Supernumerary teachers?

Some commentators are suggesting that schools might not want to employ NQTs for September, preferring rather to take on more experienced classroom practitioners to fill any vacancies. I can understand this view, but leaving aside the issue of whether existing teachers will want or be able to change jobs at this time, there is the more basic question about whether or not such teachers will be available even now in some subjects?

I quite understand the view that trainee teachers, especially whose long practice wasn’t completed before the closure of schools came into effect, have less experience than might be expected at the point a school would recruit them. Nevertheless, they still have more time on task than a school Direct Salaried recruit and, I suspect, in most case someone starting the Teach First programme.

For undergraduate trainee primary teachers, they almost certainly will have had the full time in schools, and should not be over-looked. After all, they started training when demand for primary school teachers was buoyant and now find themselves in a very different world.

With significant amounts of student loan debt, the most recent graduates training to be a teacher are in the worst position. Those career changes, with lower levels of loans, already partially or fully paid off, are in a somewhat better position.

So, what is to be done? With smaller classes, schools will need more teachers.  Should the government fund a scheme to allow for all trainees without a post for September to be allocated to a school, at least until the end of the autumn term?

How much more would it cost for such a scheme than paying and administering benefits to these trainees that started their programmes in a time when most could have had an expectation of a teaching role at the end of their courses.

Making them supernumerary would ensure that they can keep developing their skills and practicing in schools while the job market sorts itself out. New entrants have advantages in terms of their degree knowledge, if straight from university, and may be equipped to understand the best in new technology and learning strategies.

Using these trainees as supernumerary staff also has the benefit of ensuring that if there is a second wave of the virus in the autumn, schools may have the staff to cover for absences due to other staff members self-isolating for whatever reason.

Such a scheme might also be a way of encouraging schools to re-open where there are currently concerns for the future.

Whatever the way forward, we must not abandon the current class of trainees to their fate in an uncertain world.

TeachVac is doing its bit by offering a low price webinar about how to succeed in the job market. Details at

IFS highlight what was expected

It is interesting to look back at what I wrote on this blog on the 29th February, using my experiences of other school closures, especially that of Haringey’s schools in 1979, during the Winter of Discontent.

All this is ‘obiter’ by way of approaching the main question as to what schools should do now, and is there anything we can learn from 1979? Two things standout; some schools, usually those subject to most parental pressure, were better organised than others, especially in respect of examination groups, and we live in a vastly changed world in relation to technology.

Schools that don’t already do so can explore the use of uploaded video lesson segments for revision classes, where limited new material remains to be introduced. Skype or video conferencing software might even allow virtual lessons in some subjects where teachers are available. Indeed, a pandemic, as it would likely affect teachers as well as other school staff, should be the final nail in the coffin of schools competing with each other, rather than collaborating for the good of all learners.

Specific thought will also need to be given to pupils, especially those in special schools that are transported to schools. Will there be sufficient taxis and other vehicles to bring them to school?

These thoughts chime with the report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies about who has lost out from the lockdown, in terms of learning. I haven’t had time to read their research in full yet, but I wonder whether they also computed the attendance rates in normal times for the different groups they identified? There is also differential rates of private tutoring even in normal times

None of this invalidates the IFS’s verdict, with which I agree, and was supported by the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission on the radio yesterday. Social Class and access to both funds for technology and space to learn can make a big difference.

Should we be looking to press new spaces into use as schools? Church and community halls as extra classroom; theatres; cinemas and even places of worship? Because, if we cut class sizes we won’t have enough space to bring everyone back in the present buildings.

We certainly need cooperation and not conflict between those responsible for the education of the nation’s children and young people.

Whatever the strategies finally deployed, we do need to see how we can work with parents to ensure children falling behind can make-up the essentials of learning without being stigmatised as either failures or willful for not having the resources and space at home that makes such a difference to learning. This will not be an easy task, but one we must aspire to achieve as a Society.




A new world in recruitment

There is a saying that ‘necessity is the parent of invention’. So it has proved to be during this pandemic. Video conferencing may come to be the next big breakthrough. Not perhaps on the scale of email or mobile phones, but, as the technology is refined, becoming something that will alter both our private and public lives in a way society wouldn’t have believed just two months ago. For instance, how soon before clothes retailers ensure garments will fit the wearer when viewed on-line and cannot then be returned as ‘the wrong size’?

There will also be profound effects on teaching and learning at all levels. In England, the responsibility for education has always remained with the parent or parents, and schooling by the State has been the default offering if a parent chose no other method of education. How that contract between the State and its citizens will develop in this, the 150th year of state supplied schooling, is yet to be determined, but a heck of a lot of invention has been taking place very rapidly.

All this came to mind as I reflected upon the future for TeachVac, the free matching service for teaching jobs and those looking for such a vacancy. Launched six years ago next month, the aim was then, as it still is, to demonstrate that technology could create a viable and low cost platform to bring together schools wanting teachers and teachers looking for jobs.

Well, TeachVac has proved that it can be done for little more than £2 per vacancy. Of course, schools still don’t believe that is possible and spend large amount of money with paid for platforms because they have offered the largest number of visitors to their sites. During a period of teacher shortages, such an approach made some sense, although it would probably have been cheaper to persuade those looking for jobs to move to the free platform that required the least amount of effort on the part of schools.

However, we are now in a different world. With predictions of mass unemployment and future funding for public services unlikely to be as generous as we would wish, especially if the government has to bail out the economy, schools may see a rush of applicants for any vacancy. So, why pay for an advert that attracts so many applicants that it wastes time and costs money short-listing?

A premium site, in terms of quality that is free at the point of use and requires as little efforts as possible, at least for a first advert is a much better proposition. Schools that have the cash to spare can continue to use paid-for services, but others might choose between sites such as the DfE’s, where some effort is required to upload a job, and those, such as TeachVac, where all that is required is to put the vacancy on the school’s own web site.

Of course, teachers and, especially trainees are now in a different position. Instead of having the pick of jobs, they might be competing with many more candidates for fewer vacancies, especially if teachers in post stay put. TeachVac can be tailored to meet the needs of the training sector. Perhaps by offering a 24 hour period of exclusivity for classroom teacher posts before matching them all potential candidates?

As a bonus, we are also dusting off our course on how to apply for a job’ and turning it into an on-line version ready for those that need a bit of support in this new world. Watch out for details of our first webinar next week.


ITT Applications: Some surge; some not yet

Applications to subjects such as art and design and business studies have shown some of the largest increases in applications over the period between mid-March and mid-April– note this isn’t the same as an in applicants, because applicants may make a number of applications to different courses.

There have also been increases in subjects such as chemistry; mathematics; music, religious education, many of the European Languages and Computing. On the other hand, applications for design and technology; drama and history have remained at similar levels to last year. There are actually fewer applications for both physical education and geography, continuing the trend seen earlier in the year. Perhaps the most disappointing number, is revealed in the fact that applications for physics courses have also remained flat, at just some twenty or so applications below last April.

In terms of applications to the different sectors, the extra applicants have targeted the secondary sector; where applications are up from 40,560 in April 2019, to 43,270 this April. By way of contrast, applications for the primary sector courses fell from 32,350 in April 2019, to 31,920 this April.

Most of the extra applications are concentrated in and around London, with the East of England; South East and London regions accounting for the 680 of the 710 or so additional applicants. The number of applicants registered in the North East was actually below the April 2019 number; falling from 1,350 to 1,310. Although more applicants were registered in all age groups, the increase in those in the 30-39 age group, from 4,160 to 4,310 stands out as worthy of note. Relatively few new graduates have so far chosen to apply, as might be expected at this point in their courses, even though they may be facing a great degree of uncertainty over their futures.

The School Direct Salaried route and higher education courses seem to have borne the brunt of the decline in applications for primary sector places, with the Apprenticeship and School Direct Fee courses recording increases, and SCITT applications remaining broadly the same as last April.

In the secondary sector, all routes have recorded more applications, with higher education and School Direct fee courses experiencing the greatest increases.

As a result of the increase in applications to the secondary sector, there is little point in discussing the number of offers that have been made in the different subjects, as it is too early to tell anything about the quality of the additional applicants. However, as I hinted in last month’s report, this recruitment round is likely to take on a very different outlook than was being predicted even as recently as February. Indeed, it may well turn out to be the best recruitment round in some subjects since 2013.

My best guess is that with the increased number of those seeking benefits after being made redundant, and the possibility of some graduates having employment offers withdrawn as firms struggle to reduce their costs, we will see further increases in applications over the next couple of months.

Will the DfE consider the need for recruitment controls once again, in order to ensure government expenditure on student loans does not exceed a certain level as part of the need to cap some areas of government spending? Might some bursaries come under threat as part of any package of emergency changes forced upon the government?





Tidying Up

One of the side effects of isolation is the time to do those jobs you have been putting off doing for ages. In my case, this includes tidying up part of my study. However, as I a great believer in ‘creative chaos’ rather than the clean desk method of working, I find it all too easy to become distracted.

The latest distraction has been around two unique books in my collection. Both were given to me as leaving presents. In both cases I had made it clear to colleagues that the normal envelope passed around the staff wasn’t what I wanted. If people wanted to thank me for my time with the organisation, then they need to use their intellectual capital not their cash.

When I left Brookes University in 1996 to join the then Teacher Training Agency as its ‘Chief Professional Adviser on Teacher Supply’ to quote for the press release issued at the time, I asked staff for something that either inspired them in their own education or had been important to them in their career either as a teacher or working in an education establishment. They were kind enough to put the resulting collection to a book, and then to allow me to add some thoughts of my own. I have always wondered whether this might form the basis of an interesting anthology.

The second book was presented to me when I retired from Times Supplements in 2011, just under three years after they had bought my company. My then deputy, crafted a book containing many of the columns that I had written for the TES over the 11 year period when, in one form or another, I churned out a weekly piece, usually about numbers somewhere in the school system. In those days the government produced many more statistics than it seems to do these days.

In the past few years, I have returned to that compendium from time to time, either to check a fact or to reflect how some things have changed and others have stayed the same.

As many regular readers know, I wondered about stopping this blog in January with the 1,000th post. This is the 20th post since then, so that was a New Year resolution that didn’t last. But, looking at the other books, set me thinking whether I should produce two more? Firstly, a collection of the first 1,000 posts on this blog: the good; the bad and the plain indifferent, and secondly a shorter collection of the ‘best’ posts selected by readers?

Do please leave a comment and a suggestion either if you think it a good idea or if you think it a mere vanity project that should be discarded without further ado.

Either way, it is always good to hear from readers and I am still wondering who it was that downloaded every posts on Christmas Day 2019, creating a record score for views on any one day during the history of this blog.


Government response to crisis predicted?

The Insight team’s article about the handling of the present emergency, written up in yesterday’s Sunday Times, must have made uncomfortable reading for some. However, a visitor to this blog this morning also reminded me of Dominic Cumming’s famous essay in the autumn of 2013 about the education system in England.

To quote just one paragraph:

The education of the majority even in rich countries is between awful and mediocre. A tiny number, less than 1 percent, are educated in the basics of how the ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’ provides the ‘language of nature’ and a foundation for our scientific civilisation and  only a small subset of that <1% then study trans-disciplinary issues concerning the understanding, prediction and control of complex nonlinear systems. Unavoidably, the level of one’s mathematical understanding imposes limits on the depth to which one can explore many subjects. For example, it is impossible to follow academic debates about IQ unless one knows roughly what ‘normal distribution’ and ‘standard deviation’ mean, and many political decisions, concerning issues such as risk, cannot be wisely taken without at least knowing of the existence of mathematical tools such as conditional probability. Only a few aspects of this problem will be mentioned.

I first used this in a blog post on the 13th October 2013. I especially wonder whether the comment that

…. and many political decisions, concerning issues such as risk, cannot be wisely taken without at least knowing of the existence of mathematical tools such as conditional probability …

Might have come home to roost as the present outbreak bites ever deeper into national life? Why, for instance, is the government not commissioning the BBC to create a single on-line learning tool instead of setting up a competing organisation? All it needed was to ensure the BBC used UK technology to create the platform rather than to waste scare resources when we should be saving every penny we can.

On the same subject, those that have viewed my LinkedIn page will know of the graph demonstrating TeachVac is still well ahead of the DfE vacancy site in terms of teaching posts on offer. Why waste school staff time uploading to the DfE site when we can offer a more comprehensive solution.

Indeed, as Chair of TeachVac’s parent company, I would be willing to approve a free feed to the DfE site for the summer term to show what can be done.

Schools will need to cut costs in the future, and recruitment is not one that they should be expecting to spend lots of money on from now onward. However, until there is a single site carrying most teaching vacancies, schools will still want to try other methods.

The full text of Dominic Cummings essay was located at:




Fewer teacher vacancies since lock down

Laura of TeachTapp and and Freddie Whittaker have written an article in SchoolsWeek about teacher vacancies that confirms what TeachVac has been saying on Linkedin.

Having crunched some numbers, the team at TeachVac have noted a bigger fall in primary teacher jobs than in the secondary sector. However, both sectors, and especially the secondary sector, had a very strong first couple of months of 2020.

Recorded Vacancies for Teachers by TeachVac
2018 2019 2020
January 5492 6386 8216
February 5056 5791 8421
March 7159 9029 9302
subtotal 17707 21206 25939
April 1799 4233 1793
Total 19506 25439 27732
2018 2019 2020
January 1910 1568 1719
February 2046 1617 2103
March 2944 2844 2491
subtotal 6900 6029 6313
April 819 1423 419
Total 7719 7452 6732
2018 2019 2020
January 3582 4818 6497
February 3010 4174 6318
March 4215 6185 6811
subtotal 10807 15177 19626
April 980 2810 1374
Total 11787 17987 21000

Contact me if you want details of secondary subjects.