Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fun With Numbers: Pupil-teacher ratio in English state schools

There are about 7.5 million pupils in state schools in England.

"There are 922 thousand full-time equivalent people working in state-funded schools, this includes 451 thousand full-time equivalent teachers."

Further, "over 1.3 million people work in state-funded schools", which means, for example, that about 40% of the 1.3 million work full-time and the other 60% do half a working week (1,300 x 70% = 910).


a) Slightly fewer than half the people on the schools payrolls are actually teachers. And there is an unknown number of people working in "education" in the wider sense (i.e. all the quangos) who don't actually "work in a state-funded school".

b) The pupil-teacher ratio of 16.7 doesn't seem too terrible to me. In other words, if a full-time teacher spend two-thirds of the day teaching, class sizes would be about 25, which is no different to most private schools.

c) For a given number of employees/expenditure, if they could could get the proportion of teachers up from 50% to 75% and reduce the number of pen-pushers down to 25% (which is normal for private schools), then we'd have 692 thousand full-time equivalent teachers and a teacher-pupil ratio of 10.8, which I think is pretty good (i.e. low) by any sort of standards. If a full-time teacher then only spends half the day teaching, that gives us a class size of just under 22 and reasonably well-rested teachers.


thethoughtgang said...

I presume that support workers aren't classed as teachers? They are growing in numbers quite considerably and shouldn't be classed amongst the 'pen pushers' because they are in the classroom having direct contact with the pupils.

Support workers span a huge spectrum from perfectly-lovely-but-think-as-a-plank types who are there to make sure nobody eats the crayons, to people who are every bit as smart as the teacher (but lacking the certificate) and (in theory) should contribute greatly to development (especially in primary schools).

My mum does support work to earn pocket money and put off drawing her pension. It's scary how many people the school employs compared to 30 years ago, both in the classrooms and pushing the pens, and there's been a decline in the outcomes (back then, nobody left unable to read) but I can't see how having support workers around can be a bad thing.

Class sizes are a big talking point for the unions and politicians. On the ground, I'm not so sure. 1-on-1 time with kids is vital, but the change over the last 20 years (as perceived by my mother and the teachers she works with) has been a decline in parents doing that 1-on-1 bit for the majority of kids.

If 20 of a class of 30 read at home with their parents, then the teacher can spend more time looking after the other 10. If only 10 kids get support at home, then the teacher's workload is near-doubled without adding a single child to the class.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TTG, that's as maybe, it doesn't change the figures.

If half the non-teachers are in fact 'classroom assistants' or similar in front of the kids, then to all intents and purposes they are teachers and that gets the "teacher-pupil ratio" down to 11.

Lola said...

Or, to put it another way, there is plenty of money in the education system, but it's just in the wrong place.

As Mrs L was a teacher, I concur to some degree with TTG, but, as MW says it don't alter much.

The real workload on teachers is not from the children at all. It arises from the constant meddling of the education bureaucrats and theorists who are almost totally redundant. They consume the funds that would enable pupil/ratios (or even real teachers pay) to be boosted. Which is where we came in.

Bayard said...

"then to all intents and purposes they are teachers and that gets the "teacher-pupil ratio" down to 11"

which is why they are not counted as teachers. It's in the schools' interest to keep the pupil/teacher ratio figures as high as possible as it gives them a case for more funding and it's in the unions interest too, as it gives them a case for more pay for teachers. The government can always say it can't count assistants because that would upset the real teachers and the unions.

mombers said...

MW, out of interest, do you have any figures on the private sector? Would make an interesting comparison.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L: "Or, to put it another way, there is plenty of money in the education system, but it's just in the wrong place."


B, that seems partly plausible.

M, good question.

The ISC tells us...

227,000 Full time equiv jobs.
512,000 pupils.

And also...

55,000 FTE teachers.
80,000 FTE teaching assistants.

So, assuming the numbers are comparable, non-teaching staff = 92,000.

That's 1 non-teacher per 5.6 pupils in independent schools.

In state sector it's 1 non-teacher per 6.3 pupils.

But we don't know how many of the non-teachers in state schools are 'classroom assistants'.