When you’re coming to the end of your teacher training and looking for your first NQT job, it can seem natural to sign up with a whole raft of teacher recruitment agencies and perhaps a sepcialist NQT agency.
Of course, you want to give yourself the best start to your teaching career and it makes sense to cast the widest net to give yourself the best chance of getting the best possible job.
Your future employers at schools and local authorities (and even the Education Secretary) understand this too, but they would much prefer to deal with NQTs direct when it comes to advertising vacancies, receiving applications and appointing the right newly qualified teachers for the specific needs of their schools.
It all comes down to money; doesn’t it always!
Teacher Recruitment Agencies - Expensive and Unnecessary!
From the side of the employer that you’ll end up working for (the school or the local authority), the issue is the huge fees that they have to pay to teacher recruitment agencies. The truth is that when they are looking to hire an NQT, schools are often forced to look to an agency, simply because the teachers they are looking to employ have come to believe that signing up with an agency is the best way.
Agencies have the marketing budget and the focus to be able to present themselves to both schools and job seeking teachers as the best source of high quality applicants and jobs.
So, a school headteacher or business manager will often assume that they can approach an agency when looking for NQT staff and that the agency will have a ready supply of high quality applicants.
The problem comes when the school then has to pay the recruitment agency fees, generally held to be in the region of £3,000 to £5,000 (as research by The Telegraph discovered), but, in some cases, these agency fees can be as much as £12,000 for a single job placement, especially where the placement happens as a conversion of a previous supply teacher arrangement.
And, more importantly, it is often not the case that teacher recruitment agencies are the best job search route for either the school or the teacher applicant.
Whilst the promise of less legwork for the NQT job hunter is dangled by agencies, the reality is that you put your future employment in their hands.
We’re not going to be negative about recruitment agencies in general but the reality is that many agencies aren’t going to give you the best shot at getting the best job.
All too often the agency hoovers up a whole army of NQTs as they finish teacher training by attending University ‘milk round’ fairs and making that enticing pitch of an easy job finding experience. Of course, those same agencies are also aggressively targeting all those at University who are imminently about to become NQTs using targeted advertising on related websites and in social media. Then, in the rush from June to late August every year, they simply go through a process of trying to fit their candidates to the jobs that come in.
It’s fair enough - the teacher recruitment agencies have a business to run and they are providing a service.
But anecdotal evidence suggests that many teachers seeking a new job through a teacher recruitment agency can find the experience negative, end up not finding the job they’re looking for and feeling pushed down a route they feel is unsuitable.
Of course, there are many good agencies who are striving to fill open positions at schools with the best candidates and with at least some view to the positive outcome for both parties. But there is a lot of evidence that there are plenty of agencies that are far more focused on their bottom line and profit margins than they are on making sure you get the right job.
The Supply Teacher Conundrum
There are also a lot of cases recorded in both qualified teachers and NQTs where the teacher recruitment agency has chosen to funnel the applicant towards supply work rather than a long term position. Often this will be dressed up as a positive experience for the teacher (and, of course, it can be) but the simple economics of the situation clearly show that this is in the interests of the agency more than those of the teacher, the school or, in the long term, the pupils.
The simple maths is that an agency can charge a daily rate for a supply teacher that leaves a large margin for the agency whilst the supply teacher may be earning significantly less (on a per day rate) than they would in a permanent position. There are also regularly issues of lack of PAYE and no pension status amongst other things to worry about.
This is one of the reasons why Northern Ireland and Scotland do not use teacher recruitment agencies for supply cover, instead working from a central register. This is something that has long been suggested for the rest of the UK and is starting to take shape with the Supply Register.
This drive to cut agency costs for schools is being tackled in respect of supply teachers as an imminent threat. However it is just as serious for all teaching recruitment (including the annual search by every school for NQTs).
Teacher Recruitment - Stealing Money from Pupils!
When looking for permanent teaching staff, schools are faced with a stark financial choice. Their options are generally to spend on advertising to do direct recruitment or look to an agency.
The reality of the current and ongoing shortage of teachers and the increasing difficulty of retaining qualified teachers in the profession just makes the issue all the more difficult.
In the days when there was competition for teaching roles, schools could relatively easily find the right staff for their needs through a simple advertising and interview process.
However, reports of repeated advertising attracting no applicants (yet a flurry of messages from recruiters who claim to have the perfect person to fill a role) just seem to increase with every passing school year.
Increased staff turnover due to lack of retention means that this problem presents itself to head teachers and school business managers more often, and throughout the year, which leads to an increasing spend in recruitment costs, usually through agencies as a default option.
The previous Education secretary was all too aware of this cost implication for schools as he told The Telegraph in their research:
“Every pound that’s spent on excessive agency fees, or on advertising jobs, is a pound that I want to help schools spend on what really matters: making sure every child, whatever their background, is inspired to learn and to reach their potential.”
The minister was not alone with many in the Education Department acutely aware that the cost of recruitment agencies was a drain on the resources available to the very schools that every NQT was looking to work in.
When the money that a school has is being spent on recruitment, and especially with teacher recruitment agencies, then it isn’t being spent in the classroom. There have been efforts to ring fence education funding so that it is used to pay for teachers, support staff, books, computers, learning aids, school upkeep and everything that directly contributes to the provision of a good education. When that funding is pulled out of the school system and paid to private business then the quality of education must suffer.
You Don't Need an NQT Agency to Find Your NQT Job
Almost everyone coming into teaching is to some degree doing so because they want to help, inspire and transform the life opportunities of the children they will teach over their career.
When you realise that your success as a teacher will be impacted by how much money your future school employer will have available to spend in your classroom, then, as an NQT, you should be thinking about that cost to the school of employing you.
If you can help a school avoid paying huge advertising or recruitment agency costs by being proactive about finding your perfect NQT role, then do so in the knowledge that you are directly affecting the bottom line economics of your chosen school and that your proactive choice is helping children get a better and better funded education.
But, although it’s all about money, it’s also….not!
As we’ve seen, there is a shortage of teachers throughout the UK. Although London is an attractive place for NQTs to come to start their career there are still enough vacancies for every NQT to find a permanent role to suit them.
In the case of Lambeth, the process of joining the Lambeth NQT Pool means that you are available for every school in the Borough (a total of more than 80) to approach you with their NQT roles. You apply once to the NQT Pool and then your details are available for every school to search.
This is a far greater level of job opportunity than most recruitment agencies are able to offer and it is revolutionising the way Lambeth schools approach their NQT recruitment.
Further, when an local authority has taken the time to create a pool system for their teaching jobs, they are much less likely to farm those same jobs out to agencies, meaning that NQT roles in that area will most likely not be available from any teacher recruitment agency.
If you need to feel like you’ve taken a belt and braces approach then, by all means, sign up to reputable teacher recruitment agencies as you might just get a great offer of a role that otherwise might have passed you by. But, make sure that you look into all pool application routes, and in Lambeth, make sure to join the NQT Pool.
The process will take a little more effort than dropping into an agency office, but it’s maybe going to take an hour and a half of your time to put yourself in front of hundreds of potential vacancies.
And, you’ll know that by seeking to be hired to a great school through this route you are also making sure that your future school has the maximum funding resources available to make your job easier and more rewarding.
And, as an NQT, you’d hope that your motivation to be a great teacher, delivering transformative opportunity to children trumped your search for an easy job offer!
Surely it’s better to be master of your own destiny?