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?’