Education icon goes to overseas buyer

The news that the TSL Group, publishers of the TES and The Higher, is to be sold to TPG a leading global private investment firm currently with $US56.7 billion of assets under management, will come as no shock to those who have been aware that the existing owner of the Group, Charterhouse, has been looking to sell the titles and associated on-line presence. This sale will see these iconic British titles taken into foreign ownership. It will also no doubt see the profits from the TES recruitment business flow overseas to support the development of a global brand. TPG are big in technology, and have held positions in some other British companies in the past, including Virgin Rail and Debenhams. However, this seems like a new foray for them directly into the UK education market.

I worked for the TSL Group between 2008 and my retirement in 2011. This sale does raise the issue in my mind about whether there should be a new attempt to create a low-cost vehicle to serve the UK teacher recruitment market, perhaps owned and operated by a consortium of interested parties such as the professional associations, governor organisations and teacher trainers, along the lines of say the NfER.

I have pointed out before that the system I use to track vacancy levels could be applied to school web sites as a low cost recruitment tool and, providing schools and teacher training providers cooperated, could reach the vast majority of teachers seeking either their first appointment or to change jobs much more cheaply than the present profit-making concerns. The fact that the last time the government tried such an initiative with the School Recruitment Service it failed doesn’t mean the idea was wrong, just perhaps that it was badly executed at the time.

Unlike the sale of companies such as Cadbury, of some utility companies, and many of the rail franchises to overseas buyers, the school recruitment market can stay in UK hands, and the cost to schools can be reduced if there is a will to do so. A recruitment business can also offer the platform for other services to teachers and schools, but with a UK on-line focus.

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