A National Teaching Service?

How much of the White Paper issued in March is now history? Does a change in government mean a change in policy across the board? Two of the proposals contained in the White Paper were for a National Teaching Service and for the creation of free national vacancy website. Where are we  now with both of these suggestions?

I will confess an interest in that I helped establish TeachVac (www.teachvac.co.uk) as a free national job matching service partly because such a service was missing and because schools were spending ever larger sums on recruitment, in some cases to the detriment of spending on teaching and learning. We are already doing what the White Paper suggested alongside the plethora of different regional and local websites maintained by both local authorities and their commercial brethren. In some cases these sites handle teaching and non-teaching posts together, in others they separate them out and they may or may not include local academies and the various range of free schools.

Teachvac has the added advantage over local authority sites of bringing together both state-funded and private school teaching vacancies in one place. This fact allows a view of the overall demand for teachers. Our analysis suggests that the DfE are better at modelling, through the use of the Teacher Supply Model, the demand in subjects such as mathematics and English than they are in some of the less common subjects such as business studies and in subjects with complex demands for different specialisms, such as in design and technology. However although sometimes the modelling may be accurate, but the lack of recruitment into training then affects the supply that doesn’t meet the modelled need.

A national site like TeachVac allows this kind of discussion in a manner not possible before, when the DfE largely had to rely upon the results from the annual School Workforce Census. While useful in some respects, the census lacks the dynamic up to the minute real-time information of a site such as TeachVac. However, it also allows governments to quite truthfully state an opinion at variance with current outcomes in the labour market. I don’t think that is a good enough reason not to consider the advantages of a national site, especially when one already exists and costs nothing to use.

The other initiative mentioned in the White Paper was the National Teaching Service. This is an attempt to help recruit teachers and middle leaders into underperforming schools that may otherwise struggle to recruit able teachers. The recruits from the first round of the pilot programme should have started work in schools this September. However, the expected tender for the further roll-out of a national programme has not, to my knowledge, yet appeared. The development of this type of service is a complex matter and not one to be rushed, especially as schools are now in many cases free to determine individual terms and conditions of service.

With the postponement of the consultation on the National Funding Formula, it is difficult to see the service making great headway until policy is clearer. The same is true for any similar service to place head teachers in challenging schools. Matching supply and demand by intervening in an open market is possible, but not easy. Some readers will remember the Labour government’s attempt with the Fast Track Scheme that briefly flourished around the time of the millennium.

It will be interesting to see how the DfE, having had the summer to think about these issues, takes them forward this autumn. At TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the staff are happy to talk to officials about our experience.

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