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.

Consequences, and a bit of history

Now that the DfE has published the list of accredited ITT providers, I thought it might be interesting to reprise the post below from 2013 that highlights the start of the journey to where the sector is today.

The list of reaccredited providers, published by the DfE, seems to have radically slimmed down the school-based side of ITT at the cost of a few higher education establishments also having accreditation withdrawn. If the list is correct, when some long-established providers of ITT will no longer be involved in teacher preparation as a top tier provider and will need to partner with another accredited provider.

The geographical implications of the loss of some providers will take time to work out, but South East London may we one area affected by the changes. Some long-established SCITTs seem to be no more, but some of the overtly religious SCITTs seem to have survived.

Clarity ahead of Select Committee – but still not good news

Posted on September 9, 2013

What has become clear this afternoon is that the DfE may have faced a dilemma last autumn. With the national roll-out of School Direct being enthusiastically taken up by schools, it could either have effectively wiped-out the university-based PGCE courses by meeting the demands of schools or it could have denied schools the places they were asking for in School Direct. The DfE targets for secondary subjects did not allow the third option of satisfying both schools applying for School Direct places and keeping the PGCE going and still keeping within the targets. The extent of the problem can be seen by comparing Table 2b in the underlying data of Statistical Bulletin 32/2013 issued by the DfE on the 13th August and Figure 1 of the School Direct management information published this afternoon by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. In practice, the DfE seems to have chosen a third way by creating inflated ‘allocations’ to try to keep higher education going, but still to satisfy the demands from schools for places. This exercise risked substantial over-recruitment against the real targets.

So, what happened? Looking just at the STEM subjects, Chemistry had an allocation of 1,327 in the Statistical Bulletin, but a target of 820 places in Figure 1 of today’s document – a difference of 507. To date, recruitment has been 900 according to Figure 1, so the subject is over-recruited against target, but significantly under-recruited against allocations. School Direct, where bids totalled 422 places last November, and reached around 500 by the time all bids had been collected, apparently recruited just 260 trainees, leaving higher education to recruit the other 640.

Sadly, in Mathematics, Physics, and Biology, despite the target being well below the allocation figure, the target has not been met. In Physics the shortfall is 43% against the target; and in Mathematics, 22%. In Biology it is just 6%. However, these percentages do not reflect the actual numbers who have started courses; that number may be greater or smaller than those released today.

Indeed, in no subject was the allocation met, although in business studies it was missed by just one recruit. However, the target in this subject is apparently higher than the allocation in August, although that may have something to do with classification. Less clear is the Religious Education position where the target is shown as 450, but the allocation in August was 434 for postgraduate courses. Somewhere another 16 places have been added since August when they have been subtracted in most other subjects.

I have suspected for some time that the allocations were above the level required by the DfE’s model, and have hinted as much in earlier posts. More than 40,000 trainees did seem an excessive number to train.

School Direct works in subjects where there are lots of high-quality applicants looking to train as a teacher. At the other end of the scale are subjects where either the schools didn’t bid for many places, as in Art & Design or recruitment is a real challenge, as in Physics.

These are the subjects where School Direct faces its greatest challenges for 2014, and where the DfE/NCSL seemingly still cannot do without higher education.

What is also clear is that the DfE cannot repeat this same exercise this autumn for 2014 recruitment. It will have to make it clear how many trainees are needed according to the model. If it does not do so, students will be paying £9,000 in fees without knowing whether they are a target or an allocation, and totally uncertain about their chance of securing a teaching post. That won’t attract many takers in an improving graduate job market as the risks are too high.

Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the effects of the reaccreditation pan out both for providers and for those seeking to start to train in 2023. In the 1980s, I worked at a college where ITT had been withdrawn. It was not a happy place to be. I, therefore, send my best wishes to all those involved in the outcome of the reaccreditation process.

STEM subjects ‘late recruiters’?

Yesterday’s post about the grim news on recruitment onto teacher preparation courses for 2022/23 didn’t mine all the possible information provided in the DfE data published in the monthly update.

One interesting statistic are how the proportion of applicants for secondary subjects has changed over the course of the year. Last December, I wrote a blog post pointing out that nearly half of early applicants came from just three subjects: English, mathematics and physical education.  Half of secondary ITT applicants in just 3 subjects | John Howson (

As expected, physical education trended lower as the year progressed, and places on courses filled up. The subject ended the year on 19% of total applications – down 5% on December. English also lost ground, down from 13% in December to 8% by September. However, mathematics seemed to be a ‘late attracting subject’, as by September the subject accounted for 18% of applications, up from 12% in December.

Removing these three subjects from the list and comparing the moves among the remaining subjects shows relatively little difference in many subjects in their position in the ranking.

SubjectTotal DecemberPercentage DecemberTotal SeptemberPercentage September% Difference
Art and design3786%24107%1
Business studies2835%16014%1
Design and technology2434%16385%1
Modern foreign languages5689%388011%2
Religious education2314%15414%0
When do different subjects recruit?

As might have been predicted, drama and history lost ground once courses filled up. The sciences were the main winners. This suggests that subjects that may have a higher proportion of men may recruit later in the round – we cannot know for certain as the data on gender isn’t published by subject – but it is a plausible hypothesis to discuss in relation to gender and STEM subjects.

The second hypothesis is that subjects where potential teachers know there may be difficulty in securing a place on a teacher preparation course will recruit earlier in the year. These bellwether subjects, such as history, physical education and also the primary sector can provide early warning on what might be to come in the autumn months.

As a piece of history, it was using this second hypothesis in the early 2000s that prompted me to call a recruitment crisis as early as one November and to be warned off by the then Minister’s Private Office in a phone call I took while a passenger in a car travelling down the M5 in Somerset for creating panic. The following March, the training grant was suddenly announced. Perhaps, I have been at this subject for too long.

Knowing this sort of information about recruitment trends can make the use of expensive TV marketing more precise. Is the present TV campaign a good use of money or would it be better aimed at STEM subjects in the spring?

Grim news on recruitment

The latest monthly statistics on applications and acceptances for graduate teacher preparation courses starting this autumn were published by the DfE this morning. These numbers mark the end of the first year of the DfE management of the application process for all graduate courses except Teach First.

Regular readers will not be surprised by what follows, as the headline outcome around under-recruitment for the year has been expected for several months, and this blog has commented upon the direction of travel each month in its regular updates.

The total number of applications at 39,288 falls well short of the 43,300 recorded for September 2021 as domiciled in England. More alarming is that the recruited number at 20,170 is just short of 7,000 lower than the 27,100 number of September 2021. The conditions pending number at 3,719 is also below the 2021 number of 5,980, and the remining possible applicants either awaiting a decision or from whom a decision is awaited on an offer are also lower than last year.

Compared with September 2021, there are 111,592 applications in September 2022 against 115,300 last year domiciled in England. Especially worrying has been the reduction in applicants from the youngest age groups of graduates. Those new graduates under age 25 form the bedrock of those recruited into teaching as a career and any serious fall is bad news.

Age Group20212022
21 and under39203833
Total placed1307010988
young graduates not interested in teaching as a career?

These are the groups from where the future leaders of the teaching profession will be drawn. According to the data released today, there are just fewer than 15,000 females placed onto courses this year compared with just over 19,000 last September. For males the numbers are 5,514 this year and 7,550 in September 2021. Unknown or referred not to say increased from 440 in 2021 to 175 with only three not in the ‘prefer not to say category’. Fewer candidates with domiciles in each region have been recruited in 2022 than in 2021. However, more important is the split between primary and secondary sectors.

There are 9,763 applications recruited in the primary sector in September 2022 compared with 12,690 in September 2021. Unsuccessful applications have fallen from 38,800 in 2021 to 35,962 this September. However, the percentage of unsuccessful applications has increased from 72% to 74$. Of course, this may mean applicants being accepted and their other applications being shown as unsuccessful. We will need the ITT Census to determine the exact recruitment into both primary and secondary training.

For secondary courses the situation is more complicated because of the different subjects and the different sizes of their graduate pools. The good news is that both geography and design and technology are likely to recruit more trainees than in 2021. The bad news is that the increase, if confirmed by the ITT Census won’t be enough to meet targets set by the DfE. In other subjects, there will be sufficient history and physical education trainees and a large surge in applications for IT and computing may make the total in that subject ore respectable, if these trainees turn up and stay the course.

Overall, the assessment for the secondary sector is that for 2023 to be anything other than a grim labour market for schools and a great time for teachers, there needs to be more returners and fewer departure overseas. I am not sure that either of those conditions will be in place by the time schools start recruiting in January 2023 for September.

TeachVac will be monitoring the job market and is the ideal site to find a teaching post.

With the concerns over the shape of teacher recruitment following the DfE’s actions the next few months will be an interesting time in the labour market for teachers and likely outcomes even as far ahead as 2024. While the primary sector will probably not be too badly affected, the issue of selective schools now looms over the secondary sector to add to the other recruitment concerns.

Demise of Forum: the journal for educationalists

The demise of Forum as a journal read by those in education came as a complete surprise to many. However, that is often the way in business. If you admit to failing then you just go under even faster, with no hope of survival. I am sad to hear of those that have lost money. As the largest shareholder in TeachVac, I know how precarious being in business can be. TeachVac has now launched its new website with a special offer for schools.

However, this post is to offer a chance for John Viner, an Education Consultant and ITT professional, to air his views on teacher education in two pieces he had written for Forum, but that will never appear in that journal. As published by me in my blog, these articles that follow come with the usual caveats that they are John Viner’s work not mine, and I don’t endorse the views just by publishing them.

Smoke and Mirrors by John Viner

There is a bombshell of a crisis that is about to burst in our schools and across our education system. From the recent government White Paper, Whitehall clearly thinks either that it’s been fixed, or that, if they blow enough smoke at it, the reality will be hidden. The problem is that we have been here before. Many times.

Any guesses about the focus of this bombshell? Yes, it’s the pending crisis in school leadership and right behind it are the twin horsemen of teacher recruitment and retention. This is the first of two articles in which we will consider the nature of the pending problem, how we might, at least, minimise it and how we can possibly prepare for the longer term.

Hands up if you remember the “Troops to Teachers” initiative. Based on a US model, this was an initiative launched in 2012 with the aim – as the name suggests – of recruiting ex-servicemen and women into the classroom. David Laws, then education minister, said that “pupils would benefit from the experience, background and skills that ex-military personnel had gained in our inspiring armed forces”. Despite the offer of a two-year employment-based degree and a funded PGCE for graduates, the scheme attracted just 363 trainees up to 2018, with a quarter walking away without qualifying.

Jump then to 2018 when Ed Sec Damien Hinds relaunched the scheme with the lure of a £40,000 bursary. The following year, Hinds’ incoming replacement, Gavin Williamson promised the scheme would “motivate and inspire a generation of children in classrooms across the country”. It attracted just 22 trainees that year. Amazingly, the scheme is still running.  To be fair, it is just one of a number of pipelines that the government hope will top up a diminishing pool. More successful initiatives such as Teach First, Now Teach, School Direct and the very successful Teacher Apprenticeship programme are maintaining a steady(ish) supply of trainees.

One of the most reliable sources of information about teacher supply is the annual Commons Briefing Paper.  The most recent version notes:

Since 2011 the overall number of teachers has in general not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers. This means the ratio of qualified teachers to pupils has increased from 17.8 in 2011 to 18.5 in 2020. In addition, the number of teacher vacancies have risen over this period. (Commons Library Research Briefing, 24 November 2021)

The heart of the problem, however, is not so much teacher supply as teacher retention. The incoming pipeline is no match for the size of the drain. In 2018, the DfE published a detailed research report on why teachers left the profession. It recommended: improving in-school support for teachers, increasing progression opportunities, reducing workload, and flexible working. Pay was not a significant driver, although regarded as lower than comparable professionals.   By the end of 2019 the Conservative manifesto made a commitment to raise teachers’ pay while the DfE was running an early-career bursary for teachers of shortage subjects. Conveniently, the workload issue was sidelined. Then came the Pandemic, lockdown, schools as hotbeds of Covid-19 and everything changed.

One of the most interesting outcomes of the pandemic, for all its in-school stress and changes to working practices, was a surge in ITT applications, particularly for employment-based routes. Suddenly schools which had struggled to put teachers in classrooms found themselves hosting enthusiastic trainees. It was a pity that a few saw the Teacher Apprenticeship Programme as a cheap staffing solution but failed to support their trainees adequately, especially in respect of the 20% off-the-job release time to which they were entitled. These trainees quickly came to understand the great under-addressed problem of overwhelming teacher workload. However overall, it was a bonus year for applicants. 

Meanwhile, the pointy heads looking at improving retention, still missing the point about workload and working conditions, came up with the two-year induction framework for Early Career Teachers. It came with all sorts of funded release time and so could have gone some way to making up for the workload during the training year. Meanwhile Nadhim Zahawi has announced pay rises for all teachers, including 8.9% for new joiners. While welcome of course, why was nobody reading the 2018 report on why teachers left the profession?   At the other career end, let’s review why this is crisis waiting to happen.

Nobody minded those Ofsted visits about how schools were doing in the pandemic but, as I have noted before, whatever Ofsted might claim, a full return to a robust inspection regime is simply adding to the anxiety of senior leaders.  The NEU conference in Bournemouth heard that over two-thirds believed inspections undermine school leaders’ ability to focus on pupil outcomes while a staggering 86% claimed they added to both stress and workload.

Similarly, we all want the best for our new teachers, but it is the impact on mentors that is increasing their workload. Teach First has optimistically reported that less than 20% of ECTs are unhappy with their experience but also that ‘Mentor capacity and workload is the biggest concern raised right across the sector in relation to ECF changes.’ (Faye Craster April 2022). This has the potential to impact on ECT appointments, with Schools Week (22 April) reporting that “more than one-third of school leaders now say they may take in fewer early career teachers in the future, which rises to 46 per cent among primary heads”.

With the world energy crisis driving up costs, we may well see this also limit new staff appointments, though quite how much is not yet clear.

Add to this what is being called, ‘the great resignation’ as headteachers, crushed by the workload and the accountability are lining up at the exit. Against this background, the White Paper’s promise of ‘strong schools with great teachers for your child’ rings pretty hollow. Indeed, many of its proposed strategies to find these ‘great teachers’ are as solid as a smoke ring.

So, what to do now?  At the very least, you could be analysing your school’s situation to work out how vulnerable you might be to the bombshell’s fallout. That’s the focus of the toolkit with this article. In Part 2 we will explore Zahawi’s bold claims to work out whether they are more than smoke and mirrors.

Things fall apart (W B Yeats) by John Viner

In the last article we looked at the very strange circumstances in which teacher recruitment and retention finds itself. Whatever new initiatives arrive, the fact remains that drain is bigger than the inlet. The plan was to review the problems through the lens of the long-awaited White Paper. That was before the Conservative Party went into freefall and we now have little clarity on what the future will actually hold. At the time of writing, the selection of Liz Truss as Prime Minister throws everything in the air. Some may remember Truss as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education during Michael Gove’s tenure as Secretary of State.  We have yet to see what her government means for education.

Perhaps the simplest way to review all this is to assume that some version of the White Paper will be implemented and to think about any messages we are hearing from Ofsted.

What is certain, in the world of Teacher Training, is that Ofsted have ITT providers under close scrutiny and that is likely to have an impact on recruitment and retention.

White papers are not legislation. They are Government policy documents setting out their proposals for future legislation. They are sometimes published as Command Papers and may include a draft version of a Bill that is being planned.

The Education White Paper has four key themes. It promises that, by 2030:

  • every child will be taught by an excellent teacher trained in the best-evidenced approaches.
  • every child will be taught a broad and ambitious curriculum in a school with high expectations and strong standards of behaviour.
  • every child who falls behind in English or maths will get the right support to get back on track.
  • all children will benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong multi academy trust or with plans to join or form one.

There are some old friends reappearing here and, if you have been in the profession for a few years, you will recognise that we may have been here before. Several times. It would take a deeper exploration of these four key areas to identify the pluses and minuses but, for the purpose of this article, we will focus only on the promise of an excellent teacher for every child. The DfE promises it will deliver half-a-million new professional development opportunities for teachers in training, early in their career, or through new National Professional Qualifications.  Note that, despite what seems an eye-catching headline, it’s 500,000 opportunities, not 500,000 teachers.

So, where will these excellent teachers come from? Last November’s school workforce survey reported that almost an eighth of teachers left the profession last year with, for the first time, greater attrition rates for primary than secondary. Just under 90% of these were early departures, not retirements. This was a jump of 12.4% on 2020-21. Around the same proportion of newly qualified teachers left the profession within a year. Classroom teacher vacancies are at their highest level since records began. The plan to attract former teachers back to the classroom post-covid saw ministers boast that over 500 former teachers had been recruited but the reality was that only around 20% eventually returned to the classroom. Also, it is worth noting that around 8% of teachers are currently deserting the state sector for independent schools.

Prior to her election by the Conservative Party, Liz Truss echoed the White Paper commitment to strengthen and widen Trusts, with an apparent recommitment to Grammar Schools. The promise to provide catch-up support is an old chestnut and usually comes with a pledge to crack down on behaviour, as it does here. Pause to reflect on the Chief Inspector’s 2022 Education Festival speech, where she noted,

And the glue holding school structures and routines together are rules and discipline. The word ‘discipline’ – like exams for some – comes with connotations. For some, it conjures images of over-strict headteachers, punishments and coercion. But for me discipline is rooted in respect. Respect for the school, for staff, for fellow pupils and for learning itself. It’s the discipline of being on time, of treating people well and of making an effort. In successful schools, these things are taught and reinforced, humanely and effectively. Discipline is not a dirty word.

In the background lies the promise to ensure that tuition contracts go only to approved contractors (but schools remain free to employ individual tutors). However, all the signs were that the DfE, would continue to scapegoat headteachers for the poor take-up of the National Tuition Programme. And that brings us to the looming crisis in school leadership, with the NAHT warning that ‘high-stakes accountability, crushing workload, long hours and inadequate funding’ was driving an accelerating exit rate of headteachers.  And we have not yet been able to consider energy costs. New Ed Sec Kit Malthouse – unsurprisingly a product of the independent sector – has had little to do with education so we wait and see how it falls out.

So, is this a perfect storm brewing, or will the DfE be able to resolve teacher supply?  Let us see what Ofsted may be suggesting.  There have been some minor changes to the school’s inspection handbook. The DfE have clarified that

Section 5 inspections now referred to as ‘graded inspections’ and Section 8 inspections of good and outstanding schools called ‘ungraded inspections’. The purpose of each inspection type and how they are carried out remains unchanged. l

For new teachers, the Early Careers Framework continues to increase workload and stress, despite its opposite claims. We continue to wait for the research that evaluates the impact of the two-year induction period and how far it addresses the issues of retention. Meanwhile, for those in training, there remain several routes: School Direct, Teacher Apprentices, Teach First and Now Teach, to name a few. However, it is evident from recent Ofsted inspections of ITT providers that there is a separate agenda running and many hitherto successful providers find themselves downgraded.

There seems to be a determination to reduce the number of ITT providers. How this sits with recruiting excellent teachers remains to be seen. A very few select bodies have been handed £75,000 contracts to “support the anticipated closure” of initial teacher training providers. How this improves recruitment and retention is unclear.

The important challenge for all school leaders is to try to stay ahead of the game. At the moment it is hard to work out what the game is.

NB the interesting Vulnerability Calculator and recruitment planner are not included in this blog due to the nature of the format.

John Viner may be contacted via LinkedIn or at

As regular reads of this blog will know, I believe that the downturn in pupil numbers will necessitate some realignment of ITT places, but I subscribe to the need to keep higher education at the centre of the preparation and development of our teaching profession. John Howson

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?

Thank you, Ma’am.

Although state education may not have featured highly in the life of the late Queen, the occasional school openings and honours ceremonies apart, we can all recognise and give thanks for her life of service to the nation. Perhaps the new King might like to create some Regis Professorships in Education in memory of his mother?

As one of those born during the reign of King George VI, I am old enough to recall the transition of power from one monarch to another. Indeed, an early memory is of learning the word ‘catafalque’ in connection with the ceremonial lying-in state in Westminster Hall, itself a building of great historic significance.

The Coronation was the first time that I saw a television programme, clustered around a small black and white screen belonging to someone my parents knew. Not much about the actual day remains in my memory, although the official programme for the day shows both the order of service and the arrangement of the carriage procession around the streets of London to allow as many people as possible to witness the spectacle and pageantry.

It was while at primary school that I first saw The Queen in person, when she attended the annual Horse of the Year Show, then held in the now long demolished Haringay Stadium in North London.  I suppose we what might these days be called groupies attending outside the stadium to watch the horses prepare for the events inside after the end of the school day and until well into the early evening. Each year, The Queen would arrive by car and drive into the arena while we watched from the side-lines. In those days there was no security cordon or questions about what primary school age children were doing out by themselves. Such is progress.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I will attend the local reading of the proclamation in Oxford. This takes place at the historic centre of the city at Carfax crossing, and the statement will be read by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire. It will take a bit of time to adjust to the new reign and to substitute King for Queen in many formal parts of life. But it will soon become second nature.

I hope that our new King will show some interest in the state school system. He, reputedly, didn’t enjoy some of his secondary schooling and that may show that parents need to think about would be best for their children.

When it comes to planning the Coronation, I hope that young people will be invited to play a part, to represent the Britain of today and tomorrow alongside the traditional military and other ceremonial. A modern nation must be able to do modern ceremonial as well as recreating the past. After all that was splendidly demonstrated when the Olympics came to London. A 21st century Coronation for a modern forward-thinking nation putting its history in its place but not overwhelmed by it would be a great tribute to the new King.  

Minister’s business experience useful?

Will schools in financial difficulties receive the Flybe treatment from Kelly Tolhurst MP, the new Minister of State for Education? In her career the Minister has served as a PUS – or first rank of the ministerial ladder – across three departments, plus a couple of months over this summer in the Whip’s Office, where she had previously served in a junior role in 2018. Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood in Kent is possibly best remembered for being the Minister sent out explain the refusal to bail out the airline Flybe when it ran into turbulent financial conditions at the start of the covid pandemic.

“Unfortunately, in a competitive market, companies do fail, and it is not the role of Government to prop them up.

Given the time of year, the nature of Flybe’s business and fleet, and the routes that it flies, sufficient alternative transport arrangements should be available, either with other airlines or by road and rail.”

Hansard 5th March 2020

Hopefully, the new minister will be more understanding about the financial position of schools as they wrestle with the present financial crisis. As her role at the in the Business Department involved responsibility for small businesses, the MP should be well aware of the challenges that schools will face. As a supporter of the free market, she may well want to see whether the Department is spending its cash wisely on issues such as teacher recruitment and SEND.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the constraints of a national Funding Formula that can be ignored when times are good may also need to be something to be considered, especially the differences between maintained schools and academies when it comes to shifting cash around.

As an MP for Rochester, Kelly Tohurst will know of the stark differences between the town’s schools, where some are comprehensives that are operating alongside selective schools, and will as a businesswomen understand both the costs of re-organising the system nationally to benefit the few rather than the many, and the links between the school system and the need for a modern skilled workforce, something some of her predecessors may have seemed less concerned about.

As in other areas with selective schools, private secondary schools are thin on the ground in the Rochester area of Medway Council and that should be a warning to any government thinking of expanding selective education. The cost to the state of parents switching from private education to state selective schooling should be enough to dissuade any government from taking our school system back to the nineteenth Century as means of creating a twenty first century growth economy.

The Secretary of State should be familiar with issues such as youth offending and the variations between different groups and their schooling. I would hope that this will be a serious consideration for the new residents of Sanctuary Buildings, perhaps more so than under recent inhabitants.

Finally, I would again make my please for Jacob’s Law, whereby children in care are guaranteed a school pace within 14 days of the State taking over parental responsibility. This needs the promised change in the administration of in-year admissions and would befit the education of these children often taken from their families with no say in the matter and dumped in a different part of the country.

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