Business Studies: from amber to red in four weeks

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has today reported that the status of Business Studies as a subject has changed from Amber to a Red warning. Essentially, this means that there have been enough vacancies recorded so far in 2019 to mean that more than three quarters of identified trainee numbers, as shown in the DfE’s ITT census last December, could have been absorbed by the vacancies already advertised during 2019.

This is by far the earliest TeachVac ever issued a Red warning notice for any subject. However, in view of the level of recruitment to teacher preparation courses and the failure to meet he desired number of trainees for the past six recruitment rounds this outcome is, perhaps, not totally unexpected. The Amber warning was issued just four weeks ago based upon figures collected on the 18th January 2019.

Business Studies is not the only subject with an Amber warning already in place this year. Design and Technology, again predictably, also has an Amber warning and TeachVac could issue a Red warning within the next two to three weeks, if the advertising of vacancies in the subject doesn’t slow down as much as expected during the half-term period.

An Amber warning means that schools in areas where recruitment can be challenging, such as London and the surrounding areas may encounter challenges recruiting a teacher in the subject: such schools might want to put in place additional recruitment measures.

A Red warning widens this advice to schools across the whole of the country, as recruitment issues may no longer be localised to areas where recruitment is challenging.

TeachVac is closely monitoring mathematics this year, as it is possible that an Amber warning may be issued before the end of March, if vacancies continue to be posted at the same rate they have been already in 2019.

Indeed, whether it is due to pupil numbers being on the increase, more teachers leaving the profession, or better than expected funding for secondary schools, the result has been that more vacancies are being advertised earlier in the year in 2019 than in the previous couple of years.

The same pattern of a rising number of vacancies cannot be said for the primary sector so far this year, and some secondary schools may well find that there are well qualified teachers prepared for the primary sector that would usefully fit into their gaps in the timetable come the summer months.

Nothing in this blog should be news to regular readers, although the speed at which the first Red warning has been issued has taken even me by surprise. Looking back at periods of previous teacher supply problems over the past fifty years, the present state of affairs could build into a really serious problem for secondary schools unless pupil teacher ratios are worsened back to where they were at the turn of the century, some adjustments in the curriculum are made in favour of the arts subjects in the EBacc, where there are generally plenty of teachers available or schools are prepared to see classes taught by teachers with little or no preparation in the subject that they are teaching. None of these is a sign of an excellent education system.

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Amber for business studies

The recruitment round for September 2019 has now been underway for nearly three weeks. Such a period of time might be regarded as too short to create any concerns about the position schools looking to recruit teachers are experiencing.

However, TeachVac, http://www.teachvac.co.uk issued an amber warning today to schools seeking teachers of business studies. TeachVac expects to announce a similar warning for teachers of design and technology before the end of January. In both subjects low recruitment into training means fewer than needed new entrants into teaching in England this September.

TeachVac would probably be issuing a similar warning for Physics but, as most schools in England advertise for a teacher of science, it is less easy to predict the absolute demand for teachers of each science subject area. However, schools should not have any difficulty recruiting a science teacher, as there are far more Biologist in training to be teachers than required by schools.

There will also be more than enough candidates for PE, history, geography and probably English vacancies in 2019 and also for January 2020 vacancies. This is despite falls in the numbers on School Direct Salaried courses.

Schools will face increasingly difficulty recruiting teachers in some subjects, with location, time of advert and the nature of the school seeking to recruit all key factors in determining success or otherwise.

January vacancies are often the most challenging to fill and the DfE should work with COBIS (Confederation of British International Schools) to identify those parts of the world where the yearend is before Christmas and some teachers may be seeking to return to England. The DfE also needs to ensure that head teachers and middle leaders know of the value of recruiting a teachers with some period of overseas service either volunteering or in an international school.

The disparity between the low number of teachers for practical and vocational subjects and excess of teachers for some classroom based subjects is stark and, unless applications pick up for training, will be replicated again in the 2020 labour market.

So, schools should find someone to employ in 2019 and January 2020, but not necessarily with the right background or subject knowledge. This raises the question of whether QTS with no strings attached is still a good idea. It certainly is for Ministers, as they can point to overall numbers when asked about a recruitment crisis and say that there are enough teachers with QTS.

But, is that good enough? My view for many years is that it isn’t. Now the DfE has a vacancy site they also won’t any longer be able to hide behind a lack of knowledge of the vacancies schools cannot fill. After all, if the DfE site displays four times as many business studies vacancies as the ITT census reveals, then Ministers cannot deny that there is an issue.  I suppose the answer will be: we are evaluating the data at this point in time.

Looking back over the blog, I can see very similar posts in recent years, but no evidence of any action being taken in these chronic shortage subjects.

 

TeachVac – saving schools money

The EPI Report published earlier today, about school balances and the use of their income, especially by secondary schools, provides me with an ideal opportunity to beat the drum for TeachVac, the free recruitment site for teachers, where I am chair of the board.

Over the past four years, TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk has built a brand from a standing start and at no cost to the public purse. Last year it matched nearly 55,000 vacancies for teachers in England with potential applicants from across the country. These teachers included, new entrants from training; teachers seeking promotion or just changing schools and returners, whether from a break in service or from working in a school overseas or in the further education sector that includes Sixth Form Colleges.

2019 has started where last year left off for TeachVac, breaking new records within the first week of January. Already, there have been enough new jobs in the first 10 days of January for teachers of Business Studies listed by TeachVac to absorb more than 10% of the new output from training this summer. This is a subject where the DfE really does need to review the bursary funding for trainees if schools are not going either to have to delete the subject or teach it with unqualified teachers or those with QTS, but no subject expertise.

As the DfE vacancy site, the only national competitor to TeachVac that is also free to schools and teachers, approaches full roll out we would invite detailed comparison between the DfE site and TeachVac on both technical features and cost per vacancy. If the DfE is paying too much for its site, then that is still money not reaching schools, but ending up in the pockets of a private company instead.

The TeachVac view is that the sector should be aiming for the lowest price recruitment site compatible with a level of service agreed as the gold standard by all participants in education. In my role as Chair of the TeachVac board, I have been disappointed about the willingness of those representing schools and teachers to even consider properly, let alone offer support, to initiatives by new entrants into this market aimed at saving their member money.

TeachVac has now established a global site for international schools around the world. With the experience of four years of working across schools in England, I believe that TeachVac Global can create the same market transformation as TeachVac has achieved in England.

One other advantage of handling nearly 55,000 vacancies a year through TeachVac is the research evidence it can provide. TeachVac will be shortly publishing its review of the market for senior staff, and specifically for primary headteachers in England during 2018. This will be the second such review, after that of the 2017 market review published last year.

Later, there will be a general review of the market for teachers during 2018, based upon TeachVac’s data. Some of that work will already have appeared in this blog as trends in the 2018 labour market became apparent during the year. This blog has already published some first thoughts about the 2019 labour market for teachers in secondary schools: more will follow as the market for September vacancies develops.

 

 

 

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?’

 

 

 

 

100: well almost

Congratulations to the DfE for reaching the 100 vacancies point on their web site for the first time. Sadly, once vacancies past their closing date and non-teaching posts are removed, the total slips just below the three figure mark, but it will make that level soon, I am sure. This on a day when TeachVac, the only other free site to both schools and teachers, has more than 50,000 vacancies for 2018. To be fair to the DfE, their site still doesn’t cover the whole of the country and has only really been in operation of three months, including the quiet month of August, so it has a way to go to catch up TeachVac, but it is running at about 5% of TeachVac’s total at present.

TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk will also hit another key milestone and new record today. However, those details will keep for another post. Still, the team of six in Newport on the Isle of Wight have much to be proud of in developing TeachVac without a single penny of government money. This is compared with the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DfE has spent on their site.

Rather tongue in cheek, I suggested to officials that the DfE buy the vacancies from TeachVac for a fraction of the cost it would cost the same number of schools to input the vacancies to the DfE site, especially using the DfE’s outdated methodology. The DfE could then work with TeachVac to ensure applicants were attracted to the one site. This is because, without spending on making sure teachers, trainees and returners use any vacancy site, it is valueless. TeachVac also has the added benefit of attracting teachers working overseas to teaching posts in England through its TeachVac Global site for international schools. www.teachvacglobal.com

Unlike the DfE, TeachVac also uses it data to provide schools with information on the local vacancy market and has established a new vacancy index for both primary and secondary classroom teachers that will track how recruitment is changing in a world where funding is a concern to schools, but so is the wastage of teachers with several years of experience in the profession.  The next crisis may well be trying to find sufficient middle leaders with experience and appropriate professional development to take on this demanding role.

The free sites, such as TeachVac and the DfE work alongside paid for advertising sites for teaching posts. As more and more teachers use the free sites, it will be interesting to chart the fate of the ‘paid for’ recruitment advertising market. TeachVac offers a service to the independent sector, although the DfE site doesn’t. At present it seems that Sixth Form Colleges are excluded for the DfE site, presumably as they aren’t technically schools. TeachVac is happy to accommodate such institutions as it also provides special arrangements for MATs, diocese and local authorities to handle both individual schools recruitment needs as well as those for all schools in the group.

Ideally, a jointly managed and badged recruitment site supported by the government, teacher associations, employers and teacher educators would be the best solution, provided that is, it offered the lowest cost solution using the best of modern technology.

 

Teaching as a global career

Should the DfE set up a specific Unit to help teachers trained in England return from working overseas? They might want to work on this with the British Council. Recent data from research organisation ISC suggests that UK private schools are leading the charge into overseas markets, with several new schools established overseas this year alone by schools with headquarters in England. Many of these new schools will have a high percentage of UK trained teachers working in them.

In the past, the international school market was mainly a market serving expat communities, by providing a home country style education that allowed executives to take their families with them on overseas posting. This meant that they were secure both in the knowledge that their children’s education would be protected, and that their children would also benefit from a new set of cultural experiences, together with the opportunity to mix with others from a range of cultures in an increasingly global world.

However, in our increasingly global and digital world, the use of so-called international schools has changed. The pupils in such schools are now predominantly not the children of expats, according to ISC research, but mostly local children of parents than can afford to pay the fees in what are increasingly ‘for-profit’ schools. This raises the question, why should the UK, and England in particular, be supporting the staffing of these schools if we cannot provide enough teachers for our own schools? Making teaching in England more attractive as a career is an obvious way forward, but the DfE should also be examining how difficult it is for teachers that want to return from working overseas to find a job back home. Can more be done to assist these teachers in their quest to return and can more of them be helped and encouraged to return?

This is not an idle question, if the ISC research is correct. Such schools around the world are growing at a rate that will see the number of teachers working in them possibly approach the million mark before the end of the next decade. That’s double current numbers. I have long worried audiences at conferences by pointing out that an entrepreneur wanting to start a chain of new international schools could recruit the whole cohort of NQTs for a particular year. With India now expanding faster than China, and UK Education being highly valued in the sub-continent, the warning signs are there for all to see.

Maybe the DfE should now sponsor a return to teaching in England event in Dubai, a location where there are more than 300 English medium schools, many employing teachers from England. They might do the same event in China and even Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in India and Hong Kong.

I confess to an interest in this issue as TeachVac Global provides a recruitment service to these schools at www.teachvacglobal.com The TeachVac team has seen this growth in demand in the period that the service has been operating. At present TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk the free recruitment site for teachers and schools in England, is separate from the international site, but here is pressure from schools to be able to interact with the large number of teachers in England looking for jobs.

 

Should you train to be a teacher?

This is the time of year when final year undergraduates; recent graduates unhappy with their current lot in life and career changers often start to consider teaching as a possible career.

Teaching in England requires more than half a million graduates to provide an education to all children. Even a low departure rate of around five per cent would require more than 25,000 replacement teachers each year, either through new entrants or by those return9gn to teaching. So, even if the economy goes downhill thanks to trade wars and Brexit, there will still be lots of children to educate.

If you are a potential teacher reading this blog, you can visit the DfE’s advice service for potential teachers at https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/

One of the questions you might want to ask the advice line is, will I find a teaching post where I want to teach and doing what I want to do when I qualify? May, I suggest that if the person answers ‘yes’ to that question, you press them for some hard evidence. After all, the DfE is now running a vacancy web site for teaching posts, so should be able to answer a simple question such as ‘what are my chances of finding a teaching post?’

Unlike many graduate training programmes, only some teacher preparation courses will guarantee those that complete the course successfully a teaching job. Most, however, will require you to take on extra student debt to pay for the course: in some cases this is ameliorated by a bursary payment made tax-free. In other subjects, where the government considers the supply of entrants is sufficient then there is no bursary available. This fact might be a warning sign about job prospects.

Even where there are bursaries, do you want to commit a year of your life to training to become a teacher only to find there are not enough jobs to meet the supply of teachers where you want to teach? Hence the need to quiz the government’s recruitment advisers about vacancies.

If the government cannot answer your question, then local authority might be able to do so, as many still have teacher recruitment services or at least operate job boards and should know something about the local demand for teachers. However, they may not know what is happening in academies in their area, with regard to job prospects for teachers.

You can also ask course providers during any interviews how successful their trainees are at finding jobs and where they find them?

Finally, I recommend you sign up with a job board that can tell you about real vacancies. Beware vacancies not tied to a specific school: the job might not exist. Some schools these days operate talent pools and collect applications even when they don’t have a vacancy. The best make this clear; some don’t.  You can often spot these apparent vacancies by a lack of any starting date and a long period to the closing date with a comment that appointments may be made before the closing date if a suitable candidate appears.

If you want a job board that is free to both schools and teachers and tries to only match real vacancies with teachers looking for those jobs in specific parts of England, then may I recommend TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk This free national vacancy service was established more than four years ago and currently handles more vacancies than any other free service, including that operated by the DfE.  I am happy to be the Chair of its Board.

If you are considering becoming a history teacher, a teacher of PE or of Modern Languages or indeed a teacher of any subject or a teacher working in the primary sector, then signing up when you are considering teaching as a career can provide evidence of the job market that may help you assess the risk of training to be a teacher.

As the Chair of TeachVac, I would be delighted to welcome you to join with many other teachers, trainees and returners already making use of our free service.

Should you have a wish to teacher overseas, then our global site www.teachvacglobal.com  may be able to help you find a teaching post almost anywhere in the world.