At first glance the stand-off between Unilever and Tesco about the price of yeast extracts, deodorants and ice-cream would seem to have little immediate relevance for education, except perhaps for the increasingly scarce resource of business studies teachers: a subject where the government’s Teacher Supply Model seems unable to generate enough places to satisfy demand from schools.
As we know, when there is a shortage of supply price goes up if there is unmet demand. Tesco seems to be calling Unilever’s bluff by assuming customers will opt for similar products either from the Tesco brand or from other labels. We shall see. I must confess to the fact that I was once what would today be called an intern at Unilever in the late 1960s working their Rotterdam HQ looking at the grocery market in Europe as hypermarkets and giant supermarkets were first emerging and the family store was coming under pressure.
So how does all this relate to the teacher supply market? We know there is a shortage of teachers. After all, there have been innumerable conferences, seminars and workshops on the topic over the past few years. The price of advertising a vacancy remains high. Indeed, it was one reason, along with better data collection, that TeachVac www.teachvac.couk was launched as a free job site for schools, teachers and trainees more than two years ago by a group of individuals including myself.
We are firmly of the belief that too much money is being spent on recruitment advertising and that the cash should be spent instead on teaching and learning. An increasing number of schools, especially secondary schools, are using TeachVac alongside other recruitment channels and as the momentum has built over the past two years so those with leverage on the price of recruitment in education should be working like Tesco to reduce the cost of recruitment to schools. Is that happening?
The White Paper in March talked of a government initiative in the recruitment field with a portal, but in TeachVac there is one up and running already at no cost to schools, teachers and trainees. It is interesting that no teacher association, nor the governors or business managers have ever asked TeachVac to participate in a discussion over the cost of recruitment advertising and how it can be reduced. Despite it being part of the traded services of many local authorities, they have shown more interest, even though in some cases they would lose income with a switch by their schools to TeachVac. Nevertheless, they still recognise their duty to the ‘common good’.
Teachvac is now fully funded for the 2017 recruitment round and also has a product in TeachSted www.teachsted.com for secondary schools facing an Osfted inspection where they will be asked about the local job scene for teachers.
As the grocery trade has shown, prices don’t always need to go up. We need to ensure best value in education and that includes in the recruitment market. Of course, I am not an independent observer, but so what. The aim must be better use of finite public resources.