Application apathy?

I have a lot of time for Stewart McCoy, the operations director of Randstad Education, the global recruiter that is a player in the UK education recruitment market. As a result, I read Randstad’s latest survey and report with interest. Entitled, The Invisible Barrier: it raises some important issues.

The most important concern is the plethora of different application forms teachers can face when applying for jobs in different schools. It is possible for each and every academy to have a different form and certainly for different MATs and local authorities to use subtly different forms for applicants.

Of course, this is nothing new, when I first started teaching many local authorities still had space on the form for national service details and every form was different. Not very helpful to new entrants, but for many serving teachers changing jobs their service record was part of their employment history.

With the proper concerns these days about child welfare and the need for more rigorous vetting of applicants for posts working with children and young people it is understandable that application forms have become more complex and demanding of a person’s life history and less standardised. Randstad’s survey found 90% of the teachers that they surveyed wanted a ‘simple, universal application process’ and that the present system was off-putting and persuaded teachers to apply for fewer jobs at any one time.

Of course, there may also be other explanations of why teachers only apply for one job at a time. In some subjects, where demand outstrips supply, why make multiple applications if you might succeed with your first. After all, if you don’t, there will certainly be other jobs to apply for. Then there is also the effect of trainee and teacher workloads during the key March to March recruitment season for permanent vacancies. This problem does indeed point towards the need to simplify the application process with, at the very least, a common form for essential details. For every specific vacancy an applicant is always wise to tailor the free text part of the form to sell their unique characteristics that make them suitable for the school to hire to fill the advertised vacancy.

Of course, agencies can operate rather like the local authority ‘pool’ arrangements that used to be so common for primary school classroom teacher vacancies, where the overall suitability is measured through the initial application process and it is left to the interview stage for the real ‘sell’ by the candidate either selected by the school from the ‘pool’ or put forward as suitable by an agency. This avoids the need for tailoring the free text to the job being applied for, but can leave schools guessing about suitability of some candidates.

Incidentally, I was interested that Randstad conducted their survey in March, but have not published it until now. Their comment that September and October are two of the busiest months for teacher recruitment is an interesting one. There is always a small surge in vacancies in September, but Teachvac’s ( evidence is that October is often a quieter month for permanent vacancies. Perhaps, this is the month that Randstad see their supply teacher work pick up as schools start to face their first staffing issues of the new school year.

The Randstad Report does contain some interesting issues for the DfE as they no doubt ponder the future of any possible national recruitment portal and the lessons they have learnt about the application process from the work to date on the National Teaching Service.





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