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How we're creating a national teacher vacancy service

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Teachers user research call

What do NHS professionals and civil servants have but teachers don’t? One thing is a single jobs website to search for new roles. While there are a number of large commercial sites where teachers look for jobs, there’s also an array of local online and offline publications to search.

As we’ve heard from teachers, knowing where to look is hard. Job vacancy listings vary in quality and often lack important information like salary or location.

From a school’s perspective, most routes for publishing job vacancies are associated with a cost. This prompted the government, initially in the 2016 Education White Paper and then in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto, to commit to "create a single jobs portal for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers".

Build services, not portals

After the publication of the White Paper, we ran a Discovery to dig into the problem. We did user research with a mix of 16 schools and teachers to understand their needs, and spoke to a range of commercial providers of job listings. We also reviewed the School Recruitment Service, a DfE sponsored recruitment website which ran from 2009-2012, to learn what we needed to do differently.

Since we moved into a 14-week Alpha in July, our vision for what a national teacher vacancy service could look like has started to crystallise. We want to improve how permanent teacher vacancies are listed and filled. We think we can meet this goal by:

  • Providing a free publishing channel to schools to reduce the cost of recruitment to schools
  • Improving the quality of vacancy listings meaning schools receive more applications from suitable candidates
  • Creating an accurate official list of all permanent teacher vacancies in the English schools system
  • Enabling DfE to make decisions on teacher recruitment based on real-time data

Clearly some of those outcomes are ambitious. But an agile mindset is all about thinking big, starting small and scaling fast.

In August, we appointed dxw to work with us to design and develop an alpha service. A small agile team including user researchers, a delivery manager, product manager, business analyst and a developer have since been researching and prototyping different options for a future service.

Needs we can’t meet

One finding from our user research is that recruitment is a year-round activity in many schools. Looking for a job opening is only one stage of a teacher’s journey to find a new job in teaching. There are needs all along the journeys for schools and teachers that our service isn’t intended to meet. There are commercial providers already in this space and we recently conducted a survey with them to understand the market as it stands. Schools and teachers have recruitment needs that a government service that lists job vacancies can’t meet.

Capturing feedback from users on the prototype of the service
Capturing feedback from users on the prototype of the service

That said, as one school leader told us: “If I’m being honest, I’d be quite happy with a basic website, that’s as basic as the most basic website I could remember, that was free, where all of the vacancies were. And that’s not very ambitious, but believe me, school leaders will think that’s a miracle.”

Usability testing of the prototypes
Usability testing of the prototypes

Get involved

If we pass our Alpha service assessment, we’ll start building a beta service. As we move into Beta, we want to step up our conversations with users to make sure we build a service that meets their needs (point 2 of the digital service standard).

If you’re a teacher, or work in a school on recruitment, we’d love to talk to you: sign up by emailing

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  1. Comment by Paul Howells posted on

    Finding a vacancy is NOT the issue here, applying for a job in schools is hampered by schools reluctance to embrace technology and use already existing fast apply methods.
    Jobs can already be advertised FREE so what would introducing another website change or achieve.

  2. Comment by Christine Lonsdale posted on

    I'm not sure if it's technology- many schools are very open to change. The issue is that there are not enough trained teachers out there. We could have numerous sites advertising numerous jobs with no-one applying.
    I would like to see the money put into promoting teaching and other school work as a profession; get rid of the surmountable paperwork and look at managing behaviour. Invest in quality CPD and leadership succession.

  3. Comment by AP Langton posted on

    From a teacher’s perspective I think the national teacher vacancy service is a great idea. Schools are paying a fortune to agencies who have securely positioned themselves between teachers and schools. Whether the vacancies being sought are permanent or supply agencies are exploiting teachers to such an extent as to warrant serious concern. I am quite sure that the costs, finder’s fees charged by agencies are having a direct effect on teacher’s salaries and whether schools can afford to offer a position to a candidate. This is discussed at some length in the following article:

    This article reflects on some of my experiences looking for work as a teacher.

    A national teacher vacancy service should focus on establishing a direct link between schools and teachers, no agencies; otherwise the national teacher vacancy service just will become another platform from which teachers can be exploited further.