Talk to APPG for the Teaching Profession


MARCH 2017 Meeting

Teacher Supply, the current position, an update by Professor John Howson, Chairman TeachVac

There are three issues that I want to touch on in these brief remarks:

Vacancy rates for September 2017

The supply of new entrants for 2017

Applications for teacher preparation courses starting in September 2017 and consequences for 2018 labour market.

In passing, I will say something about the labour market for head teachers in the primary sector so far in 2017.

Vacancy rates for September 2017

Over the first two months advertised vacancies for secondary school classroom teachers have exceeded the numbers identified during the same period as in 2016 and are closer to the levels seen in 2015.

The largest demand has once again been in London and the counties and unitary authorities surrounding the capital. Demand has been lowest in the north of England and parts of the Midlands.

With so much discussion about funding pressures, the reasons for the increased demand in some regions might include, the upturn in pupil numbers creating a demand for more teachers; increased losses to the profession from wastage of teachers early in their careers; a buoyant independent sector following the drop in the value of Sterling and a re-balancing of the curriculum in favour of EBacc subjects, notably Geography.

The supply of new entrants for 2017

This is largely dependent on the intake last September to teacher preparation courses. With some teachers on these courses likely to fill vacancies in the schools where they are currently working (Teach First and School Direct Salaried trainees) the overall number in training is not the ‘free pool’ of trainees available to the remaining schools seeking to make an appointment. This divergence between the overall trainee numbers and the ‘free pool’ can be significant and is one of the risks associated with a move to an overwhelmingly school-based teacher preparation regime.

At this stage of the 2017 recruitment round that covers September 2017 and January 2018 vacancies, TeachVac has already issued a red alert for business studies. A read alert means that on the current number of recorded vacancies we do not expect there to be enough trainees to fill all vacancies during the recruitment round. In business studies, a non-bursary subject largely ignored by the DfE, we expect the trainee pool to be exhausted before the summer.

The other subject where TeachVac data reveals the potential risk of a shortage is English. We expect to issue a red alert sometime in late April or early May, but it could be sooner if present trends persist. Apart from in art, PE and Music the other core subjects of the secondary curriculum are flagged as ‘amber’ by TeachVac, based upon the current vacancy levels. This means later in the recruitment round some schools in certain locations may experience recruitment challenges and may have to rely more upon returners or teachers moving schools. For schools and MATs that use TeachVac, we update the data on a daily basis so they receive the most up to date assessment when posting a vacancy.

Posting vacancies to TeachVac is free for schools.

The remainder of the talk is available on request from Teachvac 

Crisis in primary headship?

Last December this blog asked a question about whether there was a crisis in finding leaders for primary schools in England? As a result of new data collected by TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher and school leader recruitment, we are able to make a first attempt at answering that question.

TeachVac recorded 359 vacancies for head teachers during January 2017, of these 336 were in the primary sector, with 23 advertisements seeking a head teacher for a secondary school. Of the total, some 89 schools had placed a second advert more than 21 days after the original advert and up to the 6th March 2017. That’s a second advertisement rate of 25%. It is possible that the percentage will increase further as schools try to complete their recruitment process and interview the short-listed candidates.

The recorded distribution of schools advertising across the country was:

East Midlands 22
East of England 47
London 37
North East 17
North West 56
South East 84
South West 41
West Midlands 31
Yorkshire & the Humber 24

One school advertised twice in January on the 3rd and 31st

Among the 89 schools that had placed a second advertisement by the 6th March, over half were in either London or the two regions surrounding the capital. In contrast, very few schools in the north have yet re-advertised a headship.

As has been common when I studied trends in the labour market for senior staff in schools for almost 30 years, between 1983 and 2011, church schools, feature prominently in the list of schools that have re-advertised a head teacher vacancy. There are also a disproportionate number of infant and junior schools, as I suggested might be the case in the December blog. Any factor that makes a school different for the average school increase the risk of the need for a re-advertisement.

TeachVac has a growing amount of data on the schools advertising, in many case including the salary on offer where stated and the background to the school. This allows cross-checking on Ofsted inspections; free school meal percentages and pupil outcomes.

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 . 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.


Have you tried TeachVac yet?

Recently, a head teacher told me he wasn’t using TeachVac because there must be a catch. I don’t see how you can offer a free service without there being a catch, the head told me. Clearly, this head wasn’t a user of twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the other disruptive new technologies that are free to use. I wonder if this head grumbles about the cost of recruiting staff, but doesn’t do anything about it.

Now let me be absolutely clear, and please do pass this on to others, TeachVac was established to do two things. Firstly, to offer a free recruitment service to schools, teachers, trainees and returners and, secondly, to use the information to collect better data on the working of the labour market for teachers about which in recent years, since the decline of the local government employers surveys, we have known relatively little.

I suppose it is the cynicism of the current age that many in education don’t believe a group of individuals would have set up TeachVac in the way it was just for altruistic reasons. But they did.

Does TeachVac pass on details of those that register to anyone: no it don’t. Does TeachVac bombard users with adverts every time they log on or receive a match; no it doesn’t. Is TeachVac a front for a larger organisation trying to corner the recruitment market that will then charge monopoly prices once it has removed the competition: no it isn’t.

My motivation in gathering a group of like-minded individuals around me to establish TeachVac was based upon putting back something into the education world in the only area where I had some expertise. A decade ago, the government tried to help the recruitment of teachers through the School Recruitment Service: it failed. Why it failed makes for an interesting story and tells us much about the nature of schooling in this country. Happily, most of those that lead our schools are more interested in teaching and learning and the pupils in their charge than worrying about the systems that support them. Unhappily, without a supportive middle tier this can lead to heads relying on those that don’t seem to have an understanding about driving down costs.

Now, it may well have been legitimate to say when we started nearly three years ago; we will wait and see if TeachVac succeeds. After all, nobody wants to sign up for a one-day wonder. But, Teachvac has now into its third recruitment round and hasn’t missed a day of providing matches when there have been new vacancies to match. You cannot do better than that for service.

With the demise of the National Teaching Service, before it even ventured beyond the pilot stage, and the Select Committee today endorsing the need for a national vacancy web site as a way forward, as I mentioned in my previous post, TeachVac is there for the sector to take-over. In another post, I will explain what is stopping that happening.


TeachVac can offer a solution for free

The House of Commons Select Committee has now produced their report into teacher recruitment and retention.

After reports by both the National Audit Office and the Migration Advisory Committee in the past twelve months, the Education Select Committee has wisely opted for a tightly focused report. After all, the evidence is well known to everyone interested in the subject.

However, it is interesting that the Committee has opted for the use of the word ‘challenge’ rather than the more emotive term, ‘crisis’. In their choice of language, the Committee might have offered an analysis of when a challenge might become a crisis? Why does missing the supply target five years in a row not constitute a crisis? Is the problem across the county nowhere a regional crisis: not even in Suffolk and parts of Essex? After all, the Committee took evidence for the head of a Southend Grammar School.

Nevertheless, one must not be too critical, the Committee has put the issue back on the agenda and tasked the government to come up with a plan to tackle the shortages. I am sure that the government will rightly point to their proposals to increase skill levels of those teaching the subjects. I think that is an excellent proposal, but it doesn’t do anything to address the suppressed shortages where subjects have been taken off the timetable or had reduce the amount of teaching time because of a lack of qualified teachers. I was also glad to see a reference to primary specialist teachers: a sector where little is really known about the skills base.

As you might expect, I am happy to discuss with officials both the working of the Teacher Supply Model and the operation of a free national vacancy service. I would hand over TeachVac to the government tomorrow if they agreed to pay its operating costs.

Over the past two years, TeachVac has shown how we can both provide high quality data not currently available to government and cut recruitment costs to schools across the whole of England. The evidence is in the TeachVac submissions to the Select Committee for anyone to judge. (links 46 and 47) Perhaps the DfE could broker TeachVac as a part of the College of Teaching offering to the profession?

The section on continuing professional development is also to be welcomed. With a relatively young profession there is a need for much more investment than has been the case in recent years. However, the Committee didn’t really discuss the issue between CPD for the needs of the profession and CPD for the needs of an individual’s career. The development of teachers for pupils with special needs can highlight both aspects of this issue. Why would a school invest in developing the skills of a teacher that will then move elsewhere and how does the profession suffer if they don’t?

The government will now, hopefully, provide a formal response to the Committee and Ministers will certainly be asked about their views when they next meet the Committee. Will the DfE produce a long-term plan by the summer? We must wait and see.


Counting Jobs

The recent report from the Migration Advisory Committee was full of lots of useful data. 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 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.


More on BREXIT

Tomorrow, the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee reports on its review of teaching. This follows a consultation that closed in September. At present, mathematics and some science teachers are covered by the current Tier2 visa scheme. It will be interesting to see what the report says tomorrow. Although physics is a shortage subject and the ITT targets have been missed ever since science was dis-aggregated into the three subject areas, the issue is less clear cut in mathematics, especially if vacancies are related to the number of trainees. TeachVac submitted evidence to the consultation.

As I have noted before, there is the matter of design and technology and possibly business studies. Both are subjects where training targets have been missed in recent years and the supply of teachers doesn’t seem able to keep up with the demand. This was even in the years when the subjects were unfashionable with Ministers. Presumably, that isn’t the case now the government has an Industrial Strategy. It will be interesting to see if these subjects are mentioned in the MAC’s Report.

On a similar topic of recruiting teachers from overseas, in December the DfE issued tender RFX159 – Supply of teachers qualified outside of England. This specified within the terms:

‘The Contractor must work in consultation with the Client Organisation to prepare a Business Brief, which may include, but not be exclusive to, the following: a. scoping of the work required by the business area in respect of; i) single or multiple recruitment campaigns targeting qualified maths and physics teachers primarily from Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and USA. Further high performing countries subject to agreement. Ii) Any other recruitment and supply of teachers to English schools.’

Now I thought we were about to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU, so it is rather surprising to see the government offering to fund a recruitment campaign in these EU countries. One wonders what France, The Netherlands, Spain and probably several other EU countries may think about not being specifically mentioned. I am sure it isn’t because of any view of the quality of their teachers. Perhaps the DfE just thought there might be a pool of unemployed teachers of these subjects in say the Czech Republic, but not in neighbouring Slovakia or Austria or even Hungary.

The inclusion of the USA is interesting as, unless they have a right to work here, they will need Tier 2 visas.  Presumably, the DfE either knew what the MAC was going to say or assumed the MAC would still be including these two subjects in the Tier 2 scheme. We will know tomorrow. The USA was a country where the qualified teachers were granted the right to QTS by Mr Gove during his period as Secretary of State. In recent years, several hundred teachers from the USA have been granted QTS on the basis of their qualifications according to NCTL data.

Finally, it is worth noting the contractor can be paid ‘for any other recruitment and supply of teachers to English schools.’ This is a very wide brief and can be open to lots of different interpretations.