More facts about the teaching profession

Those of my generation will remember the verse from the folk song about ‘where have all the young men gone?’ Written by the great Peter Seeger in the 1950s and, so Wikipedia informs me, based on a Cossack song and an Irish lumberjack tune, it became one of the most covered and well known of political folk songs of its generation.

I was reminded of the line when looking through the detailed tables in the DfE’s Workforce Statistics for 2018, published earlier today. Among men under the age of 25 there are just 3,159 working as classroom teachers in secondary schools across England compared with 2,005 working as classroom teachers in the primary sector.  Surprisingly, that’s better than a generation ago. In March 1997, the DfE recorded just 900 male primary school teachers under the age of 25 and 2,070 in that age group working as teachers in secondary schools. So, net gains all round and proportionally more so in the primary sector.

However, if you also look at the 45-49 age grouping for the number of men working as classroom teachers, the numbers are dramatically lower. In the primary sector, down from 8,215 classroom teachers to just 2,053, and in the secondary sector, from 23,602 to just 7,882, in the years between 1997 and 2018. Overall male teacher numbers fell from 31,000 to 25,311 in the primary sector between 1997 and 2018, and in the secondary sector from 90,100 to 64,513 during the same period.

The differences at more senior levels are not as easy to discover as less attention was paid in the 1990s to the gender of head teachers. However, I suspect that men have more than held their own in head teacher appointments, especially in the secondary sector, where women still from only a minority of the nation’s head teachers.

The proportion of non-White teachers in the profession remains small, especially in the more senior leadership posts. Whereas some 15% of classroom teachers are not White British, along with 10.3% of assistant and deputy heads, and some seven per cent of head teachers, these numbers fall if White Irish and other teachers classified by the DfE as from ‘any other white background’ are included. BAME percentages fall to less than 10% of classroom teachers and little more than four per cent of head teachers. Many are, I suspect, located only in a few distinct parts of England.

Overall numbers of entrants to the profession were static in 2018 compared with 2017, but this masked a fall in full-time entrants that was balanced by an increase in part-time entrants. The number of full-time entrants was at the lowest level since 2011, and must be some cause for concern, especially with the secondary school pupil population on the increase. Also of concern is the fact that the percentage of entrants under the age of 25 was at its lowest percentage since before 2011, when the workforce Census started, at 26.4% of entrants.

The profession cannot afford to lose any of its youngest teachers. A future post will look at trends in the retention of teachers.

 

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Worsening PTRs herald a sign for the future?

The DfE has today published a raft of statistics about schools, their pupils and the workforce. This post will concentrate on the data about the teacher workforce, collected by the DfE in the 2018 School Workforce Census completed by schools during November 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2018

As ever, and as under any government, the DfE highlights what it sees as the positive: more teachers and teaching assistants and fewer leavers, but readers sometimes have to dig down to uncover the nuances behind the numbers However, the time series graphs by themselves are very revealing. For instance, although sixth form numbers aren’t rising yet, the pressure of an increased number of Year 7 pupils may well be behind the increase in Pupil Teacher Ratios in the secondary sector to 1:16.3. This is the fourth increase in a row, and takes the ratio from 1:15 in 2014, to its present level, an increase of 1.3 pupils per teacher and not far short of a 10% increase since 2011. By contrast, the primary sector has only seen PTRs increase from 20.5 in 2015, to 20.9 in 2018, the same level as it was in 2017.

The DfE has produced an interesting one page infographic of the teacher workforce that shows 74% of teachers are women – on a full-time equivalent basis – and that nearly a quarter of teachers are aged under 30. Just over 13% of teachers are BAME and almost a quarter of teachers are part-time. In the year up to 2018, entrants to teaching exceeded leavers, but not by very much, and this followed a relatively good year for recruitment into training in 2016-17.

So, excluding short-term supply teachers, there were 453,411 FTE teachers employed in November 2018, up from 451,968 in 2017. Although the number of teaching assistants also increased, the number of other support staff decreased from 232,031 to 229.949, a sign of the pressure school budgets are now under.

The upward trend in the full-time numbers of ‘teachers’ without QTS continued, possibly as more primary schools have recruited School Direct salaried entrants to the profession, no doubt in some cases converting them after a period as a classroom assistant. Although the number of part-time teachers with QTS increased over the 2017 figure, it was still the second lowest number recorded since 2010. However, the dip in the recorded number of occasional teacher recorded in the 2017 figures was revered in 2018, with an increase to 12,853 such teachers recorded by the DfE.

Technicians, mostly employed in secondary schools, were the support staff group that continue to bear the brunt of cuts, falling to their lowest number since the 2010 Census. By contrast, teaching assistants were at record high numbers in 2018.

Part-time teaching is still dominated by women, with just 8,745 qualified male teachers working part-time, compared with 111,755 qualified women teachers working part-time in 2018. The ratio among unqualified teachers is a slightly lower number.

Over the next few years, as more pupils enter the secondary sector, with its lower PTRs, and assuming post-16 numbers in schools don’t fall, then teacher numbers will probably increase in the secondary sector but fall in the primary sector. I expect that secondary PTRs will continue to worsen for 2019. Beyond that it will depend upon any funding injection schools do or do not receive in the next spending review.

 

Keep older teachers in the profession?

Most of the discussion about issues relating to the supply of teachers revolves around the need to bring in more new entrants. Attention is then generally next focused on stemming the exit of teachers early in their careers, often at the point where they might be moving into middle leadership roles. Scant attention is ever paid to the idea of ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those leaving for caring reasons, whether because they have started their own family or are caring for elderly relatives to help retain their interest and understanding of the profession. Indeed, the DfE’s specific attempt at an approach to helping those seeking to return to the profession wasn’t an outstanding success, if you read the evaluation report published earlier this year.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Probably, the least attention has been paid to altering the age at which teachers retire from the profession. I don’t mean the formal age of retirement as, indeed, there isn’t one these days, although working for more than 40 years probably doesn’t bring any extra benefits from a pension point of view. However, could encouraging teachers to remain in either full-time or part-time service for a year or two longer help reduce the staffing crisis faced by some schools?

Sadly, the answer is probably not. The School Workforce Census suggests that the number of teachers leaving over the age of 55 have been falling in recent years

Year Teachers Leaving
2013 11,470
2014 11,420
2015 10,430
2016   9,430
2017   8,570

DfE 2017 School Workforce Census Table 7b

Whether this is because either the cohort size has been falling or more are staying needs further work to determine. However, the Census does also record around 1,600 entrants from this age group each year, so the net departure rate may be less than shown in the table. Overall, in the 2017 School Workforce Census, there were some 25,800 teacher in service between the ages of 55-59 and a further 9,700 over the age of 60 still in service.

Providing more part-time opportunities could be one way to attract more of the leavers to stay, but it could carry the risk of persuading more teachers to consider switching to part-time work and supplementing their income through tutoring and other uses of their talents and experience. Indeed, the shift from a final salary pension scheme to one based upon average salary, however calculated, makes early departure less of a risk than in the past, even though the Teachers’ Pension Scheme remains an attractive scheme to its members compared with some other schemes.

Bringing in more over 50s to spend a decade or so in teaching is worth considering. Some 4,840 new entrants from the 45-54 age grouping were recorded in the 2017 School Workforce Census, but there needs to be sufficient new entrants to fill future leadership vacancies even after the inevitable wastage of teachers in their early years of service. In some subjects future head of department recruits are already looking few and far between and a high percentage of primary teachers that survive more than 20 years of service are likely to become a head or at least a deputy head.

So, we cannot escape the need to ensure new entrants to training meet the levels specified by the DfE if an optimum level for the teacher workforce is to be achieved.

Workforce worries over retention

Yesterday, this blog took its first look at the School Workforce Census data for 2017. Jack Worth at NfER, their authority on the school workforce, has also written a much more extensive blog about the same data. This can be found at https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/ It is well worth a read.

One interesting dataset in the DfE Tables is that on teacher retention. The DfE has updated the numbers used in their submission to the STRB as part of their discussions on pay and conditions for teachers still covered by the national pay and conditions. The updated data doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

Year
NQT enter-ing service
YEAR 1
YEAR 2
YEAR 3
YEAR 4
YEAR 5
YEAR 6
YEAR 7
YEAR 8
YEAR 9
YEAR 10
1996
18100
16471
15204
14299
13213
12851
12308
12127
11584
11222
10860
1997
18900
17010
15023
14553
13986
13419
13041
12663
12285
11718
11340
1998
17800
15842
14418
13706
13172
12816
12282
11926
11392
11214
11036
1999
18300
16104
15006
14091
13542
12993
12810
12261
11895
11712
11346
2000
17600
15664
14608
13728
13024
12672
12144
11792
11616
11264
10912
2001
18600
16554
15252
14508
13950
13206
12648
12462
12276
11904
11904
2002
20700
18423
17181
16146
15318
14904
14490
14076
13662
13455
13248
2003
23000
20700
19090
17710
17020
16330
15870
15640
15410
14950
14490
2004
25200
22428
20412
19404
18648
17892
17388
17388
16884
16380
15624
2005
25700
22102
20817
19789
19018
18247
18247
17733
16962
16448
15677
2006
24000
20880
19440
18480
17760
17520
17040
16320
15840
14880
14400
2007
24400
21472
20008
19032
18788
18056
17324
16592
15372
15128
14640
2008
24400
21472
20008
19520
18788
18056
17324
16104
15860
15372
2009
22300
19401
18509
17617
17394
16056
15164
15164
14272
2010
24100
20967
19762
18557
17593
16870
15906
15424
2011
20600
18128
17098
15862
15038
14214
13390
2012
23300
20504
18873
17475
16543
15611
2013
23800
20706
19040
17612
16660
2014
25100
21837
19829
17374
2015
26100
22707
20358
2016
24900
21165
2017
23300

Abstracted from DfE Table 8 School Workforce Census June 2018

Although the number of NQTs fluctuates from year to year and is uprated as new entrants arrive in the profession as deferred entrants, either for the first time or from another sector, the loss of teachers is concerning. It is probably worth ignoring the 2011 data where the NQT number looks somewhat out of line for the period since 2006.

The DfE notes that numbers also underestimate teachers in part-time service, but, if the underestimate is consistent, this is only an issue where part-time working among this group of teachers is changing significantly.

The table does show how quickly teacher recruitment and retention can become an issue, especially where school rolls are on the increase, if the profession doesn’t hold on to its teachers.

The real concern must be with retention from years 6-10, where the next generation of middle leaders should start to be emerging. Assuming the 2007 cohort is split equally between primary and secondary sectors, this would mean a cohort of around 7,400 primary teachers. As the primary sector currently needs more than 1,000 new head teachers each year, the likelihood is that approaching 15% of the cohort may need to become head teachers at some point in their careers. Adding in deputy posts means that the percentage of the cohort needed for leadership positions probably exceeds 25%.

If you factor in specific demands, such as the need to be a Roman Catholic to lead an RC primary school, future leadership issues can already be predicted if the workforce isn’t prepared for leadership.

There are no regional breakdowns for retention in the tables. Such breakdowns would be helpful in predicating the pressures on future leadership appointments at a sub-national level and identifying the areas where there is the need to take early action. Perhaps, the Select Committee might ask for that data next time they talk to the Secretary of State for Education.

Fewer teachers, classroom assistants and technicians

Today is the day that the DfE publishes two important datasets: the results of the 2017 School Workforce Census and the data providing the identification of schools and their characteristics. You can find the details at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics?departments%5B%5D=department-for-education

There are a large number of tables to assimilate, but the DfE helpfully publishes what used to be known as a Statistical Bulletin on the School Workforce data at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/719772/SWFC_MainText.pdf Now it only has a title.

The headline figure is the reduction in staffing levels almost across the board, whether teachers, technicians or classroom assistants. This is the manifestation of the funding issues facing schools that have been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere. As the DfE note states’ ‘The total FTE number of teachers in all schools has fallen by 1.2%’, between November 2016 and November 2017. The note is not totally accurate, because the figure includes centrally employed teachers, but since there are now less than 4,000 of these the latitude in the wording can be overlooked.

There was also a fall in the number of entrants to teaching, meaning that entrants and leavers were both recorded as at 9.9% of the qualified teaching force. This is the first year for some considerable time and probably since the School Workforce Census has been collected at its present November date that entrants into the profession have not exceeded departures as a percentage of the qualified teacher workforce.

As noted in the previous post on this blog, older applicants were taking more training places as younger graduates seem less interested in becoming teachers. The same trend is visible in the workforce data. Table 7b shows a large increase in departures among teachers in the 25-44 age brackets and especially among the key 25-34 age group where just over 14,000 were recorded as leaving compared with just 10,400 of this age group in 2011. Are we losing the leaders of tomorrow and where are they going? Are international schools tempting them overseas with better pay and easier working conditions?

Although much is made of working conditions and workload, teacher absence rates still continue to fall as Table 16 reveals. There was a one per cent rise in the percentage of teachers taking sickness absence, but the total days lost was the lowest for many a year.

After some years when the match between teachers’ qualifications ad subject expertise had been improving, there was something of a setback between 2017 and 2018 in some subjects. This may be due to the increasing challenge in recruitment into training and can be expected to show further declines in key subjects when the next set of data are published next June. In 2017 among EBacc subjects, only German and ‘other’ Modern Languages saw an improvement in the percentage of hours taught by a teacher with a relevant post A level qualification. Spanish and Chemistry recorded no change.

Now that secondary pupil numbers are on the increase and primary numbers are falling among the entry age groups, it is likely that we will see more rebalancing of the teacher workforce over the next few years. Unless funding improves, it also seems likely that more support staff will also lose their jobs as schools strive to protect teaching posts.

Good news on Mathematics teaching

Is the crisis in mathematics teaching over? According to the data in the 2016 School Workforce Census, if not over, then the problem is at least well on the way to being solved, if you use two important measures for the teaching workforce.

On the basis of the percentage of teachers with no relevant post A -Level qualification teaching the subject, the data for mathematics is the best for many years

2013 22.4%

2014 24.2%

2015 26.3%

2016 22.2%

The 2016 figure is a remarkable turnaround on the 2015 percentage and probably the largest single year change ever recorded. There are similar improvements across many other subjects, with only physics not really following the general trend.

2013 33.5%

2014 36.5%

2015 37.5%

2016 37.3%

The improvement in Physics is only a marginal 0.2% over last year and still far worse than in 2013, although the number of teachers has increased from 6,300 to 6,500, the best level for many years.

To triangulate the data it is worth also looking at the hours taught in a typical week to pupils in years 7 to 13 by teachers with no subject relevant post A-level qualification. This is the measure used last year by the Migration Advisory Committee in their seminal report. The data can be found in Table 13 of this year’s School Workforce Census.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Maths 16 16 18 17 20 18 12.8
Physics 21 24 26 26 28 25 24.6
D&T 11 15 18 17 19 17 14.2
ICT 48 4 41 39 44 38 30.6
English 12 13 15 15 17 13 9.6
Geography 11 16 18 18 17 14 12.5
History 10 13 15 15 15 11 8.6
PE 9 11 12 11 11 7 4

Figures are percentages and come from Table 4.19 of the MAC Report and Table 13 of the 2016 School Workforce Census

So, apart from in Physics, not only has the percentage of teachers with minimal qualifications been reduced, but the percentage of hours taught by such teachers is also down.

However, before everyone becomes too euphoric and proclaims the end of the teacher supply crisis, it is worth noting these are for Qualified Teachers only. It is not clear what impact both the School Direct Salaried and Teach First schemes have on these numbers. The ability of schools to correctly complete the School Workforce Census must also be taken into consideration. Recruitment into training in 2016 and the job market in 2017 may have played a part in helping the improvement as may the work undertaken by the government in mathematics in upgrading the knowledge and skills base of those teaching mathematics.

Whatever the reasons, these figures show an improving trend, although one in eight hours in mathematics taught be a Qualified Teacher with not even an A-Level in the subject is still not good enough. The fact that almost a quarter of Physics lessons are taught by such teachers, let along the hours taught by unqualified and trainee teachers in the subject even after several years of generous bursaries is not a happy situation. It also raises the question of whether the government is paying generous training bursaries to teachers that end up outside of the State school system. If that is the case, a loan forgiveness scheme or even better salaries for teachers in the State system might be better alternatives.

The concern about recruitment into training in 2017 together with the rising secondary school population means that even if the 2017 School Workforce Census produces similar results to the 2016, the 2018 Census may show a return to more concerning outcomes. But, since that won’t be published until 2019 that’s a world away in politics.

 

And now for some good news

Not everything in the education world is going in the wrong direction. There are some nuggets within the 2013 School Workforce survey that tell of improvements over time. One of these is the percentage of qualified teachers with a relevant post ‘A’ level qualification teaching various subjects. The School Workforce Census contains a Table (Table 13 this year) that identifies the percentage of hours taught in a subject by the highest qualification of those teaching the subject. In many subjects, the percentage of hours taught by those with no relevant post ‘A’ level qualification declined between 2012 and 2013. For instance, in Mathematics, the 2012 census recorded 17.9% of 478,200 hours taught hours taken by teachers with no relevant post ‘A’ level qualification. In the 2013 census the total was down to 17.3% of 487,600 hours. This represented a very small gain of 150 hours taught by qualified staff. In fact, the number of hours taught by those with the highest qualification of a degree and normally QTS increased by a far greater amount. The challenge will be to continue this increase once school rolls start increasing again, and if policy dictates more mathematics is taught to the 16-18 age-group.

It is really it was only in some of the languages where the trend in the use of fully qualified teachers has been going in the wrong direction. This may be partly due to the mix of linguists a school employs at any one time, as even a change of head of department can affect the balance of language teaching hours available within a department.

In English, Mathematics, and most of the Sciences, the total number of hours the subject was taught across years 7-13 increased between 2012 and 2013. Among the Languages group of subjects, German lost ground, although other languages increased their total hours. There was some decline in the hours of design & technology. However, the main losers were subjects such as Religious Education, music, drama, art and design and media studies. If these declines continue no doubt they will eventually be reflected in the number of training posts seen as required by the Teacher Supply Model. However, hours taught is but one element of that model and since many of these subjects are aggregated into a single conglomerate ‘subject’ for the purpose of the modelling these days it isn’t clear what the overall effect would be as the decline in hours in some subjects might be counter-balanced by the increase in other creating an unhelpful average outcome.

Still, with so much gloom around it is helpful to see some improvement in the percentage of qualified teachers even if there is a risk that it will be short-lived as school rolls start to increase again and under-recruitment to training will mean fewer highly qualified trainees available for employment in 2014. Sadly, the overall tables tell us nothing about the distribution of teachers between different types of schools and across the country.