Keep older teachers in the profession?

Most of the discussion about issues relating to the supply of teachers revolves around the need to bring in more new entrants. Attention is then generally next focused on stemming the exit of teachers early in their careers, often at the point where they might be moving into middle leadership roles. Scant attention is ever paid to the idea of ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those leaving for caring reasons, whether because they have started their own family or are caring for elderly relatives to help retain their interest and understanding of the profession. Indeed, the DfE’s specific attempt at an approach to helping those seeking to return to the profession wasn’t an outstanding success, if you read the evaluation report published earlier this year.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Probably, the least attention has been paid to altering the age at which teachers retire from the profession. I don’t mean the formal age of retirement as, indeed, there isn’t one these days, although working for more than 40 years probably doesn’t bring any extra benefits from a pension point of view. However, could encouraging teachers to remain in either full-time or part-time service for a year or two longer help reduce the staffing crisis faced by some schools?

Sadly, the answer is probably not. The School Workforce Census suggests that the number of teachers leaving over the age of 55 have been falling in recent years

Year Teachers Leaving
2013 11,470
2014 11,420
2015 10,430
2016   9,430
2017   8,570

DfE 2017 School Workforce Census Table 7b

Whether this is because either the cohort size has been falling or more are staying needs further work to determine. However, the Census does also record around 1,600 entrants from this age group each year, so the net departure rate may be less than shown in the table. Overall, in the 2017 School Workforce Census, there were some 25,800 teacher in service between the ages of 55-59 and a further 9,700 over the age of 60 still in service.

Providing more part-time opportunities could be one way to attract more of the leavers to stay, but it could carry the risk of persuading more teachers to consider switching to part-time work and supplementing their income through tutoring and other uses of their talents and experience. Indeed, the shift from a final salary pension scheme to one based upon average salary, however calculated, makes early departure less of a risk than in the past, even though the Teachers’ Pension Scheme remains an attractive scheme to its members compared with some other schemes.

Bringing in more over 50s to spend a decade or so in teaching is worth considering. Some 4,840 new entrants from the 45-54 age grouping were recorded in the 2017 School Workforce Census, but there needs to be sufficient new entrants to fill future leadership vacancies even after the inevitable wastage of teachers in their early years of service. In some subjects future head of department recruits are already looking few and far between and a high percentage of primary teachers that survive more than 20 years of service are likely to become a head or at least a deputy head.

So, we cannot escape the need to ensure new entrants to training meet the levels specified by the DfE if an optimum level for the teacher workforce is to be achieved.

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TeachVac celebrates success

One of the questions I am regularly asked as chair of the company behind TeachVac (www.teachvac.co.uk), the free to schools and teachers job matching service for teachers, is ‘why does TeachVac use a defined system of matching teachers to vacancies?’ It is a good question. Unlike most system that have either evolved from print backgrounds or been based upon the same browsing concept of allowing everything to be seen by everyone, TeachVac evolved with a very different philosophy in mind.

TeachVac believed that those seeking a teaching post, whether new entrants finishing their training; existing teachers wanting to change jobs or seek promotion and returners looking to re-enter the world of teaching in a school somewhere in England all had similar needs in terms of looking for a teaching post. These can be summed up as; what phase; secondary or primary; where in a defined geographical area and at what grade or salary? Provide answers to these three questions and applicants can be presented with a range of vacancies that meet their needs from which to choose the ones they want to follow up through the application process.

As I was writing the above piece, the DfE published an update on their thoughts on vacancy information. Unlike TeachVac, the DfE doesn’t seem to place as high value on alerting teachers exclusively to vacancies that meet their needs. Undefined systems allow for very wide searches. Such an approach can swamp applicants for say, English vacancies in London during April. However, the alerts that are the foundation of a defined system help focus teachers on what type of vacancy, and where, they are seeking.

The defined request approach has two other benefits. Firstly, it makes it difficult for anyone wanting to offer candidates to schools with vacancies to easily track down the bulk of vacancies. Secondly, defined searches can provide better data about where candidates are looking for vacancies that can more open searching. Such data can help identify ‘cold’ spots where candidates are less interested in the vacancies as well as the more obvious hot spots.

Although TeachVac doesn’t do so, defined tracking can also help identify the schools within an area that receive the most interested through hits on the vacancy from the search. There is also a lot more that can be learned about candidate behaviour in terms of timings of both initial market research and actual applications. Should TeachVac provide annual profiles of vacancies by month for different parts of the country and different types of school?

TeachVac has just completed its fourth and most successful recruitment round. Staff are currently spending the summer sorting out queries about the DfE’s list of schools, a service we shouldn’t have to undertake at TeachVac, but one that is vital to ensure that candidates find the correct vacancies. How much quality control does the DfE exert over it supplier when a School clearly identified in its name as a Church of England Primary School can be mis-coded as a post-16 establishment?

TeachVac Global, (www.teachvacglobal.com) the companion site to TeachVac for vacancies in international schools, has also had a successful first year of operation, establishing its name across the globe.

TeachVac: end of term update

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has now completed its fourth recruitment cycle and is on course to handle 50,000+ genuine vacancies for teachers and school leaders across England during 2018. The vacancies come from all types and phases of schools and still cost schools and teachers nothing, either to place a vacancy or to receive a job match.

TeachVac is a defined system designed for those seeking a teaching or school leadership position in either the state-funded or private school sectors. Unlike other systems, TeachVac works with genuine job seekers that know where they want to work. The limits are generous, but our experience tells us that few job seekers are open to working anywhere in England. By using a defined system, where job seekers can change their parameters, we cut out those seeking to bombard schools with offers to fill their vacancies for a fee.

TeachVac trusts teachers and works to provide the information in the most accessible format while remaining free to both schools and teachers. As a future development of TeachVac the team are looking at two new developments. Firstly, where are the jobs most likely to be found? The answer to this question is based upon the data collected over the past four recruitment rounds. Although, if you are a teacher of mathematics, English and possibly the sciences, you can assume that there will be vacancies across the country that’s not the case in some of the smaller subjects.

How many vacancies will there be for music teachers west of Exeter in any given recruitment cycle: do business studies teachers find many jobs in the West Midlands? TeachVac now has sufficient data to answer this sort of question. The data is capable of further refinement, by perhaps, state-funded schools; selective schools or private schools.

Our second service in development is the ability to tell schools how many applications they might receive when posting a vacancy. Schools already receive notification of TeachVac’s estimate of the size of the remaining trainee pool when the post a vacancy and whether TeachVac has already recorded enough vacancies to exhaust the number of trainees likely to be granted QTS in this recruitment round. TeachVac can build on this by quantifying the size of the pool of active jobseekers matched with a vacancy as either good, average, poor or non-existent. Such a profile will help schools respond as quickly as possible when they need to consider making alternative arrangements, especially for an unexpected January vacancy.

For researchers, TeachVac has a considerable store of up to the minute data about the labour market for teachers. Below is the job history of one school so far in 2018 with repeat advertisements removed. In large departments such as English, mathematics, science and languages it is sometimes difficult to know whether a second advertisement following closely on from a previous one is a second vacancy or a repeat advertisement. If each vacancy had a unique reference number the problem would be solved and a more accurate tally of actual vacancies could be kept. TeachVac does not record vacancies not linked to a specific school.

Classroom Teacher Promoted Post inc. HoD AH DH Head All Recorded Vacancies
The Academy 16 6  0  0 2 24
Head Teacher
23/02/2018 1
03/05/2018 1
Art 1
11/05/2018 1
Computer Science 3
03/04/2018 1
30/04/2018 1
30/05/2018 1
Design and Technology 2 1
04/05/2018 1
12/06/2018 1
03/07/2018 1
English 2
30/05/2018 1
03/07/2018 1
Health and Social care 1
16/01/2018 1
Mathematics 1
30/05/2018 1
MFL 2
30/05/2018 1
03/07/2018 1
Performing arts 1 2
04/05/2018 1
21/05/2018 1 1
Physical Education 1
04/05/2018 1
RE 1
03/04/2018 1
Science 2 1
16/01/2018 1
04/05/2018 2
SEN 1
09/05/2018 1

 

Recruitment – an end of term report

As schools start winding down for the start of the summer break, it is a good time to assess the current recruitment round for teachers. There clearly isn’t just one market for teachers. Rather there is a complex web of interlocking markets based on geography; phase and specialism, both in terms of subject expertise and other knowledge and experience. House prices matter, as does the reputation of schools and the willingness of applicants to travel any distance outside either their current travel to work comfort zone or to move their location either for a first job or a promotion.

Then there is the issue of retention and where those leaving are going. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to a school seeking to make an appointment. In the short-term, if they aren’t applying for your job or a quitting your school you can face a recruitment problem. Although exit interviews aren’t totally reliable, they can offer some insights if conducted by an independent company with experience in that field. The DfE might like to conduct some sample interviews and also put in place ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those that leave for a career break and are in the age-bracket most likely to want to return after a few years away from the classroom.

With so many curriculum changes in the offing, now is not the time to allow leavers that might return to feel de-skilled. You can read more about returners in the recently published study the NfER conducted some time ago for the DfE about their programme to encourage returners to teaching. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Anyway, back to the current recruitment round. Comparing the number of trainees that qualified this summer with the vacancies on offer across England, it is clear to those of us with access to the TeachVac data that Design and Technology; Business Studies; English and music are the subjects where recruitment is likely to have been most challenging across the country. In Religious Education, the Sciences overall, and IT, the situation is a little better, but not much. Generally, the best supply situation nationally is in the EBacc subjects other than English and the Sciences. However, as this blog as stated in the past, numbers and quality are not always synonymous.

The position in the primary sector is more of a challenge to unravel, partly because of the manner in which vacancies are advertised. However, across most of the country, supply is probably more than adequate, although there may be local shortages of specific skills and expertise.

These numbers matter most to schools if they are faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2019. In the most critical subjects, where vacancies have already exceeded trainee numbers, schools would be best advised to either revamp the curriculum or offer to pay a fee to an agency if they can do the heavy lifting of finding a teacher should they be confronted by an unexpected vacancy.

Finally, it is worth recalling that these shortages come at a time when the Daily Mail is lamenting the fact that selective schools are making teachers redundant. How much worse would it be if schools were still hiring across the board, including to teach sixth form students.

 

 

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?

 

 

Why the TSM matters

The TSM, or Teacher Supply Model to use its full name, is the mechanism used by the DfE to identify the changes in the labour market for teachers that will determine how many training places will be needed and thus funded in a future given year. It also provides indicative numbers for other years, mostly assuming current policies and other inputs don’t change during the time period under consideration.

For many years the workings of the TSM under its various iterations were largely concealed from public view. However, over the past few years, the outcome of the process and how the numbers were created has been exposed to public gaze. Not that many members of the public have probably taken the opportunity of open government to work through the DfE’s calculations. If you are interested, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-supply-model and immerse yourself in an interesting read.

Why bring this up now. Well, apart for the fact that the TSM for 2019 to 2020 will appear sometime soon, tomorrow is the last day for resignations for teachers wanting to leave their jobs this summer. At that point in time, it is often possible to see how well the TSM has worked. However, in periods where recruitment into training is a challenge and the TSM or any other figure for trainee numbers set by the DfE isn’t reached, the outcome is more complicated.

Nevertheless, if there are still far more trainees than jobs in the recruitment round by the end of May, then something isn’t working as efficiently as it might. There are two subjects where, based upon the vacancy data collected by TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk where I am the Chair, questions might be asked? These are physical education and history. Both are important because students training to be teachers on these courses bear the whole cost of their training through fees and living costs. Should such students have an expectation that the DfE will not create too many training places resulting in a proportion not being able to secure a teaching post in their subject in either a state or a private school?

The over-supply of physical education trainees has been apparent for some time now and many find jobs in other subjects where they are not fully prepared for their teaching timetable. Potential teachers of physical education presumably do their homework before apply to train as a teacher and decide the risk is manageable, since numbers of applicants hold up very well every year.

The situation in history is more complicated. The advent of the English Baccalaureate created an expectation in the DfE TSM modelling process that more teachers of history would be required as more pupils studied the subject at Key Stage 4. How far that expectation has come to pass will be revealed next month when the data from the 2017 Teacher Workforce Census is revealed. However, even allowing for post for teachers of Humanities as well as teachers of History, this recruitment round does not seem to have created enough vacancies to absorb anywhere near the number of trainees.  Indeed, the risk to history trainees looking for a teaching post is now little different to that for physical education trainees in some parts of the country.

I don’t think that this means the DfE should no longer model teacher needs through the TSM, but I do wonder whether its regime should be so market orientated in how it deals with those that want to be a teacher.

 

Frugal innovation

I heard this term used this morning in an interview broadcast on the BBC from the Hay Festival. My first thought was that is exactly what TeachVac has been trying to achieve. The best solution at the lowest price. Next week marks a key point in the 2018 recruitment cycle for schools. Serving teachers must have resigned by the 31st May, in most schools, if they are to leave at the summer and either retire or take up another position. Some may also opt to change to part-time working.

By the end of next week schools will know the shape and size of the challenge facing their staffing arrangements for September. Most will either be fully staffed or perhaps have a last minute vacancy because of the promotion of an existing colleague. A few schools will be facing real challenges in completing their staffing and may be looking to either change the curriculum or find the best fitting person still available in the market.

At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we have provided a free service to schools and teachers for the past four years and alerted thousands of teachers to possible job opportunities. All this has cost nothing to anyone.

Since 2016, the DfE has been engaged in a process of establishing a similar service and the £984,000 contract was awarded in February to digital specialists DXW according to a recent article in SchoolsWeek. This sum is far in excess of the total operating costs of TeachVac since its inception. I don’t regard the DfE’s efforts as a frugal innovation even to meet government IT standards.

There has been changes across the recruitment market in the past two years. The TES has launched a subscription service and from next month SchoolsWeek will revise its recruitment advertising rates and stop its print version https://schoolsweek.co.uk/schools-week-is-changing-were-going-digital-first/ Along with other players such as eteach and The Guardian, as well as many local authorities, these services all charge schools for advertising vacancies.

TeachVac is free and up and running successfully. The DfE site doesn’t appear to have made it into BETA testing before the end of the key 2018 recruitment cycle. Ministers really do need to ask whether they are creating a value for money service and whether a joint arrangement between interested parties from across the education scene might create a better and cheaper option that could be operational nationally from September.

Next week TeachVac will be looking to identify the schools with the most vacancies so far in 2018 and comparing them with their profile on free school meals and attendance measures. I was asked about this at the recent APPG on the teaching profession, held last Monday at Westminster. The DfE won’t be able to answer this question before 2020 at the current rate of progress, whereas TeachVac can do so now. TeachVac can also identify the requirements of schools advertising vacancies in composite subjects such as modern languages – is German dying out as a language being studied – and how bad is the crisis in physics – do schools ever mention the word in their adverts for science teachers? TeachVac has already altered schools to teacher shortages in various subjects and expects to publish more alerts next week.