Podcast | Season 3 | Episode 6: NEU Strike Action, Teach First “Inadequate” Recruitment Target, and MAT CEO Pay Under Scrutiny
Season 3 | Episode 6: NEU Strike Action, Teach First “Inadequate” Recruitment Target, and MAT CEO Pay Under Scrutiny
In this new episode of the Schools & Academies Show Podcast, we give you a round-up of all the education news from the month of February, bringing you the latest headlines and analysis from our expert guest.
This month, we are joined by the President of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Headteacher, Evelyn Forde MBE, who will be sharing her expert insight on the latest educational developments.
- What’s left of the Schools White Paper
- Key academy proposals dropped
- Government guidance on executive salaries
- NEU strike dates
- Teacher recruitment data
Listen to the full episode below.
Alex Wallace: The NEU begin strike action, Teach First’s recruitment drive branded “inadequate” and MAT CEO salaries under investigation.
Sam Powell: Hi, everyone, it's great to see you all again. And welcome back to a very special episode of the Schools & Academies Show Podcast.
Alex Wallace: This episode is a doozy folks as we'll be covering the strikes that, regardless of your place in education, you probably felt affects you in some way, shape or form. Coming up, we'll hear from Evelyn Forde, the President of the Association of School and College Leaders to help us break down strikes and our other stories too.
Sam Powell: We'll hear more from Evelyn later but for now, let's jump right into our first story. A deep dive on the NEU’s February strike action, with all the info that you need to know.
Alex Wallace: On February 1st, NEU Members across the country walked out in disputes over their pay, which has fallen by 13% in real terms since 2010. The NEU are claiming that close to 300,000 teachers were involved in the first day of strikes - with 60 rallies happening across the country.
Sam Powell: The first strike day caused around half of schools across the country to be partially or entirely closed for the day, on average 4 in 10 pupils missed school, according to attendance data from Arbor Education. According to the FFT Education Data Lab, Years 8 to 10 were the worst hit, with only around 10% of pupils able to attend lessons.
Alex Wallace: The strike action will also disproportionately affect disadvantaged pupils. With disadvantaged pupils more likely to miss school across the board compared to non-disadvantaged pupils.
Sam Powell: It's always pretty hard to try and figure out exactly why trends like that emerge. But one suggestion put forward again by the FFT Education Data Lab, is that disadvantaged pupils are simply just more likely to be enrolled in schools with low attendance on strike day.
Alex Wallace: Now, you may have noticed that we kept referring to the walkout on February 1st as the “first” strike day. That's because there are further walkouts planned across England and Wales throughout February and March, and it's a very realistic possibility that they will continue beyond then.
Sam Powell: It's to be expected that there will be further talks between ministers in the union leaders in the coming weeks, but the EU general secretaries Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney have warned that unless the Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan is able to come up with, “concrete and meaningful proposals” then teachers will walk out again.
Alex Wallace: Keegan has previously called for opportunities to meet with the union leaders to come to an agreement, but has also reiterated that the NEU’s call for fully-funded inflation-related pay rise would bake in inflation. And if you’ve brought well, let’s say anything in recent months, you'll know that that's the last thing we need more of. The NEU did not appear to be pleased with Keegan’s response however. Those marching in Keegan's constituency of Chichester, continually chanting, “where’s Gill”, and speaking on a picket line, Dr Mary Bousted stated that the government had acted in “cynical disregard” to the union.
Sam Powell: Bousted felt the need to apologize to parents for the strike action and the strain it was going to place upon their children's learning. However, it would appear that actually, many parents were in favour of the strikes. Polling by Public First found that in parents of school aged children specifically, 47% of parents said that the strikes were justified, compared to only 40% who said they weren't. This is something that NEU organizer Dave Jones said that Gillian Keegan should be concerned about.
Alex Wallace: Whilst several civil servants from the Department for Education took strike action in solidarity with teachers, many in leadership believe that pay increases are not the answer to the issues faced in the education sector. Mark Lehain, former DFE Special Adviser, spoke to Schools Week saying “unreasonable workload, over-emphasis on marking and poor classroom behavior, were the result of poor leadership, not a lack of money. Strikes won't address any of these long standing problems.”
Sam Powell: Keegan was quoted as saying that one school closure is too many, and added that she was very grateful to headteachers for all the work they had done to keep schools open and minimize the impact of the strikes. She continued by saying that ministers were now looking at workload and flexible working options, as well as future pay in order to deter future strike action.
Alex Wallace: As you can tell these strikes are a beast of a story. So to help us dig into them a little deeper, it's probably best if we throw a few things over to our guests, Evelyn Forde. Evelyn, thank you for joining us today. While I'm sure that many of our listeners will know exactly who you are. Would, would you like to say a few words to introduce yourself?
Evelyn Forde: Cool, okay, so yes, I'm Evelyn, I’m headteacher of an amazing all-girls school in Mill Hill in North-West London. And I've been the head here for seven years. And that's my day job. But in addition to that I am the president of ASCL, super proud to be their first ever black female president of the association. So, very humbled and honoured to carry that privilege. Alongside that I do quite a lot of work kind of supporting aspiring leaders from ethnic diverse backgrounds, such as kind of the stats for black headteachers are pretty low. So I do as much as I can to kind of support the next generation as they embark on their journey into senior leadership. I'm also the trustee of Schools Partnership Alliance, because I can see a synergy between state and independent schools kind of sharing resources, sharing ideas. So I'm a trustee on that board. Yeah, keeps me busy, I have to say.
Sam Powell: So as we alluded to, we'll start with the recent strike action Evelyn. The strikes have been pretty unavoidable. I think that's obvious. I know, when I ran to work on the first of February, I ran past several pickets all outside schools. With regards to the strikes, communication, and dialogue is going to be key when it comes to resolving a dispute of this nature. How do you think the government and the wider sector can come together for meaningful dialogue in an emotionally charged situation like this?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, I think it's a great question. And actually, the day that we're recording this, which is the 15th February (2023), union leaders have just come out of a meeting with Gillian Keegan. And again, there has been no resolution. So, what your listeners may or may not know is that in Wales, they managed to find some money. In Wales, teachers are getting 1.5%, consolidated and 1.5%, unconsolidated, and a real recognition of the need for teachers to be better paid. And we were hoping that ministers in England would see what was happening in Wales, and be able to actually say, we hear you. We hear you that, you know, pay has been eroded over a significant period of time. But today, again, was a bit of a deadlock actually, in that there was no money on the table. So how do we find the middle ground? Well, my view is that, they have got to find money from somewhere, because teacher's pay, like I said, has been eroded. But you've also got the cost of living crisis, which, you know, is just driving people out of the profession, why would a Math’s graduate come into teaching, knowing that they could earn double and maybe treble in another organization? So the middle ground for me is find some money, and make sure that actually we're building it in year on year. But actually, the strike action is about pay, but it's also about paying conditions. And there are in my view, there are some very, very quick wins, which would help people stay in the profession. I think the accountability measures are redefining, knife-edge. You know, I spoke to somebody yesterday, and she said, would you ever go to your place of work with a sense of fear? Would you ever go to bed at night kind of worrying what you're going to walk into tomorrow? And if that was how you felt, why would you continue in the job that you're in? And I think for a lot of school and college leaders, that stress of the accountability system, I think that's a middle ground, let's find a way that we can actually mitigate how stressful that is. And that's about conditions that's about your conditions of service, you know, workload is huge for your, for your classroom teachers. And I know that, you know, heads are doing everything that we can around, you know, marking and data, and so on and so forth. But here's another thing, we have performance related pay, how impactful is performance related pay? It could become just another piece of work that everybody has to do. Of course, everybody needs to be accountable for what they're doing in their classrooms, and so on and so forth. But actually, that's time consuming, and there's got to be another way. So for me, the middle ground is minister’s do need to look at pay, they need to look at what happened in Wales and think they've got it right. Let's see what we can do here. But also look at the conditions in which lots of teachers, head teachers and leaders are working under. But I also think it's not just teachers, it's your non-teaching staff. And I know a cop tool. I've got TAs, you know, amazing people who, you know, work phenomenally hard, who can't afford to be a TA, they're thinking of, I've got a TA who's doing another job. So leaves here, you know, gets in at 8, leaves at 3:30/4 o'clock, and then is hotfooting it to another job, because the pay is just not okay. And so we're losing, you know, we're losing non-teaching staff as well. And that can't be okay. Because, you know, your TAs will be looking after your most vulnerable young people as well. And if they're leaving the profession in their droves, well, who have we got in our classrooms? You know, we haven't got teachers, we haven't got TAs, you can't get back-office staff either. So until the pay, the pay needs to be sorted, I think we're always going to be in this difficult position.
Sam Powell: I think you really raise a great point, there, about how the pay issues really affect the entire ecosystem of a school. You actually began to touch on something there, which brings us to our next question as well, which is, while the strikes are centered around pay, there's obviously other factors as well. Things like accountability, workload and the available resources that teachers have. On that note, what do you think can be done holistically to really improve the status and satisfaction of everyone in the sector?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, I think there are a couple of things really, I don't know what's happened. But, you know, the respect for the profession, has just kind of fallen. And for some reason, I don't think that teacher’s are getting the recognition and the respect for the work that they do. You know, we were celebrated during lockdown, when families saw how hard teachers had to work on a screen. And there was lots of plaudits for everything that schools were doing. But since then, it feels like it's taken a bit of a dive. And that might be because we've had how many education ministers kind of come and go. And it might be that when ministers are talking about education, it's never really top of the agenda, when they were announcing the new ministers after Truss had left and Rishi Sunak came in, everybody was waiting to find out where who's the new education minister? And actually, for us, we kind of felt that should be quite high up, but it was like, okay, so who's coming next, who's coming next? So I think how the profession is viewed, I think needs to be changed. And that could come back to how people are recognized through their pay packets. You know, it's a simple thing, right? People work very hard. They need that recognition, recognition through celebrating what an amazing, amazing profession this is, and then that being seen through your pay packet. But I think there's other things that we can do in the profession in order to try and retain people. Terms and Conditions are hard. And I know that there's lots of talk around Flexi working, and particularly post pandemic, that's not super easy in a school because you've got the constraints of a timetable, and so on and so forth. But I think what heads are trying to do more of, and this could be a nod towards all of that is looking at where we can build in more Flexi time. So where somebody says, Oh, you know, I just need one period off at the end of the school day so that I can go and do X, Y, and Z. I think that would help people. I think that would really make people feel valued. I think it would make people want to stay in the profession. Because I think there's a recognition, they can't get the full Flexi working from home zooming in to teach their lessons, but a bit of an understanding that actually, life happens outside of school, and how can we kind of facilitate that? And I think that will help people's wellbeing as well, you know, make them kind of feel better. And I think the final thing around, you know, what could we do around this whole retention? And what does the school system look like? There is something around professional development. And I think that as schools, we could kind of look with a real forensic lens on the levers that are actually going to help people on their career journeys, because time and time again, we hear of people, you know, in an assembly hall, all the teachers they go in for their CPD session it’s at the end of a very long day, who wants to engage in pedagogy and really thinking about their career at half past three when they've taught six lessons back to back? I think we need to be more agile with that, I think we need to think more creatively about how we offer professional development, and the types of professional development, you know, one size doesn't fit all, you're going to have your ECT's and middle leaders, and so on and so forth. And I just think it's about maybe being a little bit more forensic with that. And that might help people want to stay in the profession. And again, that sense of value, that somebody's thought about the professional development, that's actually going to help me on my career journey, and not a one size fits all.
Sam Powell: So you touched on flexible working there. Now, that's something that's been adapted in the, let's call it the traditional workplace, so to speak, in the wake of the pandemic. This is obviously something that's much harder to nail down the school just, given the nature of the work that goes on there. But we know that schools can adapt, and we saw massive adaptations made during the pandemic, do you think flexible working is a possible outcome? Or do you think there's a bit too much of staying with what we know is safe?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, I think there's lots of conversations happening, actually. And one I heard quite recently was around a four day week for teachers. So, you'd be in school five days a week, but you'd only be teaching four days a week, so that you would get kind of preparation and planning time. So PPA time, but that would be protected like a whole day, just for you to kind of get on with marking planning, assessment displays, whatever it is. And I don't think that's a bad shout, actually. But I think it will be a massive challenge to actually get there. Because, I mean, we're that far behind in just even trying to negotiate our pay, let alone looking at kind of redefining what the school day kind of looks like. And I think the catch to that goes back to recruitment and retention. Because, yes, if we could set that model up, that would be amazing, you know, a teacher just teaching four days, one day to do all that planning and preparation. But then you need the staff to be able to cover those lessons that that teacher isn't teaching, and that comes back to the recruitment issue. It's not an easy, quick fix, I think that there's going to be a lot of work that has to go into it. But if we don't do something quickly, you know, the stats for people leaving their profession, I think just going to rise. And then who is impacted by this? It’s the young people in our schools, too many young people don't have a qualified teacher in front of them. You know, lots of schools are drawing upon unqualified teachers, we've got supply teachers, and so on and so forth. So there's definitely, now is the time to rethink what that looks like. But you know, I and other school leaders, we will be kind of talking truth to power, but actually, it's up to ministers in their offices to actually want to do something about it.
Sam Powell: Thanks for your insights Eveyln, just hold on to those thoughts about recruitment and retention you've got there, as well as the topic of specialists, as we'll be coming right back to that after our next story. Let's move from the stream of teachers walking out of the classroom to the lack thereof of teachers walking into them, as our next story is all about teacher recruitment and retention.
Alex Wallace: Last month, we covered the news that the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has the ambition that all school students will study some form of maths up to the age of 18 following the lead from other OECD countries.
Sam Powell: Make sure you check out last month's episode if you haven't already, and our interviewing Professor Becky Francis on this topic. But to give you the Cliff Notes, one of the key issues identified with this idea was the quantity of maths teachers available and as a result, the quality of teaching available as well.
Alex Wallace: The NFER’s School Workforce Lead, Jack Worth outlined to the members of the commons Education Select Committee, that the core group of students that maths provision will be expanded to, having completed level two qualification, that a math specialist would be required to teach them this next stage of learning.
Sam Powell: Maths specialists are already a little bit like gold-dust at the moment, with maths recruitment, having missed its target in 2022 by around 10%. Kevin Gilmartin, who is a post-16 specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, spoke to TES, saying that actually currently 1 in 8 classes are not being staffed by qualified math specialist.
Alex Wallace: Kevin added that high accountability at GCSE level was already leading school leaders to having to make decisions about what sorts of students will be exposed to, for want of a better word, the “better” maths teachers.
Sam Powell: While maths recruitment might be at the forefront of discussion right now. It's not just maths where these problems are persisting though. In fact, Teach First’s recruitment drive in 2022, has recently been branded as “inadequate” by the Department for Education.
Alex Wallace: Speaking in a press release, the DFE officials noted that this year had already been “challenging”, with the government missing its recruitment target for secondary school teachers by 41%. This is Teach First’s smallest cohort in four years, and as a result caused them to miss out on bonuses of up to 2 million pounds.
Sam Powell: The DFE went on to say that its KPI targets are meant to quote “challenge providers in order to drive performance.” And added that it was, quote, again, “working closely with Teach First to support it with adjustments to its recruitment approach.”
Alex Wallace: Inevitably, if there aren't enough teachers to shoulder the task of teaching more pupils in school, then this inevitably falls on us to pick up the slack. I'm sure anyone who's worked in a school will attest that it's not uncommon to see other teachers or TAs covering lessons.
Sam Powell: When workloads go up, but salaries stay the same, it's inevitably going to make staff feel underappreciated, and underpaid. Now that strike action is well and truly on the table, teacher recruitment and retention is more of a crisis to the sector than ever before. So Evelyn, let's go back to you now. You mentioned before about there being a lack of subject specialists, now, Maths is well renowned for being one of these subjects. If compulsory maths is brought in, it's only going to exacerbate that issue. What do you think are the biggest factors that prevent bright mathematicians from entering teaching?
Evelyn Forde: I think right now, society, the world. I think everybody's caught up in the cost of living crisis, I do. I don't know the stats, but if you look at the number of young people that are still living at home, and why is that? Because they can't get on the housing ladder. Who wants to be living with their mum and dad at the age of 30? You know, 25, you're just thinking it's time for me to ship out. But quite a lot of young people are still living at home. And that's because of the cost of living crisis. And not being able to, if I'm talking about London, not being able to kind of live in London. So I've got a maths degree, I'm scanning the horizon, I'm looking at the pay, 30 grand yeah that sounds okay. But I live in London, and I can't get on the housing ladder. And then I see a job that's gonna pay me 45-50 grand, and there's bonuses etc, and for me, you can see why that's attractive. You can also see why if there was a job that had a bit more Flexi working as well, you know, you've got a maths degree, but you could do something online, going to the office a couple of days a week, and so on. And I'm earning 50-60 grand, as much as there is a moral purpose for people to be in the profession. I think when people are thinking moral purpose, food, mortgage, you know, the moral purpose kind of gets side-lined for a bit, until young people can actually get themselves on the housing ladder, or just financially stable. And I think I think that's the issue. I think it does come back to pay, I think it does come back to conditions that whole Flexi working will definitely mean that people with a master's degree will be thinking, maybe, but just not now.
Sam Powell: Now, while maths is at the forefront of our mind, given that reason announcement, it's not just maths that struggling. Recruitment struggles in subjects like Chemistry and Physics have been documented for years now. There's been a lot of talk around the idea of “golden handshakes” for particular subjects and how that might pan out. Some are in favour, but some argue that it would just shift the issue on to other subjects. Do you think that golden handshakes have a place in the profession? And are a viable solution? Or do you think that they just aren't able to solve the underlying problem and are more of a plaster on a gunshot wound for lack of a better term?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, you see, I think that's a very narrow kind of view on how to improve things. Because, you know, a Golden Handshake for somebody who teaches maths, okay, that means you're looking at the recruitment issue through the lens of secondary schools, but you're not looking at it through the lens of primary teachers. And I just think, actually, it crosses all phases and crosses all sectors, in terms of the recruitment and retention crisis. And yes, you might, you know, somebody's somebody might be kind of, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. And if I get golden handshake, all but I don't know, 10 grand, let's say, but unless the conditions are actually going to keep them in the workplace, in their profession, what happens? You give somebody a golden handshake for 10 grand, they stay for two or three years and then they're gone. And actually, that's just a short term fix. And I would rather that we looked at the profession more holistically, I’d rather we go back to “What an amazing profession this is, and let's be respectful of it” let's pay everybody, you know, equally, and let's look at their conditions, let's look at how we can develop our staff and look at it through that lens, as opposed to, you know, these one off golden handshakes, because at some point, they will come to an end, be like everything, you know, they come up with these weird and wonderful ideas, they then come to an end, and then you're back to the drawing board. So I think it's about finding something that's going to be embedded and sustainable, and actually get the profession back to where it needs to be, which is loads of teachers and non-teachers in schools giving an education to our young people.
Sam Powell: Okay, let's move on to teacher retention now. How important do you think it is to have a retention strategy in your institution? And what are the different aspects that senior leaders need to be considering to keep their staff?
Evelyn Forde: I do think it's really tricky. There is something about the culture and ethos of your school, you got to create a place that people are happy to come to work, you know, I think that's super important. And what does that look like, you know, simple things, like, staff just want to be valued. And they want you to say thank you and notice them. And I think, you know, by and large school and college leaders, we do that, but sometimes when you're on that hamster wheel, and you're so busy doing 20 million things, sometimes you can forget, you know, but there are little things that make people feel valued, you know, lots of lots of heads do it, I give my staff when it's their birthday, they get a birthday card from me. And, you know, for them, it's like, oh, you know, when my birthday is, you know, and it just, it just means something, you know, so it's the culture, it's the ethos, it's the other little things like, so I offer a wellbeing day. So every member of staff in my school, once they have had six weeks unbroken attendance, they get one day, which is their wellbeing day. I don't ask them where they're going, what they're doing. But they can just have that. The young people don't miss out, because it's covered by a specialist in their department. So young people don't miss out. But the person feels valued and can actually do something during term time, which is tricky. So I think there's something about the culture and the ethos that will retain staff in schools. But there are other things which are totally out of our control. And I think a really good example is go back to pay right. So teachers, if you are an inner London school, you could earn four or five grand more than you could in an outer London School. I'm in outer London school, and I had exactly the same challenges that an inner London school would have; high Pupil Premium, FSM, you know, high EAL, all of those challenges. But in this current cost of living crisis, even if you've got the culture and the ethos right, even if your school gets amazing results, and everything is an oasis of calm. If somebody sees a job that's going to offer them five grand more, they're out of here. And it's not that they don't love your school or anything like that, but they've got bills to pay. And so I think something needs to be done around that, you know, I think a review of, what that looks like in terms of inner London, outer London, fringe, all of that kind of pay, I think needs to be looked at in order to retain staff. And I think the whole wellbeing agenda, you know, I spoken about wellbeing day, but I just think, staff work incredibly hard. And I think that where schools can do as much as we can to look after their mental health and wellbeing. And that's not easy, right? Because we're looking after the mental health and wellbeing of, I've got 1000 girls in my school. So you've got 1000 young people, and you've got, I don't know, 80 staff, but somehow I think school leaders have got to find ways to look after staff mental health and wellbeing and even if it is, you know, signing up to the employee assistance line, whereby staff can just make a call and that will, you know, whatever their issues are or concerns, they've got somebody neutral at the end of a line who's going to help them. So I think if schools can weave in whatever they can around, wellbeing. I think that's a good nod to people to want to work in that school. However, I think your more experienced staff, who maybe at the end of their mortgage or whatever, for them, that will tick that box. For your younger staff who were kind of looking to get on the housing ladder or just be financially stable, like we said, unless the pay differentials are sorted out, then lots of outer London schools will continue to lose staff to the inner London schools. And that's an issue.
Sam Powell: Thank you again Evelyn. We're going to move back to pay and salaries now, but with a new angle, as it's not just teachers pay that under scrutiny this month.
Alex Wallace: Given the ongoing financial troubles of the sector, there is renewed interest in investigating MAT CEO pay, with heavy focus on so called “outliers”.
Sam Powell: The Education and Skills Funding Agency used to write public letters demanding justifications from trusts that paid their leaders more than £150,000 annually. However, since mid-2020 and the pandemic, this approach is sort of in limbo and just really fizzled out.
Alex Wallace: After the government said that officials were looking at academy accounts to find outlier levels of leadership pay across similar Academy trusts.
Sam Powell: Speaking to Schools Week, Leora Cruddas, the Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, welcomed a seemingly more proportionate approach, and believed that benchmarking data will help better pay decisions be made within the sector.
Alex Wallace: However, Jeff Barton, the General Secretary of the ASCL, called the £150,000 threshold “blunt” as he felt it failed to reflect the relevant context. And in that, given the significant responsibilities of these leaders, that there was a market rate for their pay,
Sam Powell: Regardless of your feelings, £150,000 remains as the current threshold, with the DfE’s record showing the number of leaders earning over that and the trust they're associated with. In case you're wondering just how many leaders that is, the number has actually risen from 473 in 2019 to 563 in 2021. However, the DFE’s records do not make any distinction about what is considered a similar trust, or outline how the so-called outliers will be dealt with.
Alex Wallace: When making pay decisions for CEOs, boards are encouraged to make use of benchmarking data. However, in 2021, when surveyed by the National Governance Association, only 60% of trustees said they use benchmarking data. There is fear from some however, including the NGA as Policy Director, Sam Henson that benchmarking can cause a “Race to the Top.”
Sam Powell: Sam added that he felt that the sector had made real progress, but that given the current economic state of the education sector, these large outliers and CEO pay were simply put “unpalatable.”
Alex Wallace: What's interesting is that the government has received criticism for not being tough enough on MAT CEO pay rising, whilst colleges are experiencing the exact opposite. With the reclassification of colleges and public sector bodies, Treasury sign off will be needed on any new appointments paid over £150,000 or more, and for bonuses exceeding £17,500.
Sam Powell: Now, apologies for this question Evelyn as we come back to you again, because I'm conscious of the time and so this question is going to be a big one. We've mentioned multiple times throughout our chat today about the importance of pay in the sector. And obviously, it's important that people that renumerated fairly for their efforts, I think we all agree with that. Currently, colleges must get approval from the Treasury for salaries of over £150,000, and the ESFA used to request justification from schools and MATs. However, that's fallen a bit by the wayside since COVID. With the restrictions in place over colleges, do you reckon we may see more central control over school than that leader pay in the future? On top of that, do you think there's a chance that we may see senior leaders mass migrate to MATs, where they're able to be paid higher salaries?
Evelyn Forde: I suppose if they've got to sign off, if they've got to sign off people's salaries, then, but that could feel a bit like Big Brother-y, right? You know? Yes. And I also think that might put people off? I'm not sure, you know, I'm not sure about that. But I think there's been a lot of discussion, obviously, around the salaries of people that are earning a phenomenal amount of money particularly CEOs, MAT leaders, and so on and so forth. But I suppose, you know, the question is, what work have they done before getting to this point of saying, Okay, we've got to sign off all these salaries? You know, I would, I would be asking, well, why do you need to do that? Because the minute you start with 150 grand at some point, that might drop to 100 grand, and then it drops to 80 grand, and then it’s the treasury signing off everybody's salary. And actually, I think, shouldn't there be some trust in your governors in your trust boards, that you'd only be appointing the right people, with the right skill sets andI don't know how trusts kind of set their salaries, but there's got to be some kind of modelling to make that. I don't think they just pluck a figure out of the air. So I think maybe there's a question around, well, how is the salary modeled? How do we come up with that figure, as opposed to saying that the Treasury needs to sign it off? And I think a point around will that mean that people will, I don't know, with those kinds of salaries, will heads be more inclined to go to a MAT, I think is a good question. And I think my response would be, well, I hope not, because, I think like I've said earlier that as a headteacher, you don't come into the profession, for, you know, a six figure salary, you just don't, you come into the profession, because you want to make a difference and your kind of moral purpose. And the integrity that you have, will mean that you'd work in your standalone Academy for good, you’ve got to pay your bills, don't get me wrong, and you work very hard. But again, it's, you know, how did we land on that salary? So yeah, I'm not sure about the Treasury kind of signing off those big kind of numbers, I wouldn't be particularly worried about heads, leaving to go and join those big MATs, because also, when you're in a MAT, depending on the MAT, of course, there are lots of other kind of checks and balances that you're kind of confined to, and headteachers, you know, we are kind of like autonomy, actually. And, you know, kind of the autonomy to make the best decisions for your school. And I think when you're within a trust, then that could that, you know, that could change a bit. So that would be my response to those kinds of treasury signing off people's salaries. And after all, haven't they got enough to do you know, I would like the Treasury to go and find the money to pay, your regular teachers.
Sam Powell: Well, on that note, I'm afraid that's the end of all the time we've got with Evelyn today. Evelyn, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, we really appreciate it. It's been a pleasure to chat and phenomenal insight throughout. Is there anything you'd like to say to the listeners before we have to head off?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, I suppose, you know, the whole recruitment and retention issue, I used to call it a perfect storm, we're heading into a perfect storm, I think we're in a perfect storm. And I worry deeply for the profession, actually, I really worry about the profession. I worry about our young people, who don't have teachers in front of them, you know, and have to draw upon supply teachers and just grateful that we can actually get them. I think my final message would be, you know, there are any ministers in the department listening to this, it's that, please, for the love of God, our young people are our future, and they deserve an education, and they deserve to have great teachers in front of them. And great teachers need to be paid well. So if you are listening, please take away that something needs to change and it needs to change ASAP, because in not doing so we do our young people a disservice.
Sam Powell: Well, while the NEU strikes and the news surrounding them may have taken up the vast majority of our time today, and the attention of the sector this month, the world does keep spinning and there's plenty of other stories going on at the same time. We didn't quite have the time to cover them with Evelyn. But we're still gonna stick to them. Alex, why don't you kick us off?
Alex Wallace: Sure thing. First up, we have the Department for Education’s response to the landmark Macalister review of Children's Social Care. The report called for 2.6 billion to be funded for safeguarding over five years, and provided a number of recommendations on how safeguarding can be improved.
Sam Powell: The report recommended that schools should become statutory safeguarding partners alongside organizations like the police, health services and councils, as well as that they should be concerned corporate parents of children in care.
Alex Wallace: The ministerial response saw only 200 million over two years being funded, and only saw concrete responses to the recommendations Sam previously mentioned. With the other seven recommendations, such as replacing young offenders institutions with secure schools, and diverting free school cash to create state boarding places and training all staff on mental health responses, being either completely ignored or given a non-committal answer.
Sam Powell: Speaking with Schools Week, Anne Longfield The former Children's Commissioner called the proposals “quite sensible”, and said that the DfE’s response to the proposals seemed “half-hearted.” She followed up by saying the time for consultations is surely now over. And we need the government to get on with making immediate improvements and sending out a fully funded long term plan to improve the care system.
Alex Wallace: Staying on the subject of updates and responses to reports, John Dickens of Schools Week, recently published an article with updates on the two new ambitions and the 42 new board policies outlined in the Schools Bill and where we sit now - some five education secretaries later.
Sam Powell: The two new ambitions were that by 2030, 90% of primary pupils would meet the expected standard in reading, writing and maths and the National GCSE average grade in English language and maths would have risen from 4.5 to 5.
Alex Wallace: As for meeting the expected standard, well, we're actually further away than when we started, with only 59% of pupils meeting age-related expectation, compared to 65% in 2019.
Sam Powell: Results are a little bit hazy regarding the second ambition though, as while the average GCSE grade has risen to 4.72, the presence of great inflation means that we won't have the full story until 2024. So, stay tuned.
Alex Wallace: Now, the White Paper outlined 42 different policies. And even though it would make great content for us to list them all individually, we don't have time, but we will give you a general overview.
Sam Powell: As of right now, there is still a lot to be desired as 12 policies have been scrapped compared to the 11 that have been delivered. On top of that, just as many policies are currently stuck in limbo, having been either delayed or it being unclear when we can expect news on them.
Alex Wallace: There are eight more policies on track to be delivered though, including full transparency on MAT top slicing, a network of modern foreign language hubs, 40 million being provided to priority education investment areas, and the new system introducing safeguarding audits every three years.
Sam Powell: Well, looks like we're all out of time for this month. But before we go, I reckon we've got enough time just to squeeze in our monthly passive aggressive reminder about the Schools and Academies Show. Alex take it away.
Alex Wallace: The Schools and Academies Show is coming back to London on May the 17th at the ExCeL, our guest today, Evelyn Forde, will be there speaking on the Main Stage, as will many other fantastic speakers including Paul Gosling, Baron s Blower. And the Olympic gold medallist, Mo Farah.
Sam Powell: I mean, surely that's Sir Mo Farah to you. But Alex isn't wrong, folks, your ears do not deceive you, the multi-time medallist. And, you know, obviously my current London Marathon rival, will be there live in person, sitting down for an interview with John Severs from the TES, talking all about his humble beginnings, and the role of his school and teachers in his journey to the podium, superstardom. And of course, foreign sponsorship.
Alex Wallace: Registration is now open and a link to sign up will be in the description. So make sure you secure your place at the show today. And we will look forward to seeing you there.
Sam Powell: Well, I suppose that's all from us, though. Until next time, it's goodbye from me.
Alex Wallace: And that's goodbye from me also.
Sam Powell: This episode was produced and edited by Alessandro Bilotta, Sam Powell and Alex Wallace.
Sam Powell: So we give you the longest episode we've ever produced, and yet you still want more. You're either really enjoying these or you really have too much time on your hands. But your call, I guess. Okay, here's one more question that we didn't quite manage to fit into the original edit, enjoy. Now, during the pandemic, we saw a significant spike in levels of teacher recruitment. But sadly, we've also seen a significant drop off in the years following, staying on this topic. if golden handshakes aren't the answer, what do you think are some of the more meaningful solutions schools can implement to recruit all the best if possible?
Evelyn Forde: Yeah, I think I probably just kind of repeat a bit of what I've said before, but coming into teaching, it's an amazing job. And, you know, teachers work phenomenally hard, you know, driven by a moral purpose, not doing it for the six weeks holiday or the half terms or whatever. And I think we need to flip the narrative on that. I think we do need to flip the narrative so that people can see that teaching is an incredible, an incredible career. So we need to highlight that, I think that's super, super important. I keep banging on about pay, but it's so important in the in the in these current times. And you know, I think another way is, so the government cut lots of the ITT providers, what was that about? You know, so I think we've kind of got to go back there as well, because the pipeline isn't coming through. So there's work to do with your young people in college, you know, who are in colleges thinking about university, really just making it an attractive profession to be in, we need to get that pipeline coming through. We need to pay them and we need to improve the conditions for where we currently are. It's not rocket science in my view.