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.