September 2016


  • Find your inner chimp
    Reflective practice has long been recommended as a good thing but how does it engage the brain? Professor Steve Peters devised the Chimp model to identify the neuroscience behind reflection and help improve individual performance. More
  • Beyond data
    Leaders need a holistic view of their school if they are to set priorities that will truly accelerate learning for all of their pupils and especially for the most vulnerable, says Philippa Cordingley. More
  • More or less?
    Why is there an over-supply of teachers for PE but a shortage for business studies? Professor John Howson looks at the modelling process that predicts the number of trainee teachers required nationally and why it’s never an exact science. More
  • Making an in-road
    A Secretary of State from a comprehensive school is just one of the post-referendum changes for education. Malcolm Trobe looks at what’s in Justine Greening’s in-tray and what else is on the agenda for the year ahead. More
  • P8 ready
    Greg Watson looks at how senior leaders can use their existing programmes of assessment to help all of their students continuously improve and explores what’s next for the new measure. More
  • Powerful knowledge
    Schools should teach children to know and to learn for the rest of their lives, not for short-term gain, says Headteacher Carolyn Roberts. If they fail in that task, inequality will continue to blight society. More
Bookmark and Share

Why is there an over-supply of teachers for PE but a shortage for business studies? Professor John Howson looks at the modelling process that predicts the number of trainee teachers required nationally and why it’s never an exact science.

More or less?

Deciding how many new teachers to train each year is a tough job. Train too many and the Treasury wants to know why public money has been wasted; train too few and some schools won’t be able to recruit all the staff that they need. Officials also have to undertake the task several years ahead of time.

This summer, the government has been assessing how many teachers to train in the academic year 2017/18. These trainees will mostly enter the labour market in September 2018 with a small number needed for January 2019 vacancies.

Civil servants started this year’s exercise knowing that the school population was on the increase. They also knew that more teachers were leaving the profession in recent years as the wider economy recovered from recession and that public sector pay remained heavily regulated, especially with regard to annual increases.

Referendum effect

What they didn’t know was the outcome of the referendum on Europe and its possible consequences for the economy and on population movement, both inward and outward. As a result, even if the places allocated by the government are fully taken up by prospective trainees when trainee recruitment opens later in the autumn, the numbers may well still be wrong. Such is, too often, the fate of planners.

Because the teacher-supply model essentially uses data that is up to several years old, its outcomes ought to be subject to review by a group of knowledgeable individuals, including people from ASCL, who can question any obvious anomalies arising from the planning process. For the past two recruitment rounds, based on evidence collected through TeachVac (, our free-to-schools vacancy matching service, we have queried the shortage of business studies places for trainees as well as the over-supply of training places for teachers of physical education compared with recorded demand from schools across the country.

In both cases, the modelling process is correct, using authentic and reliable data, but produces the wrong answer. Of course, you can still have the right answer, as in physics and design and technology, but not recruit enough trainees. That isn’t the fault of the planners, but of another group of civil servants.

While planners may not have been able to foresee the result of the referendum, they can model the effects of the introduction of any national funding formula on the demand for teachers. However, to do so may indicate, ahead of any consultation, the thinking of government. This relationship between policy change and future consequences on the ground goes a long way to explain why, for so many years, the teacher-supply model wasn’t shared with anyone outside of government.

Unexpected vacancies?

Putting aside all of this background, schools and headteachers really want to know where they are if faced with unexpected vacancies for January 2017. After all, there are no more trainees entering the labour market until next summer and the recent School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report identified new entrants as taking 55% of main-scale vacancies, up from 50% a few years ago.

At TeachVac, we track the number of trainees, as recorded by the government’s November census on initial teacher training (ITT) places, against recorded vacancies. We discount those trainees on Teach First, now included in the census, and those on the School Direct salaried route as these two groups are likely to be employed either in the school where they train or another local school if they prove to be suitable entrants into the profession. We also take off a percentage for those unlikely to complete their teacher preparation programme, for whatever reason.

By the end of term in July 2016, TeachVac was showing the following position: (see graph, right)

The over-supply of PE teachers highlighted above meant that there may well have been only just over 60% of PE trainees left in the ‘pool’ of available teachers this July, based upon recorded vacancies from more than 3,600 secondary schools, whereas the number of vacancies for business studies teachers had already far exceeded the number of trainees in the ‘pool’.

Subjects where the bars in the chart are shown in red are those where TeachVac estimates that schools in some parts of the country may find recruitment a challenge when advertising vacancies during the autumn term. Obviously, the lower the percentage, and especially for negative percentages, the greater the number of schools likely to face challenges.

For the subjects where the bars are shown in amber, there should be enough trainees to meet overall demand but, of course, they may not be in the right places. This was undoubtedly one reason why the government White Paper in March discussed the idea of a National Teaching Service and why trials were undertaken in two regions.

Across the state-funded and private sectors demand is not uniform, with some areas creating far more vacancies per schools than other areas. As in 2015, London schools have far more vacancies than do schools in some other areas. Now that TeachVac has two years of recruitment data, we are looking to extend our services to the education community.

This summer we helped provide a range of schools bidding for training place allocations for 2017 with information about their local labour market to help explain their bids. We are also launching Teachsted, a service for schools that may be subject to an inspection by Ofsted. Teachsted uses TeachVac data to provide information about the ease or difficulty of recruiting subject teachers in a school’s local area. It will help schools respond to Ofsted questions on teacher recruitment and retention during an inspection.

The service will aim to provide the data within one hour of the request being received. Sadly, this is not a free service as the TeachVac vacancy service is, and will always be, but we believe the charge for providing the data is modest. More information can be found at

The picture for 2017

Finally, a brief first look at the recruitment situation for 2017. At the time of writing, recruitment to courses is still in progress. However, based on past experiences, we believe that there will be insufficient trainees in subjects such as physics, design and technology, maths, business studies and IT entering training, unless there is a last-minute rush.

A survey of School Direct salaried courses shown as having vacancies on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website at the end of July revealed more than 600 listed vacancies, although some may have been duplicates advertised under more than one heading. Nevertheless, there were only two vacancies in the North East, compared with more than 100 in London schools. This reinforces concerns for the labour market in London.

Although schools may have found the 2016 recruitment round easier in some aspects than the 2015 recruitment round turned out to be, the staffing challenge facing schools is not yet over and much uncertainty surrounds the 2017 recruitment round that starts in January.

TeachVac will continue to monitor the situation and offer schools a free platform to place vacancies at no cost to themselves, teachers or trainees.

Average number of jobs advertised per school recorded by TeachVac between January 1 and July 20, 2016:

North East  North West  Yorkshire & the Humber  East Midlands West Midlands  London East of England  South West  South East
 4.03 4.07 3.17 4.43 3.91 6.29 5.17 3.58 5.30

Professor John Howson is Chairman of TeachVac.