The importance of keeping teachers

The DfE’s evidence to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Review Body (the STRB) has been published and, as usual, the document contained some interesting nuggets in the detailed annexes. Two that are of particular interest are the retention rates for teachers over time and the number of schools using different forms of payments on top of the basic salary. This post consider the first of these numbers.

Retention is always shown by the DfE as a percentage of the entry number of teachers for each year. This is helpful in one way in that that it allows a direct comparison for year to year as to the progress of those entering as NQTs, although it isn’t clear if earlier years’ data are amended to take into account late entrants. However, the percentages can mask some very large swings in numbers. For instance only 18,600 NQTs entered service in 2001 compared with 25,700 in 2005 and 25,500 in 2015: the second highest number this century. Lest anyone think that such a large number negates any talk about recruitment crises, it is worth recalling that the figure for entrants covers both primary and secondary sectors and all subjects and specialisms. Thus, some over-recruitment can hide shortages in other areas. However, 2015, 2016 and probably 2017 witnessed more than 24,000 new entrants each year: significant numbers, albeit against a rising tide of pupil numbers and hence a growing demand for teachers. Regular readers of this blog will know my anxiety that the 2018 and probably 2019 entry cohorts will not match up to these numbers and are more likely to be in the range of the 23,000 entrants of 2012 and 2013.

The percentage loss of new teachers during their first year of teaching has remained relatively stable since 2000, at between 12-13% most years, dropping to only 10% in 2003. More alarming is the steady decline in retention rates for teachers in years 3-6 of their careers. The 2011-2014 entry cohorts were all at record percentage lows in 2016, with the 2011 cohort having lost a third of those entering by 2016. The issue is whether this is just accelerated departure of those that would have normally left by year ten of their careers, where the data suggests around 40% of entrants are no longer being tracked as teaching in state funded schools. These leavers may be teaching in the private sector; have moved overseas to teach; be working in FE of Sixth Form Colleges or taking a career break for personal reasons. No doubt some will have decided teaching isn’t for them; but others will have returned after a brief sell in being counted in the data.

The number of departing teachers is of concern because from the remaining teachers must come, first the middle leaders and then the senior leaders and overall leaders of the profession. Obviously, the best scenario is one of high entry numbers and low wastage by year ten: the worst outcome is low entry numbers and higher than average departures. By year ten, this can mean a difference of several thousand teachers. By the time any cohort reaches headship level, this differential in numbers probably doesn’t matter a great deal in the secondary sector, but it can seriously affect the supply of new head teacher in the primary sector, especially if it coincides with an above average retirements, as happened at the end of the first decade of this century.

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Teacher Supply, Retention & mobility

Despite the fact that we are in a period of government purdah, the DfE has followed up its publication of the Teacher Supply Model with the publication of a new piece of analysis on the School Workforce Census between 2011 and 2015, the period when the economy was emerging from the recession and the coalition government was in place. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/teachers-analysis-compendium-2017

Effectively the analysis deals with teacher recruitment and turnover up to September 2015, so the data is now two recruitment rounds out of date. Accurate up to date data on the present recruitment round is available from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free school recruitment site for teaching posts in all schools across England. However, the analysis is well worth a look for those interested in the teacher labour market.

The DfE analysis provides some interesting information. Entrant rates, (defined by the DfE as the percentage of teachers in a subject identified as an entrant divided by the number of teachers teaching the subject) include all teachers of the subject regardless of their qualifications to teach the subject. In some subjects, the entry rates needed to be high because wastage was also high. The DfE singled out physics and mathematics as the subjects with the two highest entry rates as also being subjects with high wastage rates. Of course, since this is a data driven exercise, there is no information about why wastage rates are higher in these subject areas, but both are subject areas where the skills of the teachers may be in demand across the labour market and not just in schools.

Of more concern is the decline in NQT entry rates, especially in the non-EBacc subjects. It is really only in History and geography, still strong recruiters into training in 2017, where NQT entry levels have remained really strong. Mostly, the growth has been in returners to teaching, especially in the non-EBacc subjects but also in physics and IT within the EBacc group of subjects.

Entrants can come from one of three sources; NQTs, those new to the state funded school sector and from returners. Of course, schools may also recruit existing teachers creating a ‘churn’ effect if the departing teacher needs to be replaced.

Late entrants provide a relatively small proportion of the annual intake. The proportion of intake that are NQTs has varied from 60% plus, in history and Classics, to below 40%, in business studies and design & technology. Business Studies has recruited badly into training and has a Teacher Supply Model target that has been too low for several years and design & technology has usually under-recruited against it training target. By comparison, history never has any difficulty filling the training places and has over-recruited in some years.

The later sections of the paper on wastage and turnover do seem to support the TeachVac claim that vacancies are more likely to arise in London, where pupil growth has been strong, and the DfE data also reveals the increasing mobility of teachers from London to elsewhere exceeding the percentage moving in the opposite direction in every year under scrutiny. The differences in percentages appears to have doubled between 2011 and 2015. London is presumably, as a result, more dependent on returners and NQTs to fill this gap. The pay cap of 1% across the board may, therefore, be affecting London schools in their attempt to recruit teachers during the latter part of the period under review. At TeachVac, we suspect this trend in departures has continued into 2017. An analysis of applications and offers for training in 2017 does not bode well for the teacher labour market in 2018 in London unless there is a change of direction on the pay front.

 

The myth of teacher wastage

Many years ago Mike Tomlinson gave an interview with The Guardian. It was soon after he became Chief Inspector. In it he referred to a figure of about 40% of new teachers not entering the profession. Like Chris Woodhead’s earlier claim of 15,000 incompetent teachers this figure has entered the mythology of education. Helpfully, in the additional data now published with the 2013 Workforce Census tables the DfE unpick the latest data on what happens to trainees after they qualify to help us understand whether this view is correct.

At this stage it is worth setting the ground rules for understanding the data. Most trainees have to compete for teaching jobs with ‘returners’ and those existing teachers changing schools for whatever reason. There is no logic to the use of teacher resources, so a trainee in their 30s with a house and a partner with a job might not secure a teaching job near where they live, but a footloose graduate in their early 20s might take that job even though they could work anywhere. As training numbers are established some years in advance, although not as far advance as in the past, changes in economic circumstances can radically affect the labour market. The new DfE figures go up to 2011 and concentrate on the early years of the recession when secondary school rolls were also falling.

Overall, the DfE calculate there were 106,000 trainees still under the age of 60 who had never worked as a teacher in circumstances where their employment would have been recorded by the DfE in March 2012. Interestingly, 24,300, or approaching a quarter of the total, emerged from training in the years 2009-2011 after the recession hit in late 2008. Some of these will have started undergraduate degrees way back in 2006 in an entirely different economic climate. The recession matters because the GTCE that still existed then identified a large number of teachers that re-registered with them in 2009. Presumably, some were casualties of the recession and looked to re-enter teaching and were competing with newly qualified teachers for the available jobs. The three years from 2005-2008 only have around 12,000 not recorded as entering teaching, about half the number in the later years. This suggests that it might not have been from a disinterest in teaching that the numbers were higher, but that there were more candidates than jobs.

A second table produced by the DfE confirms that those NQTs that enter teaching are likely to stay. The percentage in regular service after one year has never been below 90% since 1997 and after five years generally around 75% remain in teaching. Even after ten years two thirds of entrants are still teaching. For a profession with so many young women in it, some of whom might be expected to take a career break, this is an impressive percentage. The fact that 55% of those that entered teaching in 1997 were still there 17 years later raises interesting questions about the perception of the profession as a quick in and quick out area of work. But then the DfE made this all clear some years ago in the chapter on teacher wastage in their detailed review of the 2010 workforce Census that can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-profile-of-teachers-in-england-from-the-2010-school-workforce-census The charts on pages 77-79 are especially helpful in understanding what happens.