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Testing 'Apply' - the new application service for aspiring teachers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Service design, User-centred design

Teacher sat amongst classroom of (Key Stage 3 or 4 it's not determined) pupils all looking towards the front of the room. Everyone is looking very engaged and happy.

DfE is building a new service for aspiring teachers to apply for teacher training to replace the existing service run by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

We’ve been working with candidates, training providers and others to understand their needs, and how we can best design our new service to meet those needs.

By doing this, we hope we can help get more potentially great teachers into the profession.

'Apply for postgraduate teaching', or 'Apply' for short, is now in prototype and this month, we’ve started taking real candidates through the updated service.

What is the Apply service?

Apply is the service people will use to apply for teacher training. Our user research and testing has taken us across the country - from Dartford to Durham - to talk to its main users.

Candidates use it to set out the qualities, interests and ambition they could bring to the teaching profession. They need a service that helps them show themselves in the best possible light.

Providers of teacher training courses will use Apply to assess candidates’ eligibility and suitability for their training courses. They need information at the correct time and in the right format so that they can make well-informed decisions about which candidates to accept.

Policy and delivery, working together

As a good service team we’re also taking the opportunity to test and rethink the policy that sits behind the digital service.

We’ve been speaking to candidates and providers about everything from how many applications should be made at one time to how we measure and compare qualifications.

Testing the digital prototype

Most recently, we conducted usability testing on the interactive, digital version of the application.

We’ve already done several rounds of research with a Google doc version, but we needed research specific to the digital application. We tested the content and the design of the digital form to do both these things:

  • identify specific points of pain and satisfaction
  • check users could complete application regardless of their personal circumstances

After analysing the findings we made recommendations to overcome these usability issues and we're running another round of testing in the coming months.

Getting it in front of candidates

This month, we’ve started taking real candidates through a prototype of the service. We're showing prospective teacher trainees the application form and asking them to apply using it.

At the moment, the process is still quite manual. We’re running around behind the scenes doing things that the digital service will do automatically.

But it’s really exciting to see prospective teachers interacting with what we’ve built. This is helping us understand the process more before we commit to building complicated things that are hard to change.

What we'll do next

This autumn, we’ll start a small pilot with a handful of providers. We’re doing this so we can expose the service to real candidates early and iterate quickly.

For the next few teacher recruitment rounds, we’ll run the Apply service alongside the existing UCAS service. We'll learn and improve as we go to avoid the risks associated with launching an entire service to all its users at once.

All the while, we’ll continue testing, talking to people, iterating regularly and making sure we build a user-centred service.

Watch this space for more updates or subscribe to this blog.

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