Will it be an ‘ill-wind’?

At the start of half-term, TeachVac has recorded record levels of vacancies for teachers in the first six full weeks of 2020, compared with vacancy levels or the same period in recent years.  A proportion of the increase is no doubt down to the increase in pupil numbers that there will be this coming September. Although National Offer Day for admissions is still a few weeks away, I am sure that schools already have some idea of whether they will be full in Year 7 this autumn.

Indeed, I assume that new schools opening in September have received their Funding Agreement from the ESFA. If not, this is a policy issue the DfE might want to consider, since preventing such schools recruiting at the most opportune of times is not offering them the best start in life.

On the face of it, this is, therefore, going to be a tricky recruitment round f once again or schools seeking teachers. In part this reflects the lack of recruitment into training in some subjects, as well as the increase in pupil numbers. But, is there now a new factor in the equation?

What effect will the ‘coronavirus’ outbreak have on the labour market for teachers in England? Apart from the knock on consequences on the wider economy, and a possible economic slowdown that is always helpful for teacher recruitment, will the outbreak both deter some teachers from seeking overseas jobs, and encourage some of those overseas to return to the United Kingdom, and schools in England in particular? (As an aside, what, if anything, will the outbreak do for the flow of pupils and students from Asia into schools, colleges and universities in England this year?)

Now, it is too early to tell what the outcome might be of a change in attitude to teaching in Asia in general and China – including Hong Kong – in particular, and there are plenty of other parts of the globe where schools are keen to appoint teachers from England. However, even a small downturn in those seeking to work overseas and an upturn in ’returners’ will be a welcome outcome for the local labour market for teachers in England. It is indeed, ‘an ill-wind’.

TeachVac monitors activity on its site by geographical location on a regular basis. This is a somewhat imprecise methodology, since not all users reveal their geographic la location. However, the site has seen an upturn in activity from certain countries, when compared to this point last year.   So, perhaps we might see more ‘returners’ this summer?

 

Is the teacher job market changing?

Earlier this week Will Hazell, the relatively new education reporter for the i newspaper and a former TES journalist, produced a piece about agencies charging schools a ‘recruitment fee’ after signing up teachers looking for jobs. Since governments of all complexions have been happy to leave teacher recruitment as a free market activity, why wouldn’t commercial organisations aim to help schools solve a recruitment issues for a price. After all, schools have been paying local authorities, the TES and other newspapers to place job adverts for many years. Indeed,  even search agencies are also not a new phenomenon in the marketplace. In addition, there are other new approaches to recruitment as schools seek direct marketing and MATs use central recruitment pages for all their schools.

However, what might be acceptable as a fringe activity affecting only a small number of schools can become a matter of public concern if a greater number of schools are involved and the sums being made reach significant amounts.

As I have written before on this blog, why wouldn’t busy teachers and trainees take the bait offered by agencies if it makes their life easier? Selling yourself on every application form you complete takes far more time compared with filling out just one registration form per agency you register with and is a no brainer, especially with the amount of work teachers and trainees face during term-times.

Even where jobs are easy to find, because the supply exceeds demand, teachers can benefit from a system that reduces their need to complete a series of application forms on the off chance they might come second in an interview. But all this costs schools money. Even so, advertising hasn’t traditionally be free, and can take up more time an effort if there either isn’t much interest and either a re-advertisement is necessary or there are lots of applications and time has to be spent by a group of staff short-listing candidates for interview. These costs need to be set against any finders fee.

In the past, I have pointed out that knowing the state of the job market helps schools to choose the most cost-effective path to recruitment. Want a business studies teacher in London or the Home Counties, then paying an agency on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis might be cost effective from the end of February onwards. Want a PE teacher or a historian at the same time of year, and agencies might still be cost effective in saving staff time sorting through lots of applications, especially with the risk of ensuring there is no discrimination in your short-listing process.

So, should there be a public sector registration point where candidates must register if they want a teaching post, and that can manage supply and demand more effectively than the market?

TeachVac already knows where the bulk of the jobs are and can offer schools a service telling them how many potential applicants have been match with a vacancy. TeachVac can also tell candidates how many jobs in a selected area meet their parameters in a given time period, and also advise when a candidate’s search area is not wide enough for them to expect to have a good chance of securing a teaching post. This data changes as the school-year progresses.

At present, TeachVac offers its service free to both schools and those seeking teaching jobs. Providing the data about jobs to both schools and teachers has a cost, but it wouldn’t be very high; perhaps £5 per search. Let me know what you think?

 

Vacancy war breaks out

The DfE’s rather muddled announcement earlier today of a service to clampdown on agencies charging schools “excessive” fees to recruit staff and advertise vacancies https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-free-website-for-schools-to-advertise-vacancies was clearly written by a press officer that didn’t understand what was being said. Either that or the government is in more of a mess than I thought. Muddled up in the announcement posted on the DfE’s web page today are two separate and different services.

In one, the DfE announced that:

Mr Hinds will launch a new nationwide deal for headteachers from September 2018 – developed with Crown Commercial Service – providing them with a list of supply agencies that do not charge fees when making supply staff permanent after 12 weeks.

The preferred suppliers on the list will also be required to clearly set out how much they are charging on top of the wages for staff. This will make it easier for schools to avoid being charged excessive fees and reduce the cost burden on schools of recruiting supply teachers through agencies.

Such a service might backfire if it drove some agencies out of business and then allowed the remainder to actually increase their prices to schools.

However, it is the other service, starting now for a limited trial just after the end of the main recruitment round for September vacancies that is of more interest, as it directly competes with TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the free national service for vacancies that has been running successfully for the past four years. TeachVac was set up to do exactly what the DfE say they are now trying to do:

 To help combat these costs, the Secretary of State has announced a free website has been launched to advertise vacancies, which currently costs schools up to £75 million a year. This website will include part-time roles and job shares.

Well, TeachVac does all of that. Regular readers will know that I am chair of the company that owns and operate TeachVac and its international site Teachval Global. Why should the government want to destroy an already successful free service? Perhaps the teacher associations can tell me what see that will be better in the DfE’s offering? Certainly, the DfE won’t have access to the same level of real time job data as TeachVac that has already allowed us to comment on the problems facing schools in London and the Home Counties that have been trying to recruit teachers for September.

TeachVac will continue, as it is backed by its successful TeachVac Global arm that provides a similar paid service for international schools around the globe. http://www.teachvacglobal.com as well as its extensive data and associated businesses.

In the meantime, paid for vacancy services, such as the TES – also a player in the supply agency marketplace- eteach, SchoolsWeek and The Guardian must explain to their investors how they will combat another free service displaying teaching vacancies. Local authorities, don’t have investors to explain to, but could see their job boards affected by the DfE move, especially for posts in primary schools where they are often a key player in the local market.

But, for everyone the key question is, after two failures in this field, will the DfE be successful this time around? Judging by the quality of the announcement, there must be a measure of doubt, especially at the costs involved. Let me know what you think. Is this a service the DfE should provide and do you think that they can for a credible cost?

 

 

School Recruitment Service Mark 2 announced

Yesterday, at the Public Accounts Committee, a senior civil servant announced the date for the DfE’s latest foray into the world of teacher recruitment. The DfE’s version of a vacancy service will go on trial in the spring. Over the past two months, I have written a couple of posts about the development of this service, first mooted in the 2016 White Paper and then, somewhat surprisingly, rating a mention in the 2017 Conservative General Election Manifesto. In the meantime, the DfE has been quietly beavering away designing their service.

With political backing of this nature, such an idea wasn’t going to be ditched easily, unlike the plans to offer middle leaders to struggling schools, unceremoniously dumped this time last year. So, I am not surprised by the latest announcement.

As regular readers will know, I chair TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk the free service for schools and teachers that has been up and running for the past four years with no government aid and is now the largest platform by number of vacancies for teacher vacancies in England. More recently TeachVac has expanded to handle vacancies in international schools around the world through TeachVac Global www.teachvacglobal.com

As TeachVac is free to everyone using it is England, competition from the DfE doesn’t both us; although I do wonder about the size of the DfE’s budget that will be needed to ensure the new product doesn’t follow the route to oblivion of the School Recruitment Service that was established and then scrapped a decade ago. Perhaps someone could ask a PQ or submit an FOI to find out how much money they aim to spend on marketing the trial next spring?

For paid providers of recruitment services, whether, either just vacancy advertisements or through recruitment services and teacher placements, the threat to their profits is more real. You only have to look through the accounts posted on the web site of Companies House to see how valuable teacher recruitment has been over the past few years and why the government might have wanted to offer an olive branch to schools by providing a free service at this time so many schools are strapped for cash.

As I pointed out when starting TeachVac, such a service, like TeachVac, also helps satisfy the National Audit Office’s remarks about the lack of data available to the DfE about the teacher labour market. What they will do with the data they will obtain we won’t know until 2020 at the earliest, as 2019 will be the first full year they will be able to obtain data for a whole recruitment cycle. However, by then Ministers won’t be able to fall back on just the data from the School Workforce Census.

TeachVac, now covers all schools state funded and private – I wonder whether the DfE will offer their service to the private sector – as it does with access to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme – or restrict it only to state-funded schools thus offering a lifeline to paid services.

I will post more when I have read the transcript of yesterday’s Public Account Committee hearing where the announcement was made.

A National Vacancy Service for Teachers?

The DfE’s explanation of their aim for a national vacancy service mentioned in yesterday’s blog may have partly been provoked by the following parliamentary question answered on the 13th October.

Gloria De Piero: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when the free national teacher vacancy website announced in the March 2016 White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere will be operational. 

Nick Gibb: The Department is undertaking user research with head teachers, school business managers and recruitment staff and established, returning, aspiring and newly qualified teachers, to strengthen its understanding of the issues schools face when advertising teacher vacancies and the challenges teachers have finding and applying for jobs. It is using this to inform the development and design of a new national teacher vacancy service. We are currently at an early stage of prototyping the new service and testing to ensure the service design is one that best meets the needs of users. Depending on the outcome of this development phase, we would expect to start building a service early in 2018. 

Any teacher vacancy service will aim to reduce the time schools spend on publishing vacancies and the cost of recruiting new teachers; make it easier for aspiring and current teachers to find jobs quickly and easily; and increase the availability and quality of data on teacher recruitment.

So, who might be the winners and losers if the DfE does eventually go ahead with a national vacancy service? Much depends upon the structure and take-up of such a service, and it is too early to tell exactly what it might look like. However, assume a free full service model something like TeachVac already provides, but possibly with a few more bells and whistles in terms of handling applications, offering schools facilities for internal short-listing and the handling of references between schools.

Existing paid for vacancy platforms would either have to win the contract, assuming that the DfE puts the service out to tender; possibly at a much lower income than at present, or try to compete with free to schools government service. That scenario has happened in the past when the School Recruitment Service was launched in around 2009. However, the DfE seems to have learnt something from its past mistakes and will presumably be prepared to back any new service more effectively. Nevertheless, as ever, the issue remains as to whether the DfE service can persuade job seekers to come on-board and use the service as their main source of vacancy information or whether schools will continue to use other services, including paid for platforms?.

There is another issue if the government runs the service and that is access to the data collected. At present, the DfE has little management information on the working of the teacher labour market in real-time. A national vacancy service would change that situation, as we know for the data we collect at TeachVac. Indeed, it is one of the reasons for establishing such a service.

Will the teacher associations, the NGA, teacher educators and others with an interest in this area be willing to cede total control over the data to the government?

An alternative model would be for either some joint arrangements between all the interested parties and the DfE or just among the interested parties that train and recruit teachers. They have access to the teachers and trainee and could operate a ‘not for profit’ model at least as cost effectively as the DfE because they are already more commercially minded than the civil servants in Sanctuary Buildings.

 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In the DfE’s White Paper of March 2016 there was discussion of the idea of the need for a teacher vacancy portal. The Select Committee in the last parliament were also interested in the idea. As we also know for the NAO report of earlier this week, the DfE historically has had little handle on the necessary management information regarding the current working of the teacher labour market. It was, therefore interesting to receive the email detailed below earlier today from the DfE:

Thank you for your email. We [at the DfE] have recently started a 14-week ‘alpha’ development phase of the Teacher Vacancy Service project, and our focus is very much on user testing at the moment. We are hoping to engage again with vacancy suppliers shortly.

I would be delighted to hear from those involved in the ‘alpha’ testing phase at present so we can see how the DfE’s efforts match up against those of TeachVac and other suppliers such as the TES and eteach?

We know the DfE set aside a budget of £300,000 last autumn for some of this work. As TeachVac is free to schools and teachers, anything the DfE is going to do isn’t going to hurt our direct profits, as TeachVac makes its money in other ways. Whether it hurts other suppliers of vacancies will depend upon the model the DfE is proposing to use.

If it is a portal to redirect schools and applicants to suppliers and other job boards it probably won’t be public money well spent. If it is a foray from the DfE into the type of service TeachVac offers for free, then it will be interesting to see how the DfE’s ideas match up with what already exists. If the DfE is intending to drive down the cost of recruiting then it will certainly have an impact on those that charge for marketing teaching vacancies? They can argue the case as to whether or not it is good use of public money.

Either way, from the Fast Track scheme of nearly 20 years ago, through the School Recruitment Service of nearly a decade ago, to the National Teaching Service, abandoned late last year, schemes derived by civil servants don’t seem to have had a great success rate when they try to intervene in the labour market for teachers.

Nevertheless, as TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has demonstrated, there is a need for a service that is free to schools and teachers and also provides high quality data for those that want to understand the current labour market.

If the DfE version does not interact with independent sector schools, the private providers such as TeachVac, the TES and others will continue to have the edge over the DfE by offering a wider range of information about vacancies all in one place.

This week has seen a significant move forward in understanding the need for real-time vacancy information for the teaching profession. The DfE should now explain what they are proposing.

 

 

 

 

 

TeachVac continues to grow

As many readers of this blog know, I am chair of the company that operates TeachVac – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers. Once seen by some as a concept that wouldn’t survive, TeachVac is now starting its fourth cycle of free, unpaid, recruitment advertising for teaching posts. Covering teaching vacancies across the whole of England, with plans to expand further in the autumn, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk offers a free service to both schools and applicants looking for a teaching post and has doubled in size yet again over the last twelve months.

In addition to handling vacancies for individual schools, TeachVac also handles organisations placing multiple vacancies at the same time and has special arrangements for both dioceses and MATs that help those with decentralised recruitment policies track what is happening in their schools.

With coverage of all 151 local authority areas in England, TeachVac includes vacancies in both state-funded schools of all descriptions as well as private schools and from the start of 2017, state funded-primary schools throughout the whole of England. TeachVac is now the largest site for teaching vacancies in England and, of course is free to both schools posting vacancies as well as those seeking a teaching post.

Vacancies are shown to registered job seekers at one of three different levels, classroom teacher; promoted post and leadership positions. Job seekers may specify either a geographical area based a radius of a postcode or a specific local authority area for the larger rural counties. New matches are sent to candidates every day and allow the potential applicant to decide whether to apply for the vacancy. TeachVac makes it possible to track how many applicants are interested in each vacancy.

Over the course of a year, new entrants to the profession can see something of the frequency of vacancies in the subject they are preparing to teach and the location where they wish to teach. This also applies to teachers overseas wishing to return to England to teach and, indeed, any teacher considering either a change of school or a promotion. TeachVac regularly receives visits from those located in over 100 countries around the world each year.

With its wealth of real-time data, TeachVac monitors the recruitment round as it is taking place. This, along with saving money for schools was the reason for creating TeachVac in the first place.

TeachVac is also uniquely placed to match numbers in training with vacancies across the recruitment cycle providing early warnings of shortages both in specific subjects or geographical areas so that schools can make the necessary adjustments to their recruitment campaigns. As hinted in previous posts, although 2017 was not the worst recruitment round of recent years, 2018 is shaping up to be a real challenge for many schools.

If you want to recruit a teacher, find a new teaching post or understand what is actually happening the teacher recruitment marketplace then visit www.teachvac.co.uk  – the National Vacancy Service for Schools and Teachers.