committee as the ITT census for 2016 has yet been published, so he presumably won’t know the final outcome of the number of places filled this autumn and how much better it was then last year?

He will, however, be able to talk about progress on the National Teacher Service in Yorkshire and Lancashire and how successful it has been. He may also be able to announce the date of the national roll-out and when the tendering process will start. If the Committee is really lucky, the Minister might announce what progress there has been on creating a national vacancy portal that was mentioned in the White Paper last March. In the light of the research by the TES, the Committee might also like to ask whether there is any difference in recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders between grammar schools and secondary modern schools in those areas that still have fully selective systems of education.

If they haven’t already seen the new TV advert, the committee members can do so at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-5-october-2016 and might wish to compare the level of spending on the campaign with that of other government recruitment initiatives. As we know, teaching is by far one of the largest recruiters in the public sector. There has clearly been a stepping up of effort compared with a few years ago, but until the census appears, it isn’t possible to judge the success of last year’s efforts. It is interesting that the new advert seems to focus once again entirely on the secondary sector and doesn’t seem to feature any male teaching role model, always useful to help attract men into teaching as an under-represented group.

Hopefully, the Select Committee might also provide some indication of when it will conclude its inquiry into teacher supply. After all, it is more than six months since the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee considered the issue of teacher training. The Committee might explore how far the government has moved in the direction of meeting regional needs, rather than just the national demand and whether the government tracks in-year recruitment against training numbers. This is, of course, something TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk does on a daily basis and it has reported its findings to the Committee both in its original evidence and in the supplementary evidence submitted at the end of the summer term.

Finally, the Committee might ask the Minister what the DfE said to the Migration Advisory Committee on the issue of teacher shortages and the need for visas in light of current government policy about immigration and the use of workers already living in England?

 

 

 

 

London weighting for trainees?

Yesterday, I wrote about my initial views on the latest data about applications for teacher preparation courses starting in 2016. The data excludes Teach First, because that scheme does not report into the central admissions process. I noted that there had been an increase across the board in offers made following an increase in both applications – candidates may make up to three applications – and in applicants for courses in England.

I have now had more time to consider the data and can split the figures provided yesterday into three groups of subjects based on the evidence and trends over the past few years. There are some subjects where I expect it should be possible to recruit enough applicants to meet the number required by the government. These are in;

Languages
Physical Education
History
English
Chemistry

In the following subjects it is possible that the target will be met, but the data isn’t conclusive either way:

Music
IT
Business studies
Biology
In the following subjects, more work will be needed if the target 
is to be reached in 2016 based on the present evidence:
Religious Education
Geography
Design & Technology
Art
Mathematics
Physics.

In Art, the failure to reach the total may not mean a shortage unless vacancy levels pick up in 2017 over the levels seen in 2015 and early 2016. In English, although the target should be met, questions remain about whether the target is high enough to meet demand from all schools: time will tell.

Across both phases and all types of courses there have been increased levels of offers, with double the offer level for School Direct Salaried places in the primary sector over January 2015 and an even larger growth in School Direct fee courses in primary.

However, some of this may be due to higher percentages of offer being made. The most worrying figure is that applications by provider region for London only totalled 11,370 in January, for places in both phases, compared with 12,50 in January 2015. In reality, this means an additional 200 additional applicants in London so far this round across all types of provision except Teach First. On the face of these figures, many of the additional applicants are not making full use of their choices. Is this a sign that not providing extra funds for London trainees is beginning to have an impact on where potential teachers are prepared to train and then to work. In view of the recruitment challenge, I hope not, but it might be worth investigating this issue further. Has the growth been in applications to School Direct Salaried provision in London or for all types of courses?

We now enter the period when final year undergraduates tend to concentrate more on their end of course examinations that applying for teaching courses, so the behaviour of applicants over the next few months will be of especial interest. This is especially the case in those subjects where, unless more applicants are forthcoming, there could still be recruitment issues for schools in 2017.

 

 

 

 

Warning lights flashing amber

The publication today of the 2014 School Workforce Census data by the government https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2014 allows a review of the key indicators about the staffing of schools across England To this new data can be added the re-publication of the ITT data for courses in 2014-15, first published last November. The latter showed that only 93% of primary and 91% of secondary courses were filled when measured against the demand identified using the Teacher Supply Model. These numbers don’t appear to have changed since last November when they were first released.

According to the School Workforce Census, the number of vacancies reported by schools in November was 1,030. This is 280 more than in the previous year, although as one might expect from a census taken in November, the absolute figure as a percentage of the workforce has only increased from 0.2 to 0.3. Still, it is at its highest since the census moved to November in 2010 when it stood at just 380 vacancies.

The other key indicator of possible recruitment challenges comes from the percentage of lessons taken by those without a relevant post-A Level qualification in the subject. These percentages have increased for pupils in Years 7-13 in maths by 2.8%, so that only 79.8% of pupils this year were being taught the subject by a teacher with a relevant qualification. In English, the increase was 1.8% to 83% and in the sciences it was 1.2%, so that only 86.4% of pupils were being taught by a qualified science teacher of any description in November 2014.

The other indicator is the use of unqualified and temporary teachers. The number of unqualified teachers increased between 2013 and 2014 from 16,600 to 20,300 and is now the highest number recorded since the census moved to November. However, some of the increase may be due to the manner of recording those on Teach First and School Direct in schools. The number of temporary teachers increased from 13,500 to 14,100 and is above the 2010 figure of 12,200. Since sickness absence taken by teachers showed a slight decline, the increase in the number of temporary teachers is another possible indicator of staffing issues.

As this blog has regularly reported, the acceptances for entry into training in 2015 will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Teacher Supply Model, so we now know that recruitment for some schools, especially in and around London, but not exclusively in this area, will again be a challenge in 2016.

I published a blog earlier in the week with suggestions for how to tackle the training shortfall and it is clear that regardless of the Bill currently going through parliament, all schools, whether or not they are academies, will find progress challenging if they cannot recruit appropriately trained staff.

Had the census still been taken in January, as it used to be, then the 2016 data might make more worrying reading. But, the time for action is now, not when the growing size of the problem overwhelms the government and its Regional Commissioners.

Time for radical solutions

Secondary schools across England might well have been facing much greater issues over staffing their timetables for September than they are but for the syphoning off of cash into increased National Insurance and pension contributions.  While that decision to boost government finances may be a relief to both the Treasury and the DfE, since it both diminishes the size of any crisis and provides so much needed cash for the government, it doesn’t mean that there is any reason to relax.

As this blog has shown, 2016 is likely to be as challenging a recruitment round as was 2015, if not more so. At TeachVac,  www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment service, the average secondary school in London had placed more than six advertisements for classroom teachers since the start of 2015 and the end of June: some schools have placed many more.

This blog has long recognised that something has to be done to alleviate the growing pressure on staffing and the associated recruitment issues. At the start of 2015 I advocated a return to a ‘no fees’ policy for graduates, with the State once again paying the fees of those graduates opting to train as a teacher. So far, the government has been resistant to this proposal.

What else might be done? We know that there are a few subjects, physical education and history being the main ones, where there is some over-capacity emerging from training programmes. There is a need for a programme of post-training subject knowledge enhancement that might help some of these teachers secure employment in another subject. After all, they have shown a desire to become a teacher and undergone a training programme, often at considerable expense to themselves. Do we just abandon them to their fate or try to harness their potential?

We know that IT and business studies teachers are both in short supply. How about a one term conversion course to equip some of these teachers with subject knowledge. They have the knowledge to teach for their existing training so most of the time could be classroom based with some days spent turning the new knowledge into practical experience teaching classes. The whole program could be university or school-based.

I wonder if there is an IT company that might sponsor a group of 25 through a pilot programme as it is difficult to see what new steps the National College are taking to help reduce teacher shortages. Indeed, it is surely time for a management change at the top of that organisation if it once again fails to deliver as many trainees as a required having been warned of what was to come two years ago.

If the troops to teacher model has proved its worth, it is surely time to roll it out to a wider group of potential career changers or create a whole new programme to encourage teaching as a second career. For those with really long memories, we might even call it the TASC programme.