DfE’s teacher job website carries only half of available positions

The Department for Education’s free-to-use Teaching Vacancies website is failing to advertise more than 55 per cent of available positions, new analysis has claimed.

The government-run teacher vacancy service was rolled out across England in April last year as part of a strategy to aid recruitment and retention.

I think people underestimate how difficult it is to get people in organisations to use these kinds of services

Ten months on, experts have claimed the website has stalled. But the government has challenged this, providing figures to show that nearly two-thirds of schools have now signed up to the site.

Analysis by professor John Howson, an academic who studies the teacher labour market and runs rival service TeachVac, found the DfE scheme consistently advertised less than 45 per cent of the jobs available since its launch.

TeachVac uses artificial intelligence to “scrape” school websites and collate job listings, but it differs from the government’s site as it also includes jobs for independent schools, making a like-for-like comparison difficult.

However, analysis of weekly job adverts shows the DfE peaked at around 43 per cent of jobs available (based on TeachVac’s estimations) a month after being rolled out nationally.

But the site has failed to attain this level in any of the following weeks – even slipping to 25 per cent or less for three weeks in July 2019.

A snapshot from November, for example, showed the DfE’s initiative advertising 580 teacher vacancies, compared with 2,053 from TeachVac.

Howson said the statistics were “very disappointing” and believes that people may be cautious of using the government service “as it might not produce the return”.

However, the DfE says the site has now been used by more than 500,000 jobseekers since its launch, with 65 per cent – over 13,000 – of state-funded schools now signed up the site.

In total, more than 19,000 vacancies have been advertised – one in 10 of which are flexible-working roles.

The website is part of the government’s plan to boost recruitment and retention in the sector.

The DfE has failed to meet its secondary-school teacher recruitment target for seven years running.

Just 43 per cent of the required physics teachers were recruited for this September, 62 per cent of modern foreign languages and 64 per cent for maths.

Schools Week conducted test searches in the subject areas with a shortfall and found twice as many vacancies advertised on TeachVac for physics positions in Newcastle, and modern foreign language roles in Manchester.

However, the DfE’s site did show more maths vacancies in Birmingham – 10 compared with TeachVac’s seven.

Stephen Tierney, chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable, said there was initially hope among school leaders the website could solve the problem of “extortionate” advertising.

The DfE said the site aims to eradicate schools’ £75 million-a-year advertising jobs spend.

But Tierney said it has fallen short due to a lack of confidence in the DfE’s ability to oversee the current teacher shortage, meaning heads fear that “if they are not using the most established means, they are potentially missing candidates”.

Dr Timo Hannay, founder of SchoolDash, added the service hasn’t “made a big splash” in the sector.

He said: “I think people underestimate how difficult it is to get people in organisations to use these kinds of services – it’s not a case of if they build it, they will come.”

Hannay, a research expert, added: “The biggest problem isn’t that schools have to pay for ads, it’s that when they place the ads, they don’t get enough good applicants”.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said this week the “ground-breaking” service “offers part-time, compressed hours and job-share opportunities to ensure teachers have access to the same opportunities as those in other industries across our thriving economy.”

The website was first promised in a white paper in 2016 and again in the Conservative Party election manifesto the following year.

The website was first rolled out in Cambridgeshire and the north-east of England in June 2018. It was due to be rolled out nationally in February 2019, but was delayed until April.