Business Studies: from amber to red in four weeks

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has today reported that the status of Business Studies as a subject has changed from Amber to a Red warning. Essentially, this means that there have been enough vacancies recorded so far in 2019 to mean that more than three quarters of identified trainee numbers, as shown in the DfE’s ITT census last December, could have been absorbed by the vacancies already advertised during 2019.

This is by far the earliest TeachVac ever issued a Red warning notice for any subject. However, in view of the level of recruitment to teacher preparation courses and the failure to meet he desired number of trainees for the past six recruitment rounds this outcome is, perhaps, not totally unexpected. The Amber warning was issued just four weeks ago based upon figures collected on the 18th January 2019.

Business Studies is not the only subject with an Amber warning already in place this year. Design and Technology, again predictably, also has an Amber warning and TeachVac could issue a Red warning within the next two to three weeks, if the advertising of vacancies in the subject doesn’t slow down as much as expected during the half-term period.

An Amber warning means that schools in areas where recruitment can be challenging, such as London and the surrounding areas may encounter challenges recruiting a teacher in the subject: such schools might want to put in place additional recruitment measures.

A Red warning widens this advice to schools across the whole of the country, as recruitment issues may no longer be localised to areas where recruitment is challenging.

TeachVac is closely monitoring mathematics this year, as it is possible that an Amber warning may be issued before the end of March, if vacancies continue to be posted at the same rate they have been already in 2019.

Indeed, whether it is due to pupil numbers being on the increase, more teachers leaving the profession, or better than expected funding for secondary schools, the result has been that more vacancies are being advertised earlier in the year in 2019 than in the previous couple of years.

The same pattern of a rising number of vacancies cannot be said for the primary sector so far this year, and some secondary schools may well find that there are well qualified teachers prepared for the primary sector that would usefully fit into their gaps in the timetable come the summer months.

Nothing in this blog should be news to regular readers, although the speed at which the first Red warning has been issued has taken even me by surprise. Looking back at periods of previous teacher supply problems over the past fifty years, the present state of affairs could build into a really serious problem for secondary schools unless pupil teacher ratios are worsened back to where they were at the turn of the century, some adjustments in the curriculum are made in favour of the arts subjects in the EBacc, where there are generally plenty of teachers available or schools are prepared to see classes taught by teachers with little or no preparation in the subject that they are teaching. None of these is a sign of an excellent education system.

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Amber for business studies

The recruitment round for September 2019 has now been underway for nearly three weeks. Such a period of time might be regarded as too short to create any concerns about the position schools looking to recruit teachers are experiencing.

However, TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk issued an amber warning today to schools seeking teachers of business studies. TeachVac expects to announce a similar warning for teachers of design and technology before the end of January. In both subjects low recruitment into training means fewer than needed new entrants into teaching in England this September.

TeachVac would probably be issuing a similar warning for Physics but, as most schools in England advertise for a teacher of science, it is less easy to predict the absolute demand for teachers of each science subject area. However, schools should not have any difficulty recruiting a science teacher, as there are far more Biologist in training to be teachers than required by schools.

There will also be more than enough candidates for PE, history, geography and probably English vacancies in 2019 and also for January 2020 vacancies. This is despite falls in the numbers on School Direct Salaried courses.

Schools will face increasingly difficulty recruiting teachers in some subjects, with location, time of advert and the nature of the school seeking to recruit all key factors in determining success or otherwise.

January vacancies are often the most challenging to fill and the DfE should work with COBIS (Confederation of British International Schools) to identify those parts of the world where the yearend is before Christmas and some teachers may be seeking to return to England. The DfE also needs to ensure that head teachers and middle leaders know of the value of recruiting a teachers with some period of overseas service either volunteering or in an international school.

The disparity between the low number of teachers for practical and vocational subjects and excess of teachers for some classroom based subjects is stark and, unless applications pick up for training, will be replicated again in the 2020 labour market.

So, schools should find someone to employ in 2019 and January 2020, but not necessarily with the right background or subject knowledge. This raises the question of whether QTS with no strings attached is still a good idea. It certainly is for Ministers, as they can point to overall numbers when asked about a recruitment crisis and say that there are enough teachers with QTS.

But, is that good enough? My view for many years is that it isn’t. Now the DfE has a vacancy site they also won’t any longer be able to hide behind a lack of knowledge of the vacancies schools cannot fill. After all, if the DfE site displays four times as many business studies vacancies as the ITT census reveals, then Ministers cannot deny that there is an issue.  I suppose the answer will be: we are evaluating the data at this point in time.

Looking back over the blog, I can see very similar posts in recent years, but no evidence of any action being taken in these chronic shortage subjects.

 

TeachVac – saving schools money

The EPI Report published earlier today, about school balances and the use of their income, especially by secondary schools, provides me with an ideal opportunity to beat the drum for TeachVac, the free recruitment site for teachers, where I am chair of the board.

Over the past four years, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has built a brand from a standing start and at no cost to the public purse. Last year it matched nearly 55,000 vacancies for teachers in England with potential applicants from across the country. These teachers included, new entrants from training; teachers seeking promotion or just changing schools and returners, whether from a break in service or from working in a school overseas or in the further education sector that includes Sixth Form Colleges.

2019 has started where last year left off for TeachVac, breaking new records within the first week of January. Already, there have been enough new jobs in the first 10 days of January for teachers of Business Studies listed by TeachVac to absorb more than 10% of the new output from training this summer. This is a subject where the DfE really does need to review the bursary funding for trainees if schools are not going either to have to delete the subject or teach it with unqualified teachers or those with QTS, but no subject expertise.

As the DfE vacancy site, the only national competitor to TeachVac that is also free to schools and teachers, approaches full roll out we would invite detailed comparison between the DfE site and TeachVac on both technical features and cost per vacancy. If the DfE is paying too much for its site, then that is still money not reaching schools, but ending up in the pockets of a private company instead.

The TeachVac view is that the sector should be aiming for the lowest price recruitment site compatible with a level of service agreed as the gold standard by all participants in education. In my role as Chair of the TeachVac board, I have been disappointed about the willingness of those representing schools and teachers to even consider properly, let alone offer support, to initiatives by new entrants into this market aimed at saving their member money.

TeachVac has now established a global site for international schools around the world. With the experience of four years of working across schools in England, I believe that TeachVac Global can create the same market transformation as TeachVac has achieved in England.

One other advantage of handling nearly 55,000 vacancies a year through TeachVac is the research evidence it can provide. TeachVac will be shortly publishing its review of the market for senior staff, and specifically for primary headteachers in England during 2018. This will be the second such review, after that of the 2017 market review published last year.

Later, there will be a general review of the market for teachers during 2018, based upon TeachVac’s data. Some of that work will already have appeared in this blog as trends in the 2018 labour market became apparent during the year. This blog has already published some first thoughts about the 2019 labour market for teachers in secondary schools: more will follow as the market for September vacancies develops.

 

 

 

School funding – is it ever enough?

The Education Policy Institute, where David Laws, ex-Education Minister is Chair of the Board, published a report on school revenue balances today. The data on school balances discussed in the report in maintained schools comes partly from the same DfE source discussed in a post on this blog on the 12th December 2018.

Simplistic analysis of the report produced comments that the Report showed schools were under-funded. This was because one in ten of the remaining maintained secondary schools had a deficit overall and many others were in deficit in the latest year data was available for from the government. In reality, as the EPI report discussed, the picture is both more nuanced and more complicated than a bald assessment that schools don’t have enough funding, although pressure on 16-19 funding almost certainly does need attention.

What is less clear is the extent to which the former funding formula created winners and losers and whether the new formula will help redress the balance in the future. Personally, I don’t think it will. However, there also needs to be more understanding as to why these one in ten maintained secondary schools cannot live within their means for several years and more schools are now in that position?

As EPI note, academy chains have fewer schools with deficits and are able to move money around between schools. Local Authorities cannot do this to help schools over a temporary crisis. Should the remaining maintained schools now be treated as if they were a Multi-Academy Trust, allowing cash to be moved between schools?  If local financial management means the cash provided for a school is for that school, then MATs should not be allowed to take any cash away from one school to help another and can only charge for services provided.

The EPI report covers this point in their policy recommendations

  1. With increasing financial pressures on schools – particularly in secondaries – the government should consider before the Spending Review whether higher per pupil funding is needed, or whether efficiency savings can make up part of the current shortfalls. It should especially focus on the strains faced by many secondary schools, and assess whether changes in pupil numbers are likely to ease financial pressures, or whether these will prove more enduring.
  2. Further consideration should be given to what extra help or advice can be offered to those schools facing large deficits.
  3. The government should determine the reasons for the lower level of in-year deficits in academy trusts, and whether there are any lessons to learn from this.
  4. The government should also look closely at the level of “excessive”, unallocated, surpluses and consider if existing rules allow for these resources to be used effectively.

The last recommendation from EPI is interesting, especially in view of the concerns over deficits. As I noted in December, some schools have balances equivalent to 20% of their annual income and there are schools with more than £1,000,000 in reserves. My view, as expressed in December, is that revenue income is for spending in the year it is provided ad for the current pupils, although setting a sum aside for depreciation is now acceptable.

Finally, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk was established to help schools cut costs by providing a free vacancy service to schools. I am delighted to record TeachVac handled nearly 55,000 vacancies in 2018 and has a great start to 2019, breaking records. Just why the DfE needs to run a rival scheme isn’t clear.

 

 

A question for the Cardinals

Why do Roman Catholic schools find more difficulty in recruiting a new headteacher than do other schools? I first posed this question more than thirty years ago, soon after I started looking at trends in vacancies for school leaders in the early 1980s.

After a break of five years, I returned to the subject of vacancies for school leaders in a report published last January. I have just completed the first draft of the 2018 survey into leadership vacancies. The full report will be available from TeachVac at enquiries@oxteachserv.com early in the New Year. You can reserve a copy now.

Once again, in 2018, Roman Catholic schools, and especially those in some diocese, weren’t able to appoint a headteacher after the first advertisement by the school. The data comes from TeachVac, the free job board that costs schools and teachers nothing to use.

(As an aside, I wonder why the DfE didn’t contract with an existing provider such as TeachVac, eteach or even the US owned TES to provide a comprehensive free job site rather than building their own site. Perhaps there are different rules for Brexit and hiring ships from companies still to start their service than for designing government web sites for far more money than it would have cost to buy in the service.)

Anyway, back to the matter in hand, TeachVac recorded that some 57 of the 124 Roman Catholic schools that were recorded as advertising for a primary headteacher during the 2017-18 school year needed to re-advertise the post: a re-advertisement rate of 46%. Other schools had re-advertisement rates for vacancies first advertised during this period in the low 30%s.

Now, some diocese, have reduced re-advertisement rates by appointing deputy heads from secondary schools to run primary schools. I was once sceptical of this as a solution, but can now see that just as a secondary school headteacher isn’t an expert in all subjects taught in the schools, so a primary headteacher needs leadership qualities, backed by experienced middle leaders that understand the different stages of learning and development in the primary sector.

Using a different measure of total re-advertisements to schools advertising a vacancy for a headteacher reveals that a small number of schools have extreme difficulty in recruiting a new headteacher. Some of these schools just start at the wrong time of year.

Overall, almost every primary school of any type that advertised a headship in December 2017 re-advertised the post at some point during 2018. Unless, these schools used a subscription model that allowed for as many advertisements are required to fill the post, the governors were just wasting the school’s money if they used a paid for publication or job board for the December advert. Those that used TeachVac would have not faced that problem, because it wouldn’t have cost them anything.

As Britain becomes a more secular society, all faiths will need to address the question of how to find the next generation of leaders for their schools. With the approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act, such schools seem likely to remain a part of the landscape, whatever the feelings and views of those that would prefer an entirely secular state school system.

 

 

Some trends for 2019 in teacher recruitment

In two of my recent posts I looked at the prospects facing schools that would seek to recruit either a teacher of design and technology or a teacher of business studies during 2019. These prospects will also apply to schools seeking to make appointments in January 2020, as there will be no new entrants to the labour market to fill such vacancies. If, as happens in both the two subjects already discussed, there are sufficient vacancies for September to absorb the whole output from ITT courses, then schools faced with a January vacancy, for whatever reason, really do face a dilemma. In some cases agencies may help, but in others it is a case of making do until the summer.

As mentioned in the post that initially analysed the ITT census for 2018, the position in physics is once again dire, with less than half of the ITT places filled. Fortunately, there won’t be a shortage of science teachers, since far more biologists were recruited into training that the government estimate of the number required. However, recruitment of chemistry teachers will prove a problem for some schools as 2019 progresses, since one in five ITT places were left unfilled; the highest percentage of unfiled places in recent years. Perhaps some early professional development on increased subject knowledge for biology teachers required to teach the whole science curriculum at Key Stage 3 might be a worthwhile investment.

In 2018, there were not enough trainee teachers of English to meet the demand from schools for such teachers; it 2019 that subject will be less of a problem, but finding a teacher of mathematics might be more of an issue for schools once again, although various CPD initiatives may have helped improve the mathematical knowledge of those teaching the subject and may have helped to reduce demand. Only time will tell whether a shortage of teachers of mathematics will once again be a headline story for 2019.

Although state schools may have reduced their demand for teachers of art, the independent sector still generates a significant demand each year for such teachers. The fact that more than one in five ITT places weren’t filled in 2018 may have some important regional implications for state schools seeking such a teacher, especially where the demand is also strong from the private sector schools. The same issue is also true for teachers of religious education, where demand from the state sector was weak in 2018. Any increase in demand during 2019 would see schools experiencing more problems with recruitment than during 2018.

All these assumptions are predicated on the belief that rising pupil numbers, and the associated funding per pupil, will more than cancel out the pressure on school budgets across the country. Once again, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk expects that London and the surrounding areas to be the focus of most demand for new teachers and the North East, the area where schools will experience the least difficulty in recruiting teachers.

TeachVac will be there throughout 2019 to chart the changing trends, and I would like to extend to all readers of both this blog and users of TeachVac and its international arm, TeachVac Global www.teachvacglobal.com my best wishes for 2019.

 

100: well almost

Congratulations to the DfE for reaching the 100 vacancies point on their web site for the first time. Sadly, once vacancies past their closing date and non-teaching posts are removed, the total slips just below the three figure mark, but it will make that level soon, I am sure. This on a day when TeachVac, the only other free site to both schools and teachers, has more than 50,000 vacancies for 2018. To be fair to the DfE, their site still doesn’t cover the whole of the country and has only really been in operation of three months, including the quiet month of August, so it has a way to go to catch up TeachVac, but it is running at about 5% of TeachVac’s total at present.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will also hit another key milestone and new record today. However, those details will keep for another post. Still, the team of six in Newport on the Isle of Wight have much to be proud of in developing TeachVac without a single penny of government money. This is compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DfE has spent on their site.

Rather tongue in cheek, I suggested to officials that the DfE buy the vacancies from TeachVac for a fraction of the cost it would cost the same number of schools to input the vacancies to the DfE site, especially using the DfE’s outdated methodology. The DfE could then work with TeachVac to ensure applicants were attracted to the one site. This is because, without spending on making sure teachers, trainees and returners use any vacancy site, it is valueless. TeachVac also has the added benefit of attracting teachers working overseas to teaching posts in England through its TeachVac Global site for international schools. www.teachvacglobal.com

Unlike the DfE, TeachVac also uses it data to provide schools with information on the local vacancy market and has established a new vacancy index for both primary and secondary classroom teachers that will track how recruitment is changing in a world where funding is a concern to schools, but so is the wastage of teachers with several years of experience in the profession.  The next crisis may well be trying to find sufficient middle leaders with experience and appropriate professional development to take on this demanding role.

The free sites, such as TeachVac and the DfE work alongside paid for advertising sites for teaching posts. As more and more teachers use the free sites, it will be interesting to chart the fate of the ‘paid for’ recruitment advertising market. TeachVac offers a service to the independent sector, although the DfE site doesn’t. At present it seems that Sixth Form Colleges are excluded for the DfE site, presumably as they aren’t technically schools. TeachVac is happy to accommodate such institutions as it also provides special arrangements for MATs, diocese and local authorities to handle both individual schools recruitment needs as well as those for all schools in the group.

Ideally, a jointly managed and badged recruitment site supported by the government, teacher associations, employers and teacher educators would be the best solution, provided that is, it offered the lowest cost solution using the best of modern technology.