Last week Nick Gibb as Minister for Schools appeared in front of the Education Select Committee. At the weekend the media picked up on a parliamentary question from a Lib Dem MP about teacher retention. The facts in the answer to the PQ probably didn’t reveal anything new, but the figures did create quite a stir, with your truly being quoted yesterday on the BBC new site education page. The key point is the rise in departures of teachers with 3-5 years’ experience of teaching. This seems like a new trend.
However, the data is a ‘lagging’ indicator, as it arrives several years after the event. Nick Gibb talked about another and new ‘lagging’ indicator the DfE has inserted into the School Workforce Census. This is the question about whether a school has advertised a vacancy in the past year. Since the census is taken in November, I assume a school will reply this year with data from the 2015/16 academic year. The data from the census appears in the spring of the following year. By then the main bulk of the next recruitment round is nearly over and the data can only influence what happens the following year. Indeed, as an aid to teacher supply, it might miss decisions on trainee numbers for that autumn and so this year will influence 2017 entry into training and the 2018 recruitment round. As we are in a period of rising rolls, the data will also be lagging behind the growth in pupil numbers and so probably underestimate demand.
As I said, when establishing TeachVac, we need a real-time tracking system for the recruitment scene in schools across both state and private sectors to detect trends as they happen and in time to affect policy decisions that will allow a response to the identified change.
This issue was well demonstrated in the interchanges between the Committee and the Minister at the Select committee over the issue of regional provision of places. I was interested to hear the Minister say that those that train in the North East might not work there, but offer no evidence to back up his assertion. Some time ago the DfE used to track and publish the data on where trainees studied to become a teacher and where they obtained their first job. It was not encouraging on the issue of mobility between regions and distance they travelled to obtain a teaching post. With significant numbers of career changers among trainees in some regions this isn’t perhaps surprising, but I am not sure the Committee pushed the Minister on that point.
Still, it was good to know that £16 million will go on advertising for trainees this year, some £10 more than last year and money that might otherwise be spent on teaching and learning. Reducing the unnecessary spend on recruitment of those training and already trained might at least release some extra money back into the system at the school level where it is currently spent with agencies and on advertising. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk cost nothing to use for schools, teachers and trainees and offers a solution for the sector to adopt.