How to advertise a teaching vacancy

Many schools still don’t seem able to work out how to achieve the best results from the changing world of advertising for teaching posts. The concept of ‘free’ adverts for schools is now firmly established as a key part of the marketplace, with the DfE’s site following along in the footsteps of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that created the first free site for schools and teachers more than four years ago. Additionally, most schools now also place their vacancies on a specific part of their site.

However, schools don’t seem to have reviewed their policy towards how they make the most use of the changing landscape for recruitment. Take science vacancies as an example. When you are paying to advertise a vacancy it makes sense to create an advert that will maximise the chance of making an appointment, especially if you are paying for each advert individually. Hence, a schools is most likely to advertise for a teacher of science, with some specific indication in the text of any desired skills or subject knowledge, such as physics or chemistry beyond ‘A’ level.

Reviewing vacancies placed by London schools so far in 2019, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has recorded more than 700 ‘advertised vacancies across the sciences by secondary schools in the capital. Of these, 73 are adverts for teachers of chemistry; 98 for teachers of physics and just 60 for teachers of biology, but 487 for science teachers. So, almost overwhelmingly, schools are still advertising for science teachers and nothing else. Many of those with adverts for chemistry and physics teachers are independent schools or schools that have a specific interest in teaching the sciences.

So here are a few suggestions for schools as the 2019 recruitment round reaches its peak. If it costs you nothing, try placing both an advert for a teacher of a specific science, say physics as well as an advert for a science teacher if you really want a teacher of physics. Sure, it makes some people’s task of analysis more challenging, but that’s not your problem. With lots of possible teachers of biology, if that’s what you want, say so.

Putting two different adverts on your web site costs a school nothing. The same with either registering and entering two different science jobs in TeachVac or letting TeachVac deal with them. For maximum effect, it is probably worth placing the vacancies a day apart. In most cases, where a school has a subscription to a paid service that doesn’t limit the number of adverts placed in a given period, the school could use the same tactics. Indeed, between January and the end of April it is worth considering precautionary advertising based upon the experience of previous years in order to build up a register of interested teachers. But, do remember that most teachers are mainly interested in finding a job, not specifically a job in your school, and if one comes up elsewhere, then they could no longer be interested in your vacancies.

Schools should also note that some candidates searching for vacancies may register only for physics, biology or chemistry vacancies and not for science vacancies as a generic term. Some sites create more restrictive matches than others. In those cases, some possible applicants might not see your vacancy.

A word of warning to MATs that use central recruitment sites, are you ensuring this works to the advantage of your schools?

Finally, a plea, do please check your vacancy adverts for simple errors such as out of time closing dates and text that differs between headlines and copy text. You will be surprised how often TeachVac staff either cannot match a vacancy or have to contact a school for clarification if time allows them to do so before the end of the daily routine.

 

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Your Future: Their Future – an assessment

Is it worth advertising on TV to recruit people into teaching as a career? The DfE clearly wanted to know the answer to this question and commissioned some research to look at their marketing campaign over a number of years. The result has been published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-training-marketing-campaign-initial-report

I wonder about the approach used, as it is a very econometric based approach and I have questions about such an approach. I also have concerns about the lack of knowledge on the part of the authors about the history of teacher recruitment. There is no evidence in the bibliography provided that they have read, ‘Teacher workforce planning: the interplay of market forces and government polices during a period of economic uncertainty’ that I co-authored with Olwen McNamara in 2012 and that appeared in Volume 54 of Education Research. This article would have provided some historical context to the issue of recruitment into training. Had they also contacted me, I could probably have filled in the gaps in their datasets as they related to applications and acceptance into training. They might also have looked at my 2008 publication for the think tank Policy Exchange, about trends in teacher supply.

There are also some questionable statements in the report. Perhaps the most obvious of these is on page 27 of the report, where it comments about the UCAS application process that:

As might be expected, applications are high as soon as the applications process opens, after which there is an on-going decay until the applications process closes. This pattern repeats every year. The data series is currently too short (two and a half years of data) to calculate seasonal indices. Historic data on UCAS applications over a longer span of time would lead to better models of UCAS applications and calculating seasonal indices could be attempted in the future when additional comparable data is available.

The first statement is only party true. It holds true for applications for primary, PE and history courses, not least because places in these subjects are filled quickly and are finite in number – see numerous posts on this blog about the application cycle over the past five years. However, that pattern is not true for many other secondary subjects,

In reality there are three parts to a typical application cycle: initial interest; a mid-cycle dominated by career changers and end cycle phase, where new graduates form an important part of the applicant numbers. This is obvious from the data I hold covering the past 20 years.

To my mind there is no doubt that marketing does draw attention to teaching as a career and the National Audit Office (NAO) might want to compare the DfE spend with that of the Ministry of Defence, where recruitment targets are a fraction of those for teaching, but TV advertising is a key part of the budget.

This report doesn’t really look into how well designed the campaigns were, and uses an approach that can ignore the various design element. Is the catch phrase ‘Your Future: Their Future’ any more memorable than ‘Nobody forgets a Good Teacher’? To me it is less memorable than ‘I was born in Carlisle, but the Navy made me a man’. How important is the cumulative effect of a campaign as opposed to its individual elements is also worth discussing?

This was an initial report, perhaps the NAO should now take the research on to answer the question about the value for money the DfE has obtained through its marketing campaigns for teaching as a career.

Was the best campaign ever that based around the poster ‘The dog ate my homework?’

 

 

 

 

Requiem for an Agency

This week saw the final rites for the National College of Teaching and Leadership with the publication on the 5TH December of their final annual report and accounts before the College disappeared from the scene and its functions were re-absorbed into the Department for Education. You can read the report at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nctl-annual-report-and-accounts-2017-to-2018

Thus ends an era that started with the Teacher Training Agency in the mid-1990s, when QUANGOs were fashionable (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations for those that don’t remember the initials). Tony Blair created a National College and for a period of time mandated that all new head teachers should hold the National Professional Qualification for headship (NPQH). Then came a period of amalgamation and eventually a change in attitude to how government is run. While Regional School Commissions became fashionable, the arm’s length body for the teaching profession that the NCTL was becoming after the demise of the General Teaching Council didn’t fit in with the emerging agenda of the control of schools from Westminster.

As someone that worked at the then Teacher Training Agency for 1997-1998, I can see that the relationship between the Department and its satellite bodies was always fraught with problems. Teach First was a Department creation and for many years the employment-based routes were administered from Sanctuary Buildings or its Manchester outpost rather than by the TTA or its successors.

The quasi arm’s length functions that remain are now under the auspices of the Teacher Regulation Agency. However, even that agency has to see its decisions on disciplining teachers signed-off by a civil servant on behalf of the Secretary of State.

So what did the NCTL do in its final year? The list of tasks in the annual report covered:

  • provided over £286 million funding in the form of bursaries and grants, in order to incentivise recruitment to initial teacher training;
  • ensured that most of the teacher trainees required to meet the needs of schools in England were recruited;
  • delivered a national teacher recruitment marketing campaign;
  • developed and funded a range of routes into teaching;
  • improved National Professional Qualification (NPQ) provision;
  • continued to support participants still to be assessed on the previous NPQ programmes;
  • provided targeted support for continuing leadership professional development;
  • increased the number of teaching schools and system leaders;
  • managed the awarding of Qualified Teacher Status to individuals following an accredited ITT course in England & Wales and overseas; and
  • managed referrals of allegations of serious misconduct against teachers to consider whether individuals should be prohibited from teaching in any school in England.

On all these task, Minister will now have nowhere to hide. This will be especially true if recruitment into the profession falls short of targets set by the Teacher Supply Model. Ministers will now have nobody else to blame but themselves for any shortfall.

In the accounts at the back of the report is the figure spent on advertising and publicity by the NCTL. In the 2016/17 financial year, this was £14.4 million. In 2017/18, the expenditure had increased to £20.4 million, and increase almost £6 million. So, at least one industry is benefiting from the teacher recruitment crisis.

 

Job Done Mrs May

We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.                                                         Conservative Party Manifesto page 51

Good news for the Conservatives: this already exists and is free – TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk is now the largest teacher job site in England and is free to all users; schools to place vacancies and teachers and returners to locate jobs that meet their needs.

So, Mrs May, pick up the phone and call the team in Newport Isle of Wight and we will happily show you how the service operates. We are already saving schools millions of pounds in recruitment advertising and with government support, such as is envisaged for the supply sector, we can channel probably another £50 million into teaching and learning while providing accurate and up to the minute management information for civil servants and ministers.

This is one area where you can say, job done, even before the election.

The dog ate my homework

How much money does it take to persuade a graduate to become a teacher? More than it used to do. For more than three decades it has been known that when the economy is doing well the government finds it more of a challenge to recruit trainee teachers and also to retain those it already has. As a result, the amount of cash spent on marketing soars.

A recent article in PR week http://www.prweek.com/article/1430786/dfe-doubles-campaign-budget-attract-people-teaching suggests that the marketing budget in 2017/18 to encourage new entrants to train as a teacher will be more than £16 million. That’s a fourfold increase on what was spent in 2013/14 just four years ago. Put another way, four years ago, £114 per trainee was spent on advertising; this year, assuming all places are filled, it will cost some £474 per trainee. In reality, it is likely that the actual cost per trainee recruited will be in excess of £500.

Actually, the cost is near £1,000 per additional trainee encouraged into teaching as, even if nothing was spent, there would probably be a sizeable number of people wanting to train as a teacher, especially as a primary school teacher. So, the cost is largely to entice additional Physics, mathematics and languages teachers. The marketing bill needs to be added to the sizeable bursaries these students also attract making the real cost even higher. There are also the marketing costs of individual course providers competing with each other plus the not insignificant budget being spent by Teach First that’s not included in the £16 million.

Now that all young people have to stay in education or training until eighteen, it is worth asking whether the use of specialist teachers should be delayed in some subjects so that the costs of acquiring new teachers can be reduced. Would the money spent on marketing be better spent on up-skilling the expertise of existing teachers already having to teach subjects where they are under-prepared? How much higher will the marketing budget be allow to rise if the labour market for graduates remains tight over the next few years? Fortunately, compared with the spending from the Ministry of Defence the cost per place of recruiting teachers is probably far less than the marketing budget to recruit personnel for the armed forces.

One thing the DfE has to do is to demonstrate that it has learnt the lessons of history. Although current corporate memory in Sanctuary Buildings may not be very detailed, there are presumably copies of the studies conducted by various market research agencies for the Department during previous recruitment crises around the turn of the century. Discussing whether they are still relevant should, at least, ensure the £16 million is spent wisely and not wasted on campaigns that would never bear fruit in terms of teacher recruitment.

Making the term teacher’ a reserved occupation title would cost little, but raise the status of the profession overnight. It would also gain good press publicity. Good PR is often cheaper than poor marketing, although the reverse is sadly also true.

Your future their future

Seventeen years ago this October the government of the day launched one of the most famous teacher recruitment campaigns ever with the ‘talking heads’ cinema commercial and an endorsement from Tony Blair. This year the campaign slogan is ‘Your future their future’ and in place of cinema adverts there is a film available to view on YouTube, 4OD and Sky Go as well as milk round events and I am sure posters and other advertising media. In case you missed the announcement from the NCTL it can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/your-future-their-future-new-teacher-recruitment-campaign I confess to being at a round table in the DfE that day, but nobody mentioned the campaign launch, so it wasn’t as high profile as in 1997 when the then TTA hired part of the new British Library building for the launch event. But money was nowhere near as tight then.

The launch of a more high profile – well hopefully more high profile – campaign than in recent years to attract applicants to train as a teacher no doubt reflects the growing anxiety within government about recruitment this year. Starting early for 2015 recruitment at the time when finalists are thinking about their futures makes good sense. The immediate impact of the campaign won’t be known until the new recruitment round opens through UCAS later this autumn. After the last set of UCAS data on the 2014 round are published at the end of this month this blog will discuss its reflections on the process compared with what went before.

There have been many different recruitment campaigns around the world to attract potential teachers into the profession. You can see some of them at https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=teacher+recruitment+campaigns&biw=1280&bih=890&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=7zgcVLCLEfPy7AaHuYHAAQ&ved=0CDIQ7Ak including ones with strap lines such as: ‘work with the most exciting people in the country; ‘there are many perks to being a teacher’ – I wonder what the Advertising regulatory authorities would say of one like that now? My favourite was the poster with the line ‘the dog ate my homework’ that doesn’t seem to feature in the collection displayed.

The challenge for campaigns recruiting people to the teaching profession is that they have to appeal to potential undergraduates, new graduates, finalists and career changers. While younger age groups might respond well to a social marketing campaign using twitter, facebook, and other social media sites I probably haven’t heard of, career changers may relate better to campaigns in more conventional media sources. 4OD and Sky Go are interesting new locations to place a film about teaching. Using a high profile teacher from a TV series about Educating Yorkshire will help with those that remember the series, but how many undergraduates watched it last year?

I hope that the new campaign not only goes on to win awards but also helps remind everyone that teaching is a great career. If it doesn’t, then this time next year we will still be discussing the recruitment problems facing schools and the profession. Good luck.