Job Done Mrs May

We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.                                                         Conservative Party Manifesto page 51

Good news for the Conservatives: this already exists and is free – TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk is now the largest teacher job site in England and is free to all users; schools to place vacancies and teachers and returners to locate jobs that meet their needs.

So, Mrs May, pick up the phone and call the team in Newport Isle of Wight and we will happily show you how the service operates. We are already saving schools millions of pounds in recruitment advertising and with government support, such as is envisaged for the supply sector, we can channel probably another £50 million into teaching and learning while providing accurate and up to the minute management information for civil servants and ministers.

This is one area where you can say, job done, even before the election.

Peak time for vacancies

The period two weeks after Easter usually proves to be the peak of the recruitment cycle for teachers by schools seeking to be fully staffed for September. Vacancies due to promotion have been identified; school rolls for September can be calculated as admission numbers are now known; most teachers deciding to retire or leave the profession for other reasons will have made their decisions known to the leadership of the school and budgets, including Pupil Premium, can be calculated with some degree of certainty.

At TeachVac we are seeing that profile again this year. Indeed, I am somewhat surprised how resilient the job market has been after all the dire pronouncements during the teacher association annual conferences about the lack of funding for schools. However, as I wrote in an earlier post, teaching posts are often the last thing a school will cut when finances are tight. I suspect that the position would also be a lot worse if there hadn’t been such a severe restriction on the growth of the teachers’ salary bill in relation to other costs. Once the line gives way on the 1% per annum pay increase, then that is when teaching posts will come under real pressure, unless there is an injection of more funds.

At least, this year, there are more trainee teachers around than last year and probably than there will be next year, judging by the evidence discussed in a previous post based upon the UCAS data for April. As might be expected, the number of recorded vacancies for business studies teachers has exceeded both the trainee numbers and likely returners, so schools can expect to find that subject difficult to staff for the next twelve months, and probably beyond.

The pool of teachers of English not on preparation courses linked to schools is shrinking rapidly and those schools that have to trawl in the open market, especially in and around London, may increasingly find recruitment a challenge. There should be less of an issue in mathematics, based upon the absolute numbers of trainees, but, of course, there may be issues with quality and depth of knowledge of the subject. At the other end of the scale, there are still plenty of art and PE teachers along with those training to be teachers of IT. Despite the talk of reductions in the amount for time being allocated to design and technology, the supply of trainee teachers has diminished rapidly over the past few weeks, as the pool was not overly large to start with this year.

TeachVac, as the free services to schools and teachers, continues to provide matches on a daily basis to direct teachers to the vacancies, so that schools can know very quickly whether they are receiving expressions of interest. We note at this time of year schools often cut and paste vacancies when placing them on their web sites, and common issues are with out of date closing dates; wrong salary scales and even a mismatch between the headline subject and the details of the vacancy. We advise applicants to check for errors; schools should also mystery shop their vacancy web sites on a regular basis to ensure they aren’t wasting money because of mistakes in the information provided.

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 www.teachvac.co.uk . 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 www.teachvac.co.uk 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 www.teachvac.co.uk 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.

 

Marketing teaching vacancies

Many years ago I used to write a column called ‘job facts’ for the TES. Later, wrote the ‘Hot Data’ column that covered far more than jobs, but that is another story.

In another sphere, the ‘job facts’ column had an influence on the short-lived experiment of TeachersTV, started and ended by the Labour government of the early years of this century. Every Friday on TeachersTV there was a programme about the jobs on offer that week to teachers. These were mostly culled from the pages of the TES, but on some weeks the vacancies were taken from the eteach job board. The programme was mostly recorded on a Wednesday and comprised three segments. A pre-record of what it was like to live and teach in a particular town or area; a discussion of trends in the job market and the highlighting of particular vacancies that had caught the eye that week.

Why is all this relevant now? Well, as the leadership vacancy season builds towards its peak and the classroom teacher job market comes alive with early vacancies, before reaching a peak in the spring, it is interesting to ask the question; are the cuts to school funding everyone is talking about showing up in the job market for teachers? For a few more weeks, the government will have to rely upon the 2015 School Workforce Census data on vacancies when asked the question about trends in the labour market: however, 2015 may not be a very reliable guide to 2017. Even the 2016 data, when it appears, will be of interest in terms of the trends it reveals in context to previous years, but not what is actually happening in the current recruitment round in 2017.

Does it matter? Well it is always useful to have reliable evidence to back assertions with. Are there fewer teaching posts available for this September than there were last year? At TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk we are, of course, monitoring the trends on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and can now compare what is happening with past years. By the end of this month TeachVac will have some interesting data for 2017.

Unlike the basic free service, designed to save schools money our data analysis, except at the overall level revealed in this blog, Teachvac’s data is not free. There is a limit to any generosity. But, for anyone interested in say, the make-up of design and technology vacancies: do we need more food than electronics teachers, or of language teachers: is Spanish still the language most in demand and how many posts teaching Mandarin are there on offer, TeachVac can provide the answer.

TeachVac regularly works with researchers as we can link our vacancy data to information about location, background, outcomes and other characteristics of schools. If at the heart of good decision-making is good data, then I am working with the team to strive to make TeachVac the best source of real-time data on the labour market for teachers and other staff in schools across England. That’s a long way from ‘job facts’, but thanks to improvements in technology one that has become a realistic possibility.

 

Thank you

My thank you to everyone that has followed this blog in 2016. By the end of this month or in early February, the 500th post is likely to appear. Not bad for a blog started in January 2013 with no such goal in mind. Rather, it was originally designed to replace my various columns that had appeared in the TES between 1999 and early 2011 and then in Education Journal in a more spasmodic form during the remainder of 2011 and 2012. This blog has allowed me both editorial freedom to write what I have wanted and also to avoid the requirement of a fixed schedule of a column a week that had dominated my life for more than a decade.

Anyway, my thanks to the 11,738 visitors from 88 countries that read at least one post during 2016; creating a total of 22,364 views. The viewing figures have been around the 22,000 mark for the past three years, although the visitor numbers in 2016 were the highest since 2014.

My thanks also go to the many journalists that have picked up on stories that have been run on the blog during 2016. Many of these have been associated with TeachVac, the free to use recruitment site I co-founded in 2014. The recognition of the brand has grown, especially over the past year, so much so that its disruptive technology poses a real threat to more traditional recruitment methods. With funding for Teachvac throughout 2017 secured, plus a growing appetite for the data the site can produce, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts in 2017.

TeachVac can easily meet the needs of a government portal for vacancies suggested in the White Paper last March, with the resultant data helping provide useful management information for policymakers. TeachVac already provides individual schools with data about the state of the trainee pool in the main secondary subjects every time they input a vacancy. With regional data from the census, it is possible to create local figures for individual schools and profile the current recruitment round against data from the past two years taking into account both the total pool and the size of the free pool not already committed to a particular school or MAT.

2017 is going to be an interesting year for recruitment as school budgets come under pressure and it is likely that teachers and trainees in some subjects in some parts of England may find jobs harder to secure than at any time since 2013. However, London and the Home Counties will still account for a significant proportion of the vacancies.

What is unknown is how teachers will react if the government presses ahead with its plans for more selective schools. Will new entrants to teaching be willing to work in schools where a proportion of the possible intake has been diverted to a selective school; will the current workforce continue to work in such schools or seek vacancies in the remaining non-selective parts of the country? No doubt someone has some polling data on this issue.

 

 

Issues around collecting vacancy data

Today was the day that submissions had to have been sent to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in connection with their partial review of shortage subjects in education. In preparing the TeachVac submission www.teachvac.co.uk we confronted several methodological issues.

In the first instance, there is the issue of collecting continuous data versus collecting data at a single point in time. TeachVac collects new data every weekday, whereas the DfE collects vacancies only in terms of the number of vacancies recorded at the date of the School Workforce Census in November. So long as there is data for several years that method provides information about trends at that point in time, but cannot say anything about what happens during the rest of the year. The DfE can also calculate turnover and that is also important as additional evidence, but not as compelling as it might seem at first sight. Turnover records outcomes and not desires, so if a school advertises for a teacher of physics, but appoints a biologist because no physicist applies, the data has recorded the turnover, but not the fact that it wasn’t an ideal match with the original requirement of the school.

Some other organisations that collect data on teacher vacancies appear to reply upon vacancies advertised on job boards. Even if job boards are studied regularly, the fact that many vacancies aren’t linked to a particular school makes identifying a reliable total more of a challenge. Is this maths vacancy advertised today for a teacher in London the same as the one advertised yesterday or was that filled and another London schools has requested a teacher? Indeed, could there be several vacancies for maths teachers in London hidden behind a single advertisement? This is more doubtful, because presumably job boards want to show they handle a large number of vacancies for many different schools. Hopefully, there are no occurrences of ‘ghost’ vacancies advertised on job boards just to attract applicants to the site.

As TeachVac is now collecting additional data on several man scale vacancies, it is also able to more successfully handle the issue of identifying multiple vacancies advertised at the same time in the same subject. This is quite common in new schools advertising for staff for the first time, and not unusual in subjects such as English and mathematics during the height of the recruitment season during April.

There still remains the issue of re-advertisements that bedevils all those that study vacancies. The only perfect solution is to ensure a vacancy is attached to a unique identification number that follows it until the post is filled. Until then, there must be an element of extrapolation in any statistics that analyse the job market. There is a similar issue with repeat advertisements, especially in print media, but this is essentially the same problem discussed above with jobs that appear on digital job board. TeachVac has a mechanism for coping with this issue as part of its AI routines.

The MAC will no doubt be wise to these issues when it considers the submissions it has received. It will also have to consider why in the past business studies and design and technology weren’t considered as shortage subjects. Finally, there is the issue, advanced by some in the maths world that schools are supressing vacancies because they don’t want to alarm parents.  To measure that you need to look at the DfE’s analysis of teacher numbers and the highest level of qualifications of those teaching a subject and how those have changed over time.

TeachVac has now extended its AI to start collect vacancies beyond teaching and it is discovering some of the issues recorded here makes data collection in that sector possibly even more of a challenge.