Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.

 

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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.

 

Teacher recruitment update

The question of school and college funding may have driven the issue of teacher recruitment from the top of the education agenda, but that does not mean that the concerns about staffing have one away. They have just been buried under more topical concerns.

Whether it a sign of the growing number of secondary pupils for September or that the funding crisis isn’t as bad everywhere as it obviously is in some schools, but advertised vacancies are ahead of this point last year in the TeachVac system www.teachvac.co.uk That’s good news for teachers and trainees looking for a job for September, but less good news for some schools trying to recruit a new staff member.

As in the past, the main secondary subjects fall into three groups. Firstly, there are the quasi-vocational subjects of business studies and design and technology where there has already been more vacancies recorded in 2019 than the market can cope with and schools anywhere in England could find recruiting a teacher challenging. Schools seeking a teacher of physics can also face recruitment issues regardless of where the school is located.

The second group of subjects are those where local recruitment challenges may now be apparent, but recruitment problems are most likely to affect schools in London and the Home Counties. These subjects include, mathematics, English, computing, religious education and music. Most of these subjects may well migrate into the first group before the May resignation deadline.

Finally, in the third group are three EBacc subjects, modern languages, geography and history as well as physical education. At present, there is no sign that there won’t be enough of teachers in these subjects to meet needs. However, as noted in the past, this doesn’t address either the issue of the quality of applicants or the possibility that some schools may find attracting candidates a challenge for a variety of reasons.

In the primary sector, vacancies seem to be appearing more slowly than last year, perhaps reflecting the slowdown in the birth rate that is affecting intake numbers quite dramatically in some areas.

It is worth noting that you still wouldn’t be able to obtain this information from the DfE’s vacancy site. As of last Friday, the DfE site had only around 25% of the live vacancies being carried by TeachVac, so teachers looking for a job might use the DfE site if it was a vacancy in the first group of subjects listed above, as applicants may well be few and far between, but for subjects in the other groups they might well be missing some possible opportunities if they stick to just the DfE site.

I don’t know how much the DfE has spent on their site so far, but, as I have comments before, a simple site linking to other free vacancy sites such as TeachVac would achieve a better outcome for far less expenditure of public money.  This takes us back to school funding and why the DfE chose to compete in a marketplace already well served in this manner?

DfE Vacancy site: Value for money?

Like many company chairman, I read the recent story of the Eurotunnel payment with real interest. As chair of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk I know that my company wasn’t invited to bid for the DfE’s vacancy web site last year, when the decision was taken to undertake a procurement exercise. I am not sure whether any of the other sites providing vacancies for teachers were invited to tender either?

The government can point to the general rules it has in place for procurement and tendering for starting afresh in the market, but not to explore with existing providers whether they can offer a cheaper service may raise the question about of ‘value for money’ over the cost of starting from scratch.

After all, as the DfE has found out for the third time – Think SRS, a decade ago and the failed attempts to create sites to recruit middle and senior leaders – it is not just designing a piece of software that matters with a recruitment site, but also attracting both schools and teachers to use the site. Providing either a platform for existing sites or asking one to provide a DfE backed service at a specified price would have significantly reduced these marketing costs for the DfE as existing providers would have brought an current base of teachers seeking jobs and a marketing strategy for identifying vacancies already in place.

The fact that the DfE site contained at least once simple design error when it started publishing vacancies, and still has only a fraction of the vacancies to be found on some other sites, such as TeachVac, must raise questions about how much the DFE’s efforts are costing the taxpayer.

The DfE site is still only providing information about a fraction of the available jobs where schools are hiring teachers at the present time, and it completely ignores the needs of both the private schools and other institutions that hire qualified teachers, such as elements of the further education sector where teachers may be looking for jobs. For those reasons, others will have to continue to provide a service to those employers.

I am not sure when the period of ‘beta’ testing for the DfE site comes to an end, but serious questions will need to be asked about why the DfE chose to operate the site from London, where costs are inevitably higher than in the rest of the country.

As TeachVac already provides a free service to schools and teachers, I have offered the DfE either notification of vacancies they are missing or a feed of these missing vacancies in a form that can be uploaded to the DfE site; both for a small fee. This would, at least, solve one issue for the DfE in ensuring teachers weren’t missing vacancies by using the DfE site.

After all, the DfE site will never be successful if it doesn’t offer teachers at least the majority of posts on offer. Teachers only want to register with one universal site to be told of jobs.

At present, TeachVac has the most comprehensive list of teaching jobs across both private and state funded schools in England, and teachers are recognising that fact by registering in ever greater numbers as the 2019 recruitment round gathers pace.

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?’

 

 

 

 

Happy Texans?

So the TES now has new owners. Once again they are an American Group. The new owners are Providence Equity Partners. https://www.tes.com/tesglobal/articles/tes-announces-new-owners

At least, being headquartered on the East Coast of the USA, they are nearer the TES HQ than the former owners in Texas. Providence as a Group also invest in Autotrader that made a successful transition from print to on-line advertising and Burning Glass, a company that provided data for the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee study into teaching and subjects that should be eligible for Tier 2 visas in January 2017. Both may be able to provide helpful advice and expertise to the TES brand under Providence’s guidance.

Hopefully, Providence did more due diligence on the teacher recruitment market in England than just to rely upon the data Burning Glass, presented to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that then appeared as Figure 4.4 of the MAC Report in January 2017. The manner in which Burning Glass counted job postings was very inclusive and over-estimated actual demand for teachers. You only have to look at the data for August in Figure 4.4 to recognise the difference between postings and vacancies.

The question for Providence that will have undoubtedly considered before they made their offer is, can the recruitment side of the TES be made profitable, in the face of the DfE’s new free job site and the development of the TeachVac brand (where I am chair of the Board), with the help it can receive from other Providence investments?  In addition, can the resources side of the TES business be made more profitable as part of a larger global enterprise? It might also be worth adding, can the education journalism side be developed into a global platform providing information and news to other Providence media investments?

What will happen to the TES team? Will Lord Jim Knight become chairman or even President of the company? Alternatively, has Providence already lined up a new team to take over the helm from the existing management team, as is sometimes the case when a company changes owners after a sale?

In the past, the recruitment income has been a key source of revenue for the TES, especially once reader subscription income started to disappear, as print was replaced by the move on-line. However, the TES is now a significant provider of initial teacher training. Will the new owners see this either as a distraction or alternatively as a possible avenue on which to develop a significant CPD business with a global reach? It goes without saying that the recruitment business will be developed into one with a significant presence in the global market for teachers. This is, after all a large and growing market.

As a former employee of the Times Supplements, after they bought my company just as the recession hit world stock markets, I am interested in seeing how the new owners will develop the title. As a competitor in the recruitment market though TeachVac, I am interested to see how quickly the new owners will move and whether there will be developments in time for the 2019 recruitment round that will peak in the spring. But, maybe Providence’s pockets are deep enough to not worry about 2019 and they will start to focus on 2020 and beyond.

Read and reflect

The news this morning that Johnston Press might collapse, carried on the BBC web site, is a further sign of the changes being wrought by technological innovations on our world. Both the retailing and publishing industries have been badly affected by the arrival of the internet. Nobody cannot say that they didn’t see the changes coming, especially in publishing. I recall, about the time that Rupert Murdoch sold the Times educational supplements, seeking out a book he had mentioned in a speech to a gathering of the great and the good of the world’s press. In the book was a chart showing changes in the readership of newspapers by different age-groups after the arrival on the scene of first radio and then television. A third line suggested what the arrival of the internet might also do to print news readership.

Interestingly, a couple of years before that speech, in the autumn of 1997, just after I quit being the government’s Adviser on Teacher Supply, I had written a report for the management at the TES about the possible effects of the internet on teacher recruitment advertising in print publications. The reason I recall this was because it was the first commission that Education Data Surveys ever received. Even at that time, some school districts in the USA were already looking at on-line recruitment possibilities and the New Zealand Government was already featuring vacancies in the government’s Education Gazette, as it still does today.

So, twenty years ago, the writing was already on the wall for those that wanted to read about the future. The TES wisely set up an on-line site for teacher vacancies and ran it in parallel with the print edition of the paper for many years. When News International sold the supplements, it was probable that recruitment advertising could cover the debt created on the purchase of the company. The key question was, how long could print advertising service the debt?

So long as the government at Westminster stayed away from the market, the TES always had a sporting chance to create a strategy to move its monopoly position with schools for recruitment advertising into the new world by offering great service at a price that reflected the lower costs of the new technology. But, if it squandered that brand loyalty, then its future would always be more challenging.

TeachVac was established as a free vacancy service more than four years ago to show how a low cost service could embrace the best of the new technology. Far cheaper to operate than either the TES or the government’s latest foray into vacancy advertising for teaching posts, TeachVac still demonstrates how existing paid for teacher vacancy platforms need to keep ahead of the curve.

I have no doubt that over the next few months we could see something happen at the TES. After all, it was put up for sale by its US owners in June, see https://johnohowson.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/interesting-news/ after the 2017 annual results recorded a loss for possibly the first time in its history. There has been no public news of a sale almost six months on. Could the TES possibly go the way of the Johnston Press? I have no way of knowing. However, over the next few weeks as the owners evaluate both the 2018 draft accounts, plus the management reports from this term’s business, they will presumably be looking to what the future will hold. The Johnston Press restructuring came only a month after an attempt to find a buyer.

Even in this modern world, I firmly believe that there is a space for a successful and profitable on-line news, features and recruitment vehicle for the education world, operating in the private sector. How that will emerge may be as interesting and as uncomfortable a journey as British politics is today.  Top class journalism, a top class understanding of the on-line environment and where it is heading, plus a real awareness of the education scene and the labour market that creates so much of the potential revenue even today, will, I believe, be absolute necessities for success.