What Recruitment Crisis?

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Is there really a recruitment crisis? Are the government aware of the real picture on the ground?

The DfE collect the school workforce census this term. In this post I explain the process and take a guess at why the data is collected now rather than at any other time of the academic year.

What is the Workforce Census?

The school workforce census is a statutory data collection that takes place each autumn. Schools must complete statutory censuses by law unless there’s a good reason not to. The census collects data on all teaching and support staff in regular employment, including those working for:

  • local authorities on central contracts
  • local-authority-maintained schools
  • academies
  • free schools, including studio schools and university technical colleges
  • pupil referral units

Local authorities are responsible for:

  • co-ordinating and approving the submission of census data from all their maintained schools
  • submitting data for centrally employed school staff

Academies are responsible for submitting and approving their own census data.

No Crisis?

Government officials may believe there may be NO recruitment and retention crisis. I will tell you why this may be the case; most vacancies are full at this time of year = no crisis.

What the workforce census does, is gather a picture of what staff are working in schools. What the data collection also asks for, is essentially the number of ‘current vacancies’ and unfilled positions in establishments. If they asked for this data in April or June, the picture would be very different! Schools would probably confirm that there is indeed a recruitment crisis; that the reality in almost every school, is the many will have unfilled vacancies if the census was collected at a later point in the academic year.

Here are the figures reported in 2014. A few 1,000 here or there across the UK, with numbers generally declining;

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 20.14.57

What school has all their vacancies filled in July or even in August each academic year? Or even at the start of a new academic term when vacancies have been unfilled; advertisements have been unsuccessful, or circumstances mean members of staff have had to move on to pastures new before the end of an academic year. Thankfully, despite our own issues, our school was on the last day of term in July 2015. This changed throughout August – due to various reasons – and left us with staffing vacancies in September.

Take a look at the figures reported from 2014.

Workforce Census

You see the real picture is this; ask schools about what vacancies they have after budgets, curriculum and staffing commitments have been made, and the chances are that vacancies will be few and far between. Ask schools for their data/vacancies at a time during the job-hunt season, or even after budgets are forecasted and allocated and schools will paint a very different picture!

Here are the Initial Teacher Training figures from 2014;

Workforce Census

Census Rationale:

So, why do the DfE collect the workforce census data at this time of year? Is this anything to do with targets or headline stories?

shutterstock_213807424 Data Collection - Three Arrows Hit in Red Target on a Hanging Sack on Green Bokeh Background.

Image: Shutterstock

School workforce census is the department’s main source of data on:

  • staff pay bills
  • staff turnover
  • absences.

The school workforce census data informs departmental policy on pay and the monitoring of the effectiveness and diversity of the school workforce. School workforce census data are also used by other government departments, local authorities, external agencies and educational researchers. Accuracy of data is crucial. (Source)

Collection Date:

The Census date for 2015 is the first Thursday in November, ie 5 November 2015 and is collected annually. The collection period this year closed on 4 December 2015.

Data that does not need to be reported include the following staff, even if they are in school on census day.

  • PGCE students on teaching practice
  • trainee teachers on a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) programme
  • staff working in extended school service provision, eg breakfast and after school clubs, Sure Start and Children’s Centres.
  • staff employed by the local authority that provide support to schools eg peripatetic music teachers, advisory teachers, educational psychologists, educational welfare officers
  • governors and voluntary staff
  • staff for whom there is no role identifier code that equates to the function they carry out, eg clerk to governors, school crossing patrol staff and school improvement partners
  • staff whose contracts finished prior to 1 September 2014


The following image helps schools decide if an employed member of staff should be included in the workforce census.

Workforce Census

Data Collection:

Some of the data collected include this information (below) that your own school will hold on a database about their staff;

  • Teacher Number
  • Family Name
  • Given Name
  • Former Family Names
  • NI Number
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Ethnic Code
  • Disability
  • QT Status
  • HLTA Status
  • QTS Route
  • Contract/Service Agreement
  • Start Date
  • End Date
  • Post / Role in school
  • Date of Arrival in School
  • Pay Review Date
  •  Pay Range
  • Regional Pay Range
  • Pay Framework

There is much more.

When you next hear the government talking about recruitment and retention; teacher-training and vacancies, there is a context needed behind every statistic.

Is there a need for us to challenge the time of year this data is collected from schools to that it actually helps schools, rather than support government targets and media headlines?

I just thought this would be useful to share this with my readers.


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2 thoughts on “What Recruitment Crisis?

  1. Very useful. Thanks Ross. You might like this too from the 1-Page ‘Calls to Action’ Summary of the Politics in Education Summit: “Teacher retention and recruitment remains an urgent problem already affecting students. Given the big picture context and space provided by the Politics in Education Summit, this urgent problem was diagnosed as a symptom of underlying problems we’ve neglected, while short-term policies swept the system.” – http://leahkstewart.com/politicsineducation/

  2. The main thing is that they are consistent from one year to the next so that trends can be identified. It might be useful to collect at other times of the year too (but would cost more) but this it should not be instead of what they currently do.

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