Discussions about State ownership has been a feature of this general election campaign. As a Liberal Democrat (Candidate in Castle Point in Essex including the Canvey Island) I prefer J S Mill’s approach as espoused in his treatise ‘On Liberty’. Writing about the role of the state and education, Mill concluded that generally, it is not the role of the State to educate its citizens, but to see that they are educated. Not a view of liberty that is accepted by Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.
However, even Tory governments are not afraid of a spot of nationalisation when it suits them. And here I must declare another interest, for the remainder of this blog is about teacher recruitment, and I am both the chair and the largest shareholder in TeachVac, the free on-line job board for teachers and schools.
Over the past year, the DfE has been developing its national vacancy site for those in schools; teachers and non-teachers alike. The genesis was a NAO Report followed closely by a Select Committee report and a Public Accounts Committee session that all highlighted how little the DfE know of the labour market for teachers in real-time. At the same time head teachers were complaining about the cost of advertising vacancies, one reason for the creation of TeachVac and its free service to schools and teachers.
The DfE could have created a portal to existing sites for teacher vacancies that would have cost little by way of public money. Instead, Ministers sanctioned a full frontal attack on the private sector with a government funded site where state-funded schools could place vacancies for free, with only the cost of training their staff to use the site being borne by the school. Fine, if it works and is value for money.
So how is the DfE doing with this use of public money? Taking a day in late November as a snapshot, it would seem not very well.
An analysis across the core platforms revealed the following numbers of vacancies for teaching posts being listed.
Of course, the DfE is hampered by not accepting vacancies from private schools, and that will always limit the attraction of the DfE site to teachers looking for vacancies in any type of school.
Apart from TeachVac, all other sites mix non-teaching vacancies up with teaching posts to some extent or other on their sites. This makes the numbers even more difficult to calculate. TeachVac only records teacher vacancies.
Then there is the question of how long vacancies are allowed to remain on a site. Best practice is to remove them the day after the closing date specified by the school in the advert. Some adverts don’t have a closing date these days, and TeachVac will generally ignore these as there is a question about whether there is a real current vacancy at the school or these are just attempts, quite legitimate, at talent banking for the future.
So, on this evidence the DfE is not using public money wisely. Might it, perhaps, be cheaper for the new government to buy a feed from either the TES or TeachVac than to continue to operate its own site.