Double-check these figures
JD Carpentieri on why the Skills for Life teacher statistics are more complex than they first appear
The professionalisation of the workforce is a key objective of Skills for Life. Qualifications are central to this, and have risen sharply of late. For example, recent NRDC research for Lifelong Learning UK (1) has found that, while only 13 per cent of the Skills for Life workforce was fully qualified in 2004/05 (ie with both a generic PGCE or Certificate of Education and a Level 4 subject specialist qualification), this had risen to 35 per cent by the following year. That's quite a significant increase. However, in Skills for Life, the situation isn't necessarily as straightforward as that 35 per cent figure would indicate. For example, even though 35 per cent of the workforce is classified as fully qualified, these are the percentages of fully qualified staff teaching in each subject:
• Literacy: 21 per cent
• Numeracy: 29 per cent
• ESOL: 28 per cent.
Notice anything strange about those figures? I do: they are all under 35 per cent. So how is it that 35 per cent of the workforce is fully qualified? The answer is that 35 per cent of the Skills for Life workforce is fully qualified in at least one subject but, since so many Skills for Life staff teach more than one subject, the qualification levels of those teaching the individual subjects are somewhat lower.
We all know that many teachers teach two (and sometimes three) subjects, and that they tend to be more fully qualified in one than the other. Until now, though, we haven't known exactly how many teach two or more subjects, or how well qualified they are. Thanks to the NRDC research (which was carried out with SQW), we now have answers to those questions.
How many teachers?
First, though, how many Skills for Life teachers are there? Based on the latest available data, we can estimate that, in 2005/06, there were 18,800 individuals teaching Skills for Life in England, accounting for a full-time equivalent (FTE) of 9,489 posts. Of those 18,800 teachers, nearly onethird (32 per cent) taught more than one subject. The chart below shows the complete breakdown of who taught what in 2004/05, the most recent year for which full data are available.
You may notice that, while only 32 per cent of teachers taught more than one subject, this hides a more complex picture. 74 per cent of ESOL teachers taught ESOL only. In literacy and numeracy, however, the situation is quite the opposite. Non-exclusivity was the norm, with 64 per cent of literacy teachers and 66 per cent of numeracy teachers also teaching another subject. In fact, while one can safely refer to most teachers of ESOL as simply 'ESOL teachers', it would be more accurate to refer to teachers of literacy as 'literacy-numeracy' teachers, since more of them do this double duty than teach literacy alone. The same is true for numeracy teachers. In both of these subjects, 'doing the double' is the norm rather than the exception. So, if you're introduced to someone and told they are a literacy teacher, ask them how their numeracy class is going. More often than not, they'll be able to tell you.
How many are qualified?
But how does this serial multi-tasking correlate with qualification levels in each subject? The first thing to note is that teachers who teach only one subject tend to be markedly more qualified in that subject than colleagues who are teaching two or more. The most extreme example of this phenomenon is in numeracy. Looking at the majority of numeracy teachers - that is, the ones who teach both numeracy and literacy - only 14 per cent were fully qualified in numeracy in 2005/06. Among those who teach only numeracy, qualification rates were four times better, with 57 per cent of this group being fully qualified. It would seem that, where teachers are primarily numeracy teachers, they are mostly qualified but, where literacy teachers also teach numeracy, numeracy learners are, on thewhole, being taught by less qualified teachers. At the other end of the scale, whereas 25 per cent of all numeracy teachers were unqualified in 2005/06, only 5 per cent of numeracy-only teachers fell into that category. However, of the nearly 3,500 staff who teach both literacy and numeracy, 25 per cent lack qualifications in either subject. There are almost as many literacynumeracy teachers who fall into this unqualified category as there are teachers who are fully qualified in either of these two subjects. As the workforce strives to become more fully qualified, the issue of whether teachers are qualified to teach different subjects will need to be continually addressed.
JD Carpentieri is Research and Development Policy Liaison Officer at NRDC
(1) The Skills for Life Workforce in England: the full picture. Briefing paper, May 2007. Available from www.lifelonglearninguk.org.
See also: Who taught what