At the start of a new year, it’s natural for people’s minds to turn to the future and whether they’re in the right job.
Teaching is no exception – at the beginning of January there’s usually a spike in interest in moving into the profession.
Unfortunately for the government, the Department for Education’s own efforts to promote a career in teaching were presented in a rather unflattering light last week.
According to an independent analysis for the DfE, government spending on TV and video marketing cost £4,291 for each person who registered an interest online in teaching a shortage secondary subject.
Quantifying the impact of a marketing campaign is not a straightforward business. The firm behind the research, London Economics, actually came to the radically different figure of around £1,140 when they ran the same analysis in an earlier but near identical study. They told Tes that more data was available the second time round.
But those figures will still look like poor value to most observers. They certainly won’t do much to fill people with confidence as the DfE embarks on a new marketing push to encourage people to change careers and switch into teaching.
One of the challenges which teaching faces is that it’s a remarkably ‘permeable’ profession. Almost everyone knows a teacher, so if a reasonable share of the profession isn’t happy with their lot the rest of the country finds out fast.
Heavy workload and years of stagnating pay mean that anyone running a marketing campaign is likely to face an uphill struggle.
And while the government has belatedly scrapped the public sector pay cap and shown its intent to reduce workload, neither area is amenable to a quick fix. It will take time for more positive messages about teaching to filter out to the public at large.
All this is of course taking place at a time when the government has privately admitted that “challenges in teacher supply have worsened”.
The uncomfortable truth is that while the DfE doesn’t appear to have got much bang for its buck from its marketing campaign, the London Economics analysis suggests the situation would have been even worse without it.
A lot is riding on the long awaited recruitment and retention strategy. And the situation is so grave that when it does arrive, there will be huge pressure on the government to put more money behind it.