An expert look at ... government spending on teacher recruitment

11th January 2019 at 00:05

Every week, one of our reporters will take a look at one of their specialist topics and offer their unique insight. This week, Will Hazell questions whether the government’s marketing bill for teacher recruitment represents value for money 

At the beginning of January, there’s usually a spike in interest in moving into teaching.

Unfortunately for the government, the Department for Education’s own efforts to promote 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 equated to £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 straightforward. The firm behind the research, London Economics, came to the radically different figure of around £1,140 when it ran the same analysis in an earlier but near-identical study. It said that more data was available the second time around.

But, to most observers, those figures will still look like poor value for money. They certainly won’t fill people with confidence as the DfE embarks on a new marketing push. 

Teaching is a remarkably “permeable” profession. Almost everyone knows a teacher – if teachers aren’t happy, the rest of the country finds out fast.

Heavy workload and years of stagnating pay mean that anyone running a marketing campaign for teacher recruitment is likely to face an uphill struggle.

And while the government has belatedly scrapped the public sector pay cap and shown its intention 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 that the situation would have been even worse without it.

 A lot is riding on the long-awaited teacher recruitment and retention strategy – due to be published within days or weeks. 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. 

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

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