As schools begin a new term, many headteachers are faced with chronic gaps in their staffing. It is at this time of year that the teacher shortage is most keenly felt. At the same time teacher education and teacher training providers prepare to welcome a cohort of new recruits, and consider how to best induct them into what is, for many, a new career and a new professional identity.
As a new report from the Education Policy Institute outlines, the teacher labour market is getting worse. Applications for teacher training are in decline by 5% and exit rates are increasing by up to 10%. For both schools, teacher education providers and the DfE now is a good time to think about the issue of quality initial teacher education (ITE) at scale.
In recent years (more…)
Sam Sims and Rebecca Allen.
We recently met a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), let’s call her Ellen, who had been delighted to get their first teaching job in a North London primary school deemed outstanding by Ofsted. She arrived on the first day of term looking forward to the challenge of teaching, but by lunchtime it dawned on her that the school had lost 100% of its classroom teaching staff since the previous academic year. At the time, she wondered what could have happened to make all these teachers leave.
She soon found out however, as she spent the next year being pressured into an unsustainable workload and subjected to highly bureaucratic and, at times, callous management. At the end of the year, all the classroom teaching staff left the school. Many of them, including Ellen, left the state education sector altogether.
We wanted to know whether this was an isolated anecdote or a more widespread
problem. So in our paper for the February issue of the National Institute Economic Review we use (more…)
Brian Creese, NRDC (National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy)
I spent a very interesting day a couple of weeks ago at the IOE London Region Post-14 Network Research and Policy Working Day. A very healthy gathering of FE managers and practitioners were doubtless encouraged by keynote speaker Alison Wolf. Although the Wolf Review had more than 20 recommendations, the one which has had the greatest impact on the ground is the policy of ensuring that all students who are in education continue to study English and maths until they get their Grade A*-C. This has many ramifications for schools, sixth form colleges and FE colleges, including the creation of a desperate shortage of suitable staff to teach these subjects to a high standard.
Then last week a dry little document passed my desk, a Statistical First Release from the DfE: ‘Level 1 and 2 Attainment in English and mathematics by 16-18 students’. This tells us about those students who, despite the best efforts of school teachers and Secretaries of State, fail to attain the cherished grade. There are around 220,000 students who fail to get the A*-C grade in English first time around and 244,000 students who do not get their maths. What I found astonishing is that after subsequent study at school or college a mere 17,000 students from each cohort go on to obtain their required GCSE grades. This means that over 90% of those students who did not achieve the benchmark for English and maths initially have still not achieved it when they finish school or college.
The paper does a further breakdown according to the type of provider students go on to after taking GCSEs. Just over 20% go on to attend school, an academy or sixth form college. Of these about 60% are re-entered for GCSE, and success rates vary: from 22% to 42% in English and from 18% to 33% in maths. The picture is very different in FE where a large majority of the cohort attend: here, less than 10% are re-entered for GCSE with about 4% achieving A*-C.
What is unremarked in the statistical release is that most students in FE are studying Functional English and Functional Maths. Colleges widely believe that it is pointless plodding away at GCSE English and maths, which most learners will still fail, when there is a qualification that delivers the skills required in the workplace which can be delivered in ways that will engage with this cohort. The current success rates for Functional Skills level 2 are around 55% to 70%, which means that a much higher percentage of students attending FE colleges will leave with a level 2 qualification which makes sense for them and their employers.
So why do we continue to put students and teachers through this torture? The answer is not that GCSE is the ‘Gold Standard’ but that GCSE is the ‘Gold Brand’. Wolf is correct in saying that it is the only level 2 qualification that employers really understand and they have lost patience with learning the ins and outs of new and different types of qualifications foisted on them by hyperactive policy-makers.
However, is the curriculum content of school GCSE English and maths the best for young adults? If GCSE is the required qualification, perhaps we should think about a different GCSE for post-16s? One that concentrates on the skills needed by adults in work and home life? Not ‘functional’ perhaps, but ‘applied’? Adult Applied English/maths has a fine ring to it!
Developing a new GCSE qualification better suited to post-16s would be a long and hard path, but perhaps by creating a clear adult curriculum for GCSE English and maths we can finally provide a qualification that works for young people and adults and is recognised by employers.