Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been commissioned to follow up and analyse how the reform which introduced career steps for specially skilled teachers has been implemented and how it functions, and how it relates to the aims and regulations of the reform.(1) Among other things, in this commission Statskontoret will follow up how the school authorities have chosen to distribute the positions within their organisations, how different aspects of the recruitment process have been set up, and what terms of employment are offered to lead teachers and senior subject teachers. The commission also includes analysing how the salary distribution for teachers has been affected and what school authorities and teachers think about the implementation of the reform.
Interim reports on the commission were issued on 15 June 2015 and 1 February 2016. This is Statskontoret's third and final report.
We confirm previous observations
The commission included answering all commission issues in all three interim reports. In the first two interim reports we focused on the school authorities' and teachers' viewpoints of the reform, while we have now examined those of the headmasters. In summary, we can confirm our previous observations in this third interim report, but we also report that the viewpoints of the players differ to some extent regarding the reform.
The ambition has almost been achieved
There were 14,328 career positions appointed in spring 2016. The government's aim was that every sixth qualified teacher would have a career position in the autumn of 2016. When we compiled this report, data for autumn 2016 were not available. However, Statskontoret can state that in spring 2016 the government was well on the way to achieving its ambition: every eighth qualified teacher had a career position.
All municipalities have applied for a grant and an increasing number of education authorities are now participating. Smaller education authorities are increasingly involved, even though their participation is less than other education authorities. The fact that small education authorities participate less often is related to capacity constraints, but also the problematic issue of appointing teachers in small groups and they do not see the need for career positions.
The overwhelming majority of career positions are for lead teachers, although the number of positions as senior subject teacher has increased. There are several reasons why relatively few senior subject teachers have been appointed. For example, one senior subject teacher position corresponds to two lead teacher positions. Education authorities have chose the latter to achieve a wider spread of positions. Not all education authorities have been able to appoint senior subject teachers with a state grant, since it requires an application framework of two lead teacher positions. Even though access to qualified teachers varies, Statskontoret notes that there is a potential for more senior subject teachers, based on the number of teachers in service that fulfil the formal requirements.
Risk of different career opportunities in different types of school
Even though the reform is widespread, the number of career position teachers in relation to the number of pupils and teachers varies between different types of school. According to Statskontoret's understanding, the fact that career position frequency varies in different types of school means that there are different career and salary opportunities for teachers, which may result in certain types of schools becoming more attractive than others from career point of view.
Priority to weak schools in some cases
A relatively small proportion of education authorities in our investigation have given priority to schools with weak academic results in their allocation of career positions. Statskontoret's own analysis of the relationship between the number of career positions and school results confirms that it is not always schools with weak results that have been given priority, even though certain education authorities appear to have given priority to such schools. About half of the school authorities asked said that they had distributed career positions on the basis of needs to some extent. Another common principle was that talented teachers should improve and develop teaching.
In its earlier interim reports, Statskontoret noted that the special state grant for extra career positions in exclusion areas did not work efficiently. Education authorities obtain funds for career positions to a lesser extent than they have applied for. We note that the previously identified problems persist. It is still difficult for education authorities to fulfil the requirements of the ordinance and we can show that there are schools with at least equivalent needs that are not eligible for additional career positions. We therefore take the view that the government's ambition for the grant system has not been realized.
Statskontoret notes that the proportion of external recruitment has increased over the years. But the overwhelming majority of recruitment still takes place internally, i.e. within the education authority's schools.
Statskontoret can also state that the majority of education authorities appoint career position teachers through applications, but that almost one in four are still employed without an application procedure. This proportion has not changed significantly over the years. Statskontoret believes that not having an application procedure is likely to reduce the understanding of how career position teachers are selected.
Statskontoret also notes that the proportion of permanent positions is increasing. The main reason is that education authorities wish to ensure a long-term improvement in the quality of their activities. However, education authorities also benefit from using temporary employment, such as being able to transfer the government grant after changes take place in terms of educational needs. Temporary employments also increases the number of employees that have a chance of obtaining a career position.
... but the basic requirements need to be communicated more clearly
In the past we have shown that a majority of teachers feel that the requirements for obtaining a career position are unclear. Headmasters in general do not consider that it is difficult to know what qualifies an applicant for a career position, though some still consider that it is difficult to select a teacher on the basis of requirements in the ordinance. Statskontoret believes that the teachers' viewpoint here may partly be a result of recruitment not being sufficiently clearly communicated by an education authority or headmaster. Clear communication is even more important when other factors than teaching skills determine who is given a career position.
Different conditions for performing tasks
Headmasters confirm that the tasks given to career position teachers are very different. It is often the headmaster that defines the task, together with the lead teacher or senior subject teacher. Headmasters feel in general that it is not difficult to identify relevant tasks, but some have requested more support in defining the tasks.
The government has expressed the view that career position teachers shall continue to teach in all essential aspects.(2) In practice, the vast majority of such teachers have continued to teach to the same extent as previously at the same time as they have often been given special tasks that require more work than their own teaching. It is not often the case that career position teachers are given extra time for their tasks and many feel that they do not have enough time. Thus, Statskontoret notes that career position teachers have varying conditions for carrying out their tasks and, by extension, varying conditions for contributing to the overall aims of the reform.
Headmasters more favourable to the reform than teachers
Statskontoret's follow-up shows that headmasters are not as favourable to the reform as the education authorities, but are more positive than teachers. Teachers generally assess the risks of the reform as higher, whereas headmasters are highest of all players in their assessed risk of fragmentation among teachers. At the same time, both teachers and headmasters feel that the greatest benefits of career positions are more educational discussions, better discussions and more development projects led by lead teachers. They believe that the reform helps to improve teaching more than making the profession more attractive. According to Statskontoret's questionnaire to trainee teachers, other changes are more important than career opportunities in terms of increasing the attractiveness of the profession. Examples given are a general increase in salaries, better opportunities for continuing professional development and a lower workload.
At the same time as some players see a risk of fragmentation among teachers and less cooperation, they also realise that career position tasks improve educational discussions, development projects and learning between colleagues. This may, according to Statskontoret, not only increase the opportunities for improvement in education but also counteract the division between teachers that the reform could cause.
The headmasters are taking several measures to create legitimacy for career positions. However, Statskontoret notes that such measures are primarily in the context of recruitment and not so often during the time of the positions. Headmasters have not often highlighted the work of career position teachers and its value to the school – factors which we have previously found to be valuable in creating confidence in career positions.
Salaries continue to diverge
Statskontoret notes that differences in salaries have increased since the launch of the reform. Since the follow-up in our second interim report, salary differentials have further increased. In the second interim report we saw a connection between numbers of career positions and salary differentials. In this report, too, we see signs that the reform has affected salary differentials.
The fact that salary differentials have increased since the introduction of the career development reform is not surprising, since government grants for individuals have resulted in salary increases that are almost equal to the average salary increase during a teacher's entire working life. The majority of players believe that skilful teachers should have higher salaries, but our studies also show that they see a risk that the reform could create excessive salary differentials.
Future development of salary differentials will, among other things, depend on how education authorities choose to distribute another government grant to raise teachers' salaries. There are some indications that education authorities' reasoning differs in this respect. Some education authorities, for example, have decided not to give career position teachers the state grant from teachers' salary raise.
(1)Government decision 19/06/2014. Commission to follow up and evaluate the career development reform. U2014/4127/S.
(2)Ministry of Education Memo from 24/09/2012 Career Paths, etc. in the case of teachers in schools (U2012/4904/S).