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 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 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;

Physical Education

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

Business studies
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
Design & Technology

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 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, 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.

Message to schools: please don’t close down teacher training yet

I don’t normally pay as much attention to the state of primary intakes to teacher training as perhaps I should. This is because the main focus has been on shortages in secondary. However, the latest National College newsletter for those involved in School Direct – is there such as publication for other routes – contains the following:

‘If you have filled, or are close to filling, your allocation in English, and you have evidence from your application data that you have sufficient demand to take on more trainees, you can now request additional places. Additionally, if you have filled your primary cohort, then you can now request additional primary places.

We can also confirm that we are accepting requests for new courses (where there was no initial allocation) in all subjects apart from English, primary, PE and history.’ Publication date 19th May 2015

This seems to suggest that there are still primary places available as well as places in English. The second paragraph doesn’t make it clear whether the new courses can be for 2015 entry or are in anticipation of 2016 allocations. If the former, then some higher education providers will no doubt be asking whether they can also open new courses.

Of interest, is whether the places available are as a result of schools returning allocated School Direct places and, if so, whether they are salaried or training places? With so many vacancies located in and around London I am not sure of the wisdom of spending money re-allocating places from that part of the country to say either the North West or South West where, at least in the secondary sector, vacancies for main scale teachers are at a much lower level.

Elsewhere in this bulletin the National College acknowledges that schools may close down the application process as early as the end of May and reminds those schools to let UCAS know so that others can handle any late applications. The implications are that the system lost some of the 2,000 plus applicants arriving over the summer last year because they applied to schools that had stopped recruiting but handn’t made that fact clear. Personally, as we need as many applicants as possible, I believe that the funding agreement for School Direct should require schools to recruit throughout the summer, as higher education courses have always sought to do when there are unfilled places.

In a period of teacher shortage those operating teacher preparation programmes should all be doing everything possible to fill as many of the available places as possible, especially when these places are in areas of high need for teachers. The alternative will be to deepen the teacher recruitment crisis in 2016; surely that cannot be government policy?

The UCAS web site should also identify separately courses closed because they are full and those courses closed because the provider has decided not to accept any more applications, but has places still available. It may be that this information is already available to Ministers, but it should also be available to others so that the use of public money can be scrutinised.

Unqualified Teachers: where next?

On the day before the Carter Review is expected to publish its awaited report there has been a flurry of interest in the use of unqualified teachers. Since the data from the DfE is nearly a year old and relates to data collected from schools in November 2013 it might not be expected to be a topic to attract much interest. However, perhaps it has been a slow news day ahead of Carter and at least one post on another bog appeared on the subject this week.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the DfE definition of an ‘unqualified teacher’. Such a person is: ‘a teacher in an LA maintained school is either a trainee working towards qualified teacher status; an overseas trained teacher without QTS or an instructor who has a particular skill who can be employed for so long as a qualified teacher is not available.’ Now an academy may employ such people according to the doctrine of the former Secretary of State. Michael Gove but the DfE definition doesn’t seem to have caught up with that change in their School Workforce Survey, at least in the 2013 edition.
However, it probably doesn’t matter because the total number of unqualified teachers in November 2013 was still below that in the early 2000s during the Labour government’s period in office. In November 2013 there were 17,100 unqualified teachers in all state funded schools in England compared with 18,800 in 2005 and 18,200 in 2006. The 2013 figure will have included both those on the first year of Teach First, a programme introduced by Labour, and probably those on the School Direct salaried route where they are employed by schools. As their predecessors on Labour GTTP Scheme were also included in the totals there is little change methodology there, although the supposed popularity of the scheme might have been expected to boost the numbers. But, this blog has already pointed out that there are fewer School Direct salaried trainees this year than there were GTTP trainees in secondary schools a few years ago.
It would be helpful to know how many instructors are being employed in schools by returning to the separate categories for trainees and ‘instructors and other unqualified teachers’ employed by the DfE until a few years ago. This would allow commentators to check trends in genuinely unqualified staff that had no intention of obtaining a teaching qualification. Such numbers are important to know with a looming teacher supply crisis and mixing up school-based trainees and staff recruited to fill vacancies otherwise unfilled or because a schools doesn’t believe in the present preparation methods for teachers isn’t helpful, but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.
Tomorrow is the official launch of TeachVac our free service for schools seeking secondary classroom teachers and trainees looking for their first job. has already attracted sufficient trainees to make over 1,000 matches in the first two weeks of January and provide valuable information about the state of the job market. Do take a look at the video on the site if this is an area of interest.