Update 30th September 2022: See also this coverage from Schools Week.
Regular readers will be aware of our mild obsession with the state of the teacher recruitment market. Our last update a few weeks ago reported on the situation at the end of the last academic year. That showed a year-on-year increase of 50% in advertised secondary school teacher vacancies compared to the previous pandemic-affected year of 2020-2021, as well as a 17% increase compared to the last pre-pandemic year in 2018-2019. School technician vacancies were up by even more – around 63% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with some subject areas more than doubling.
But what of other school staff: teaching assistants, administrators, site managers and so on? We don't routinely track these, but with school recruitment facing such widespread disruption, the question deserves more than a shrug and a confession of ignorance. This post attempts to come up with some answers.
One of the by-products of our work tracking secondary school teacher and technician recruitment over many years is a large cache of vacancies pages from school websites. We keep these mainly so that we can go back and re-analyse vacancies already found – usually to extract further information such as part-time status or salary ranges. But we can also use them to search for new kinds of vacancies that we've never analysed before. That's what we've done here.
This is inevitably a somewhat less refined process than the one used to gather teacher and technician vacancies. Those are carefully curated as they are found, then made available to users of SchoolDash Insights. The process used for the data in this post is slightly different: we gave our software bots information about the kinds of terms used to describe support and auxiliary staff roles, then let them loose on the cache to see what they could find. The results are probably better described as 'mentions' rather than 'advertisements' because we haven't been able to verify that these roles appear only for recruiting purposes. However, manual checks suggest that this is usually so. Furthermore, our intention here is not so much to quantify absolute numbers of vacancies, but rather to compare how they have changed, so we don't require that errors are absent altogether, only that they are reasonably consistent over time. We believe this to be the case. Note that multiple mentions of the same role appearing simultaneously on the same web page were counted only once on the assumption that they very likely refer to the same position.
Figure 1 shows the numbers of mentions of various support and auxiliary staff roles found on the websites of secondary schools, sixth-form colleges and FE colleges in England for each week from the start of the 2017 autumn term until 23rd September 2022. (For more information about the roles included and the ways in which they have been categorised and labelled, see Footnote 1.)
In general, the numbers of mentions have been growing, with a particularly large upward jump in the late spring of 2021, shortly after the end of the last nationwide lockdown in England. They have stayed high since, with some transient dips, especially during school holidays. The vast majority of mentions in this analysis (83%) come from secondary schools, so the pattern for secondary schools alone (red line) is very similar to those for all schools and colleges together (black line). This is mainly because schools are much more numerous than standalone colleges. (Show both lines again.) A total of 5,258 schools and colleges were tracked (essentially all those for which we could find websites), with 5,013 (95%) contributing one or more mentions of a support staff role to the data set.
(Click on the figure legend to hide or view each line. Hover over the lines to see corresponding data values.)
Figure 2 shows each academic year overlaid on the same horizontal axis in order to illustrate year-on-year changes. By default, this figure shows weekly data, with regular peaks during each school half term. However, the differences between years can be more clearly seen using cumulative data. Across all listed roles, we saw an increase of 84% (+14,200 mentions) in 2021-2022 (purple line) compared to the last pre-pandemic year of 2018-2019 (green line).
Strikingly, there were increases in all roles tracked, though the amount varied greatly. The greatest proportional increases were seen for pastoral managers, sports coaches, administrative assistants, caretakers/cleaners, cover supervisors, attendance officers and teaching assistants. The increase in teaching assistants is particularly notable because there are so many of these roles (over 7,300 mentions in 2021-2022, up from just under 3,900 in 2019-2020). And the rise in pastoral managers feels like a sign of the times that speaks to more than just tight labour markets.
Note also the short black line at the bottom-left of the graph, which shows data for the first four weeks of the 2022-2023 academic year. So far, this is trending above 2021-2022 levels for sports coaches and cover supervisors, at the same level for administrative assistants, and below last year's levels for teaching assistants, pastoral managers, caretakers/cleaners and attendance officers. But it's still very early days.
(Use the menus below to view weekly or cumulative data, and to select different roles. Click on the figure legend to hide or view individual academic years. Hover over the lines to see corresponding data values.)
Figure 3 shows the changes for each role since 2020-2021 (red columns) and since before the pandemic, in 2018-2019 (blue columns). Unlike teaching positions, which fell in during the pandemic years, mentions of these support and auxiliary roles tended to rise even during the pandemic, then went higher still in 2021-2022. The exception is business manager roles, which declined during the pandemic only to bounce back (and then some) in 2021-2022.
In percentage terms, pastoral managers, sports coaches, cover supervisors, administration assistants and teaching assistants showed the largest increase, as almost mentioned above. In terms of numbers of mentions (which we take to be a rough proxy for the relative number of vacancies), teaching assistants, cover supervisors and administrative assistants come out top (or bottom, depending on your point of view).
Given the widespread year-on-year increases in mentions of these roles, might this indicate that schools have simply become more likely to post such vacancies online, even if the numbers of vacancies themselves haven't changed? It's possible that this explains some of the effect, but we find it implausible as a general explanation (why, for example, would mentions of business managers buck this trend by declining during the pandemic?). And even if it provides a partial explaination, greater efforts on the part of schools to advertise vacancies may itself be a sign of increased difficulty in hiring.
There does seem to have been an increase over time in the cross-posting of vacancies across different school websites, especially within multi-academy trusts (MATs), which is likely to lead to some double-counting. But this has been a gradual process and much smaller in scale than the changes reported here. Meanwhile, we note with interest that the National Governance Association has reported that school governing board vacancies are at their highest level since 2015. Our aforementioned obsession notwithstanding, it would appear that schools' recruitment challenges are not limited to teaching staff.
This is the SchoolDash blog, where we write about some of our projects and other things that spark our interest.
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