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.

The revolving door of school leadership

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has published some interesting research on the amount of time newly appointed senior leaders stay in post as part of their contribution to the debate about the pay and conditions for teachers. Apparently, more are leaving within the first five years after appointment. New data reveals sharp increase in number of school leaders leaving the profession within 5 years (

After 40 years of studying leadership trends this is an interesting set of data. The key results are shown in the table below.

Percentage of postholders that are new to post that have left within 5 years of appointment
Head teachersDeputy headsAssistant headsMiddle leaders
Primary phase201122%25%26%43%
Secondary phase201135%32%37%43%
Source: NAHT

The first thing to notice is that the data are expressed in terms of percentages. Taking just headteachers, as an example, in a typical year TeachVac records around 1,500 advertisements for primary headteachers, and 350-400 for secondary headteachers.

Using those numbers, the change would be from 330 to 345 departing in the primary sector between 20111 and those appointed in 2015, and in the secondary sector, assuming 400 vacancies each year – the upper end of the range- the change would be an increase of eight headteachers.

Since the press release didn’t calibrate the size of the market in each year, it isn’t clear whether more opportunities in the five-year period would have provided more leaders with a chance to move early in their careers. Certainly, the period from 2019 onwards has seen the start of the bulge in secondary pupil numbers and the creation of some new schools requiring new leaders. The period also witnessed the development and consolidation of Multi-Academy Trusts central staffing and some of those posts may well have been taken by school leaders in post for less than five years.

The press release also doesn’t make clear whether departures were tracked to see where the school leader went? If young leaders are quitting the profession, then that’s a serious situation, especially in the primary phase where there are fewer deputy headteachers and headteachers and any departures at that stage would be challenging to the sector.

As primary teaching, even at the more senior ranks, is now largely populated by women, the age profile of those leaving may also be worth exploring. Are some taking a career break for caring roles, and do we need a ‘keep in touch’ scheme for these leavers? Are there issues with certain types of school and does the data say anything to the levelling up agenda that might interest the STRB?

School leadership, whether at middle leadership or senior leadership levels is a challenging task and these percentages must be viewed with concern, but there is much more to discover from these percentages than might appear from the headline. However, that’s the aim of a good headline; to make one read the text that follows.

Sluggish start for teaching vacancies in 2021

January 2020 was a bumper month for teacher vacancies. Trainees, returning teachers and those looking for promotion were spoilt for choice across most of England, as secondary schools started recruiting early for September 2020. Fast forward a year, and with different priorities on the minds of school leadership teams, the slump in vacancies that started when the pandemic struck last spring has continued into the first part of January 2021.

TeachVac the vacancy site for teachers, where I am Chair, has recorded a 50% reduction in vacancies during the first 15 days of January 2021 compared with the same period in January 2020. In some secondary subjects, such as English and history, the slump has been even larger in percentage terms; vacancies are more than 60% down on last year.

Over England as a whole, there 1,300 fewer vacancies recorded by TeachVac during the first 15 days of January this year than during the same period last year. Looking back beyond the record rate of 2020, the January 2021 number is also below the number of vacancies recorded by TeachVac in both January 2018 and 2019.

Will these jobs return? The answer is that some will, but some won’t. The suggestion in the press that London has lost 700,000 of its population over the past twelve months, as foreign workers have returned home,  may help to explain why vacancies in the capital for teachers have been especially hard hit over the past twelve months. At present, the Midlands, both East and West, are also regions where there has been an appreciable fall-off in vacancies compared with last year.

In a recession, public sector workers with a secure job tend to stay put, so fewer teachers leaving either to take the chance on a new career or to teach overseas. This lack of movement has the effect of reducing demand for replacements. School budgets are under pressure as a result of the pandemic, so that is another factor that will delay recruitment activities, although TeachVac and the DfE site don’t cost schools cash. The DfE site does cost time and effort not required of schools by TeachVac.

As has been said in the past, there is no point in spending cash on recruitment until you have tried the free option and it hasn’t worked. TeachVac has matched 120,000 vacancies over the past two years and even if half resulted in an appointment that could have saved school millions of pounds in recruitment advertising.

TeachVac is currently preparing its reviews of 2020, and that on the Leadership Labour Market should be published next week: watch this blog for details. The wider review of classroom vacancies will appear later in the month. Both would have been faster had the government’s KickStart Scheme worked. On the Isle of Wight we still haven’t been offered any candidates through the Scheme, despite signing up almost on day one of the scheme’s announcement.

In summary, this may well be another year where the labour market favour employers over job-seekers, so registering with job sites such as TeachVac sooner rather than later may make sense for those seeking a teaching or school leadership post.

Leadership trends in schools- 2020

TeachVac the free to use teacher vacancy site is putting together its annual reviews of the labour market for teachers in England. The first of these is on leadership turnover in schools.

Here are some of the headlines from the draft report.

  • More leadership vacancies were recorded in the primary sector during 2020, while vacancies recorded in the secondary sector during 2020 remained at a similar level to 2019.
  • In the primary sector some 1,497 head teacher vacancies were recorded. The number for the secondary sector was 387 vacancies during 2020.
  • For schools advertising during the 2019-20 school year, there was a re-advertisement rate for primary schools of 28%: for secondary school headteacher vacancies, the re-advertisement rate was lower at 23%.
  • Schools in certain regions and with other characteristics that differentiates the school from the commonplace are more likely to experience issues with headteacher recruitment.
  • There were a similar number of vacancies for deputy heads in the secondary sector during 2020 than 2019. Fewer vacancies were recorded for the primary sector.
  • Secondary schools advertised slightly more assistant head teacher vacancies during 2020 than during 2019. There were fewer vacancies recorded in the primary sector during 2020 than in 2019. 
  • Tracking leadership vacancies has become more challenging as the means of recruitment have become more diversified in nature.
  • The covid-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the senior staff labour market from April 2020 until the end of the year.

What might be the outcome of the new lockdown? As the majority of vacancies at all levels in education are for September starts in a new job the later the more senior vacancies are advertised the more pressure on vacancies for other posts. Normally, half the annual volume of headteacher adverts appear in the first three months of the year. Will that pattern be replicated this year? Perhaps it is too early to tell. Will headteachers, and especially headteachers in primary schools faced with more problems than normal and lacking the level of administrative support that their secondary school colleagues enjoy just decide enough is enough and take early retirement? Will the pay freeze make matters worse, especially if pensions still rise in line with RPI?

TeachVac will be watching these trends for senior staff turnover, along with others in the labour market. Often in the past, a rising level of house prices has been bad for senior staff recruitment in high cost housing areas as staff can move to lower cost areas, but it is challenging for staff to move into those areas without incentives. The Stamp Duty relaxation has pushed up housing prices, at least in the short-term. Will these increases have an impact on leadership turnover?

The current age profile of the teaching profession should be favourable to the appointment of senior leaders but, as this blog has pointed out in the past, there may not be enough deputy heads in the primary sector with sufficient experience to want to move onto headship at the present time.

All these trends will need monitoring carefully as 2021 unfolds.

If you want the full report or data for specific areas, please contact

Worth a second look

Some posts on this blog deserve a second look. With nearly 1,100 posts now on the site, I don’t have a complete list, so even I am surprised when a visitor digs up a post from over seven years ago that resonates as much today as it did when originally posted.

Many of those that visit the blog today weren’t even in education, at least on the teaching side of the desk or camera, in 2013, so when it reappeared as the result of someone’s trawl through the archives, I thought I would ensure it was worth a second look to a new group of readers.

Winds of change in Manchester

Posted on 

The last two days I have been in Manchester for the SSAT Annual Conference. This is a celebration of many of the good things in school leadership. The delegates here are anything but average in their approach to education. The conference started with Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves talking about their new book: Professional Capital. In this increasingly secular age, where many head teachers are probably agnostics, it was interesting to hear Andy Hargreaves take the example of the parable of the master that leaves his servants a sum of money to use wisely in his absence and finds that two have invested while the third had just kept the money safe by burying the cash in the ground. The message of invest for progress was an interesting one.

At the same conference I participated in a panel debate about preparing teachers, and led a workshop on professional development. The following ten phrases are the ones that provided me with a framework for discussion in the workshop.

Hire exceptional people: add value.

Seek heroines and heroes: not villains and scapegoats.

Dump portmanteau careers: welcome career changers

Look for leaders of every age.

Education is a business not a market.

Sell the brand

Engage the family

Cash balances don’t educate children.

Quality assurance before quality control.

know the facts: tell the truth.

I had a good example of the last one of these while I was composing this post. I received an email that a Minister had confirmed the over allocation of ITT places was 9% this year. The fact is true, but disguises the more important information that the over allocation was in the order of 18% for secondary places, but only 6% in the primary sector.

Many of the other statements can generate discussion and some have already been aired in posts on this site. Hopefully, the remained will feature at some time in the future.

Pay Freeze: more churn?

As expected, the main teacher associations acted with condemnation when faced with the Secretary of State’s remit letter to the STRB, the Pay and conditions of Service Review Body for the teaching profession.  In a joint statement from ACSL NAHT and NEU they said that;

The narrow remit issued to the STRB excludes the crucial and central issue of teacher and school leader pay, reflecting the Government’s unacceptable pay freeze policy.  Teachers and school leaders are key workers who have already seen their pay cut significantly since 2010.  With inflation expected to increase in 2021, they know that they face another significant real terms pay cut. 

How might their members react in 2021? We can expect a range of reactions. Some will say, there is no point in staying with no pay rise in sight – after all will the freeze really be just for one year? Head teachers at the top of their pay band, and having endured the prospect of two disrupted school years might well throw in the towel and take their pension as that presumably won’t be frozen in the same way; at least at present. We will look at that prospect and its consequences in more detail in a later blog.

Some teachers will seek promotion to secure a pay rise, and others a more appealing post either in a different school or in the private sector where there are no requirements for a pay freeze for teachers. Yet others may look overseas or to the tutoring market that will grow to support the increase in home schooling, especially if the government looks to regulation to ensure a minimum standard of education for all children regardless of how parents arrange to provide it. All these factors could increase ‘churn’.

With a profession dominated by women, at least at the level of the classroom teacher, how they and often also their partners view job security and new opportunities will also affect the rate of ‘churn’ if there is job movement around the country.

I actually think, at least in the first few months of 2021, there will be caution, and a desire to stay put and see what happens. With a labour market in teaching heavily skewed towards the first five months of the year, we could see fewer vacancies than normal in the early months of 2021. This will impact especially severely on two group of teachers: new entrants and would-be returners to the profession.

I well recall a Radio 5 Live interview in 2011, when callers were blaming each groups for taking jobs from the other. In reality, both groups were finding it more of a challenge to secure a teaching post, especially in some parts of England.

So, how hard will it be? We don’t know yet, so this is speculation based upon past trends, but I think some teachers will really struggle to secure a post in 2021.

Now might well be the time to revive ideas of a single application form for teaching, at least for personal details. This would leave just the free text statement to be written specifically for each vacancy being sought. The DfE should consider whether sponsoring that idea from those examples currently in development and on offer might be a better use of funds than continuing with their vacancy site that one person described to me in unflattering terms earlier this week.

In the next post, I will describe a new service from TeachVac to help teachers and schools assess the market and where vacancies might be found in 2021.  

Feeling the strain?

After nearly 40 years of following trends in school leadership recruitment, I have rarely had to worry about what was happening during August. Indeed, for many years I used to spend the month compiling a detailed report on the labour market for senior staff during the previous school year for the NAHT.

However, this year, perhaps because of covid-19, there are signs that activity in the market for senior leaders has been a bit different to normal. Using data from TeachVac admittedly collected this morning, (although I don’t expect many schools in England to add new vacancies on a bank holiday), and not after the end of the month, there seems to have been an increase in advertised vacancies for both primary and secondary headships by schools in England this August.

In the primary sector, vacancies for headteacher posts recorded during August 2020 were 84, up from 57, in 2019, and 54, in 2018. Likewise, in the secondary sector, recorded headship vacancies were 16 in 2020, compared with just six in 2019, and 10 in 2018. Deputy Head vacancies increased, from 10 to 32, between last August and this year in the primary sector, and from just two last year to five vacancies this year in the secondary sector. There were eight assistant head vacancies in the primary sector this August, compared with just three recorded in August 2019.

Promoted posts are rarely seen in vacancies for the primary sector, and none were recorded this August. In the secondary sector, there were 38 this August, compared with 36 in 2019: little change.

For completeness, it is worth noting that classroom teacher vacancies also rose in the primary sector from 96 recorded in August 2019, to 129 recorded in 2020. However, the downward trend in the secondary sector job market continued, with just 223 recorded vacancies for classroom teachers this August, compared with 344 in August 2019.

What might account for this upward trend in headship vacancies? Well, TeachVac might be better at collecting vacancies form the smaller primary Multi Academy Trusts that last year. That might account for some of the difference. However, might some primary heads be feeling the strain of running a school during the exceptional period we have experienced since March 2020, and the start of the pandemic?

If this is the case, then the actions of government over the summer bode ill for the future. Could we see a growth in heads tendering their resignations for January or will they be prepared to carry on despite the requirements imposed upon them by government?

Vacancies advertised during September 2019 for headships were, 102 in the primary sector, and 44 in the secondary sector. These totals provide a benchmark by which to judge the number of vacancies in 2020.

It is also worth considering, at least in the primary sector, what the pool of potential new heads is like, and I may come back to that issue in another post. The key number is of deputy heads with perhaps at least five years of experience and, perhaps, under the age of fifty five.

STRB: good summary, not much new

Regular readers of this blog will find little to surprise them when they read the latest report from the STRB (School Teachers Review Body) Much of the data has already been discussed on this blog when it first appeared. Nevertheless, it is good to see the information all in one place.

The key issues are nicely summed up by the STRB as follows:

This year the evidence shows that the teacher supply situation has continued to deteriorate, particularly for secondary schools. This has affected teachers at all stages of their careers:

  • The Government’s target for recruitment to postgraduate Initial Teacher Training (ITT) was missed in 2018/19 for the seventh successive year. There has also been a marked decline in the number of overseas teachers being awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
  • Retention rates for teachers in the early years of their careers have continued to worsen, a trend that we have noted for several years now.
  • There is also evidence that retention rates are starting to deteriorate for experienced teachers, and there has been a marked increase in the number of teachers aged over 50 leaving the profession.
  • Retention rates for head teachers have fallen in recent years and our consultees report that it is increasingly difficult to attract good quality applicants to fill leadership posts at all levels. We have heard similar concerns from some of those we spoke to during our school visit programme.

Taken together, these trends paint a worrying picture. This is all the more concerning as increasing pupil numbers mean that there will be a need for more teachers in coming years, particularly in the secondary phase and for English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects.

The last comment is one I would take issue with in relation to languages, history and geography, subjects where TeachVac data doesn’t reveal significant shortages and the DfE data published last week also doesn’t suggest a rising demand for MFL teachers.

I am also slightly surprised that more isn’t made of regional disparities in both demand for teachers and in terms of the data about recruitment and retention. Matching age and experience with regional trends might have been helpful in understanding the degree that the teacher supply crisis affects the whole country and not just London and the Home Counties.

More information on the primary sector, and some understanding of the special school and alternative education sectors would also have been helpful.

I fully agree that the Report should be published much earlier in the year. Why cannot the timetable revert to a publication date in either February or March?The comments on challenges in leadership recruitment aren’t really backed by good levels of evidence in the Report, and that’s a pity since at TeachVac we have seen fewer re-advertisements for primary headships in some places this year. I am sure that the NAHT and ASCL have this data available. Compared with say a decade ago, are there really fewer applicants for headships. This is an important measure of possible challenge going forward.

Finally, I wonder what happened on page 32 where there is a mention of Figure 7 that bears no relation to point under discussion. I think it should be a reference to Figure 5? Is this a proof-reading issue or does it reflect some re-writing of this section?

DfE backs free vacancy sites

The Secretary of State has provided a big push for the DfE’s vacancy site and other free job sites such as TeachVac

It is always interesting to see a Conservative government trying to stifle legitimate competition by using its millions to drive TeachVac out of business  However, the government won’t succeed. As the DfE notice acknowledges, only 38% of schools have signed up to the DfE service after nine months of testing. They only cite Cambridgeshire as an authority where all schools have signed up to their service.

As I have written before, the DfE would have saved money, something they urge schools to do, by either working with existing job boards or taking a feed from TeachVac at a much lower cost that designing their own service.

The DfE site has one flaw for teachers looking for posts in a particular area and not bothered whether they work in the private or public sectors: the DfE site only contains state funded schools. TeachVac contain details of vacancies in both sectors.

Will the DfE now instruct local authorities to abandon their own local job boards on the basis that this duplication of service is wasting taxpayer’s money? The DfE could provide a feed for all schools with vacancies in the local authority area, as TeachVac can do. If the DfE doesn’t do this, one must ask why not?

I assume that ASCL and NAHT along with the NGA will come out in support of the DfE’s site, something that haven’t felt able to do with TeachVac, despite it being free for schools and teachers.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

With every school in the country now having access to this completely free site, I am calling on schools to ditch platforms that charge a fee. Why spend £1,000 on a service you can get for free?

Why indeed, and why go to the trouble of placing your vacancy on the DfE web site when TeachVac will collect it from your own web site for free, saving schools even more time and money.

So, will this be bad news for the TES and its new American owners? Much will depend upon how much in the way of resources the DfE is prepared to put into creating a state run monopoly? The vacancy part of the acquisition and its income stream certainly looks more risky this morning than it did on Friday. Will it be worth the £195 million that they seem to have paid for it?

Had I not helped invent TeachVac nearly six years ago, I would no doubt be more enthusiastic about the DfE’s attempt to drive down costs for schools. For now, we shall see what happens, and how schools, MATs and local authorities respond to today’s announcement.

For the sake of interest, I have compiled a table showing the DfE’s vacancy numbers – including non-teaching posts – as a percentage of TeachVac’s numbers. However, TeachVac includes independent secondary schools, but the DfE site sometimes contains non-teaching posts..

04/01/2019 11.26
11/01/2019 13.22
18/01/2019 17.57
25/01/2019 17.69
01/02/2019 21.44
08/02/2019 22.72
15/02/2019 24.46
22/02/2019 11.71
01/03/2019 31.25
08/03/2019 25.11
15/03/2019 25.20
22/03/2019 25.10
29/03/2019 28.20
05/04/2019 29.10


At least everyone is now talking about teacher workload

DfE press officers were unusually busy yesterday, with several announcements made to coincide with the Secretary of State’s speech at the NAHT conference in Liverpool – not a professional association solely for primary leaders, as some seem to imagine, but for leaders in all schools.

One of the most important announcements was that of the formation of a Workload Advisory Group to be chaired by Professor Becky Allen, the director for new Centre for Education Improvement Science at UCL’s Institute of Education. The appearance of senior representatives from the teacher associations among the membership makes this look like a reformation of the former body that existed under the Labour government. Assuming it produces proposals that are accepted by the DfE, then this Group should help Ministers restore some morale to the teaching profession by signalling that they are taking workload concerns seriously.

Announcements about the treatment of so called ‘coasting’ schools and forced academisation may well sound, if not the death knell, then certainly a slowing of primary schools opting to become academies. Why give up relative independence under local authority administration for the uncertain future as part of an Academy Trust, where the unelected trustees can decide to pillage your reserves and move on your best teachers and there is nothing you can do about the situation. That’s not jumping from the frying pan into the fire, but taking the risk of walking out of your house and leaving the front door wide open.

Hopefully, the Secretary of State is starting to move towards resolving the twin track governance system that has emerged since Labour and the Conservatives jointly decided to have a fit of collective amnesia about the key importance of place in schooling and also demonstrated a complete lack of the need for any democratic oversight of local education systems. My Liberal Democrat colleagues that demonstrated no opposition to academisation during the coalition government are, in my view, almost as equally to blame as the members of the other two main political parties for not recognising the need for significant local democratic involvement in our school system.

The Secretary of State might now be asked to go further and adopt the 2016 White Paper view that in-year admissions for all schools should be coordinated by local authorities; a local politician with responsibility for schools should also once again have a voting position on schools forum rather than just an observer role, especially as the NAHT have pointed out the growing importance of the High Needs Block and SEND education where links between mainstream schools and the special school sector is a key local authority responsibility.

The idea of a sabbatical mentioned by the Secretary of State was discussed in an earlier post on this blog, but there was little else on teacher recruitment in his speech.

If you want to listen to my thoughts on the present state of teacher recruitment, then Bath Spa University have just published a podcast in their Staffroom series where I answer a series of questions. You can access the podcast at and my interview is followed by a discussion between leading staff at the university on the same topic.