Education Update – October 2016

Selected items from the national scene as reported by TES


Teacher recruitment crisis

A TES study of DfE data on teacher recruitment in selective areas shows that non-selective Secondaries in these areas are up to five times more likely to plug gas with temporary staff.  The problem is particularly acute in Kent and Medway.

Latest figures from a recent TES poll found 56% of teachers said they would not be prepared to teach in a grammar school.  Research by Education Datalab showed that non-selective schools in selective areas were more likely to employ unqualified teachers.  A DfE spokesperson said that the government was proposing to create more good schools in more areas and that the number of teachers entering classrooms continues to outnumber those retiring or leaving and that more teachers are returning to the profession year on year.

Minister for Education’s focus

Justine Greening stated at the Conservative Party Conference that her big political priority would be skills and technical education.

Use of Smartphones in school?

In a poll of nearly 3,500 teachers, parents and school children, half of the 700 teachers thought pupils should be banned from bringing Smartphones into school.  44% of school children and 47% of parents agreed.


Secondary Schools Challenged

The proportion of secondary schools with more applications than places rose to 50% this year (figures from ).  Challenges are expected to grow due to the bulge in secondary pupils over the next 5 years.  They include:

  • A lack of finance to cover costs of taking extra pupils
  • Staff spending weeks out of school to deal with appeals prior to exams
  • Difficulties in recruiting extra teachers in core subjects
  • The need to sacrifice staffrooms and office space to make more room for extra classes

A DfE spokesperson reported that 600,000 additional places were created between May 2010 and May 2015 plus £7billion is being invested in new places up to 2021.

Increase in sexual harassment of teachers

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL teaching union, stated that sexual harassment in too many places has become acceptable.  A report by the commons Women and Equalities Select Committee published in September 2016 highlighted a “shocking scale of sexual harassment and violence in classrooms across England.”


Justine Greening’s pledges

The Education Minister, Justine Greening, has revealed that she is abandoning the government’s controversial plans for Year 7 Sats resits and has promised teachers there will be no new national assessments until 2018-19.  She has also promised to launch a new consultation early in 2017 on the future of primary assessment.

Consequences of teacher recruitment: Is the quality of teachers deteriorating?

The annual TES Teacher Recruitment Index research shows that almost three-quarters (72%) of school leaders believe there is a “deterioration” in the quality of applicants for vacant posts since the previous year.

  • Over half of heads were cutting non-core subjects
  • â…” of heads and teachers said class sizes had increased this year
  • ¾ of teachers were increasingly being asked to teach subjects in which they were not qualified
  • Nearly 4 in 10 teachers said that a greater number of support staff were taking classes in their schools

DfE spokesperson said that more than 97% of teachers have a degree or higher (up from 94% in 2010) and the number of teacher trainees with a first has almost doubled over the same period.

Design and technology is the toughest subject in which to fill vacancies.


Justine Greening backs University Technical Colleges

The Education Secretary has suggested that Technical schools could provide a suitable route to educational success for many “very different young people” who do not attend grammar schools.  Ms Greening denied that she was advocating a return to an academic education for grammar students and a vocational one for the rest but she did say UTCs – currently for 14-19 olds – were part of the solution to offer parents more choice at this time.

To set or not to set according to ability?

Authors of ‘The Teaching and Learning Toolkit’, Lee Elliot Major and Steve Higgins, suggest that the key to successful setting is to adopt a flexible approach so that pupils move in and out of different ability sets according to different subjects.  Rigid ability grouping crushes the self-belief of pupils in lower sets.  It helps if some of the most effective teachers are assigned to the lowest sets.