Is it harder to recruit teachers of English than teachers of mathematics?

I can finally report that TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the national vacancy site that provides free posting of jobs for schools and uses a defined alert system for teachers seeking to know about vacancies, now shows mathematics as a subject where schools anywhere in England might encounter recruitment challenges, if they are looking for a teacher to fill a vacancy for January 2019.

But, I hear you say, mathematics is a shortage subject and schools already cannot recruit teachers to teach the subject. That’s certainly the message put out by those in the mathematics world. Curiously, their colleagues representing teacher of English make much less noise about the shortages in their subject.

Both English and mathematics are key subjects, recruiting many new teachers each year, although not as many as the sciences overall as a subject area. If mathematics teachers are in really short supply, then a percentage of vacancies will in reality be re-advertisements for posts schools could not fill the first time they advertised them.

So far, in 2018, TeachVac has recorded around 300 more vacancies for teachers of mathematics than for teachers of English. However, with fewer trainees in English than were recruited to mathematics teacher preparation courses in 2017, this gap goes a long way to explaining why the autumn term could have seen some schools struggling to recruit teachers of English even more than they will teachers of mathematics.

Of course, part of the explanation for the level of demand might be that schools have bought into the message of a national shortage of mathematics teachers and not bothered to advertise a vacancy, instead filling it by using existing staff in a creative fashion.

There is another explanation that is linked to the way that schools are now starting to advertise vacancies. A growing number of schools don’t advertise specific posts but request interest from teachers seeking to work at the school or within the Multi-Academy Trust. The school or Trust then, presumably, sifts through these expressions of interest when a vacancy occurs and contacts the most likely candidates to see if they are still interested.

In the past schools may also have used recruitment agencies and one firm in particular still operates some micro-sites for schools. However, I suspect this may not be a cost effective solution, especially with free services such as TeachVac now being available.

Of course, there may be more ‘returners’ in English than in mathematics and that may help explain less concern over recruitment for teachers of English.

Hopefully, better recruitment onto courses preparing teachers of English in 2018 will make for a less challenging labour market in that subject for September 2019 and January 2020 vacancies. For mathematics, we must wait and see how many trainees were recruited and actually started courses this September.

One thing that is certain is that in 2019 there will once again be a shortage of teachers of business studies and probably shortages in a range of other subjects as well.

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