Recruitment – an end of term report

As schools start winding down for the start of the summer break, it is a good time to assess the current recruitment round for teachers. There clearly isn’t just one market for teachers. Rather there is a complex web of interlocking markets based on geography; phase and specialism, both in terms of subject expertise and other knowledge and experience. House prices matter, as does the reputation of schools and the willingness of applicants to travel any distance outside either their current travel to work comfort zone or to move their location either for a first job or a promotion.

Then there is the issue of retention and where those leaving are going. Frankly, that doesn’t matter to a school seeking to make an appointment. In the short-term, if they aren’t applying for your job or a quitting your school you can face a recruitment problem. Although exit interviews aren’t totally reliable, they can offer some insights if conducted by an independent company with experience in that field. The DfE might like to conduct some sample interviews and also put in place ‘keep in touch’ schemes for those that leave for a career break and are in the age-bracket most likely to want to return after a few years away from the classroom.

With so many curriculum changes in the offing, now is not the time to allow leavers that might return to feel de-skilled. You can read more about returners in the recently published study the NfER conducted some time ago for the DfE about their programme to encourage returners to teaching. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-return-to-teaching-programme

Anyway, back to the current recruitment round. Comparing the number of trainees that qualified this summer with the vacancies on offer across England, it is clear to those of us with access to the TeachVac data that Design and Technology; Business Studies; English and music are the subjects where recruitment is likely to have been most challenging across the country. In Religious Education, the Sciences overall, and IT, the situation is a little better, but not much. Generally, the best supply situation nationally is in the EBacc subjects other than English and the Sciences. However, as this blog as stated in the past, numbers and quality are not always synonymous.

The position in the primary sector is more of a challenge to unravel, partly because of the manner in which vacancies are advertised. However, across most of the country, supply is probably more than adequate, although there may be local shortages of specific skills and expertise.

These numbers matter most to schools if they are faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2019. In the most critical subjects, where vacancies have already exceeded trainee numbers, schools would be best advised to either revamp the curriculum or offer to pay a fee to an agency if they can do the heavy lifting of finding a teacher should they be confronted by an unexpected vacancy.

Finally, it is worth recalling that these shortages come at a time when the Daily Mail is lamenting the fact that selective schools are making teachers redundant. How much worse would it be if schools were still hiring across the board, including to teach sixth form students.

 

 

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Buddy, can you spare a job?

On Wednesday, during his appearance in front of the Education Select Committee, the Secretary of State’s attention was drawn to existence of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk. The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Gateshead MP, Ian Mearns, asked Mr Hinds about the DfE’s new vacancy site and the number of vacancies posted on it at present. At the same time he also mentioned the free vacancy service for schools and teachers already being provided nationwide by TeachVac. The exchange is at 1108 on the video at https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/58da6df3-da79-4b92-99cb-64a2a96d03de

Regular readers of this blog will know of my involvement with TeachVac, in my capacity as Chair of the company operating TeachVac and TeachVac Global, the site for international schools.

The DfE vacancy site is only accepting jobs at present from schools in Cambridgeshire and the whole of the North East region. Earlier today the DfE site had a total of just nine vacancies listed, and only four of those were teaching posts. Of the teaching posts, three posts had a closing date of today and the fourth closes on Monday. As a result, unless new vacancies are posted, the DfE site will have no vacancies for teachers by Tuesday of next week. All four vacancies are from two areas of the North East: there are already no vacancies posted by Cambridgeshire schools on the site.

By comparison, TeachVac has 5 vacancies for teaching posts in Cambridgeshire and 12 vacancies across the North East; all with closing dates extending into next week or beyond. One of the DfE vacancies had its closing date extended earlier today, but that is not yet apparent on the DfE site; it is on TeachVac. This is the quietist part of the year for vacancies, so the next few weeks will provide little evidence about the working of the DfE site and its capacity to handle the large number of vacancies posted during March, April and May.

The DfE site also has a significant problem with one of the posted vacancies, for a Head of Languages, with the result that most applicants probably wouldn’t find the vacancy. TeachVac uses a ‘defined’ vacancy search system, unlike the DfE’s open system that follows the type of systems used by others such as the TES.

The DfE would have saved the taxpayer a lot of money if it had just produced a portal with a list of free sites with national coverage, such as TeachVac; free sites with local coverage and paid for job sites. This would have produced a national coverage at minimal cost of time and money. Instead, there is a site that is spending public money competing with the marketplace. But, that’s alright as the Public Accounts Committee gave the DfE the green light. However, the DfE won’t have any useful data about vacancies until at least 2020 at the current rate of progress.

I also wonder how many millions will be spent on marketing their site. Again, there is a low cost solution that has political attractions for the Secretary of State, but he is going to have to ask if he wants to know what it is. Should the Select Committee want to ask me, I am happy to respond I am already updating the professional associations and other key players about TeachVac whose revamped site went live this week handling vacancies in schools across England.

 

 

 

Red alert for English

TeachVac, the free National Vacancy Service for teachers, trainees and schools today warned of a ‘red’ alert for schools seeking to appoint a teacher of English. TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk issues such an alert when the volume of vacancies tracked is sufficient since the 1st January of that year to have absorbed 80% of the total trainee numbers as recorded in the DfE’s annual ITT census. TeachVac has issued red alerts for English in previous recruitment rounds, but never as early in the cycle as mid-May. In 2017 the alert was issued at the end of May and in 2016, not until late into the autumn term.

TeachVac, where I am chair of the Board, says that the situation in English is complicated by the large number of trainees in the DfE’s census on programmes such as Teach First and the School Direct Salaried route. These trainees are not usually available to all schools. If their numbers are removed from the census total, then in some parts of England it is quite possible that all trainees will have been offered jobs by now. That is already the situation in subjects such as Design and Technology and Business Studies. TeachVac is also monitoring the position in science very closely, as a recent upsurge in vacancies has meant the percentage of trainees remaining is likely to be approaching critical levels quite soon. Full details are available to schools registered to use the TeachVac service that has saved schools many millions of pounds in recruitment advertising, at no cost to the public purse.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by any of the above, since it was clear at this point last year that not all training places would be filled. The scale of the shortfall was confirmed when the DfE issued the ITT census data late last autumn. In reality, the latest data is just confirming what has been known would be the case for the past twelve months.

As the 2018 recruitment round is looking worse than at this point in 2017, and there will be even more pupils in our secondary schools in September 2019 than in this coming September, the signs are for an even worse situation in 2019 unless a new supply of teachers can be found from somewhere.

With the abolition of external agencies such as the TTA and NSCL of former years, Ministers have nowhere to hide and nobody else to blame if the crisis deepens. Setting up a task group, as has been put in place for workload, might offer Ministers some breathing space, as might a helpful pay settlement that boosted entry pay and provided for a salary for all during training along with pension credits.

The sad thing is that unless something is done, schools in many parts of the country will be paying large sums to recruit for those unavoidable January 2019 vacancies and some private sector companies will be making profits out of the situation.

Job listings for teachers

There was an interesting meeting/workshop at the DfE yesterday. The focus was on their embryonic (and expensive to produce) ‘job listing service’, to use its current working title. There were more DfE representatives in the room – were they being paid London salaries – than the whole workforce of TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk that is located on the Isle of Wight. This is surely the sort of project that could have been outsourced to an area of high unemployment to boost a local economy, maybe it is and I am doing the DfE an injustice?

Anyway, private BETA testing is now taking place in part of Cambridgeshire and the North East of England. The aims include providing better data for the DfE. They won’t have any for this recruitment round, so they might like to view this post https://wordpress.com/post/johnohowson.wordpress.com/2542 where I commented on the situation in London.

Those of us attending the event were told not to take photographs of the slides of the entry screens to be used by schools to log jobs. However, anyone that wants to see what the system might look like has only to log on to https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/secondary-school-teacher to have some sort of idea of what the site might look like, as the DfE team are using the gov.uk standards and templates from ‘scheme.org’.

In her introduction, the deputy director at the DfE responsible for this work area said the goals included:

  • reducing the time and cost to schools – TeachVac does both of these already and
  • making finding jobs easier – but no evidence was provided as to what was wrong with current job boards and other means of finding vacancies for teaching posts.

However, the Deputy Director did say that job seekers had told them that poor quality listings make finding jobs difficult. I challenged her to publish the evidence on this point, as TeachVac welcomes feedback and the team in Newport want to know if the DfE has evidence from users about TeachVac. Sadly, I didn’t receive an answer to the direct question.

There is a hunger out there for a vacancy listing service from schools and I believe TeachVac offers the best free national vacancy service currently in operation. TeachVac hasn’t required a penny of public money. If you agree there is a need, go to https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/214287 and add your name to the petition. But also go to www.teachvac.co.uk and register as a teacher and make a free search. Then ask yourself what more do I need to know when looking for a teaching post? Let the team know your thoughts.

TeachVac may not look like a wonderful up to the minute site, but it works and you only see the front end screen when you register or change your preferences, so all the investment goes on making the system work for you.

TeachVac is a closed system – you cannot view all the jobs on offer and that is deliberate. No agency can download all the jobs. The risk of the DfE’s ‘open’ system is it provides an incentive for commercial companies to capture applicants – especially new entrants from training – and sell them to schools for a finders’ fee.

An outcome where the DfE destroyed the present market, only to create new commercial opportunities in the recruitment market at even greater cost to schools than the present system would not be a sensible or desirable outcome. But, it is a risk of the present approach using an ‘open’ system.

Is the DfE work value for public money/ That’s for others to judge, but if you haven’t tried TeachVac yet, www.teachvac.co.uk then please do so before making up your mind.

Is London leading the teacher job market in 2018?

Will the STRB have to take a long hard look at where teachers are needed when deciding how to make the pay award this year? I ask this question because TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk, the free to use recruitment site that matches vacancies for teachers with applicants, where I am the Chair, can reveal the importance of London in the teacher job market during the first quarter of 2018.

According to DfE statistics, in January 2017, London schools taught some 16% of the nation’s children educated in state-funded schools. The assumption might be that these schools might require a similar proportion of the nation’s teachers.

There are several challenges to this assumption. Firstly, more teachers may be required because pupil rolls are rising faster in London that elsewhere in the country, especially in the secondary sector. Secondly, London, as a region, educates more children in independent schools than other regions. While London accounts for some 16% of children in state-funded schools, it accounts for 26% of those educated privately in recognised independent schools. As such schools generally have smaller classes and larger numbers of post-16 pupils than many comprehensive schools, their presence will probably increase the demand for teachers needed to work in London. TeachVac handles vacancies from both state and private schools. Thirdly, teachers in London may be more prone to either move around or move out of teaching: including going to teach overseas.

So what did TeachVac find during the first quarter of 2018?

Recorded main scale vacancies placed by secondary schools January – end of March 2018

London England % Vacancies in London
Business 110 355 31%
Music 68 244 28%
RE 75 301 25%
Social Sciences 55 227 24%
Geography 142 595 24%
PE 87 382 23%
Science 500 2229 22%
History 92 412 22%
IT 75 358 21%
Languages 195 936 21%
Art 54 278 19%
Total 2379 12423 19%
Mathematics 318 1813 18%
English 274 1566 17%
Design & Technology 62 454 14%
Humanities 16 129 12%

Source TeachVac.co.uk

As far as the levels of vacancies for main scale teaching posts in the secondary sector are concerned, London schools seem to be advertising more vacancies than might be expected, even allowing for the higher than average number of pupils in private sector schools.

The most interesting feature of the table is how it is the smaller subjects where the relative demand is highest in London. In English and mathematics, London’s share of the national vacancy total is possibly even below what might be expected, given the percentage of pupils in the private sector. I think this may be explained by the significant presence of Teach First in London schools and the importance of both these subjects to the Teach First programme. On the other hand, the subjects at the top of the table mostly do not feature so prominently in the Teach First programme: perhaps they should.

April is the key month for recruitment at this grade, and TeachVac has already experienced a bumper start to the post-Easter period, even though many schools are officially on holiday. TeachVac can link every vacancy on its site to a job posted by a school. The TeachVac site contains no vacancies from agencies or other sources, a factor, as the Migration Advisory Committee found some years ago, resulting in an inflation of the figures to a point where they can become almost meaningless. As a ‘closed site’ that only sends jobs to registered applicants TeachVac also cannot be browsed by those wanting to extract a finder fee from schools.

Finally, it seems as if the DfE may launch a trial of their own service later this month. do test TeachVac at the same time and with the same parameters and let me know how TeachVac measures up to the DfE’s millions of pounds of expenditure on the project?

 

 

Why is the DfE spending millions inventing a teacher vacancy service?

The DfE is asking for your views about its idea for a new on-line vacancy service for teachers. You can read about it in the DfE’s digital blog – is there any other type of bog? – and the link is https://dfedigital.blog.gov.uk/2017/11/15/how-were-creating-a-national-teacher-vacancy-service/ The blog post was written by Fiona Murray way back in November and could do with a refresh, especially now the Public Accounts Committee has effectively sanctioned the DfE spending the money to develop the service beyond the idea of just a concept to test. The suggestion was in the Tory Manifesto for the general election last year.

As regular readers know, I have a personal and professional interest in the labour market for teachers. Personal, as the unpaid chair of TeachVac, and professional as someone that has studied aspects of the labour market for teachers for nearly 30 years.

If you are a user of TeachVac, the free to schools and teachers vacancy service covering the whole of England that has been operating for the past four years, you might want to use the comment section of the DfE blog to explain your experiences with TeachVac. If you aren’t a user of TeachVac, then register for free on TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk and then read the DfE’s blog and see whether what they are suggesting is worthwhile compared with what already exists.

I don’t know whether or not the DfE will include independent schools in their service as TeachVac does. According to the DfE blog one school leader told the DfE:

 “If I’m being honest, I’d be quite happy with a basic website, that’s as basic as the most basic website I could remember, that was free, where all of the vacancies were. And that’s not very ambitious, but believe me, school leaders will think that’s a miracle.”

Clearly, that person hadn’t seen the TeachVac site. So, if you are like them, do pay TeachVac a visit and don’t forget to tell others. Then head over the DfE blog and leave them a comment as requested.

What will the other providers of platforms used to advertise vacancies think of the government’s move into a new attempt at a vacancy service? Clearly, those that charge for recruitment stand to be affected in a different manner to TeachVac that is a free service.

What will be interesting to discover will be the attitude of groups such as the teacher associations; NASBM; governors; BESA and bodies such as REC that represents many recruiters? There might also be implications for local authorities that operate an extensive system of job boards across the country and play and important part in the recruitment landscape for the primary school sector. All these groups should really evaluate the DfE’s offerings against the present marketplace and identify the solution that offers the best value for money for schools. After all, a Conservative government surely cannot be opposed to the free market offering the best solution.

There is also a risk that the DfE’s latest attempt to enter the vacancy market for teachers ends up as the School Recruitment Service, their previous foray into the market, did nearly a decade ago. What the DfE must not do is unintentionally destabilise the market and then withdraw. Such an outcome would be disastrous for schools and teachers.

 

 

 

 

Teacher Recruitment

The Public Accounts Committee has today published a report in to teacher recruitment and retention. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/460/46002.htm Associated with the report they have published a letter from the Tes about their recruitment and CPD services. It may well be that the letter from the Tes was published because it corrected a perceived inaccuracy in the oral evidence as to advertising rates.

The PAC has asked the DfE to continue its work on a vacancy service, so I thought, for the sake of completeness, I would share the letter that TeachVac sent to the Committee via its Clerk last November. the letter has now been published by the PAC as part of the evidence relating to this inquiry: better late than never.


Meg Hillier MP

Chair, Public Accounts Committee

House of Commons London SW1A 1AA

21st November 2017

Dear Ms Hillier,

Retaining and developing the teaching workforce

I refer to the recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on the above subject. It was concerning to see the Department for Education is planning on spending significant money on developing a system for teacher recruitment that already exists and successfully meets their defined objectives. Their stated objectives were to provide a free service for recruiting teachers to schools which at the same time produced useful data about the teacher vacancy marketplace. A system that does just this has been extant since 2014 and now has more teaching jobs in England than any other service including the paid for recruitment providers. TeachVac produces daily data which is unavailable elsewhere and is completely free to schools and teachers. We have attempted to interact with the DfE team but the conversations about both the data we could make available to them and any modifications to the system they would wish to see have met with a desultory response at best. Considering that this system has cost the government nothing, meets their stated objectives and was developed by a team with some 60 years combined experience of this market, we wondered why the committee didn’t ask the DfE representatives about alternatives that would not impact the already strained education budget. I understand the work undertaken by the DfE so far has been using a third party company that has no experience of the rather different education recruitment market. It appears to have SRS written all over it, but I suppose the DfE will consider that it is ‘their’ system not someone else’s. At TeachVac, the development of another free to use service will not affect our revenues so our concerns are related to the waste of the education budget not our own finances. I would be happy to brief you or your Committee about how TeachVac provides an extensive and free service and the copious and detailed data we collect. I have attached two examples of this data, the first is a look at the problem one county’s primary schools are experiencing in appointing Head teachers and the second is comparative recruitment data for two schools in the same town an issue discussed during your hearing.

Yours sincerely,

The DfE is now sifting through the responses it has received to the bids to develop a service. However, the service will miss the 2018 recruitment round and could have a profound effect on the stability of the whole market for teacher recruitment and, unless mandatory, the quality of the data collected will depend upon the degree of take-up by schools.