Is the teacher job market changing?

Earlier this week Will Hazell, the relatively new education reporter for the i newspaper and a former TES journalist, produced a piece about agencies charging schools a ‘recruitment fee’ after signing up teachers looking for jobs. Since governments of all complexions have been happy to leave teacher recruitment as a free market activity, why wouldn’t commercial organisations aim to help schools solve a recruitment issues for a price. After all, schools have been paying local authorities, the TES and other newspapers to place job adverts for many years. Indeed,  even search agencies are also not a new phenomenon in the marketplace. In addition, there are other new approaches to recruitment as schools seek direct marketing and MATs use central recruitment pages for all their schools.

However, what might be acceptable as a fringe activity affecting only a small number of schools can become a matter of public concern if a greater number of schools are involved and the sums being made reach significant amounts.

As I have written before on this blog, why wouldn’t busy teachers and trainees take the bait offered by agencies if it makes their life easier? Selling yourself on every application form you complete takes far more time compared with filling out just one registration form per agency you register with and is a no brainer, especially with the amount of work teachers and trainees face during term-times.

Even where jobs are easy to find, because the supply exceeds demand, teachers can benefit from a system that reduces their need to complete a series of application forms on the off chance they might come second in an interview. But all this costs schools money. Even so, advertising hasn’t traditionally be free, and can take up more time an effort if there either isn’t much interest and either a re-advertisement is necessary or there are lots of applications and time has to be spent by a group of staff short-listing candidates for interview. These costs need to be set against any finders fee.

In the past, I have pointed out that knowing the state of the job market helps schools to choose the most cost-effective path to recruitment. Want a business studies teacher in London or the Home Counties, then paying an agency on a ‘no find, no fee’ basis might be cost effective from the end of February onwards. Want a PE teacher or a historian at the same time of year, and agencies might still be cost effective in saving staff time sorting through lots of applications, especially with the risk of ensuring there is no discrimination in your short-listing process.

So, should there be a public sector registration point where candidates must register if they want a teaching post, and that can manage supply and demand more effectively than the market?

TeachVac already knows where the bulk of the jobs are and can offer schools a service telling them how many potential applicants have been match with a vacancy. TeachVac can also tell candidates how many jobs in a selected area meet their parameters in a given time period, and also advise when a candidate’s search area is not wide enough for them to expect to have a good chance of securing a teaching post. This data changes as the school-year progresses.

At present, TeachVac offers its service free to both schools and those seeking teaching jobs. Providing the data about jobs to both schools and teachers has a cost, but it wouldn’t be very high; perhaps £5 per search. Let me know what you think?

 

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TSM Works, but only if trainees are recruited

As regular reads will know, I have been a student of the government’s process for deciding how many teachers to train each year ever since the late 1980s. Indeed, my first correspondence with the Department, and its civil servants, was on this very issue after a report identifying the mechanism used was published by what was then still known and the Stationery Office.

For a long time soon after start of the Blair government, the workings of the Teacher Supply Model or TSM as it’s usually referred to, went under cover and were not generally shared with the wider public until David Laws, as a Minister in the coalition, added the TSM to the list of open government actions. Since then it has been available to all that are interested: not many are I suspect.

All this is a rather long-winded way of paying tribute to the present generation of civil servants that mange the current version of the model. Using TeachVac data on vacancies advertised across England between January 2019 and the start of September, it becomes obvious that where the TSM number was met during recruitment into training for secondary sector subjects there were probably sufficient trainees to meet most of the demand from schools for teachers. This is despite the increase in pupil numbers again this year.

Subject 2019 demand for trainees
History 50%
PE 46%
Geography 51%
Languages 30%
Art -1%
RE -11%
Mathematics -11%
Computer Studies + IT -14%
All Sciences 12%
Music -49%
English 12%
D&T -266%
Business Studies -333%

Source TeachVac

Now I am not going to reveal how TeachVac exactly works out the relationship between vacancies as a measure of demand and the TSM number, but it should be clear from the table that in those subjects where there was significant over-recruitment last September, such as PE, sciences – thorough biology, but not chemistry or physics- and history and geography, there has been no problems for schools.

At the other end of the spectrum are business studies and design and technology where there was big gap in recruitment last year and schools have been challenged to find teachers in these subjects, often having to re-advertise a vacancy. This problem of re-advertisements just makes the issue seem even worse than it actually is.

As I have pointed out in the past, asking schools to allocate a unique number to each vacancy until the post was filled would solve this problem at a stroke and provide useful data about the quantum of re-advertisements, and the schools most likely to need to re-advertise. We can but hope that with the DfE’s own vacancy site, this will be something civil servants will consider.

So, congratulations to the TSM team at Sanctuary Buildings, but not to those responsible for planning how to recruit enough teachers to meet the identified needs. Why this issue still doesn’t receive the same attention as the threat of a medicine shortage after Brexit isn’t clear to me. After all, the education of the next generation of citizens is vital to the health of this country as much as any other function of government.

Indeed, unless something is done, teacher supply will still be an issue long after the outcome of Brexit is consigned to history.

Teachers always needed in London

Four out of every ten teaching vacancies in England, advertised between January and the end of July this year, were placed by schools located either in London or the South East. Add in vacancies from the northern and eastern Home Counties, including Essex, Hertfordshire and schools located in a clutch of unitary local authorities and the figure for vacancies comes close to half of all teaching posts. This data come from TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the company where I am Chair of the Board.

By contrast, the North East and North West together account for only 12% of vacancies. This increases to 20% if the Yorkshire and The Humber Region is added into the total. Of course, these are smaller regions than London and the South East, but that doesn’t account for all of the difference.

Undoubtedly, the school population is rising faster in London and the Home Counties than elsewhere, both because of the birth rate increase a few years ago and also because of the amount of house building, especially in parts of the South East. Oxfordshire has had three new secondary schools over the past few years, with more to come. This after a period when no new secondary schools were built in the county.

Although Teach First is now a programme spread across England, its influence in London can still be seen. Schools in the Capital generally topped the list for percentage of vacancies recorded by region, but were in second place in terms of the percentage of demand for teachers of English and only in joint first place with the South East in demand for teachers of mathematics, both accounting for 19% of the national total of advertised vacancies.

Another reason demand may be high in London and the South East is the significant number of private schools located in these regions.

Interestingly, ‘business’ in is various forms was the subject where London was further ahead of the rest of the country; accounting for a third of all vacancies advertised so far in 2019. Add in the percentage for the South East and the total for the two regions is more than half the total for the whole of England.

In business, as in a range of other subjects, schools needing to recruit for vacancies that arise for January 2020 are going to find filing those vacancies something of a challenge. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit and the state of the world economy, there won’t be a reserve of newly qualified teachers still looking for work in many subjects. Languages, history and geography within the EBacc being exceptions, although even here there are likely to be local shortages, regardless of the national picture.

Recruiting returners and persuading teachers to switch schools may be the best options for schools suddenly faced with a vacancy, for whatever reason. There will be some teachers coming back from overseas and TeachVac has seen more ‘hits’ on the web site from Southern Hemisphere counties over the past few weeks. But such numbers may only be of marginal help unless there is a really deep global recession.

One option the government might consider is offering teacher preparation courses starting and ending in January as well as September. The Open University used to be very good at offering courses that graduate teachers in time to meet the needs of schools looking to fill their January vacancies.  It might be worth considering such an option again.

Stop wasting money

A new report commissioned, and part funded by the Local Government Association, has found that ‘middle tier’ oversight functions for academies cost some 44% more than for local authority maintained schools. The research was carried out by Sara Bubb Associates, and the team conducting the study involved some senior figures from the world of academia. The full report can be accessed from: http://sarabubb.com/middle-tier/4594671314

This study published shortly after the call for evidence by the Confederation of School Trusts (see earlier post) shows that the overall costs for middle tier functions within the academy system in 2016/17 was £167.05 per pupil compared to £115.71 for the local authority system. It is worth pointing out that the two do not share a common financial year, and that some of the disbanded local advisory and professional development functions may have been taken up by MATs. However, neither of these points would be likely to fully explain the difference between the two amounts.

By my calculations the figures in this report suggest that saving of some £300 million might be made if the ‘middle tier’ was rationalised and local authorities were charged with oversight of all schools; perhaps with regional boards to allow for the economies of scale that this report points out are missing from the current academy sector at present.

The authors of the report call for an urgent review of the middle tier system in the light of international best practice. It is generally acknowledged that England has some of the most centralised public services; schooling is no exception to that state of affairs. The authors also recommend an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the multi-academy trust model, and I would add of standalone academies as well. The authors also want to see greater efficiency, fairness and transparency in funding the oversight of England’s school system. The DfE has gone some way since the data used in this report on at least facing up to the high salaries that were being paid in some parts of the academy system, but have not yet tackled the underlying issues identified in this report.

The DfE has also undertaken some work to drive down costs for schools, emulating, for instance, TeachVac’s free national vacancy site with a version of their own. However, the have failed to take on board advice in the 2016 White Paper that might have clarified some of the ‘middle tier’ functions, such as in-year admissions once again becoming the responsibility of local authorities. That isn’t just a cost matter, but also one of fairness for pupils compelled to change school during the school-year. As I have pointed out in the past, children taken into care and moved away for their own safety from their previous home often find some schools reluctant to admit them, even if they have places available.

Perhaps any new regime at Sanctuary Buildings after the new Prime Minister enters into office will use this report as the basis for a fresh start. However, I am not holding my breath. In the meantime, reports such as this one that highlight the amount of money being spent unnecessarily are to be welcomed.

 

 

 

More signs of recruitment concerns

You can tell how serious the teacher recruitment crisis is becoming for the government when you see TV adverts in July encouraging people to sign-up to become a teacher. Now comes news from SchoolsWeek, in an exclusive report on their website, stating that the ‘Skills Tests’ are to be ditched as well. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/qts-skills-tests-set-to-be-scrapped/ apparently, some one in eight of those taking the tests can fail meaning they are lost to the teaching profession even if they have the necessary GCSE grades.

Clearly, it is important to ensure a high standard of both literacy and numeracy in our teaching force, especially in those teaching the fundamentals of these curriculum areas. However, I am sure that the change, if announced by the DfE, will come as a great relief to career changers and those on programmes such as TeachNow that might be a bit rusty in the finer details required in the tests.

Indeed, I doubt whether I would pass either of the tests without a significant degree of additional effort. I can see why some might not want to make that effort, especially when QTS is handed on a plate to teachers qualifying in the USA and some Commonwealth countries.

In the same edition of SchoolsWeek there is another story that Teach First has offered places to 82% of their applicants that made it through the assessment stage, meaning there are likely to be 1,735 Teach First trainees this year, compared with 1,259 last year. This is good news for schools, but may be less good news for trainees on other routes if the increased numbers are in subjects where competition is still relatively strong for jobs and Teach First trainees, by already being in schools, have a head start. It would be interesting to see a breakdown by subject for the increased numbers over last year.

TeachVac, the free national vacancy site, where I am chairman, has data that shows this year to be one where many schools are facing real issues in recruitment in a wide range of subjects. For schools with unexpected vacancies in the autumn there may well be real issues recruiting across the board.

The government’s plans for more sport may also help to soak up the reservoir of physical education teachers created by training far too many for the needs of schools. Indeed, so valuable are some of these teachers to fill in across a range of subjects that this year there are fewer still available than in previous years. Indeed, it is humanities teachers that are probably struggling the most to find a job, and probably history teachers most of all across much of the country.

There are still just under two months to go before most teacher preparation courses commence in the early autumn, so the next few weeks are critical to the government in terms of recruitment and the 2020 labour market. An announcement of a significant pay increase for new entrants might help boost recruitment more than dropping the Skills Tests, but we must await the STRB report to see whether that will be the case.

NASBTT Awards 2019

Last evening I attended the first ever awards ceremony to celebrate excellence in school-based teacher education and to recognise the exceptionally hard-working and talented staff that make school-based teacher education a success.

This was an evening of meetings with old friends, including someone who I help tutor on their Master course more than twenty years ago and who is now a senior education official. Such meetings are just as joyful as when teachers meet former pupils. There was also the opportunity for great conversations about education and, hopefully, the start of new friendship within the education community.

Much of my career in education since the 1980s has been involved with teacher preparation in one way or another, and it is wonderful to see how NASBTT has developed and flourished into the important organisation it has now become.

TeachVac, the organisation where I am chairman, was especially delighted to be able to sponsor the award for the Administrator of the Year at last night’s ceremony, as throughout my career I have been lucky to work with some splendid administrative staff at all levels. Entrepreneurs probably miss the support of a good administrator more than anything else when starting up a new business: well, I know that I certainly have.

Below is an extract of the short speech I gave when introducing the finalists and then presenting the award.

Full details of this award and all the others, including the successful nominees can be found at https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/nasbtt-awards-2019/

“As many of you know, we started TeachVac five years ago to save schools time and money by using the best that modern technology can offer, coupled with an extensive understanding of the education scene.

TeachVac has listed 47,000 jobs since the start of January, well 47,003 to be precise up to when the office closed this afternoon, all at no cost to schools in either money or time.

TeachVac doesn’t want to waste administrator’s time, but please do ask your teachers to check when they cut and paste information about jobs. The number of times either a maths job contains the word English all the way through the job description or the closing date is after the starting date: well TeachVac’s staff have stopped counting.

Administrators are busy people, indeed I salute their ability to multi-task; dealing with the panic on the phone while at the same time reassuring the student about an assignment date, and simultaneously filling in that DfE form requiring the number of left-handed trainees over the age of thirty and with naturally curly hair; while thinking, whatever next.

When I set up a SCITT in 1995, I appointed the administrator before the course leader. Good teachers are not yet commonplace, but they can be found; good administrators are like gold dust.

I was reminded of all this when reading through the excellent submissions for this award: hardworking, sensitive, forward thinking, tea and tissues were just some of the terms that would feature in a wordle of the description of the qualities of an administrator. I would add, approachable, friendly and all-knowing to that list

As a result, it is with really genuine pleasure that TeachVac sponsors this award.”

NASBTT has come a long way from its early days to its current format as a leading player in the teacher training, education and development market. Good luck for the future

 

Focus is now on September

When schools re-open tomorrow, they should know the extent of any challenges they face to ensure a fully staffed curriculum for this September, barring any last minute accidents. Although unusual in nature, the long lead time for resignations does allow for schools to have the best part of three months to fill any last minute vacancies. Compare this with say, the NHS, where officials told a meeting I was at last week of staff only required to provide a month’s notice, but recruitment taking as long as three month. Even for January vacancies, schools generally have two months to find a replacement.

By the end of May, TeachVac http://www.teachvac.co.uk had recorded an average of 7 advertisements per secondary school in England for main grade teachers. For schools in London, the average was even higher, at just over 9 advertisements per school. To balance this, in the North West, the average was a little under 4.5 advertisements per school.

Add in the primary sector and promoted posts and the overall total so far in 2019 for vacancies has already exceeded the 40,000 mark.

As already recorded on this blog, a number of subjects are classified by TeachVac as carrying a ‘Red’ warning. This means schools anywhere in England can expect increasing difficulties in recruiting a teachers for either September 2019 or January 2020.

Based upon the latest recruitment data from UCAS, for graduate teacher preparation courses starting in September 2019, and discussed in a previous post on this blog, it seems likely that the 2020 recruitment round in many subjects in the secondary school curriculum is not going to be any easier than the 2019 round, especially as pupil numbers will be higher than this year.

The labour market for primary classroom teachers looks to be more stable than for secondary classroom teachers, although there are still issues with particular posts in certain locations.

Even if the EU is no longer a source of teacher supply, and some other countries have stopped training far more teachers than they need, it seems likely that attracting teachers from overseas will be a key route to filling January vacancies. However, competition in what is now a global teaching market is much greater than in the past, so teaching will need to be a competitive career or risk not only recruitment issues but also problems with retention levels as well, especially for middle leadership posts in expensive areas of the country.