You've been busy. You'll be glad to hear we've been busy too

An update from Michael Shaw, Director of Resources, on Tes Resources initiatives

Michael Shaw

You've been busy. You'll be glad to hear we've been busy too

Dear Tes authors,

Hope you’ve had a great start to the autumn. While I sometimes fear we’re bombarding you with messages (our monthly author updates are emailed to thousands of you), a few keen authors have written recently that they’re concerned we’ve been a bit quiet. Some have asked if I can provide a more detailed update. So here one is.

A whole lot of things have been happening behind the scenes at Tes Resources in the last few months. These include setting up a new office in a new city, with brand new content, author and customer services teams, dedicated to supporting you and ensuring users see the best material first when they use Tes.

But amidst those changes we’ve not taken our eyes off driving up more purchases and downloads of your teaching materials.

It’s a credit to you, our authors, that the total value of sales on Tes Resources in the last school year was up by a massive 64% on the year before, and we’re on target for a further major increase over the next academic year. The site continues to benefit from strong search engine optimisation and our total number of downloaders (free and paid) was also up by over a quarter.

However, we still want even more of our visitors to become buyers. That’s the reason we’ve been running lots of small tests to different visual elements on the pages that you may have noticed in recent months. Those changes stack up, and we’ve had a number of successes (the recent switch from the square search page cards to the wider horizontal ones being a classic example of a tiny-looking change significantly increasing purchases).

We’ve also been continuing to help our authors reach a wider global audience. While we started as a platform for British teachers, for the last few years the vast majority of our new registrants have been in countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, India and in the Middle East. In the spring we launched an exclusive partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, which has been guiding its teachers around the world to a special section on Tes that shows materials you’ve tagged specifically to the IB diploma, organised in line with the IB curriculum’s structure. It’s a reminder that tagging your content to a particular curriculum can really improve its visibility.

Some of our authors occasionally question why we continue to promote free material on the site, especially lesson plans by partner organisations and charities. The answer is that we always have, and always will. Tes was a platform for the free sharing of open educational resources for a decade before the marketplace was introduced. But as canny paid authors know, it’s the free content that also keeps the audience coming in and coming back. The kinds of partnerships we arrange are usually ones that put content on the site that teacher-authors would not create themselves, but which should complement their work - whether it’s our partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, or the First World War centenary project involving filmmaker Peter Jackson, or our work hosting lessons to support Google Expeditions in VR. I’d add that our partner content has been particularly good at bringing in teachers in new territories.

Our partner content also assists us in our mission to prove that Tes Resources is the place to find the highest quality teaching materials. This is a project that’s been at the top of our minds since the spring, when we launched our new Author Code and clearer takedown policies – which we’ve been glad to see being shared and discussed positively. Behind the scenes we’ve also been working on new approaches to reviewing and highlighting the best content.

We still intend, as we announced then, to end our approach of rewarding authors with higher royalty rates purely for the quantity of content they’ve uploaded. Finding a new solution that promotes quality materials and is sustainable and competitive, has not been easy, so we’ve not rushed it. We’ve also learned from our announcement in the spring that we need to be able to give individual authors an exact idea of what it’ll mean for them (a few of the phone calls I had afterwards were from authors with incorrect presumptions). There’s still a bit of development work to do, and we’ll give authors advanced notice before any change, but we expect to make a further announcement in a matter of weeks.

Whatever the new royalty structure, we need to do more to support authors who want guidance on how to sell their resources to a wider audience. We want to go beyond what we've done in the past with tips blogs and create a Tes Author Academy – a hub of all the most helpful material, regularly updated. There, authors should be able get the best insight on topics they’ve requested extra support on, including search engine optimisation, sourcing copyright-free images, spotting new areas of demand, marketing and social media promotion. Some of that insight will come from our in-house experts and our contacts, but we will also want to share tips from our most successful authors. That’s why we’re holding a new series of “Author Train Author” events, starting with one tomorrow at our new offices in Sheffield.

The final thing I’d stress is that the biggest work Tes as a whole has been doing in the last two years has been around the services it provides for schools. In 2016 we launched Tes portal, a platform that initially allowed schools to manage recruitment, and now provides much more. The majority of secondary schools in England and thousands of primary schools, plus nearly a thousand international schools are already signed up and using it. Indeed, many now use it daily to book and manage supply teachers. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that the services we list as offering to schools includes “Resources”. Right now it’s just our Tes Elements system with interactive games, which were connected to Tes Portal early on to make it easier for schools to manage staff access. But the next phase is helping schools to buy author-made resources. Work on that has already begun. This will create a huge opportunity for authors to increase school licence sales.

If this update was helpful, or if you’ve got further questions or thoughts, let me and the team know in the Author forum in Tes community - we love to hear from you.

All the best,

Michael Shaw

Director of Tes Resources