C8 Questions in the House of Lords – teacher supply
The report of the National Audit Commission issued on 10th February supports the claim that the Government has missed its training targets for 4 years. DfE responded – on the BBC News Website 10th February’ – that “more people are entering the teaching profession than leaving it, there are more teachers overall and the number of teachers per pupil has not suffered”. States ‘biggest threat to teacher recruitment is that the teaching unions and others… talk down teaching as a profession”. The issue of whether there are teacher shortages is becoming controversial though the facts should be beyond dispute – Please see Appendix A.
The NAO reported on training only. Retention and the overall state of the profession remain obscure. On the claim more teachers than ever, role of foreign teachers need explanation and how long they stay this being a key element in supply. Have English schools become a ‘revolving door’? The TES in January both reported that Spanish teachers are a large minority of new recruits and that English speaking teachers from abroad leave as soon as they can. Also reported Troops into Teachers is under recruiting and that the pay freeze is affecting supply via pay cuts.
Lord Phil Hunt of Kings Heath asked the questions. Key element of the answer noted in each case. The full content of the answers can be found via http://members.wqa.parliament.uk
5465 To ask HMG what assessment they have made of whether the Schools Direct programme is ensuring a sufficient supply of teachers for schools in England.
A. “we recruited over a thousand more secondary teachers than the previous year, and we exceeded our target for primary teachers” (Million strong Universities reacted re Schools Direct)
5464 To ask HMG what is their assessment of the number of hours a week worked by (1) teachers and (2) School leaders (answer refers to workload survey published 6 2 16)
A. “on 6th February we published the response to our Workload Challenge…”
5463 To ask HMG what assessment they have made of current teacher morale in the teaching profession.
A. Quotes TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey), the School workforce census showing one year retention 90%, Five year retention 72% (2009-14), 60% retention after ten years . Cites support for Independent College of Teaching.
5462 To ask HMG what strategy they have in place to increase the retention of teachers in the profession.
A Quotes retention figures, key quote “remained stable for over a decade and the turnover rate in teaching is lower than for the economy as a whole”.
5461 to ask HMG what assessment they have made, broken down by region and subject, of the current levels of qualified teachers.
A “The information requested is not available.”
5460 to ask HMG how many teachers have left the profession within five years of qualifying in each year since 2009
A “72% were still in service in a state funded school in England five years after qualification. The Rate of retention five years after qualifying has remained broadly stable since 1996”.
5382 to ask HMG what assessment they have made of how many schools in England are using unqualified staff to teach lessons.
“The information requested is not available”.
5381 to ask HMG how many schools in England are using non-specialist teachers to cover teaching vacancies (no information available. Q might be better- supply teachers)
A. “the Department does not hold this information”.
5380 to ask HMG how many (a) teachers and (b) Personal, Social and Social Education teachers currently practising in schools in England have QTS.
A. 96%…. as at November 2014 have QTS. …teachers teaching PSHE, 96% were recorded as having Qualified Teacher Status”,
It has been suggested the discrepancy in teacher retention rates may be due to different dates of entry, but this would require specific investigation as this factor appears marginal. Assessing the gap between the critical comments of the teaching profession and independent sources such as NAO needs a focussed inquiry as a credibility gap has opened after government denials.
Appendix A – is England running out of teachers? Issues involving retention.
The publication of the NAO report is a grim moment in English education, made worse by the government position that there is no crisis and problems are caused by critics. Presumably the claim is that the spend of £700m pa (NAO) on recruitment is high due to the need to counter critics,. The government claims that overall numbers are at an all time high, and that the problem is merely local or confined to particular subjects. NAO confirms physics is a key long term problem subject.
The big issue is that recruitment is not merely driven by demand for teachers (eg rising birthrate) but also teachers leaving. The government denies there is a problem, save for workload (5465) and behaviour. Stress, excessive targets, OFSTED and pay are not regarded as problems by government. More widely key underpinning data cited by ministers appear flawed. The democratic issue coming on the agenda is that the data supplied by the ministry itself needs scrutiny. Who shall guard the guardians?
Specific problems of data involve claims that one year, five year and ten year retention are satisfactory, and more curiously 5460 and 5462 that retention is not only good but figures have remained stable and the turnover figures are ‘lower than for the economy as a whole” (5462). It is generally believed that the turnover is related to the economy, more stable in a recession, less stable when teachers have a choice of jobs. How then can these statements be justified? Particularly when the pay level is being suppressed and the TES reported 5 2 16 that low pay is making teaching uncompetitive with other jobs – which is the expected pattern.
Particular regions and subjects face challenges and it is reported that this may affect even London, which is the most successful region in England. Patterns of shortages cannot be assessed due to lack of data (5461 and 5382). The NAO and HMCI report difficulties in poorer areas.
Ebacc will intensify all the problems if the government carries out its manifesto policy. Shortages in Ebacc subjects notably Physics is already reported. If Ebacc is imposed it must be expected that staff on non-EBacc subjects will be removed to deploy resources to Ebacc subjects. Maths teachers are reported already to be paid increasing sums. Unions currently appear unaware of the threats to the jobs of non Ebacc teachers, and non-Ebacc subects with the exception of the Arts appear unaware of the dangers of disappearing from the curriculum – including two of the STEM subjects.
TREVOR FISHER 13th February 2016