I have been asked a lot recently whether there is a teacher recruitment crisis. The answer is, it all depends upon what you mean by a crisis. In the TeachVac evidence to the Select Committee, published on the Committee’s website before Christmas, I attempted to put some numbers to the terms ‘challenge’ and ‘crisis’. So far as I am aware, nobody has offered an alternative scenario. Certainly, nobody has suggested one to me.
Ministers, however, have relied on the November Workforce census vacancies to suggest schools are fully staffed. More recently, during her speech to the NASUWT Conference, the Secretary of State quoted from a TES study that suggested 70% of vacancies were filled within four weeks of being advertised. No bad, but it means that 30% were not filled. As a head teacher I would be worried of around one in three of my vacancies weren’t filled quickly. That figure was presumably the average, so some will have done better, but others worse. Perhaps the DfE can tell schools at what point they should worry? 50% not filled within four weeks; 75%, or should they wait until they reach the position of the Oxford head teacher speaking on the BBC web site whose school attracted no applicants for a number of vacancies advertised?
At TeachVac, the free vacancy web site for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk we are gearing up for the April vacancy rush. The job market has definitely become more complex and can be divided into a number of different segments. There are probably now three groups of trainees; those on programmes such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route that have posts assigned to them and don’t enter the open competition for vacancies; the trainees that sign up with recruitment agencies in the hope of reducing paperwork and securing a better salary. As this group increases, and the government is doing nothing to deter agencies from signing up trainees, or indeed other teachers, and asking schools for a finder’s fee, so the free pool of applicants diminishes. The government’s offer of the DfE’s free website won’t alleviate the drain on school resources by having to pay these fees. However, it might encourage some academy chains and diocese to become more involved in School Direct or SCITTs as part of a ‘grow your own teacher’ scheme.
The third group of trainees form the traditional ‘free pool’ of new entrants competing for the vacancies offered by schools. It is difficult to see how, if the DfE’s Teacher supply model is anywhere near accurate, any substantial under-recruitment into training will not affect the size of this pool to some extent. For that reason, Ministers generalised references to the overall position aren’t helpful. The recent National Audit Office report highlighted the lack of government knowledge of the real position in the teacher labour market nationally, let alone at a sub-national level.
Later this week TeachVac will publish its April newsletters for schools and teachers containing our analysis of the vacancy trends during the first three months of 2016. These are free to subscribers to the TeachVac site.