The challenges affecting the 2016 teaching job market

Although September marks the start of the new school year it doesn’t mark the end of the 2015 recruitment round. This will come in December after any vacancies for January 2015 have been filled. Recruitment to these vacancies will need to be either from the limited pool of new entrants that completed their teacher training in the summer but still haven’t found a teaching post or from other sources – no new trainees will enter the job market now until the summer of 2016. Other sources of teachers to fill January vacancies include, ‘returners’ to teaching; existing teachers seeking to change schools – perhaps because a partner has been relocated – and overseas teachers.
The challenge with regard to obtaining visas for teachers from some parts of the world (even though these teachers have automatic ‘Qualified Teacher Status’) means that parts of the EU with high unemployment may provide new recruiting grounds for those seeking to help schools fill their January vacancies.

Regional differences
During the recruitment period for September 2015 vacancies there were some marked regional differences in advertisement rates for vacancies on our TeachVac web site. Although we were only tracking main scale secondary vacancies this year, there were some obvious regional variations.
London and the two regions closest to the capital, the South East (5.29) and East of England (5.91), all had vacancy rates per school above the national average for England as a whole, with schools across London averaging more than 6.5 advertisements per schools for main scale teachers during the period between January and the end of July 2015.
Six regions had average rates of advertisements per schools below the national average, with the North West seeing the lowest recorded rate of 3.71 advertisements per schools, although the rates for schools across the North East (3.74), South West (3.75) and West Midlands (3.72) were very similar. The lower rates of advertisements for schools in these regions doesn’t mean that there were no recruitment challenges facing schools in these regions – rather that they were probably fewer in number than those faced by schools in and around London.
This year, we cannot fully identify the difference between a re-advertisement and a second vacancy in the same subject, but it seems likely that in some of the shortage subjects the occurrence of more than one advertisement is likely to have meant a re‑advertisement. Overall re-advertisement rates are in the range of 15-25 per cent depending on the region and the subject.

Physics advertisements
Let’s take Physics as an example. TeachVac recorded 330 advertisements for a teacher of Physics. Now, there were undoubtedly other advertisements for teachers of Physics, but they were subsumed within advertisements for ‘a teacher of science’ and cannot be separately identified. The 330 advertisements were placed by 240 different schools. This suggest that a number of schools placed more than one advertisement.
As TeachVac disregards advertisements placed within 21 days of the first record, it is probably fair to say that most of these were re-advertisements. In fact 63 of the 330 schools placed more than one advertisement – a potential re-advertisement rate of 19 per cent. Indeed, some 17 of the 63 schools placed three or more advertisements, with one school in Kent placing five different advertisements between February and July.
Interestingly, the number of schools advertising for a teacher of Physics differed considerably across the country. In the North East there were only eight schools that specifically sought a teacher of Physics, but two were church schools (one Church of England and the other a Roman Catholic school): both placed more than one advert.

In London, there were 52 schools advertising, with 12 placing more than one advert. In the case of Physics it is worth noting the relatively high percentage of selective and independent schools that feature in the range of schools advertising for a teacher of Physics rather than a teacher of science. TeachVac can supply detailed information on market trends to anyone interested in the details.

Predictions for 2016 job market
Data from the UCAS application scheme for teacher training courses produced at the end of July appears to show that, unless there is a flurry of late applications, several subjects will once again fail to recruit as many trainees as the government thinks are required for the vacancies likely to arise in both September 2016 and January 2017. As this will be there third year that some subjects have not met the government’s target number needed to enter training, as identified by the DfE’s Teacher Supply Model, the shortfall will extent to the loss of a whole cohort of trainees in subject such as design and technology, business studies and physics over the three year period.
Based on the current recruitment into training data, the predictions for the 2016 job market forecasts that shortages will increase in English, geography, design & technology and business studies, with regional shortages predicted in IT and computer science, music and religious education.
It is also predicted that mathematics recruitment may experience issues concerning quality of teaching, rather than quantity of applicants. History is projected to see a greater demand from the private sector than the maintained sector, while science is seen to have sufficient numbers, although specific subjects could see marginal decreases. It also believed that the surplus of this years applicants for art should prevent shortages, while there remains plenty of applicants for physical education.
One knock-on effect could be that schools change their curriculum offering as a result of knowing recruitment will be challenging. This will put pressure on other subjects if the government’s modelling hasn’t taken such changes into account. Another possibility is that schools will seek to increase the time available for sports and other parts of the curriculum that can be taught by PE teachers – the only subject with a real over-supply of teachers.
Once the final training numbers are known in November, the TeachVac website will be updated with predictions based upon the number of vacancies recorded this year. Users of TeachVac will be kept up to date with changes to the predications about how easy recruitment will be once, for instance, the shape of the school funding package is known in the autumn.

International Schools
The future direction of the Chinese economy and its stock market will be crucial in estimating the future demand for teachers to work in international schools, since China, along with the other tiger economies of Asia and the traditional market in the Gulf, represents a large slice of the international schools market. With half the teaching profession in England under the age of forty, there is potentially a sizeable group of teachers that might wish to take a few years out of their careers and work abroad, especially if they gained an appetite for travel during a ‘gap year’ before or after university.
With public sector salaries still being held down in England, the opportunity to earn more working abroad, especially if the workload issues aren’t addressed in the near future, may make this a lucrative sector of the recruitment market. As the BBC programme Chinese School showed, bringing teachers the other way into England isn’t always an easy transfer of skills.

The announcement in early August of the departure of the head of the National College to a new post in the Ministry of Justice offers the government an opportunity to take stock of the teacher supply position. A minister has already acknowledged that it represents a ‘challenge but not a crisis’. Either way, there are obvious shortages of supply that will continue into the 2016 job market. As ever, the shortages offer opportunities to those that can help supply schools with the teachers that they need.

Professor John Howson is Chair of the REC’s Education Steering Group, which helps the REC and its members stay informed of developments on the frontline of the education system.

Further Information

Supplier Focus


Education is our heritage, for five decades we’ve been providing better value to 30,000 schools. By working with a variety of leading UK suppliers to provide you with a large range of good quality products and services, from art supplies, curriculum products, furniture and EdTech products, to supporting you in setting up compliant contracts for things like electricity, utilities, and cleaning. We can provide you with everything you could possibly need, making it easier for you.