What are FE teachers worth to the government?

Geoff’s does his sums, and awards FE teachers a £50k bonus.

If you are a teacher or trainer in the Post-19 Further Education sector, you are worth in the order of £500,000 a year to the national economy, according to a recent government research paper. This is because your teaching improves the lifetime earnings of your students, and the profits of the businesses they work in.

“Measuring the Economic Impact of Further Education” a BIS research paper published in 2011 says that for every £1 invested in the Post-19 sector, there is a return of £25, and that each successful level 3 student is worth £94,000 to the economy, and a successful level 2 student £50,000. A successful apprentice is worth £136,000.

Post 19 FE makes an annual contribution to the economy of £75 billion at a cost of £3 billion, a net profit of £72 billion a year. This is half the cost of the National Health Service. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills who are responsible for the Post-Compulsory sector could hardly deny these figures. They come from one of their own reports.

So if a Post-19 teacher were a banker, what sort of bonus would she ask for? Well, how about 10% of her annual contribution to the economy, generously leaving 90% of it to society? That’s a bonus of £50,000. Per year of course. Bankers would laugh at her modesty, Barclays’ executives tried to give 25% of their recent payout to share holders, while keeping 75% of it for their bonuses.

What are you worth if you teach younger learners? Prof Dylan William, one of the great educationalists of his generation quotes research at Columbia University showing that if you prevent one dropout, the net benefit to society is $209,000, or £129,000. This breaks down to:

  • $139,000 in extra taxes the individual would pay because the individual would be earning more money
  • $40,500 in reduced health care costs
  • $26,000 in reduced criminal justice costs largely because the individual would be less likely to be incarcerated.

Figures in the UK would be comparable, probably greater. This ignores the benefit to businesses, or to the individuals themselves of more interesting jobs, more control over their life, more earnings, and even a longer life.

So how much money is an entry-level teacher worth? These teachers routinely prevent students dropping out from the education system. Well suppose she saves just 10 dropouts a year, that’s £1.3m a year. Her 10% annual bonus would be £130,000.

With these sorts of figures, improving the achievement of students is very big business indeed. A recent US report on the long-term impacts of teachers tracked one million students from age 9 to adulthood. They concluded that replacing a teacher whose skills lay in the bottom 5% of all teachers, with one of average quality, would generate cumulative earnings gains for the students of about £860,000 per classroom. Suppose you are an Advanced Practitioner or teaching coach, and you manage to help 5 teachers improve in this way. That’s £4.3 million a year just in the gains of earnings of the students in these classes. Your 10% bonus? Well we’ve ignored the gains made by the businesses who will employ these students, so a 10% bonus would be very modest, at £400,000. Per year of course.

Now research reviews show that the very best way to improve student achievement is to improve the quality of teaching. This of course, is the aim of most good CPD. Teaching strategies have 3 to 4 times the effect on student achievement than any other factor according to both the world’s experts on this, Professors John Hattie and Robert Marzano. Factors such as finance, class size, management style, the quality system, and OFSTED have puny effects by comparison. It’s the exact nature of your teaching style and your teaching strategies that creates successes, or failures, (not your education, IQ or personality). Especially important is your ability to critically review your students’ learning, and adapt your teaching as a result.

So adapting and improving your teaching is probably one of the very best investments that a government could make. Where else are you going to get a £25 return for every pound invested? Where else could a tiny improvement in someone’s practice, that leads to one extra student passing, lead to a £50,000 gain?

I can hear senior managers and principals saying ‘what about us’? Well, the news isn’t good I’m afraid. It’s what teachers do in classrooms, workshops, and tutorials that has the biggest impact remember. Management quality comes quite a long way down Hattie’s list. Unless the manager’s main priority is excellent CPD and excellent teaching and learning. Then they deserve a share of everyone’s bonus.

Us teachers are often made to feel we are charity cases begging for bread from the tables of the real workers. But we create more value in our lifetimes than most entrepreneurs could dream of.  FE has endured swinging cuts for decades and these are likely to continue. Governments, of all persuasions are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. We are not

Homework question: Success rates in FE went from 59% in 2000/01 to 72% in 2003/04. At roughly 4 million learners a year, estimate the economic value of this improvement. You will need to use other figures from this article. Please mark your own work.

I’m joking about the bonuses of course, but the rest of the analysis, figures and all, are deadly serious, and economic orthodoxy. This raises two questions:

  1. Good CPD has a gigantic impact on success rates, and so on our colleges’ finances, the economy more generally, on the life chances of our students, and the job satisfaction of teachers. Is it sensible for CPD to be optional?
  1. The government has decided that teaching qualifications in faith schools and in FE should be voluntary. What? Some teaching strategies nearly double student attainment – but new teachers don’t need to hear about this? This is done in the name of deregulation and voluntarism, but look what these did to the banks. What next? Shall we deregulate what side of the road we drive on? Does your brain surgeon, really need to be qualified?

We need teacher training qualifications that are more demanding, not less, focused on what really makes the difference for students, and the economy: teaching methodology. Qualifications should require teachers to be able to use those few high performance teaching methods that double the rate of student learning.

FE has been characterised as the Cinderella sector, I believe The Establishment in politics the media and elsewhere barely know it exists. Frank Coffield tells an anecdote of Boris Johnson thinking FE used to be called Secondary Modern Schools. Its time we shouted our own praises as no-one else will.  We are the goose that lays the golden egg and its time we got our fair share of funding.

One thought on “What are FE teachers worth to the government?

  1. It is about being exceptional and outstanding in every way, and it starts by being exceptionally passionate about not just teaching, but regular asessment and regular tracking and really connecting with your students. Keeping that connection and maintaining it, know your students inside out, not just academically, be aware of emerging changes and developments, the hindrances and celebrate achievements consistently in a welcoming environment.Enable the students to feel very comfortable within their own skin.Then watch them flourish!

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