Bulk buying back in vogue

When I was a young teacher in London there was a large central buying organisation for schools, called something like Greater London Supplies. I recall that they had a big depot at Tottenham Hale in north London. Purchasing basic supplies on behalf of large numbers of schools made good business sense, even to the most socialist of Labour councils. However, it didn’t make sense to the Thatcher government that believed market competition at a school level was the way forward.

Reading the DfE’s recent announcement on procurement and helping schools with costs, suggests that this is yet another move back in the direction of levering the purchasing power of schools as a combined unit, rather than expecting them to operate as individual business sites. How long will it be before Ofsted is asked to include in their inspection report whether a school is making full use effective purchasing decisions to target as much cash as possible on teaching and learning?

TeachVac, the free vacancy site for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk  where I am chair of the board, doesn’t yet feature in the DfE list. I am sure that they will find a good reason not to list it, as they don’t yet list any vacancy advertising services, whether they are either paid for services like all the others or free like TeachVac and their own nascent service. Maybe they don’t want competition?

The government’s actions in driving down costs aren’t completely risk free. After all, if prices are driven down too far then suppliers will exit the market and leave just one monopoly provider. At that point, it becomes an issue as to whether the State should regulate the provision of the service or actually take over the running.

As I have suggested in previous posts on this topic, once prices have been reduced by increasing efficiency then it can become very difficult to make a profit. Then there is also the reason why local decision-making was favoured by many: the speed of service delivery. A central maintenance contract may be cheaper, but what is the true cost of waiting several days for a window to be replaced or a leaking toilet mended?

I am sure that there is a unit within the DfE thinking of other areas where schools can either save money or increase their incomes without putting more pressure on parents. They might want to ensure deals there are good deals on school uniforms and sports kit and make schools explain why they are requiring a uniform that is more expensive than the average. Tradition, would not be a good enough answer.

My own suggestion for research is, as mentioned before, school playgrounds. They must be the least used piece of real estate in the country. I don’t suggest they are done away with, as when needed they perform a vital function, but what can we do with them for the other 99% of the year? More all-weather community pitches; a source of generating renewable energy; even vegetable growing spaces areas with a playground on top.

We are spending millions on research into driverless cars; how about a couple of million for more effective playground spaces?

 

 

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Marketing matters

TeachVac, the free recruitment site for schools and teachers, www.teachvac.co.uk is having a bumper August in terms of visitors. That’s not really a surprise, as Teachvac has upped the marketing budget to widen our reach even further than the record numbers of teachers reached during the recent peak recruitment season. The months between March and June witnessed records being broken every month.

August is a good time to market to teachers as they are often interacting with social media and may have more time than at other points in the year, apart from that week between Christmas and New Year.

TeachVac staff are also busy working away at updating all our information about schools. What was Edubase – now GIAS, ‘Government Information About Schools’ – seems to contain a proportion of errors. Most are trivial, names not yet updated or re-brokered academies were the data hasn’t caught up with the change. But, there are a small number of more serious issues, such as the primary school listed as a post-16 establishment and the multi-academy trusts where all schools are listed under the central office site, making it difficult for parents to know where each school is located and possibly skewing the data associated with the school that can affect the results for several different geographical areas.

Once TeachVac’s staff have completed their update, we will see if the DfE is interested in knowing of these issues? As it is a free service to schools and teachers, should TeachVac make a charge for such a service to the DfE?

On a different but not unrelated front, BERA, the British Education Research Association will publish a blog from 2016 posted on this site that I wrote about school recruitment differences across the country. This will form part of a new series BERA is promoting. I will provide the link to their site on the 5th September when it becomes active. It may also be possible to provide an update on the situation in 2018 to compare with the outcomes in 2016 what I wrote two years’ ago.

Next week will also see the August data from UCAS about recruitment to postgraduate teacher preparation courses starting this September. Although not the final figures, the August numbers do provide a clear direction of travel for the 2019 recruitment round. I hope to publish a three-year comparison of the August figures along with the regular monthly commentary.

 

Are all trainees equal in the job market?

There is quite a lot of other data in the ITT profiles that wasn’t discussed in the previous post on this blog. However, it also has to be said that there is a lot of data that isn’t in the profiles, notably for different secondary subjects and routes and regions. I assume the DFE uses that data when considering the bids from providers, but with largely open recruitment, in all except a small number of subjects, it is only meaningful data if it shows some regions are missing out on trainees. A breakdown of employment by region where QTS was obtained and region NQT is reported as teaching in would also be interesting. However, as some providers are close to regional boundaries maps showing the percentage of those with QTS teaching in each region by region of QTS award would be the best method of displaying such information.

Still, we must make do with what is on offer. I prefer the simple calculation for postgraduate trainees of the percentage of those that were recorded as final year trainees and the percentage in teaching six months after gaining QTS. This includes teaching in the private sector, so isn’t yet providing a picture of those that started an ITT course and ended up teaching in a state funded school. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before that data is available.

Anyway, what do we know? Women outweigh men at the start of the final year by more than 2:1. Women are also more likely to end up in teaching than men. 85% of women recorded as final year trainees were in teaching six months from being awarded QTS, compared with 79% of men.  Of the 8,525 men recorded as final year trainees in 2016, only 6,700 were in teaching by then end of 2017. There were 285 recorded as looking and a further 365 recorded as still to complete QTS, so the percentage could increase, but it could also increase for women as well for the same reasons.

Members of ethnic minorities, of whatever gender, fare less well than those from a non-minority ethnic group in the working as a teacher outcomes. Only 78% of the 3,875 that were recorded as final year trainees from an ethnic minority group were recorded as being in a teaching post six months after receiving QTS. Again, there may be late entrants yet to come from the pool of 120 trainee still looking and the 290 yet to complete QTS.

Recording a disability seems create an even greater hurdle. Of the 2,560 trainees recorded as declaring a disability at the start of their final year, only 1,960 or 77% were recorded as in teaching six months after receiving QTS. This is especially disappointing in light of the fact that 12% of final year trainees, a record percentage, declared a disability. More work needs to be done to discover the issues with this group finding work as a teacher.

Finally, I am interested in how trainees find their teaching jobs? Are more now offered jobs by the schools where they spend time and do fewer trainees need recourse to national jobs sites such as either TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk – where I am chair – or other recruitment sites? Do please let me know your thoughts.

 

Notice to ITT providers, both existing and potential new providers

I would be grateful if readers of this blog could alert those that either provide ITT places or are seeking to do so in 2019 to the following.

In the DfE’s Requesting initial teacher training places for 2019 to 2020 document issued yesterday https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/initial-teacher-training-itt-requesting-places-2019-to-2020 There is mention of:

.. a realistic assessment of employment need in the local area in submissions (Section 3, page 6)

TeachVac is able to offer providers an independent set of figures showing the number of vacancies advertised in Jan – Dec 2017 and from Jan – Jun 2018 in a range of secondary subjects and for primary teacher posts. There is a small fee providing this information. TeachVac will also add some summary information about the national vacancy situation at the end of 2017. The information provided can be used to justify data include din submissions to the DfE

TeachVac’s normal turnaround for this service would be three working days from receipt of both an official order and details of the secondary subjects needed, whether primary teacher vacancies are required, and local authority areas to be covered. A one working day turnaround is available for an extra fee.

TeachVac can offer the following list of secondary subjects for which data is readily available:

PE, Art, History, Languages, Mathematics, All sciences, Music, Geography, English, Computing /IT, D&T, Business Studies as well as primary teaching vacancies.

Other secondary subjects on the DfE may well be available – if you would like data on these, please ask about the specific the subject required.

Costs:

For many providers the costs are likely to be £55 + VAT, but larger providers requiring more data, a provider could pay around £110 + VAT. This is made up as:

Up to 5 subjects across up to 5 LEA’s – £55 + VAT (this is the minimum cost)

If you need more subjects / local authorities then TeachVac will charge £28 + VAT for each group of up to 10 subject-LEA’s (1 subject in 10 LEA’s or 2 subjects in 5 LEA’s etc).

Expedite fee (1 day turn around) – £85 + VAT

Sub division of science into Combined / Physics / Chemistry / Biology specialisms as requested in the job adverts – £11 + VAT per LEA. This service is also available on request for design and technology and modern languages for an extra fee.

Those providers who recommend TeachVac to their trainees and or registered schools are entitled to a 10% discount on these costs.

How to proceed:

Email data@teachvac.com with details of who you are, a list of subjects, a list of LEA’s, any special requirements and whether you recommend TeachVac to your trainees and or registered schools.

TeachVac will email back a total cost and action the request upon receipt of an official order / order number.

TeachVac is a totally free national vacancy service to schools and teachers.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact TeachVac.

 

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?

 

 

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.