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?

 

 

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Thank you Laura

Buried in the opinion section of Schools Week is the news that Laura McInerney has stepped down as editor of that publication after a three year stint in the role. During her time at the publication it has become a leading publication for news and opinion on the education scene. It has especially helped sharpen up the use of data and statistics with some compelling on-line graphs and other representational methods. I much appreciate the work Schools Week has achieved in this field.

Despite a small staff at Schools Week, I have always considered the level of journalism to be exceptionally high, and I read the on-line version most days, often before choosing what to write in this blog. Sadly, that means I don’t pay for what I read.

As a regular blogger, as well as the founder of the free recruitment site for schools and teachers, TeachVac, I know how frustrating the freedom of the web can be to those trying to make money from publishing. I am sure that Schools Week is not a philanthropic publication, but trying to make money must be a real challenge.

One of the early staff at Schools Week, along with Laura, was Sophie Scott. She interviewed me for one of the first dozen Profile pieces, even before Laura had become editor. I had first known Sophie when she had worked for the Oxford Mail and Times, a paper that has created many fine education journalists that have subsequently worked on national titles. The link with Sophie helped create an excuse for Schools Week to ring me up from time to time to ask for my opinion and sometimes just to take note of what I had written in my blog.

Laura had a great interest in the lives of those who have been Ministers of Education or Secretary of State for Education. Indeed, I think she may be one of the few people that has read Ellen Wilkinson’s book, ‘The town that was murdered’ about Jarrow in the 1930s. She has also, I know, read Fred Blackburn’s biography of that other post-war Labour Minister of Education, George Tomlinson, Eileen Wilkinson’ successor after her untimely death. No doubt she has also read all the books of the lives of all other holders of the top ranking education post at Westminster.

Laura doesn’t say what she will be going on to do now she has relinquished the editor’s chair, but I am sure she has a great career ahead of her in whatever field she chooses to work. I note that she hasn’t entirely severed her connection with Schools Week, but will write for them from time to time.

Laura, thank you for everything you have achieved over the past three years at Schools Week, and I am sure you will be enjoying your first Christmas without having to worry about either the next story you have to write or editorial decision you have to make. Thank you for your tenure at Schools Week; you will be missed.