Job Done Mrs May

We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.                                                         Conservative Party Manifesto page 51

Good news for the Conservatives: this already exists and is free – TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk is now the largest teacher job site in England and is free to all users; schools to place vacancies and teachers and returners to locate jobs that meet their needs.

So, Mrs May, pick up the phone and call the team in Newport Isle of Wight and we will happily show you how the service operates. We are already saving schools millions of pounds in recruitment advertising and with government support, such as is envisaged for the supply sector, we can channel probably another £50 million into teaching and learning while providing accurate and up to the minute management information for civil servants and ministers.

This is one area where you can say, job done, even before the election.

First red alert from TeachVac in 2017

There is a certain irony that on budget day TeachVac has issued its first red warning of teacher shortages in 2017 www.teachvac.co.uk . After matching the demand for teachers as measured by vacancies recorded against the supply of trainees not already working in a classroom, Business Studies as a subject, today reached the 20% level of remaining trainees available for employment. At this point, TeachVac suggests that there will not be enough trainees to fill their share of vacancies during the remainder of the recruitment round until December 2017, for January 2018 appointments and codes the subject red. At the level of a red alert, a school anywhere in England may experience recruitment difficulties in this subject from now onwards. Such has been the number of vacancies recorded since January that it is entirely possible that the stock of trainees in Business Studies will be exhausted before the end of April this year.

The next subject on the radar is English. Although currently at an amber warning, meaning schools in some areas may face a degree of challenge in making an appointment, we are watching the number of vacancies posted every day with great attention in order to see how quickly the trainee pool is being reduced. Schools that use TeachVac’s free service are told the latest position when they input a vacancy and they can also find out the state of the local job market should Ofsted come calling and ask for this information. Teachvac’s monthly newsletters also provide useful updates on the overall situation

Teachvac staff will also be delighted to talk with Sir Michael Barber about his new role improving public sector efficiency for the government that was announced in the budget, especially since TeachVac offers schools a free service in a manner that can save both the government and schools considerable amounts of money and provide much needed rea-time data about the working of the labour market for teachers.

The other budget announcements regarding education were fairly predictable, subject to anything in the small print not revealed in the Chancellor’s speech. I would have liked to see the situation regarding the levying of the apprenticeship levy on schools tidied up, so all pay the same if they have to pay anything. The wording on free transport to grammar schools for pupils on free school meals is frankly perplexing. I am sure the situation will be clarified over the coming days. The capital for refurbishing schools, spread a sit is over several years, isn’t going to go very far once urgent problems have been attended to.

The big loser in education are the self-employed tutors that will now pay more in National Insurance and face big penalties if they don’t declare their income for tax. The same may apply to supply teachers, depending upon how they arrange their affairs.

 

Counting Jobs

The recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee was full of lots of useful data.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/migration-advisory-committee-mac-report-teacher-shortages-in-the-uk One area of especial interest to me was the analysis the Committee undertook into how the labour market for teachers was functioning. As the Committee has a remit that covers the whole of the United Kingdom and also has to pay especial attention to Scotland, as a result of devolution, it was not a surprise that they commissioned a company that looks at the labour market across all four home nations.

As a result, they used a Boston based company called Burning Glass that studies labour markets across the world. One approach that Burning Glass use is to study the output of job boards as a means of counting vacancies. The results of this for the teacher job market in the United Kingdom can be seen in Figure 4.4 of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report (pages 66 & 67). As the figure notes in the heading, these are figures for teacher job postings.

Now job postings may not be the same as real jobs. There is certainly a possibility that at least some job postings are  actually more of a recruitment tool to attract teachers to sign up to a recruitment agency than the listing of an real vacancy in an actual school, especially when no school is mentioned in the listing. This might be one reason for the apparent uncovering by Burning Glass of what looks like some 4-6,000 job listings in the secondary sector during the August months in both 2015 and 2016, with possibly even higher numbers in the primary sector. I seriously doubt, even across the four nations, whether there were that level of real jobs available in either August 2015 or August 2016.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk the recruitment matching service I helped found only counts vacancies that can be attached to an actual school. Our numbers for both July and August 2015 and 2016, albeit only for England, but covering both state-funded and private schools, are very much lower than the Burning Glass totals.

As I have said before on this blog, creating a unique job number for every vacancy that was then attached to the vacancy wherever it appeared until the job was filled and allowed identification of whether the vacancy was removed before being filled or filled by a new entrant, a returner, a teacher changing school (part of the churn), a supply teacher or an unqualified person would provide much needed on-going data to improve the discussion about teacher supply. In this day and age it wouldn’t take very long for any school to keep the records up to date. Indeed, TeachVac could already produce lists of vacancies by school that are able to be annotated with the background of the person that filled the vacancy very quickly and easily.

In the Migration Advisory Committee report it is interesting to note that appendix B provides a detailed conversion factor to change the Burning Glass job listing outcomes into to Office of National Statistics equivalent vacancy rates through a two stage process. At TeachVac we measure the flow of real vacancies posted by schools and our only conversion factor is for re-advertisement rates.

Finally, looking through the Migration Advisory Committee report, I note that in Annex D the number of returners in each subject has been estimated. The total for the three subjects used in Annex D comes to 4,800 returners whereas the total for the whole profession, primary, secondary and special is only shown as 14,000 in the preceding Annex C. So, either these three subjects take up nearly a third of the returner totals or one of the sets of numbers may be less than 100% accurate.

At TeachVac we will continue to develop reporting that aims to provide the highest quality data to help understand the workings of the labour market for teachers in England. With sufficient resources we could, like Burning Glass do the same for the whole of the United Kingdom.

 

English: early warning

This is a message for schools not involved in either the School Direct Scheme or Teach First. The number of candidates likely to be available for appointment this September to teach English is already showing signs of being insufficient in number, if vacancies continue at their present rate.

Schools directly entering vacancies into TeachVac receive this information for free every time they enter their vacancy. They can also monitor the wider situation through the TeachVac monthly briefing, sent to all schools that have registered.

Registration and posting of all vacancies are free www.teachvac.co.uk for all schools all the time and it is a free job service to teachers and trainees as well.

The situation in English is largely caused by the large number of the total trainees either on the School Direct Salaried program or on Teach First. A significant proportion of both these groups of trainees are likely to continue working in the schools where they train. This reduces what I call the ‘free pool’, training on the higher education, SCITT and School Direct fee routes that may be available to all schools seeking to fill a vacancy. As is acknowledged by the DfE, at least half of classroom teacher vacancies go to new entrants, these numbers matter.

After taking out Teach First, School Direct salaried and recorded vacancies gathered by TeachVac since 1st January, the number of trainees left in the free pool was just over 1,200 on the 6th January. That probably not enough to fill a vacancy in every secondary school, epsecially if you include the independent sector and Sixth Form Colleges, even applying the 50% rule.

Schools looking for particular types of teachers of English, say with degrees in specific characteristics of English Literature, may well find the numbers available even fewer in total. We also don’t know how evenly spread across England the trainees are, although we do know London and the Home counties are likely to account for more than a third of all nationally advertised vacancies, if 2017 is anything like the last two recruitment rounds.

So far, maths and science are less of an issue in 2017 than English because of better recruitment into training than in recent years, but business studies is already on our radar as likely to also cause problems for schools in 2017. Post BREXIT, we need students of business even more than in the past; Ministers please note.

There is a debate to be had about the balance of training places between different routes and different parts of the country, but the DfE seems reluctant to open that issue up. The Select Committee has an opportunity to do so when it finally writes its report on teacher supply and the Migration Advisory Committee will need to address some aspects when they consider whether maths and science teachers should still qualify for Tier 2 visas?

This year, more information will be channelled through TeachVac, so if you are in a school as a teacher, trainee, leader or are a returner to teaching, do sign up. It is free service and will remain so.

 

 

 

Thank you

My thank you to everyone that has followed this blog in 2016. By the end of this month or in early February, the 500th post is likely to appear. Not bad for a blog started in January 2013 with no such goal in mind. Rather, it was originally designed to replace my various columns that had appeared in the TES between 1999 and early 2011 and then in Education Journal in a more spasmodic form during the remainder of 2011 and 2012. This blog has allowed me both editorial freedom to write what I have wanted and also to avoid the requirement of a fixed schedule of a column a week that had dominated my life for more than a decade.

Anyway, my thanks to the 11,738 visitors from 88 countries that read at least one post during 2016; creating a total of 22,364 views. The viewing figures have been around the 22,000 mark for the past three years, although the visitor numbers in 2016 were the highest since 2014.

My thanks also go to the many journalists that have picked up on stories that have been run on the blog during 2016. Many of these have been associated with TeachVac, the free to use recruitment site I co-founded in 2014. The recognition of the brand has grown, especially over the past year, so much so that its disruptive technology poses a real threat to more traditional recruitment methods. With funding for Teachvac throughout 2017 secured, plus a growing appetite for the data the site can produce, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts in 2017.

TeachVac can easily meet the needs of a government portal for vacancies suggested in the White Paper last March, with the resultant data helping provide useful management information for policymakers. TeachVac already provides individual schools with data about the state of the trainee pool in the main secondary subjects every time they input a vacancy. With regional data from the census, it is possible to create local figures for individual schools and profile the current recruitment round against data from the past two years taking into account both the total pool and the size of the free pool not already committed to a particular school or MAT.

2017 is going to be an interesting year for recruitment as school budgets come under pressure and it is likely that teachers and trainees in some subjects in some parts of England may find jobs harder to secure than at any time since 2013. However, London and the Home Counties will still account for a significant proportion of the vacancies.

What is unknown is how teachers will react if the government presses ahead with its plans for more selective schools. Will new entrants to teaching be willing to work in schools where a proportion of the possible intake has been diverted to a selective school; will the current workforce continue to work in such schools or seek vacancies in the remaining non-selective parts of the country? No doubt someone has some polling data on this issue.

 

 

Is there a headship crisis?

According to a story in The Times today, one in ten schools is losing its head teacher each year. Reading the headlines of the story, outside the pay wall, there are examples of schools advertising up to seven times to find a replacement and of schools without a permanent head for three years. Local authorities, still seemingly worth talking to about schools, even by this Tory supporting newspaper, tell of high turnover of heads and head teachers of small schools being enticed away to larger schools by promises of more money. All this makes for a crisis.

Between the early 1980s and 2012, I studies the labour market for head teachers on a regular basis. I stopped, partly because I didn’t’ think there was a crisis at that time and partly because I left my long-term database with my former employers. Since the establishment of TeachVac, I have gradually started to rebuild the data on leadership turnover and will report fully this time next year when there is sufficient comparative data.

A turnover of ten per cent isn’t, in historical terms, anything out of the ordinary, especially as some of the total will have been made up from head teachers required for new schools due to increasing pupil numbers and the 14-18 UTCs and studio schools as well as genuine ‘free schools’. Although there probably not as many of these as a previous Secretary of State might have wished.

For most of the early part of this century, re-advertisement rates for secondary heads were in the 20%+ range; for primary schools, the rate exceeded 30% in most years between 1997/98 and 2009/10, so re-advertisements are nothing new in the leadership market. Indeed, recruiters have made a tidy sum from encouraging schools to take ever larger and glossier advertisements on the basis of recruitment challenges. As regular readers know, TeachVac challenges this principle by offering a free service.

Any school seeking a new head teacher for September that advertises in January and runs a sensible recruitment round should have no problems recruiting unless it has one or more of the following characteristics:

It is a faith school,

It is located in London,

It is a small or very large school,

If a secondary school, it is single-sex or selective (or a secondary modern in a selective area).

Two or more factors and it needs to consider carefully how to recruit a new head teacher, especially if outside of the normal recruitment season from January to March where around 50% of vacancies are advertised each year.

Advertising outside the first quarter of the year, when fewer candidates are looking to move schools, is also often a waste of money, as is putting off candidates through the content of the advertisement or taking a long time over the process; candidates often apply for several posts and may be hired by another school if the process is too long.

Being a school in challenging circumstances has become more of a handicap as MATs and governing bodies seem to think the head teacher needs changing if there is a poor Ofsted report or a disappointing set of examination or test results. There are cases where a change of leadership is appropriate, but not, in my view, in every case.

Without a mandatory qualification for headship, it is difficult to know in details the size of the talent pool for future head teachers, something that should worry those responsible for the system at the EFA and NCTL, since a lack of supply will always drive up the price of a good or commodity and headship is no different to any other type of job in that respect.

At least some head teachers can look forward to recognition through the honours system, and I was delighted to see Professor John Furlong honoured in the latest list for his lifetime of work in teacher education. John, your OBE is a well-deserved mark of respect.

 

 

 

A shortage of leaders?

Is there a shortage of school leaders that will become even worse over the next few years? This was the gloomy message from the report issued on Friday jointly by Teach First, Teaching Leaders and the Future Leaders Trust. https://www.teachfirst.org.uk/sites/default/files/The%20School%20Leadership%20Challenge%202022.pdf

As someone that has spent more than thirty years looking at leadership turnover, I have read the report, whose analytical support was provided by McKinsey, with interest. The report calls for a range of different interventions under four main headings:

  1. Develop a new generation of school leaders
  2. Expand the pool of candidates for executive roles
  3. Drive system change to support leaders more effectively and provide clear career pathways
  4. Build the brand of school leadership

These required interventions reflect the lack of government action ever since the Labour government abolished the mandatory NPQH qualification for headship and the coalition created many new leadership posts with the development of MATs and executive headships. The latter issue has been dealt with by this blog in previous posts, most notably in July this year with the post headed ‘Can we afford 2,000 MATs?

The figures in Friday’s report, if accurate, are challenging with, it is suggested, a possible shortfall of more than 20,000 leaders in the coming decade. Now that may be the case, but it depends upon all the factors identified by the compilers of the report coming true. As noted, the greatest risk is the uncontrolled expansion of MATs creating a significant number of new posts.

While in the school sector, the growth in pupil numbers may lead to a development of more assistant head roles to recreate those abolished when roles were falling the likelihood of that happening is probably going to be governed by the degree of finance available to schools; a point largely ignored by the writers of the report. The report also misses the extent to which assistant head numbers have been inflated by what are essentially difficult to fill middle leadership posts such as head of mathematics and science departments being paid as assistant headship in order to be able to recruit to those positions.

Where I am with the writers of the report is in the need for creating not so much clear career pathways, they already exist, but in helping young teachers and especially returners develop the necessary skills to be appointed to a leadership post. With teaching increasingly a profession for women in both primary and secondary schools, someone, and it may be the three groups that commissioned this research, has to develop a strategy that allows the very large number of young women now in the profession to take up leadership roles both before and after any career breaks. If the profession doesn’t do that then we truly will have a crisis in a few years’ time.

One solution suggested by the report is to recruit outsiders to senior posts. I doubt that will work for most headships. In the past when asked my view of this solution by journalists, I have always asked if I could become their editor with no knowledge of journalism. You can image their answers.

Where I do think there is a possible direction of travel is for larger MATs. After all, there are example of CEOs of MATs currently without either any or any recent school experience. The larger the organisation the more leadership requires general not specific knowledge. Teaching and learning can be the responsibility of a second tier officer, whereas overall strategy remains the responsibility of the CEO. In effect, CEOs of MATS become very similar to Superintendents of US School districts, some of whom are recruited from the worlds of business and commerce.

Where you cannot recruit easily from outside the profession is where the leadership role requires hands-on experience of teaching and learning.  Despite the comments in the report, the majority of problems in recruitment in the past has been in the primary sector where the ratio of deputies to heads is much smaller than in the secondary sector.  Filling a faith school headship in an inner-city schools seeking a new head teacher in April has always been a challenge. This report doesn’t show whether it as actually any harder than it was twenty-five years ago.

In summary, the report is helpful in reminding everyone of the need for sufficient good leaders for all our schools and some of the risks ahead. The need for action over preparation is also vital, but the report doesn’t deal with who should take on the task? Presumably, the three organisations that put their names to the report would all like to play a part.