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Research round-up 14 September 2017

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Here's a round-up of education research published in the last fortnight.  


Retaining and developing the teaching workforce

The National Audit Office (NAO) has released a new report examining whether the Department for Education is supporting the schools sector effectively to retain and develop the teaching workforce.

Key findings 

  • Overall, the number of teachers in state-funded schools increased by 15,500 (3.5 per cent) between 2010 and 2016     

* However, the number of secondary school teachers fell by 10,800 (4.9 per cent) over the same period and secondary schools face significant challenges to keep pace with rising pupil numbers

* Only 52 per cent of secondary school vacancies in 2015/16 were filled by teachers with the experience and expertise required, according to the NAO survey of school leaders

* There are also regional variations in the supply of teachers, with the North East having the lowest proportion of schools reporting at least one vacancy (16.4 per cent of secondary schools) while Outer London (30.4 per cent) and the South East (26.4 per cent) had the highest    

  • Teachers are increasingly leaving state-funded schools before they reach retirement; 34,910 qualified teachers left for reasons other than retirement in 2016        
  • The Department’s interventions to support the existing teaching workforce have been relatively small scale     

* While previously reported that the Department spent £555 million on training and supporting new teachers in 2013/14, the NAO found that it spent only £35.7 million in 2016-17 on programmes for teacher development and retention, of which £91,000 was aimed at improving teacher retention
* In the NAO survey, 74 per cent of primary school leaders and 85 per cent of secondary school leaders disagreed that the Department provides schools with sufficient support to retain teachers    

  • A survey of school leaders found that workload is the most important factor in retaining teachers; 67 per cent of respondents reported that workload is a barrier to retention       
  • A greater number of qualified teachers are returning to state-funded schools; 14,200 qualified teachers returned to the state-funded schools in 2016, representing around a third of total qualified entrants. 

* However, an NAO survey found that nearly 90 per cent of school leaders had not employed anyone returning to teaching in 2015/16

Key recommendations

  • The Department should, as a matter of routine, explicitly assess the workforce implications for schools of all key policy changes and guidance, in particular, the impact on teachers’ workload
  • The Department should work with the school sector to understand better why more teachers are leaving before retirement and how to attract more former teachers back to the profession. 

Education at a Glance 2017: UK

The OECD has released its annual report, which provides data on the structure, finances and performance of education systems in the 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries.

Key findings

  • There were 27 pupils on average in state primary school classrooms in the UK compared with 21 on average in state schools in developed countries
  • Of the OECD countries, the UK spends the highest proportion of its gross domestic production (6.6 per cent) on education – the OECD average is 5.2 per cent
  • In contrast to the general trend across OECD countries, teachers’ statutory salaries in England fell in real terms between 2005 and 2015


* By 2015, for teachers with typical qualifications and 15 years’ experience, salaries were worth 12 per cent less in England
  • The UK has the largest proportion of young primary teachers (31 per cent younger than 30) of all 35 countries with available data
  • In the period between 2010 and 2015, the annual time teachers spent in front of the class in England saw an increase from 684 to 942 hours at primary level
  • Spending on early childhood education relative to GDP is lower than the OECD average in the United Kingdom: in 2015 total expenditure was equivalent to 0.5 per cent of GDP compared with 0.8 per cent across OECD countries on average
  • UK teens are less likely to follow vocational programmes than their peers in OECD countries; for example, 33 per cent of 15 to 19-year-old upper secondary students were enrolled in vocational programmes in 2014 (below the OECD average of 43 per cent)

A crisis in the creative arts in the UK?

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has released a report that suggests the exclusion of the arts from the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) schools’ performance measure is leading to lower pupil attainment, less funding and teacher recruitment challenges. 

Key findings

  • 79 per cent of respondents identified parent/carers’ perceptions of subjects as the single biggest influence on course choices. This was closely followed, at 78 per cent, by public perception of the EBacc or government messages
  • Nationally, 89 per cent of primary teachers in state schools has indicated that the time allocated for art and design has reduced in the last five years and in the two terms before key stage two National Curriculum tests (year six)
  • A decrease in curriculum time allocated to art and design, and design and technology at key stage three, in the earlier years of secondary school, was reported by 37 per cent of respondent schools
  • More than half of teachers report a decline in art and design (57 per cent), or design and technology (59 per cent) at key stage four (GCSE level)
  • The review found common challenges in the teaching of art and design:  

* negative perceptions and misunderstandings of the value of art and design within the curriculum
* concerns about future careers and quality of life by parents, school management and pupils
* a decline in funding that leads to cuts in staffing, courses and enrichment initiatives
* relative rural isolation and poor cultural infrastructure.

  • 40 per cent of respondent schools in Norfolk have seen a decrease in staffing in art and design, and/or design and technology since 2010 

About the research

  • The research draws on conversations with professionals in education and the arts, as well as focus groups and a survey that collected responses from 31 state secondary schools in Norfolk
  • As the research was only conducted in Norfolk schools, it might not be representative of other regions. 

Extra Time 

The report from the Sutton Trust looks at how private tuition and out-of-school instruction varies from country to country.

Key findings

  • On average, year 11 pupils in England spend 9.5 hours per week in additional instruction – extra tuition outside the normal school timetable, which may either be provided by the school, the family or by private tutors 

* For pupils with the same levels of achievement, well-off pupils receive 2.5 hours more additional instruction than less well-off pupils

  • Bright but poor pupils receive much less support than their better-off peers. Whereas around a third (32 per cent) of low-achieving pupils from advantaged backgrounds receive one-to-one tuition in science or mathematics, this falls to around one-in-twelve (seven per cent) of high-achieving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Only half of the 15-year-olds from disadvantaged social backgrounds in England regularly receive help with their homework from their parents compared with more than two-thirds of those from the most advantaged backgrounds 

* This socio-economic gap of 18 percentage points is significantly bigger than in most of the other countries that completed the PISA survey

  • Almost one-third of young people (30 per cent) aged 11 to 16 say they have received private or home tuition at some stage -  substantially up from 25 per cent last year and 18 per cent in 2005
  • Young people from more advantaged households (35 per cent) are twice as likely as less well-off households (18 per cent) to have ever received private tuition
  • Young people from minority ethnic backgrounds have a much higher rate of private tuition, with 56 per cent of Asian pupils and 42 per cent of Black pupils compared with 25 per cent of White pupils 


The report lists a number of recommendations, which includes the following:

  • Implementing a means-tested voucher scheme for tuition, funded through the Pupil Premium
  • Expanding non-profit and state tuition programmes
  • Schools should establish ‘homework clubs’
  • Schools should support parental engagement in their child’s education
  • Ensure grammar school tests do not disadvantage low-income students by providing a minimum ten hours test preparation for all pupils.

About the research

  • The Ipsos MORI poll commissioned as part of the research spoke to 2,612 11 to 16-year-olds in England and Wales between February and May 2017.

Also this fortnight

  • The Social Market Foundation has released a new report, which finds of the £9.1bn new spending on childcare and early education during this parliament, just £250 million, or 2.7 per cent, is earmarked for spending on disadvantaged children
  • Education DataLab has released a new blog that looks at the issue of pupils leaving selective schools at the end of year 12
  • The Education Policy Institute has released new analysis that explores how participation of young people in education and employment has evolved in recent years and how it compares with other advanced economies
  • The London Councils’ has released the eighth edition of its annual report on the pressures facing the school places planning system in London
  • The think tank, Reform, has released new research that ranks the 29 highest-tariff English higher education institutions according to their progress in admitting more disadvantaged students
  • The Fair Education Alliance has released its annual report analysing progress in closing the gap in social mobility between the poorest children and their peers over the past year
  • The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper on new early years funding formula, which was introduced in the 2017-18 financial year
  • The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has released a report highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing school governors and governing boards in a rapidly changing educational environment.