Pool for profit

As we come to the end of another school year I have been reflecting upon the state of teacher supply. TeachVac the recruitment site free to both schools and teachers is now one year old. I seems incredible that the team started only started work on the concept last July.

In September, the TeachVac site will be extended to cover the primary sector, still for free, and will handle vacancies at all levels from classroom teacher to head. Future developments may include a portal for support, administrative and technical staff since they now comprise such a large percentage of the workforce and the addition of vacancies in the many international schools across the world that recruit teachers qualified in England. One of the issues is whether the latter group of schools should benefit from free access to the TeachVac site in the same way as schools across England: discussions are still underway.

There is now widespread acceptance that the teacher recruitment market is becoming more challenging. However, there are still those that see the solution as letting anyone walk in off the street and start teaching. There is another group that believes that anyone with subject knowledge can teach. A read of any Ofsted report of a school with a large number of unqualified teachers would probably provide some cogent reasons why that is not the case. Indeed, Ofsted inspections might usefully report on unqualified teachers as well as how well NQTs have been trained. But, a full discussion of the issues relating to un-qualified teachers will have to wait for another post.

More interesting is the debate about whether the recruitment market for teacher is changing? In one respect, the market may just be responding to changing conditions: a move from a glut of teachers to widespread shortages. In another respect, making trainees spend even more time in schools may curtail their enthusiasm for job hunting while in schools, especially if they are aware that their services are in demand and they can afford to wait.

Historically, many local authorities operated ‘pool’ systems on behalf of primary schools in their locality. New entrants filled in a single application form and were interviewed; those successful were offered to schools looking for teachers.  In the days when local authorities had budgets this was a free service, but it always had a cost attached to it even if it was hidden.

These days some recruitment agencies are offering trainees, and indeed all teachers, the chance to complete a single application form and the agency will find them a job that matches their needs. They will then, in some cases, charge the school a fee for finding a teacher. They may also negotiate the best salary possible for the teacher. All right and proper in a market situation. It saves applicants time and effort, although they lose the personal tough in an application tailored to an individual school brings, and it can save schools money where several adverts may be necessary to recruit a teacher.

This approach comes as a shock to secondary schools used to advertising every vacancy in national marketplaces. I would, you will not be surprised to know, advocate that schools do still advertise their vacancy for free on TeachVac and they then decide whether they have received any applications. In easy to recruit subject such as PE recruitment might be straightforward, but those looking for a physics or business studies teacher for January 2016 or even during August for September 2015 might find that using outside help could eventually be a cheaper solution.

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