New data from the Tes Recruitment Index shows that schools across England find it most difficult to hire teachers in the core EBacc subjects, with the exception of recruiting English teachers, which has shown significant signs of improvement since last year.
The Tes Recruitment Index tracks secondary schools’ ability to recruit teachers via advertising, by region and subject. Launched in 2012, it is the most comprehensive and frequent survey of teacher recruitment advertising activity in schools in England. Today’s figures are from the period running up to Easter 2017, always one of the busiest and most critical times for schools to recruit teachers, and are compared with the Easter periods in previous years.
Overall, the latest Index suggests teacher vacancy advertising has become more successful since last year, with the overall index rising 2.6 points since last year and remaining above the 2012 benchmark. This suggests that schools, in aggregate, filled a higher proportion of the vacant teaching posts they advertised during the Easter period in 2017 than during any Easter period since 2012. However, evidence indicates this is due in part to schools turning away from free or low-cost vacancy advertising and increasingly adopting other methods such as agencies, which research suggests attracts lower quality candidates.
Schools reported that recruitment efforts were more successful in five of the eleven subjects tracked. However, in four subjects – art and design, history, geography and science – it became harder to fill posts in the past year, with most core EBacc subjects at the foot of the table.
Tes Teacher Recruitment Index by subject (EBacc subjects in bold type)
Rob Grimshaw, chief executive of Tes, says: “There is good news in our latest Recruitment Index data. Schools are finding more success filling posts through vacancy advertising, but as ever the devil is in the detail. In certain regions, and for some key subjects, we find secondary schools are still finding it difficult to attract teachers. Many are turning to agencies as a first resort. Research suggests this attracts lower quality candidates and is typically four or more times as expensive as advertising, so you have to ask what is putting schools under so much pressure. There is an imbalance between the supply of new teachers and those leaving the profession, meaning there is a growing issue of supply of quality candidates at secondary level.”
There is evidence that school leaders are making more effective use of internal placement, restructuring and taking a longer-term view of succession planning, all of which are positive steps. But the increased reliance on recruitment agencies presents a particular concern, as advertising remains the most cost-effective way to recruit candidates and tends to provide candidates of the highest quality.
Grimshaw continues: “Tes fully endorses other initiatives, such as encouraging flexible working and job sharing, which can make returning to teaching more attractive to those who have left the profession. We also advocate for new and innovative ways of attracting quality candidates to the profession in the first place.”
Last year’s “Feeling the Squeeze” report by PwC revealed that advertising remains the most cost-effective way to recruit teaching candidates, while tending also to produce the highest quality candidates. Innovations such as the Tes School Portal allow schools to promote vacancies for free, while the average cost of advertising vacancies has dropped by almost half in the past three years, in response to competition and pressure on school budgets.
Data from “Feeling the Squeeze” by PwC (2016)
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In most regions of England, more posts were successfully filled via advertising during the Easter period in 2017 than in the previous year – with the exceptions of the East Midlands and North East, where recruitment success dropped notably by 11 and seven points respectively.
Tes Recruitment Index by region – Easter 2017