About john howson

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

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In the DfE’s White Paper of March 2016 there was discussion of the idea of the need for a teacher vacancy portal. The Select Committee in the last parliament were also interested in the idea. As we also know for the NAO report of earlier this week, the DfE historically has had little handle on the necessary management information regarding the current working of the teacher labour market. It was, therefore interesting to receive the email detailed below earlier today from the DfE:

Thank you for your email. We [at the DfE] have recently started a 14-week ‘alpha’ development phase of the Teacher Vacancy Service project, and our focus is very much on user testing at the moment. We are hoping to engage again with vacancy suppliers shortly.

I would be delighted to hear from those involved in the ‘alpha’ testing phase at present so we can see how the DfE’s efforts match up against those of TeachVac and other suppliers such as the TES and eteach?

We know the DfE set aside a budget of £300,000 last autumn for some of this work. As TeachVac is free to schools and teachers, anything the DfE is going to do isn’t going to hurt our direct profits, as TeachVac makes its money in other ways. Whether it hurts other suppliers of vacancies will depend upon the model the DfE is proposing to use.

If it is a portal to redirect schools and applicants to suppliers and other job boards it probably won’t be public money well spent. If it is a foray from the DfE into the type of service TeachVac offers for free, then it will be interesting to see how the DfE’s ideas match up with what already exists. If the DfE is intending to drive down the cost of recruiting then it will certainly have an impact on those that charge for marketing teaching vacancies? They can argue the case as to whether or not it is good use of public money.

Either way, from the Fast Track scheme of nearly 20 years ago, through the School Recruitment Service of nearly a decade ago, to the National Teaching Service, abandoned late last year, schemes derived by civil servants don’t seem to have had a great success rate when they try to intervene in the labour market for teachers.

Nevertheless, as TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has demonstrated, there is a need for a service that is free to schools and teachers and also provides high quality data for those that want to understand the current labour market.

If the DfE version does not interact with independent sector schools, the private providers such as TeachVac, the TES and others will continue to have the edge over the DfE by offering a wider range of information about vacancies all in one place.

This week has seen a significant move forward in understanding the need for real-time vacancy information for the teaching profession. The DfE should now explain what they are proposing.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A new Teacher Supply index from the DfE

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s report form the National Audit Office comes the DfE’s Analysis of school and teacher level factors relating to teacher supply. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643974/SFR86_2017_Main_Text.pdf

So hot off the press that the early on-line version still had formatting errors in the table of contents. There is now far more statistical information around about the teacher labour market than at any time since the 1980s although most is about teachers and we need more on leadership turnover. However, as in the 1980s, it is still largely statistics and not management information that is available from the DfE.

I have sent the last forty years, ever since I began counting head teacher turnover in the early 1980s, arguing that management information, what is happening in the labour market now, is at least as important and in some case more important than what happened in the past. This is especially important when trends are changing. If the relaxation of the pay cap attracts more teachers to remain or return in the 2018 recruitment cycle for September 2018 vacancies then we should not have to wait until spring 2019 to discover that fact when the results of the 2018 School Workforce Census will first appear; too late to influence recruitment in 2019.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy service was created to cut the cost of recruitment to schools in a period of austerity, but also to develop tools in real time that the DfE has provided historical data about in today’s report. If for 2017, the DfE publishes the outcome of the ITT census in line with the information in Figures 2.1-2.3 of today’s report, then TeachVac can translate that data into an analysis of the 2018 recruitment round and provide guidance to schools on the local labour market.

The lack of complete data in the School Workforce Census of 2016 from almost a third of secondary schools in London must raise issues with the quality of the data for the capital. TeachVac records more secondary vacancies in London than elsewhere. TeachVac has the data to update the DfE’s supply index for the 2018 recruitment round as a further reams of verification. The supply index needs to take into account future pupil growth and the effects of major policy changes such as the introduction of a National Funding formula and changes to the Pupil Premium. Not to do so makes it less of a policy tool and more of a historical record of what has been happened. In creating TeachVac, the decision was that there was a need for information in real time. That said, the factors identified are not by themselves a surprise, what matters is the need to be aware of what is happening now. The tools are available, as TeachVac has demonstrated, the DfE should not shy away from recognising that now local authorities cannot as easily provide information to all local schools there is a need for someone else to be able to do so. The focus should switch from a statistical unit to one that handles both statistics and management information.

 

Another small brick in the wall

The National Audit Office published a report today on Retaining and developing the teaching workforce. https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Retaining-and-developing-the-teaching-workforce.pdf Of especial interest to me is the section on the government’s knowledge of the deployment of the teaching workforce and what they are doing to improve matters after the failure of the National Teaching Service pilot last year.

Looking at the list of those the NAO talked to, there was seemingly a complete lack of engagement with the private sector over any of the issues discussed in the report. In the field of most interest to me, the understanding of the labour market for teachers in real-time, something TeachVac,  the free national vacancy service has pioneered, the report comments in para 2.28 that the DfE is developing approaches to improve understanding of local teacher supply, but these are at an early stage.

Well, TeachVac’s are far more advanced than that already and it was disappointing that the NAO didn’t approach us to discuss what can be achieved, especially as we had helped with discussions on their earlier report about teacher preparation. If the NAO had reviewed the evidence to the Select Committee discussions on teacher supply they would have found evidence of Teachvac’s approach and how it helps take the knowledge base forward.

In terms of the first two bullet points in paragraph 2.28, of the NAO Report TeachVac already has the software for the first, covering both academies and other maintained schools as well as a good portion of the independent sector. As an indicative matrix we have used the percentage of ITT trainees matched against jobs advertised in real time. Matched against regional ITT numbers this can provide data at quite local levels to match the growth in school centred teacher preparation courses over the past few years. Despite showing for three years an oversupply of physical education teachers, the DfE has continued to allocate more training places than needed while not training enough in some other non-EBacc subjects.

The section of the NAO Report on deployment is especially weak, as it does not get to grips with the essential question of whether the free market in teaching vacancies should remain. Limited deployment, as the Fast Track Scheme demonstrated a decade ago doesn’t work. What does is deployment into training, as with Teach First, something seemingly ignored in the report. There is also more room to discuss whether MATs with redeployment policies have had any success in moving teachers and leaders where they are most needed?

The NAO carefully downplay pay as a reasons for difficulties in retaining teachers and seemingly make no mention of geographical issues in this respect and whether the outer Home Counties in particular are suffering from a cliff face effect when faced with higher London salaries relatively close by. Workload and school reputation are undoubtedly important, but the NAO didn’t reflect on whether pay is an issue in not recruiting enough trainees over recent years and whether the chaotic mix of incentives on offer can be unhelpful.

The Survey provided some interesting outcomes, but overall there is not a lot new in this report. The Public Accounts Committee should invite those that understand the labour market to comment at their session as well as the DfE when they discuss this report.

 

Psst …Want a physics teacher?

It is only somewhat ironic that the government chose the day the House of Commons was discussing Brexit legislation to invite schools to recruit from their newly minted stock of overseas teachers.

  1. Trained teachers ready to teach in England – international recruitment

NCTL has access to a pool of fully qualified mathematics, physics and Spanish teachers recruited internationally; further subject specialisms are in the pipeline. Every teacher has been recruited using a thorough sifting and interview process and meets the high standards required to teach in England. Schools will also have the opportunity to interview candidates.

All teachers will receive an extensive acclimatisation package, inclusive of continuing professional development that will both support their transition into life in England and increase their knowledge of the national curriculum.

The recruitment and acclimatisation service is free to schools; we recommend that schools assign a teacher buddy or mentor to support faster integration.

If your school has a vacancy for a mathematics, physics or Spanish teacher and you’d like to access this opportunity to recruit, please contact us at international.teacherrecruitment@education.gov.uk with a name, school name, telephone number and vacancy details.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-bulletin/teacher-recruitment-bulletin-16-february-2017

If the NCTL contact TeachVac, they can identify the schools currently recruiting, so that the government can offer these teachers directly and save schools the cost of recruiting. However, it seem a little late in the year for this exercise to be really effective. Hopefully, if allowed to continue as part of permitted migration post 2019, the timing will fit better to the annual recruitment round in future years. If it doesn’t, then there is the risk of a lot of disillusion teachers from parts of Continental Europe that signed on only to be told there was no job despite the shortages everyone knows about.

I am not sure how certain the government is about a shortage of teachers of Spanish say, compared with German or Mandarin? TeachVac is looking in depth at what schools are seeking in both languages and design and technology to better understand the market as Teachvac already does for Science and some other subjects.

For those that want to see the new 2017/18 TV advertising campaign to attract people into teaching as a career, it is apparently airing during the Educating Manchester TV series. I assume that the thinking is that those that watch aren’t ghouls, but potential teachers that can be persuaded to take the first step on the recruitment ladder. Not, of course, that they can apply until November when UCAS opens the application process for next year. If the government keeps to its timetable at least the allocations for autumn 2018 ITT places will have been published by then at the end of October, along with the latest version of the Teacher Supply Model.

Perhaps the new Select Committee might like to review the progress to a fully staffed education service as part of its work once the full membership is finally announced.

 

 

 

Shifting sands

The news that the public sector pay cap is effectively dead in the water should come as helpful news for schools facing recruitment issues. I have already suggested that the use of recruitment and retention allowances could be a way around the present pay cap as it was in previous times of recruitment difficulty. Such measures are often unfair on teachers already at the school, but they also recognise the additional costs of taking up a first job or a new position in a different area.

Of course, the cost of these measures, as I suspect with the relaxing of the pay cap, will no doubt have to come from existing school budgets. I don’t see the government offering large amounts of additional funds to schools when the pupil population is on the rise and that increase has to be paid for regardless of whatever else happens. This may mean larger classes; fewer small optional subjects and the continued encouragement of older and more expensive teachers to consider early retirement so that they can be replaced by younger cheaper teachers that no longer need a guaranteed annual salary increase.  I don’t think the Teacher Supply modelling process has taken this last factor into account and it may be partly why demand has outstripped supply in some subjects.

This blog was one of the first to catch on to the penal management fee the government has inflicted on those with student loans from this month. So, it is also good news that over the weekend there has been suggestions that the government will look again at the 3.1% rate. I hope that they will bring it into line with management fees on other financial products. Even so, many families might still find extending the mortgage on the family home a cheaper option that taking out a student loan.

Reintroducing maintenance grants for those from low income families attending university is also a sensible suggestion. Far more sensible that Labour’s idea of abolishing fees and paying for the university education of those young people whose families have been happy to pay for their education up to that point in time. I know the issue that post eighteen they are adults, but as the recent NUS Report on FE launched by Vince Cable showed, there are more deserving areas of limited government funding than paying for those that have not needed or wanted to use the State for education up to the point of entry into higher education.

The other area the government needs to reconsider is the funding of trainee teachers. The lack of any coherent policy between Teach First, School Direct and SCITTs and university courses is damaging to recruitment. A common policy of fees paid by the government and a training bursary for all graduates is both clear and coherent and worked well after 2002 when it became government policy. It has no more deadweight funding attached to it than any other government employment area where new entrants are paid a proper salary during their training period. The Treasury should be reminded of that fact. It is just that the numbers are so large.  However, cutting wastage through better retention of new teachers means that the scheme could even be self-financing if trainee numbers could be significantly reduced over time.

Top salaries in higher education

In 1995 the National Audit Office prepared a report for the Public Accounts Committee on severance payments in the publicly funded education sector after a furlough about the size of such payments. The current debate about the salaries paid to vice chancellors has an echo of the earlier concern with the methods used at the time to fund severance payments to top staff in our universities. Of course, as with most companies, there are now better governance arrangements and independent remuneration committees, designed to prevent the very political row that is currently underway about how much vice chancellors should be paid?

The business case is probably along the lines of that in order to attract top quality leaders you need to pay top salaries competitive with other parts of the world. This argument has been used by UK plc companies for many years, so the business people on remuneration committees can hardly object if university leaders advance the same argument in an increasingly global marketplace for higher education. There is also another argument that by becoming a vice chancellor you may forgo the success in your academic field, whether a possible Nobel or similar prize; a top selling text book or even just the satisfaction of teaching and research in your chosen field.

The alternative view that nobody in public service should be paid more than the Prime Minister usually ignores the non-salary benefits of a house in London and in the country and a non-contributable final salary pension that make up the total remuneration package of the leader of the government and just concentrate on the basic salary.

Where vice chancellors have probably made a mistake over the past few years of pay restraint is not to adhere to the same level of salary growth as the rest of their staff. If you are going to widen the differentials you need a cast iron public relations exercise in advance; to do so after the event always looks defensive and self-serving. Any head of human relations that doesn’t make that point clear probably isn’t reading the runes correctly.  Just saying the job is harder or more demanding isn’t enough?

The same is true for Multi-Academy Trusts where salaries of chief officers have risen over recent years, as I pointed out in a previous post ‘What is a CEO worth’ some time ago. The contrast between the pay of the chief executives of two of the larger MATs is around a couple of hundred thousand pounds. Is one underpaid?

The really interesting point with the university vice chancellors’ pay story is, however, that this time around, unlike in the 1990s, Ministers haven’t sought to pass the issue to the NAO and then the PAC, but have waded in directly. I assume that they see this as a way of diverting attention from other more concerning issues and putting the government on the side of the lecturers. Realistically, they are trying to close a stable door sometime after the horse has bolted and are only likely to catch universities that hadn’t adjusted their VCs pay to market conditions. Perhaps there should be performance related pay for senior university staff, but as large institutions they probably have to pay the heads of their professional service department competitive salaries and would you want the chief finance officer paid more than the vice chancellor? An interesting question.

 

 

Public service and public pay

As schools across the country return for the start of their new school year, and all that is associated with that annual event: the end of summer and often the return of good weather; increased traffic congestion on the roads and the ending of the seemingly endless adverts for school uniforms, the issue of pay is dominating the headlines once again.

Earlier today I was on BBC radio Kent in a discussion with the County NUT branch secretary (or should that now be The EU Secretary for the Education Union?) about why the county has so many vacant headship positions. Salary came up as one possible reason. In days of yore, whether Arthur Jarman was a senior officer for the NUT, he always used to remind me that the NUT had more head teacher members than any other association. I don’t know whether that is still the case as a result of many teachers retaining membership of both the teacher association that they joined on entering the profession and also joining one of the associations for school leaders when they reached their first leadership post.

During our discussion on-air we disagreed about how well paid primary head teachers are today. I don’t think many of the heads, especially heads of smaller primary schools, are well paid for what is required of them. Those that have to teach and well as lead the school have two very distinct jobs for which they are often not well rewarded.

We did agree on the question of the pay of some CEOs of MATs, something I have commented on before on this blog. We didn’t have time to discuss whether the one per cent pay cap may finally be on the way out. It will be interesting to see what the Secretary of State will say in the remit letter to the STRB in relation to their consideration of a pay award for 2018? The past two STRB Reports have been expressing issues with the continued effect of the pay cap but have remained faithful to their remit.

At the school level, I am surprised that more use hasn’t been made of recruitment and retention payments that were popular in London during earlier recruitment crises. Golden hellos were also used in the past, along with relocation funding for those moving into an area and requiring to set up a new home.

These days, we can no longer track just the 151 local authority recruitment offers, but must also look at what MATs are offering. Do Regional School Commissioners have a role in making sure potential staff know what is on offer? TeachVac is happy to provide a space for this on its website and has started by identifying Suffolk’s recruitment link on TeachVac’s new blog (www.teachvac.wordpress.com).  Why Suffolk, just because they asked me last year to come and talk about recruitment challenges to their head teacher conference.

In the short-term, offering to pay the fees of all graduate trainees and paying a training bursary to all might aid recruitment even if the Treasury cavilled about the deadweight cost of such a move.