John Howson

Professor John Howson is an authority on the labour market for teachers. Located in Oxford, England he is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University.

John uses this web site for columns and articles he writes so that they can be easily accessed by a wider audience. His blog now has had over 100,000 visits and 50,000 visitors reading the more than 1,000 posts published since January 2013.

More information can be found at

John also has expertise in the UK justice system and has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since the Party was formed, and a member of the Liberal Party before that date.

He is chairman of TeachVac the free job matching site for schools, teachers, trainees and those seeking to return to  teaching. TeachVac Global is the site for international schools that teach through the medium of the English Language and are looking for teachers. Registration is free to teachers and the charges to schools are some of the lowest in the world.

John has a number of other interests including writing poetry from time to time.

Since May 2013 he has also been a County Councillor in Oxfordshire.

41 thoughts on “John Howson

  1. Dear Prof Howson, may I thank you for the time and effort you have spent on bringing clarity to the state of teacher training! Your work is invaluable and I hope will also be recognised by the Education Select Committee later this week. Hopefully your monitoring of this situation will add to the pressure which DfE and NCTL should be feeling to produce more carefully considered targets in all modes of ITT.

  2. Professor Howson, thank you so much for your observation on Empowering Learning’s article “Why are teachers working as cleaners?” in The Guardian last week. I will contact the NCTL to follow up your suggestion. If you are able to recommend a friendly contact there, I would be very grateful.

  3. Dear John, Wondering if you know the percentage of youngsters going into Grammar Schools in Kent? Also if you know anyone who might be able to provide me with figures going back to the 60s on youngsters attending grammar schools in all UK LEAs? Cheers – Dick Powell

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  5. I am an unqualified teacher working in an Academy. I have been working as an ‘instructor’ and receiving instructor pay, for about 4 years. I have applied for Teacher training courses twice before. Each time I applied they were willing to offer me a place on their programme, teaching Design and Technology. The first time I applied I did not have the required grades in English and Maths as I had left school in 1981, at that time they were CSE’s. So I set about completing an English GCSE and a Maths GCSE at my school. I was successful in both and so I applied again, in 2014. Again, they offered me a place and I accepted but I had to pass the Literacy and Numeracy tests. I passed the literacy test first time but I failed the maths test, by “1 point”. I have just turned 50. I potentially have to wait another 2 years before I can apply again and possibly not be offered a place, although on the SCITT programme they were willing to short list me and send me through, if I passed the Maths test. Maths has always been a weakness of mine and was so pleased when I did actually only fail on 1 point and saw this as a big acheivement, strangely but at the same time I was devastated because teaching is something I absolutely love and think I am quite good at. I found myself being a single parent at 31, with 3 boys. I was utterly determined I would do my best, not only to be a role model to my children but to develop a career that would enable me to support my children and not rely on the state. I completed my BA hons Degree in Art and Design in 2003 and I am here in 2015 still utterly determined to have a teaching career. I still cannot believe that failing a Maths test, by 1 point, has crushed my dreams and left me totally disillusioned with the whole thing. I just wanted to tell you my story and that there are so many people in my situation: good teachers who love what they do. Thankyou. Maxine

    • Maxine,

      I understand the position you are in and have rethought my support for skills tests being taken pre-entry. If they were post-entry many providers would have helped with maths coaching on the parts you find challenging. since we are critically short of D&T teachers perhaps someone -DATA for instance – could set up support to help people like yourself become teachers. as I failed English 6 times in my youth, there is a strong possibility I wouldn’t now be let into the teaching profession, so I do understand where you are coming from, but a minimum standard in both numeracy and literacy should be a given for all teachers when QTS allows you to teach anything to anybody.

      John Howson

    • Maxime,

      see following offer


      You may remember kindly commenting on an article about Empowering Learning in The Guardian a couple of years ago.
      We are now in our 5th year of placing colleagues with two years teaching experience into paid teaching posts whilst they complete the Assessment Only Route to QTS via Sunderland University.
      If Maxine would like to contact us via the Empowering Learning website we would be happy to help.
      Thank you again for your support
      Lynne Hannigan

  6. I am a teacher in the US and the more I find teachers’ blogs from other English speaking countries the more it looks the same. We are suffering a teacher shortage as well – says a 10 year teaching veteran who is leaving the profession at the end of the year… Wonderful blog. I look forward to reading more.

  7. Hello John have not seen or spoken to you since about 1965-66 at TCS. I have followed your blog. Just keep at the politicians they are avoiding the reality regarding teacher numbers. Hopefully, they will see the light (I remain an optimist)

    • Frank,

      Glad to hear from you. that was a long time ago at TCS.
      I recall joining the staff in 1971 to replace X on the timetable and becoming head of geography a term and a half later. I wonder if some schools are heading back to that sort of level these days.


      • I am a governor at a secondary county school in Loughton Essex. The cost of housing in the area is prohibitive to recruiting good staff; particularly as nearby inner london schools can offer substantially larger salaries. I look forward to Nicky Morgan’s explanation as to how we can staff all the schools adequately. Seems teaching is an area outside the “market”

  8. John. Just casually browsing before going to bed and I stumble across this! I trust you are well and you certainly seem to be active. I note the message from Frank S above, a chum at TCS back in the 60’s. You and I will recall the days in the 50’s at Sunday School as well as post TCS when we were at LSE, with Peter too of course. I’m now a retired FCA living here in Northumberland. Best Wishes to you and to Peter of course.

    • Ian,
      Thank you for your best wishes,
      As it happens I shall be seeing Peter later today in his new home in Wiltshire.
      I do indeed recall St Mark’s and TCS and as you say Frank S has popped up on this blog.
      As you will have seen I am still interested in education and TeachVac has shown the government how disruptive new technology can be by offering a free recruitment service.
      Interesting times.

    • Frank – No never, I was last in Tottenham about two years ago for a game at WHL. It looked a very different place from the days at TCS. I did stroll up to the buildings at Selby Road; it all looked very sad I thought. Better stop this or PH will think we’re trying to take a place on his blog!

  9. Dear John,

    I met you many years ago when I was a very junior officer at the TTA (1995-1996). I subsequently found my way into the classroom and recently out of the classroom and into a not-for-profit teacher recruitment enterprise – an Essex CC funded project aiming to try and beat the recruitment agencies at their own game.

    I would really appreciate talking to you in more depth about your knowledge of the sector, about what we’re trialling in this area and to hear about any other experiments that are out there successfully challenging the scandalous sums that schools waste on agencies.

    It would be great to hear from you.

    Simon Hankinson (

  10. Dear John

    When attempting to explore promoting diversity in leadership in my area, I was looking to start from some secure data analysis. But I can’t find any up to date version of the Howson report into the State of the Labour on to senior leadership. Do you have any pointers on where to find data on current leadership numbers broken down by demographic data and region?

    Thank you


    • Emily,

      By coincidence TeachVac have published a report into the leadership market in the primary sector earlier this week. Changes in the way secondary schools recruit makes it harder to carry out the same oversight research in that sector and there has been little interest in the special school sector. The former more detailed reports carried out for NAHT and from time to time for ASCL haven’t been undertaken for some years to the best of my knowledge.

      Our executive summary is as follows:
      Head teachers and other school leaders have a key role in ensuring a successful
      education for children and young people and TeachVac is now able to report senior
      staff turnover across the primary sector for 2017.
      ● In 2017, TeachVac recorded 9% of schools in the primary sector looking for a head
      teacher. Clearly, not all schools that advertise for a head teacher are able to make an
      appointment at the first attempt and there was a re-advertisement rate of 31% across
      all advertising primary schools in England.
      ● Whilst the majority of schools find a head teacher after one advertisement, schools
      that don’t will depend upon the size of the pool of applicants. The lack of a generally
      agreed qualification in preparation for headship makes it challenging to know the size
      of the pool of potential heads seeking a first appointment each year.
      ● Just over half of recorded advertisements for head teachers appear in the first three
      months of the calendar year. As many of the advertisements recorded later in the year
      are actually re-advertisements, the number of new schools starting the process of
      seeking a head teacher after this period is relatively small.
      ● 38% of the tracked advertisements for a head teacher cited ‘retirement’ as the reason
      for the vacancy and 16% cited ‘stepping down’ although many adverts didn’t state a
      ● TeachVac tracked a similar number of vacancies listed by primary schools looking for
      a deputy head teacher as for a head teacher. Some of these vacancies will have been
      the result of a deputy being promoted either substantively or in an acting role to a
      ● Schools in some parts of the country have experienced more challenges in filling head
      teacher vacancies than might have been expected. On the other hand, schools in
      London appear to have less difficulty than they experienced in the past in recruiting
      head teachers. Church schools are still more likely to have to re-advertise a vacancy
      than non-faith schools.

      To order your copy of this unique report for only £150 including postage, please contact Jindy
      Chivers, Marketing Manager, on or 01983 550408.
      You can also pre-order our ‘Review of the Teacher Marketplace in England for 2017’

      John Howson

  11. Dear John,
    Do you think some of the decline in applications to teacher training, could be due to the requirement to undertake a 2 week school Experience Programme? Which is now being charged for at the rate of £30-£40 per day. Often this is on top significant travel costs and other charges e.g. £60 for a DBS check. It seems to me that this is a significant barrier low income applicants.

    Kind regards

    • Jackie,

      I would be surprised if that requirement had much more than a marginal effect as many programmes have expected a period in school before the main programme starts. The lack of a bursary and the higher fees taken together seem to me to be a more likely reason.


      • I accept your point, but £600+ is a significant some of money for many low income applicants, and that’s just to get an interview. Not to mention often 2 weeks without pay for low income workers. I can’t help but think this is a barrier for the type of bright working class teacher that inspired me.


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  13. Good morning.
    I have to make a short presentation at an interview on Friday about male teachers in primary schools and, during my research, your name has been suggested to me as a source of further information.
    The brief is as follows:
    The number of males applying to become Primary teachers has improved in recent years but still remains well below the number of women applicants. Why should this be the case and is it important to recruit males to the Early Years and Primary settings?

    I would love to include some statistics and research in my presentation (which is only 5 minutes long!) and have already looked at the workforce statistics from the DfE.
    I would be very grateful if you could provide me with any additional assistance.
    Many thanks,

    Allie Taylor

  14. Dear Prof. Howson,
    Do you know of any studies that demonstrate the impact of qualified v non qualified teachers on student learning in schools?
    Many thanks,
    S. Kavanagh

    • Shelagh,

      There was an American Economist some years ago that attempted to show better teachers produced better results for their students. With relatively few unqualified teachers and not being able to control for parental reactions to poor teaching such as paying for tutoring it is difficult to assess. Some years ago I did a study of head teacher turnover that showed less well graded the school the shorter the tenure of head teachers except for the best performing schools. The hypothesis was that these schools trid to employ someone that had already demonstrated success as a head and, therefore, had relatively less time left before retirement than first time appointments as heads. An interesting subject.

      John Howson

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  16. Dear John

    I enjoyed reading your think piece for FED re Teacher Supply – long term strategy needed. Having been in education in various roles since 1995, including senior leadership, LA consultancy teaching in secondary mainstream and alternative provisions, it seems to me three things are needed to keep teachers and educators in the profession:
    1. reduce contact time with students so educators can properly plan, collaborate and think to meet children and young people’s needs (OECD report, June 2021)
    2. reform Ofsted so that the profession can be freed from fear (Lucy Crehan, Clevelands)
    3. reform assessment system so other skills crucial for life are valued and failure is no longer institutionalised (Seldon, November 2021, Time).

    Your suggestion about funding programmes that keep teachers in the profession is welcome. This is what facilitators and participants in HertsCam’s programmes tell us is one of the many impacts as they are entrusted to lead change.

    Having begun my teaching career in 1994 at Oxford Brookes for my PGCE, I am now beginning an EdD at Leeds Beckett focusing on Developing cultures of equity through Kline’s Thinking Environment. I hope that this helps to improve conditions in schools, value educators, and provide them with tools to think for themselves. However, without the 3 things above, the impact will be compromised.

    I would be most happy to discuss the above with you.

    • Sheila,

      Thank you for your comments. We must have overlapped at Brookes in 1994 as I was part of the School of Education’s SMT at that time. I agree with everything you have said. The concentration on EBacc to the detriment of the remainder of the curriculum has been nothing short of a disaster. Equity is an interesting concept. At the classroom level, how do you apportion time between pupil equitably in a mixed ability setting? And all settings are mixed ability to a greater or lesser extent. Good luck with the EdD.

      If I can ask a favour, anything you can do to encourage teachers to use TeachVac our free job board will put pressure on the tes to reduce prices and save schools money.

      Best wishes

      John Howson

  17. Very happy to spread the word re TeachVac John.

    Re equity at the classroom level, it seems to me it is about creating the conditions so each child knows they can think aloud without interruption in the presence of their teacher and peers who are listening to ignite fascinated by what they have to say, rather than listening to reply and but in or correct.

    What is also interesting is how to create such cultures amongst staff – what do meetings really look like? Is everyone able to do their best thinking without interruption? Tricky to have such cultures in classrooms if they are not practised elsewhere in the organisation.

    If you’re interested in hearing more and know of any organisation who might be interested, get in touch.

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