About john howson

Chairman of TeachVac, the free to use recruitment matching service for schools, teachers and trainees www.teachvac.co.uk

Take this vacancy test now  

Which free site offers the best approach to finding a teaching job?

TeachVac or the DfE site

These are the only 2 sites for teaching vacancies in England with national coverage that are free to both schools and teachers. One is offered by TeachVac the other is the developing DfE site.

I would add that I have been chair of the group operating TeachVac since its inception over four years ago. TeachVac like the new DfE site came about because of the high cost to schools of recruitment advertising.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk uses a defined request approach. Users register and can specify their preferences for phase, location and other key criteria. As vacancies enter the system they are matched and each day details of new matches are sent to registered users to decide whether to take time in finding out more about the school and the vacancy.

This method does not require users to do any searching of the site and preferences can be changed if not enough matches are found in a particular area. The system is simple to use and in periods of the year when there are many jobs on offer – specifically from March to June for classroom teacher posts – applicants do not need to waste time searching through lots of unsuitable vacancies.

The DfE offering is at https://teaching-jobs.service.gov.uk/ and is based around a more traditional open search system that requires teachers to specify filters each time they visit the site. A click through on a vacancy also doesn’t take you directly to the school site, but to a more detailed analysis of the vacancy with a link at the end of the text.

At present, the coverage of the DfE’s site is unclear and applicants will have to keep checking to see if the area that they are interested in now live on the DfE site. TeachVac has coverage of the whole of England.

TeachVac includes both independent and all types of state funded primary and secondary schools in its coverage, whereas the DfE only handles state funded schools.

Let’s leave aside the concept of the State taking over from the market in providing a service; something odd to see from a Conservative government.

The DfE, like TeachVac, is trying to save schools money in these straightened financial times, but costs more to operate than TeachVac.

So, register with TeachVac. If it doesn’t meet your requirements, you can easily deregister and be forgotten by the site, then visit the DfE site and see how they compare?

If you like the TeachVac approach – no nonsense, no marketing and daily alerts if new jobs arise, then let me know and tell your friends and colleagues. Please also make suggestions for improvements and possible marketing routes.

TeachVac also tells schools that register with the site about the state of the market when they post a vacancy and has special arrangements for both diocese and multi-academy trusts wanting to list vacancies at several different schools.

To finish with a reminder. TeachVac is free to use for both teachers, returners and schools. It is offered as a service to the education community.

 

 

 

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UK Music Talent pipeline concerns

UK Music, is the industry-funded body established in October 2008 to represent the collective interests of the recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry.

To quote from their website, UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies through collective representation. https://www.ukmusic.org/about/

At the Liberal Democrat Conference this week UK Music published a pamphlet entitled ‘Securing our talent pipeline’ https://www.ukmusic.org/news/securing-our-talent-pipeline

As they acknowledge, the UK music industry is doing well at present. It grew by 6 per cent last year and is now worth £4.4 billion to the economy with the live music industry contributing around £1 billion. However, that is exactly the time to reflect on the future.

UK Music say that while the immediate outlook is promising, there is growing evidence of a looming crisis in the music industry’s talent pipeline – a pipeline that they rely on for future stars and one that is a vital part of their industry’s eco-system.

Schools form an important part of developing that talent pipeline, so I thought I would take a look at the evidence from TeachVac, the vacancy site for teachers where I am chair of the board. www.teachvac.co.uk about recruitment and the supply of teachers of music.

The headline statistic is that music in our schools, as a classroom taught subject, is more of a shortage subject than mathematics. Sadly, TeachVac doesn’t keep data on instrumental and other specialist music teaching at this point in time.

Despite cuts to the curriculum in state funded schools, there have been more than 600 vacancies for main scale classroom teachers recorded so far in 2018 by TeachVac. This is slightly down on the 632 vacancies recorded by this point in 2017, but not significantly so. The previous two years, 2015 and 2016 recorded around the 550 vacancies mark by this point in September.

Allowing for better coverage in 2017 and 2018 by TeachVac, there doesn’t seem yet to have been a collapse in demand for classroom teachers of music. However, there are significant regional differences. Around half of the vacancies recorded in 2018 were from secondary schools in either London or the South East, the regions with the largest concentration of independent schools and the best funded state schools. Relatively few vacancies have been recorded from schools in the North East so far in 2018.

The real cause of any shortage of teachers of music is the failure of the DfE to attract enough trainee teachers of music over the past few years, and especially for entry into teacher preparation courses in 2017. Last September, the DfE estimate in the Teacher Supply Model was for 409 music teachers; 295 were recruited according to their census of trainees. This year, by the middle of August, potential trainee numbers were slightly below the same period in 2017 and on target for around 280 trainees overall.

Allowing for failure to complete for various reasons, this means the number of new entrants in 2019 could be in the range of 250-275 for the 4,000 or so secondary schools across England. Turnover would need to be as low as five per cent to ensure sufficient new entrants, even assuming the distribution across the country was as required: an unlikely situation.

So, music may well be a subject of concern in 2019 and UK Music are right to worry about the long-term consequences for their industry and the UK Economy.

 

 

 

School reserves shrink

The news that the annual survey of school bank balances revealed that a third of schools surveyed were in deficit should come as no surprise. This blog along with many others has been charting the decline in school funds for some time.

Coincidentally, I asked the question at Oxfordshire’s Cabinet meeting this afternoon about school balances across maintained primary schools in Oxfordshire and how they changed between the end of the 2017 and 2018 financial years.

Since I haven’t yet had the data in the form of a spreadsheet, only as a written answer, I have yet to see whether Oxfordshire schools are faring better or worse than the national average. I hope to be able to answer that question later this week. However, there are a lot of minus figures in the table, even taking the effects of double entry bookkeeping into account.

At the Cabinet meeting, I also challenged the Cabinet member – part of the Conservative administration of the County – whether or not she would support the notion that money provided for schools in Oxfordshire should not be allowed to be transferred by Multi-Academy Trusts to support schools in the Trust located elsewhere in England.

I will need to check the minutes for her answer, but I am confident that she agreed with me. Personally, I would go further and not allow MAT or MACs to transfer funds between schools within the group even in Oxfordshire unless the same arrangements were possible for maintained schools and stand-alone academies.

Regular readers of this blog will know auditors of MAT/Macs were written to earlier this year by the Minister in the DfE about the issue of allowing the virement of funds between schools within MAT/MACs. However, schools outside MAT/MACs have no such facility available to them. Whether this should be seen as an invitation to join a MAT or to avoid doing so and keep the cash for the school will be a matter for local decision-making.

However, as I made clear above, if the DfE is going to have a National Funding Formula for schools it cannot, at least in my judgement, be correct for trustees to take money from schools in one area to provide for schools in another area.

Schools Forums up and down the country should take a long look at the issue or virement of monies between schools and consider whether they can draw up local guidelines. After all, the Schools Forum has a key role to play in school finances these days.

The F40 Group of local authorities might also want to have a say if cash were being transferred from their members to poorly performing schools in better funded parts of the country. Such a move would be a case of ‘depriving the deprived’.

After ten years of austerity it is no surprise that schools are running out of reserves. When they do then real cuts start being to be made. With a 3.5% pay rise to fund, expect 2019 balances to be far worse than they were this year.

 

 

OECD’s view of UK teachers

The OECD has today published the latest in its Education Indicators at a Glance series this is a weighty document that takes a while to download even on reasonably fast computers. Still, I is worth the efforts. http://webexchanges.oecdcode.org/F0w3Shjh/EAG2018_final_embargo.pdf

Two of the interesting comments about the United Kingdom are that:

The teaching workforce in the United Kingdom is one of the youngest among all OECD countries, and starting salaries from pre-primary to upper secondary education are below the OECD average.

Lower secondary school heads play an active role in decision making and leadership in the United Kingdom. In England, they earn more than twice the salary of tertiary-educated workers, the highest premium for school heads across OECD countries.

It is interesting to read the OECD comment specifically about headteachers in England as the majority of their observations are a combination of the four ‘home nations’ data into a United Kingdom analysis.

The OECD has some interesting observations about the teaching force in the United Kingdom:

As in most OECD countries, the majority of teaching staff in the United Kingdom are women, with the share of women decreasing as the level of education increases. At lower secondary level, there is more gender balance in the United Kingdom than in many other countries. In 2016, 36% of lower secondary teachers in the United Kingdom were men, almost 5 percentage points higher than the average across OECD countries (31%).

Despite our concerns about attracting men into teaching, the United Kingdom seems to be doing better than many other OECD countries in attracting and keeping men in secondary school teaching, but we cannot afford to be complacent about the future in terms of attracting anyone into teaching.

The good news is that the United Kingdom has a relatively young teaching force. This should be helpful in ensuring a stream of future leaders for the schools unless wastage removes the brightest and best into other jobs, an issue not discussed by the OECD.

The teaching workforce in the United Kingdom has become younger since 2005 and is now the youngest among all OECD countries in primary education and the second youngest after Turkey in lower secondary education. In primary schools, 31% of teachers are aged 30 or younger, compared to the OECD average of 12%.  

However, there is a risk with so many young workers of a loss of a proportion of teachers to caring responsibilities.

OECD acknowledge the relatively poor starting pay for teachers – this was before the current 3.5% increase in England.

When bonuses and allowances are included, the average actual salaries of lower secondary teachers in England and Scotland are lower than the average earnings of tertiary-educated workers, as in most countries. However, this relative earnings gap is slightly higher than the OECD average.

However, the OECD notes that after 15 years experience (sic), teachers’ salaries have increased considerably, and exceed the OECD average across all levels of education except upper secondary education in both England and Scotland. However, salary progression slows down after 15 years of experience, resulting in top of scale salaries that lag behind those in other OECD countries. It is not clear whether this also applies to salaries of school leaders.

In terms of school autonomy, I find the following statement difficult to understand.

The United Kingdom is among the few countries where local authorities are the main initial source of funds as well as the main final purchasers of educational services. In the United Kingdom, local authorities generate and spend 55% of education funds in primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.

Since local authorities don’t have a vote on Schools Forum and there is a move to a National Funding formula, this paragraph might need reconsidering in future versions of the publication.

Overall, OECD remain positive of the benefits of education to individuals and society as a whole.

 

 

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.

Shooting the messenger

My sympathies are more with Ofsted than the PAC after the publication today of their Report by the Public Accounts Committee. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/1029/102902.htm

It is disappointing that so few PAC members were able to attend for both the two witness sessions and the subsequent approval of the draft report. How can anyone that didn’t attend the witness session really be expected to vote on the report, especially one so critical?

What really matters, and both the National Audit Office that reports to the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee itself should now focus upon, is how are critical reports from Ofsted are acted upon. There are widely different outcomes, even across the government controlled academy and free school sector, with Regional School Commissioners acting promptly on Ofsted reports in some cases and doing nothing in public in other cases. Even the Secretary of State’s speech in May, promising prompt action, doesn’t seem to have changed the landscape very much, if at all.

Ofsted surely isn’t perfect, but it has had budget cuts far greater than most schools have suffered and seen the local inspection and advisory services that used to provide important intelligence almost completely wiped out across large swathes of the country.

Layla Moran MP, the Lib Dem on the PAC and an opponent of Ofsted since her election to parliament in 2017 has said today that:

… the problems with Ofsted are not just operational. Ofsted’s judgements lack reliability and validity. Their inspections heap pressure on to teachers that far outweighs any benefits they provide.

“Rather than focusing narrowly on results, our education system should value long-term success and the wellbeing of our children and teachers.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats would abolish Ofsted and replace it with a new system for school inspections which would take into account pupil and parent feedback and teacher workload. We must work with struggling schools to help them improve, rather than simply writing them off.”

Writing schools off after an inspection isn’t the fault of Ofsted, although they could be more forceful in some follow up monitoring visits, by laying the blame on other agencies for not intervening appropriately. The system needs to help schools improve, not just the inspection service. That is why a continued monitoring of schools and action, where necessary at a local level, is important. Since that isn’t possible under the present funding regime, this looks a bit like the PAC trying to shoot the messenger.

Are parents and students not listened to in the course of Ofsted inspections? I frequently read comments inspectors have included from parents and indeed pupils about issue such as bullying and behaviour. No doubt more could be done to increase feedback from just a minority, but as evidence it also needs evaluating against other data and observations.

The issue of teacher workload and an objective measure of whether or not a school is using its staffing resources wisely should be part of the on-going monitoring of schools at a system level. Here Ofsted is still hampered in respect of academy trusts and the oversight of other groups of schools.

We do need a system that is more quality assurance than quality control, but above all we need to ensure enough properly trained and qualified teachers for each and every school, otherwise any inspection regime will always continue to uncover under-performing schools.

Law of unintended consequences

The news that Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars is long overdue recognition for her part in this research. Her decision to use the award to donate her £2.3m winnings is a noble gesture, to be applauded and hopefully recognised in other ways by a grateful nation.

The money will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. Such a use for a scheme, to be administered by the Institute of Physics, is also an inspiring use of the cash from the award, especially if it attracts additional funds from other sources, since by itself even £2.3 million won’t go very far these days. If it generates £150,000 of annual interest at current rates it will be doing well.

So a good idea but, if the scheme is to fund undergraduates in Physics to conduct graduate research that they currently cannot afford to undertake, who will be the loser. Keen readers of this blog can anticipate what will come next. Assuming the stock of undergraduates remains the same, at least in the short-term, and the number undertaking research increases, rather than just substituting under-represented groups for existing entrants into research, then some other post-degree employment routes will find a reduction in the supply of Physics graduates. Might this affect the numbers going into teaching? Of course, if the pool of research places remains the same and we substitute under-represented groups for those currently taking the places that won’t be the outcome.

Much may come down to how the Institute of Physics designs the scheme and works with providers of research places to implement it, especially in the early days of the scheme.

There is a need for more undergraduate places in Physics, again to facilitate more entrants from under-represented groups in society, and from those where the teaching they receive isn’t at the highest level.

The DfE calculates that the state-funded school sector will need around 1300-1350 new entrants in each of the next few years, to maintain the required teaching stock of teachers of Physics. Fortunately, the age distribution of the present Physics teacher workforce seems unlikely to create a retirement boom anytime soon.

However, the last few years have seen insufficient new entrants to meet the DfE number for the expressed need. As a result, any further diversion away from teaching and into research would potentially affect some schools ability to recruit teachers of Physics, even if only for a few years, if these researchers then chose to enter teaching at a later date. If they didn’t, having been provided the opportunity to conduct research, then there would be further pressure on teacher supply. Of course, a recession either resulting for problems in emerging markets of because of Breixt might create a new cadre of potential Physics teachers. However, is that a risk worth taking? The DfE could try to import Physics teachers, but it is not clear how well such schemes have progressed in the recent past. Creating more university undergraduate places linked to teaching as a career might well be worth exploring further. The only other suggestion on the table seems to be paying Physics teachers more than those in subjects where there is no shortage. I discussed that idea in an earlier post.