Dear Prime Minister

Would you like some good news? On your return from Birmingham, you will no doubt be asking Ministers how their departments can save money. Here is one suggestion. I am not unbiased in making this suggestion, as it could benefit TeachVac, the job board that I chair. However, TeachVac was in existence before the DfE started its own version and has consistently shown how to achieve a low-cost approach to vacancy listing as our accounts at Companies House will confirm. Reviewing the DfE site could also save the government money.

We suggested originally that the DfE need only provide a page pointing those seeking teaching posts to available sites in the private sector, and another for schools showing the relative costs of using different sites. However, in response to the Public Accounts Committee, the DfE decided on a more costly intervention and created its own job board.

TeachVac is currently offering secondary schools a deal of 12 months of unlimited matches for just £250 and a mere £50 for primary schools. How much per vacancy does the DfE cost to provide?

Reproduced below is a post from 2020 that further makes the case for saving money on the DfE’s job board. Our monitoring since then suggests that the DfE site has gained little traction in the market and may be losing ground in terms of teaching vacancies uploaded.

DfE and Teacher Vacancies: Part Two

Posted on April 3, 2021

The DfE is spending more money supporting their latest venture into the teacher recruitment market. SchoolsWeek has uncovered the latest moves by the government to challenge existing players in this market in an exclusive report.

The current DfE foray into the recruitment market follows the failure of the Fast Track Scheme of two decades ago and the Schools Recruitment Service that fizzled out a decade ago. The present attempt also came on the heels of the fiasco around a scheme to offer jobs in challenging schools in the north of England that never progressed beyond the trial phase.

The present DfE site rolled out nationally two years ago this month. How successful it has been was the subject of a SchoolsWeek article earlier this year.  This blog reviewed the market for vacancy sites for teachers last December, in a post entitled Teacher Vacancy Platforms: Pros and Cons that was posted on December 7, 2020.

In that December post, I looked at the three key sites for teacher vacancies in England. TeachVac; the DfE Vacancy site and the TES. As I pointed out, this was not an unbiased look, because I am Chair of the company that owns TeachVac. Indeed, I said, it might be regarded as an advertisement, and warned readers to treat it in that way.

There is an issue with how much schools spend on recruitment of teachers. After all, that was why TeachVac was established eight years ago. The DfE put the figure in their evidence to the STRB this year at around £75 million; a not insubstantial figure.

Will TeachVac be squeezed out in a war between the DfE backed by unlimited government funding and the TES with a big American backer? At the rate TeachVac is currently adding new users, I don’t think so. After all, the DfE site doesn’t cover independent schools, and in the present market I believe that most teachers want a site that allows access to all teaching jobs and not just some. That benefits both TeachVac and the TES as well as other players in the market, such as The Guardian and SchoolsWeek, as well as recruitment agencies.

How much the DfE will need to spend on ensuring they cover the whole of the state-funded job market in terms of acquiring vacancies by the ‘school entering vacancies’ method is another interesting question? As is, how much will it also cost to drive teachers to using the DfE site and not TeachVac or the TES?

A view of TeachVac’s account reveals that TeachVac provides access to more jobs for teachers at less than the DfE is going to spend on promoting their site over the next few months. Such spending only makes good commercial sense if you want to remove a player from the market.

So, here’s a solution. Hire TeachVac to promote the DfE site and use the data TeachVac already generates to monitor the working of the labour market. After all, that was also one of the suggestions from the Public Accounts Committee Report that spurred the DfE into action and the creation of their present attempt at running a vacancy site.

Who wants to be a teacher?

In this time when history had gained a new relevance in our lives, I thought I would use the time available to me to look back at teacher recruitment in the 1990s. it would be interesting to look at recruitment in 1952, but the world of education has changed so much since then that the numbers really wouldn’t mean a great deal. In those days most teachers that were trained did so through the Certificate route and most only studies for two years. Graduate teachers were mostly untrained and in selective and independent schools. However, I was lucky to attend a state primary school where the headteachers was a physics graduate. How rare was that. W. W. Ashton an interesting character and a rarity in the primary sector of the 1950s.

The following data is taken from the pay review body Report of February 1996 (5th Report of STRB Table 27) I have selected 1994-95 to put alongside 2021-22, as that year marked the high point in recruitment during the five-year period between 1991-92 and 1995-96.

A couple of caveats. The 1994-95 numbers included recruitment in Wales, and the 2021-22 numbers don’t include Teach First and are based on August offers. The table can be updated once the ITT census appears at the end of 2022 as there will be late acceptances and some offered places earlier in the year might not actually start the course. Even with these caveats, there seems to be a story to tell.

SECONDAY SECTOR SUBJECTS19945-95 Number recruited2021-22 August offers excludes Teach FirstChange 2021-2022 on 1994-1995
MOD LANGS1915770-1145.00
RELIGIOUS ED511388-123.00
ENGLISH & DRAMA19941969-25.00
PHYSICAL ED13791535156.00
Source STRB 5th Report Table 27 and author’s analysis of DfE data for 2022

Even taking off a number for the recruitment in Wales and adding in possible Teach First recruitment, the comparison shows the decline in interest in teaching in the secondary sector. The numbers are not matched against perceived need as defined in the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model but are nevertheless useful in showing the changing interest in teaching. Physical Education and history teaching are more attractive than in 1994-95, although there may have been a more rigorous cap on applications at that time than currently, so there may have been interested applicants that could not be offered places. For that analysis, the percentage of offer to total applicants will need to be investigated.

Maths and English are at similar levels with offer this year to recruitment in 1994-95 and with swap between the removal of Wales recruits and the addition of Teach First to the totals may well be ahead this year of the 1994-95 total.

For the other six subjects in the table, the picture is very different with savage reductions across the languages and for the design, technology and IT areas. Even if Art as a subject was added to the design/technology total that would still leave a significant shortfall this year.

The number for the sciences is an interesting case. In 1994-95 recruitment was to ‘science’ courses. Nowadays, there are separate totals for each science. This shift while welcome in some respects has meant the opportunity to over-recruit in some sciences is more difficult than previously where there are likely to be shortfalls in other science subjects. The move was a good idea but the need for flexibility of recruitment as the year progresses may still be important.

In 1994-95, the employment-based routes were still in their infancy, and university-based courses were the main route into secondary school teaching.

The question for the new government still remains as to how to reverse the trend in recruitment in so many subjects and once again make teaching a career of choice?

Memo to incoming PM

Despite the record levels of tax receipts, the present economic situation does suggest that genuine economies should be looked for in the public sector. So, here are a few from the school sector that might be worth investigating.

First, sort out the cost of the failed middle tier experiment. Overall, the national leadership costs from academy chains are way too high. This has been recognised in the dreadful Bill working its way through parliament. Maybe there is a need for more than 150 Directors of Children’s Services, but do we need all these additional Chief Officers with their associated costs? Much of the inflated costs stretch back to failure to get grip on Executive Headships by the Labour government under Tony Blair. Sort out the shape of the school system and save money.

Recruiting teachers: axe the DfE jobsite in its present form and put the cost out to tender. As this blog has consistently pointed out, the present DfE site fails on several fronts, and probably isn’t even as cost effective as local authority jobsites.

Encourage central procurement. Delegated budget to schools is a great idea, but so is central purchasing. Do more to facilitate such outcomes across Trusts and local authorities.

Axe the Apprenticeship Levy for small primary schools, or at least reform it so that there can be a benefit. At present it is just a tax on schools.

Dump the tax on Insurance. This would help more than schools, and, at present, taxes the virtuous while encouraging others to avoid protecting themselves and their possessions.

Introduce a fund for investment in renewable energy that schools can use to spread the cost of introducing new energy sources over several years. Target the fund first at small schools in rural areas where the school can act as a community energy hub if the grid fails in a storm or for other reasons.

Regular readers will know my feelings about making use of playgrounds in supporting energy procurement. Where is the research programme

Longer-term, evaluate how teacher preparation programmes can meet the needs of the school sector in the most cost-effective manner, especially as school rolls start to reduce and fewer new teachers may be needed.

Review the National Funding Formula, and whether it meets its aims? In its present form, will it lead to wholesale closure of small schools as unviable financially, and what will be the costs of such closures and who will bear them?

The National Funding formula doesn’t take any account of whether schools can top-up income by lettings; from wealthy parents or by selling resources. As such, it is a crude instrument for school funding and needs a rethink.  Schools in pockets of disadvantage in otherwise wealthy areas are especially vulnerable unless in a MAT that is prepared to switch funds between schools. Much depends upon what the school system is trying to achieve and how the financing can be used to help. Equality based on superficial equal shares of the funds available has its consequences.

So, Prime minister, we need a world-beating school system for all. Over to you.  

Cost savings

Does your school have a recruitment strategy related to saving money, while still recruiting teachers in the most cost-effective manner?

Perhaps you just employ a firm to do it all for you?

Staff turnover is inevitable, promotions, retirements and a teacher’s partner’s career move all lead to resignations, not to mention time out for maternity leave and other caring roles taken by teachers. So, the first question is – how many resignations were for other reasons, and could they have been prevented?  Of course, you might have made a wrong appointment and be pleased to see the teacher depart, but how hard will they be to replace?

The next question is then: will the recruitment cost of the new teachers exceed the retention cost of keeping the current teacher? The answer might be different as between a teacher or physics and a teacher of history. One is likely to be easy to replace, even for a January appointment, while the other post will aways be both expensive and risky in terms of finding a replacement.

Having identified likely turnover, do you just take out a blanket subscription or look to a plan how to spend the cost of recruitment. There are three main groups of vacancies:

Those vacancies that an advert on the school website and a bit of social media will fill easily.

Those where you might as well employ a specialist recruitment agency on a ‘no appointment no fee’ basis if there is no interest in the job on the school’s website after a couple of days. Schools can be certain that the vacancy will have been noticed and passed onto others. If there isn’t someone in the wings just waiting to teach food technology at your school, then you need help finding a teacher of the subject.

The third group of vacancies are those that fall between these two extremes, where knowing your local and regional market is important in deciding how much to spend on recruitment advertising.

A secondary school with ten vacancies in a year; one straightforward; one really challenging and eight of average challenge might consider that whatever it does it will still have to pay for the search for a teacher for the challenging post, but need not pay for the straightforward to fill post.

The question to ask is ‘how much should our school pay to advertise these average vacancies in the present climate?’ Can there be added benefits such as the management of the process of recruitment as a part of the package? Do you know how many possible candidates any recruiter has for your level of job in your area?

Finally, do you know what the labour market looks like for the period when you will be recruiting? If your recruiter tells you, what is the evidence base that they are using?

If you have read this far, you may know that I am Chair at TeachVac, a job board that from October will charge schools for vacancies based upon how successful the site is in making matches with interested possible applicants. At present there is a £250 offer for unlimited annual matches for secondary schools, and £50 for primary schools regardless of size. There is an alternative pay by match scheme. Check out more at

London teacher labour market most active

August was a more active month than normal in the labour market for teachers. Although vacancies in the primary sector were subdued, the secondary sector remained active, with nearly 800 new vacancies published during the month according to TeachVac

Nearly two thirds of the vacancies, 64%, were posted by located schools in London, the South East and East of England regions, with the remainder of the country accounting for only around a third of vacancies. In some subjects, the percentage was even higher, with 29 out of the 40 posts for teachers of geography listed by schools in these three regions. No such posts were tracked across either the North East or North West regions.

As might be expected, demand for teachers of history during August was limited, with just 14 posts identified. Interestingly, only two of these posts were advertised by schools in London and the three regions of London, the South East and East of England only accounted for 5 of the 14 vacancies.

TeachVac provides a regular monthly newsletter for both schools and teachers. The service is free to teachers, as is the use of the jo board to match teachers to vacancies on a daily basis.

Schools pay a nominal fee of £10 for their newsletter.

From the end of this month, TeachVac will end its free matching service for schools. To cover its operating costs, and ensure that data collection remains of the highest quality, from October schools are being asked to pay £1 for every match made between a teacher and one of their vacancies. There is an annual limit of £500 per secondary school, beyond which point remaining matches in the 12 months are free. For primary schools, the cap is set at £75. This means just 75 matches are required to hit the limit, and all further matches that year are free.

During September, TeachVac has put in place a special offer of £250 for secondary schools and just £50 for primary schools: effectively, half-price for an annual subscription regardless of the annual number of matches made during the year.

To date, in 2022, TeachVac has made 1.95 million matches between jobseekers and schools with vacancies, covering both state-funded and private schools across England. By the end of September, the 2 million matches mark will have been passed.

Schools, MATs, diocese and other groups signing up now at will always be placed at or near the top of the daily matching algorithm, ensuring teachers see their vacancies first. This is an added bonus on top of the half-price offer.

If you would like more information, either email or send me a message via the comment section.

Please circulate this post to those responsible for recruitment in schools. Sign up in September for a half-price fixed fee. If you need convincing, ask TeachVac how many matches have been made in 2022 for your school or group of schools using the email address above and the code MATCH22.

Fewer than 400 physics teachers join state schools in 2021

If you train too many teachers in some subjects, then then a higher percentage won’t find jobs. That’s the message for government from the latest ITT completer profiles.  Initial teacher training performance profiles, Academic Year 2020/21 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (

Final year postgraduate trainee outcomes by subject for the 2020/21 academic year

SubjectTotal traineesPercentage awarded QTSPercentage yet to completePercentage not awarded QTSPercentage of those awarded QTS teaching in a state-funded school
Design & Technology66691%6%3%82%
Business Studies38187%7%6%75%
Religious Education65188%7%6%75%
Modern Foreign Languages1,65091%5%4%72%
Art & Design91990%7%3%69%
Physical Education1,59095%3%2%64%
Source DfE

Of those awarded QTS, and not shown teaching in a state-funded school, this does not always mean that they have abandoned teaching as a profession, as they may still be in teaching either in a Sixth Form or FE college or in the private sector, either in England or elsewhere in the world.

However, it seems highly unlikely that 576 PE teachers are doing so, while just 108 design and technology teachers took the same route. However, it does seem possible and indeed likely that almost half the 69 Classics teachers trained at the public expense are teaching outside the state-funded sector. Apart from computing and classics, all the subjects in from Primary to the foot of the table are subjects where recruitment into training might have been close to or exceeded the DfE training number presumption from the Teacher Supply Model.  

Training teachers for the private sector may be a cheap price to pay if it relieves the State of the need to fund the education of pupils whose parents are prepared to pay for their education. Although there are other arguments against private education.

However, if the trainees that moved into the private school sector are either used to teach pupils from overseas or even more, now teaching is a global profession, they move to a school overseas to teach that is a net loss to the Exchequer. This is a point Mr Sunak might like to ponder following his reference to selective schools in the debate with Conservative Party members last evening.

Private schools may also account for the reason why physics had only 73% of the 500 or so potential completers working in state-funded schools. That’s less than 400 new teachers of physics for the state-school sector in 2020/21.

More bad news on ITT

Yesterday, The DfE published the ITT applications and acceptances data for the period up to the 20th June thus year. In this post I look at the acceptances for June 2020 compared with those in June 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck. By 2019, there was already concern about the decline in interest in teaching as a career. The pandemic to some extent reversed that trend and provided teaching with a recruitment boost. But, was it a false dawn?

The following table compares the June 2019 UCAS data on ‘offer’ with that from the DfE data issued yesterday.

Subjects2018/192021/22Difference in offers
Religious Education400304-96
Design and technology450355-95
Business studies15019747
Art and design41046858
Physical education12901469179
Sources: UCAS and DfE

On this basis, as I warned in my previous post, 2023 will be another challenging labour market for schools. Only in the same three subjects where there is least concern in 2022: history, art and physical education, is there likely to be anywhere near sufficient supply of new entrants unless there is a sudden rush over the next two months that frankly looks unlikely at this point in time.

The science number is based on an aggregation of totals from the three sciences and doesn’t represent whole new category of potential trainees. The most significant declines in the number of offers since 2019 are English, geography and computing. However, at these levels most subjects won’t reach their Teacher Supply Model number unless there is a significant input from other sources such as Teach First. I am not sure how likely that will be as they don’t publish their data in the same way to the general public whatever they share with the DfE. There are currently more ‘offers’ in mathematics than there are in English and at this level, English departments may struggle with recruitment in 2023.

Overall, there have been 32,609 applicants by 20th June. This compares with 37,790 applicants domiciled in England that had applied through UCAS by June 21st 2021. There are 2,229 ‘recruited’ applicants in 2022, when there were ,5830 ‘placed’ according to the UCAS data in June 2021. The conditional placed or conditions pending groups are 18,363 this year compared with 23,620 in June 2021. Many of these will be awaiting degree results, and this number will reduce next month just as the ‘recruited’ number’ will show an increase. Interestingly, the number that have declined an offer this year is shown as 760 compared with 370 in June last year. Another straw in the wind of how challenging recruitment has become.  However, withdrawn applications are down from 1,520 to just 1,002.

There must be a concern that applications – as opposed to applicants – in the South East provider region are down from 14,390 to 10,795. This is the region with the largest proportion of vacancies each year, and where the private sector vies most strongly with state schools of all types for teachers. An analysis of acceptances by subject by provider region would help schools identify the seriousness of this decline, and whether it is in both the primary and secondary sectors?

Applications overall are down for both sectors, with primary down from 48,520 last June to 39,712 this June, and secondary down from 61,480 to 48,047, a very worrying reduction. School Direct salaried continues to be replaced by the PG apprenticeship route that has had 3,864 applications this year compared to 5,315 for the School Direct Salaried route. However, similar numbers have been placed on both routes, at around 500 trainees on each route.

With some schools ceasing recruitment as term comes towards its end, it will be up to higher education to recruit most of the additional applicants over the summer. Will those providers threatened with not being re-accredited show the same appetite to recruit as they would if their future was secure in teacher education? The DfE must surely how so as every extra trainee is a welcome bonus for schools in 2023 struggling to recruit teachers.

Pay primary school teachers less?

A common pay scale for all teachers has been a feature of pay policy in England since at least the 1950s. It is a surprise to read in a study published today by the NfER; a study supported by The Gatsby Foundation, the following paragraph.

Separating the primary and secondary teacher pay scales could be effective at targeting resource where it can have greater gains in terms of overall teacher supply, in a way that is cost neutral within an existing spending envelope.The impact of pay and financial incentives on teacher supply – NFER

Adopting this solution would breach this long-standing arrangement of a common pay  scale for all qualified teachers subject to regional differences. Of course, there has never been pay parity between the two sectors because, as NfER comment, and readers of this blog with know, it is easier to recruit teachers to the primary sector than to some subjects in the secondary sector. Up to now, incentives have been targeted at specific subjects where there are shortages. So, on teacher preparation courses, some trainees receive greater encouragement than others through the use of bursaries on the largest route into teaching. However, on other routes, such as Teach First, this differential doesn’t seem to apply. Both history and physics trainees receive a salary.

Before schools were provided with budgets, and a National Funding Formula based on average salaries was introduced, the allocation of the number of promoted posts differed between primary and secondary schools, to the advantage of the latter. This was, I am sure an indirect way of creating pay differentials for classroom teachers between the two sectors that was acceptable to the then Trade Unions that recognised the differences in recruitment challenges between the two sectors.

The NfER make the point that paying teachers in different sectors at different rates is already to be found in some other countries. The cite the fact that starting salaries for secondary teachers in Finland are 15 per cent higher than their primary counterparts, and secondary starting salaries are 6 per cent higher in Sweden, as evidence of the case for introducing differential salary rates. It is an interesting argument, but I am not persuaded. Evidence about recruitment to the primary sector largely only available at the macro level as anyone with QTS can be recruited to any post, and it isn’t clear if there are specific challenges in some subject specialisms and age-related posts.

The NfER report that is well worth reading despite this recommendation does make the point that I have made regularly relating to the relationship between the wider economic situation and recruitment into teaching. This was last apparent at the start of the pandemic when a fear of mass job losses before the furlough scheme was introduced caused a short-term serge of interest in teaching as a career. The NfER study makes the point that at present the graduate labour market is stronger than the government seems to appreciate.

Perhaps the most depressing feature of the report is the fact that neither physics nor IT will ever meet the target number of trainee teachers required on any of their scenarios. The government really does need to address the issue of teacher supply, not only in these subjects but also across the board.


Yesterday, this blog recorded the 150,000th view over the course of its lifetime. Not a huge number, especially when compared with those that bloggers that measure their followers in terms of such numbers and their views in the millions, but a pleasing response to the effort required to write the nearly 1,300 posts over the lifetime of the blog to date.

The blog has widened its scope since its inception in January 2013, when it first appeared. At that time, I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from no longer facing the discipline required in writing a weekly column for the TES, as I had done for more than ten years. Over time, this blog has become a means of recording my thoughts on what has mattered to me about the changing face of education than just a replaced for that long-departed column.

As regular readers know, I am not a neutral commentator, but an active politician serving the Liberal Democrats as a councillor in Oxfordshire. My political beliefs undoubtedly colour my views on the many topics this blog has covered that have values associated with them. After all, education is not a value free activity, as the challenges of the past two years have so clearly demonstrated to us all.

There is, perhaps, less about the curriculum and assessment in this blog than some might wish and for a few perhaps too much about teachers and the labour market for teachers. However, counting heads and teachers has been something of a lifetime’s work for me. I first started counting headteachers in the early 1980s and apart for the period between 2011 and 2013 have never stopped doing so since then.

My aim has been posts of around 500 words, although a few substantially longer ones, such as my submission to the Carter Review, and transcripts of various talks that I have given, have appeared from time to time. There have also been some shorter posts, although WordPress informs me that the average length has been nearer to 600 than 500 words. Perhaps some of that is down to the manner in which tables and statistics are counted.

So, if you have read this far into this post, my challenge to you, either as a regular reader or someone that has dipped in and out from time to time, is to ask you to put in the comment section the post would most want to highlight.  

And above all thank you for both taking the time to read my posts and to communicate via comments and emails your views to me. I have much appreciated the dialogue.  

There have been times when I thought about stopping this blog, but I would now like to see out a decade of writing and then reassess where the blog goes from there. Podcasts and even videos are now more fashionable that just the written word, but both are technologies I have yet to conquer. Should I bother? There is time to ponder that question.

In-year admissions matter

Each year thousands of children move to a different school. In some cases, it is because either a parent has a new job or has been relocated by an employer to a new location. Information in many parts of the country about schools with places available is still as sketchy as when I first started advising relocation firms some forty years ago.

Finding a house is easy, plug in a price band and see what comes up on the search engines. But, what’s the point of buying a house where there are no school places? Children may face either a long period out of school or a long journey to the nearest school with an available place.

So, here’s an idea. A traffic light system to tell parents about the state of schools on local authority web sites and linked to a page on the DfE site.

Here’s how it might work.

Green – places available in-year for all or most year groups

Amber – some places in some year groups

Red – few places or even no places and not worth joining the ‘waiting list’ unless you live very near the school.

Of course, it leaves the system open to gaming – as if the present system was free of such tactics – by naming a full school and expecting transport to be paid for if the nearest school with a place is more than three miles away. But, the risk of that approach is that you get the school nobody else wants to go to.

The situation is especially acute for children with an EHCP and needing a place in a special school. Managing those moves for often severely challenged young people can be especially difficult mid-year. I would encourage employers to take that into account when arranging start dates for the parent.

The issue of in-year admissions is especially challenging in some areas at present because of the influx of children and their mothers from the Ukraine. Often host families live in areas of over-subscribed schools and that can put pressure for local authorities, especially where most of the secondary schools are academies. Hence my traffic light idea. After all, parents don’t understand that local authorities cannot just tell an academy to admit a child.

As the current Schools Bill is wending its way through parliament it might be worth the government either bringing forth the secondary legislation to return control of in-year admissions to local authorities that was mentioned in the last two White Papers or adding a clause to the Bill agreeing to do so within six months of the commencement date of the Act.

As regular readers of this blog know, another group that could benefit from this change are children taken into care and moved away from their local area, usually for very good reasons. This almost always means a change of school. If you want to know why I feel so strongly abut this, search for the post about Jacob on this blog.

Administrative changes need champions, and this is one that I hope many will champion.