Monthly Archives: February 2016

C8 Teacher shortages – Questions in the Lords

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

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


T6 An important thinker for our times

T6 A lost voice largely forgotten by educationalists

Cliff Jones brings John Dewey to prominence and contrasts him with the effects of the GERM – the Global Education Reform Movement as Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg calls it – which operates across the world to reduce teachers to operatives in what the NUT pamphlet in Summer 2015 called Exam Factories. However he is not forgotten by the right. The think tanks and operatives of the Right have always seen Dewey and democratic education as a target for opposition. Richard Pring recalls Keith Joseph commenting critically about Dewey when he was Secretary of State, and he was not the only example. It appears the the progressive movement does not study its own theorists or the behaviour of the opposition. There is a lack of history and analysis here which needs attention. Trevor Fisher.

Perspectives from Time and Place

Writers to think about

Readers of Chomsky will know that he does not confine himself in any subject silo. When writing about, for example, political culture he is very likely to say something about education. The other day I finished reading his BECAUSE WE SAY SO (2015). In it he reminds us of Dewey, the forgotten philosopher of education, unknown by our policy makers.

John Dewey was born just a few years after the charge of the Light Brigade. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn he was seventeen and he died the same year as George VI. To read him today is, however, to hear the voice of The Prague Spring and 1968 when, briefly, it felt to some of us that the remaining feudal hierarchies of education would melt away. His belief that education is key to community and democracy is a notion that we need to be reminded of.

At a conference in Bulgaria in the summer of 2013 educators from across the EU and Turkey were asked to identify the main changes to their work over the last ten years. It seemed that decision making about curriculum and assessment had become more centralised, resources reduced and targets made tougher. The main job of teachers today is preparing their students for measurement: not quite the same as education. Mention of being told by politicians to catch up with Finland brought nods throughout the room. But with a few others Finland does Dewey. Other countries have consigned him to the dustbin of history.

In Australia in 1983 Stephen Kemmis, working with colleagues, produced Orientations to Curriculum and Transition: Towards the Socially Critical School. The authors argue that schools can do better than simply prepare young people for a world of work or for life as individuals: that they need to realise that schools are not simply preparers for society but are actually participants in society and that this has implications for how they approach what they do. The book helps to show us that there are other perspectives: that there is a valid and valuable educational language somewhat different from the language of a quality assured pursuit of targets.

Supposing, however, a state wishes to reinforce a national historical narrative by controlling school textbooks so that they propagandise official versions of history and suppress legitimate other narratives. This is what Nurit Peled-Elhanen meticulously examines in her analysis of Israeli school textbooks.

Published in 2012 Palestine in Israeli School Textbooks, ideology and propaganda in education confronts an issue that is not confined to Israel. It is the issue of establishing an official national narrative that suppresses the narratives of others. To be dehumanised and devalued as one of the ‘others’ your maps, your place names, your customs and your celebrated events are not allowed into the classroom. Perhaps we might also remember George Orwell’s 1984 in which the Ministry of Truth can change the result of 2+2 to any figure that suits government at any given time.

The Latin etymological ancestors of ‘education’ indicate that it is about fulfilment. Fairness has an effect upon fulfilment. If society is unfair then so will be education and the fulfilment of some, no matter how defined, will come at the expense of others.

Whatever the depth of fulfilment achieved or the conditions of fairness in which that fulfilment is attempted education remains a social activity. As we learn our history and geography and science and whatever we also learn to interact socially. How inclusive do we want that interaction to be? Education, Education, Education really is Society, Society, Society.

To obtain a copy of the Kemmis book search for ED 295339 Kemmispdf

To read a review of the Peled-Elhanen book go to

To read masses of material produced by John Dewey simply blow the cobwebs off lots of shelves in university libraries. His work should still be there. Look behind Instruction to Deliver by Michael Barber. It is probably blocking access to Dewey.

Cliff Jones, February 2016