Vernon CoakerVernon Coaker MPSchools could save a whopping £30 million a year on recruitment advertising with the new online Schools Recruitment Service launched by the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF).

Speaking at Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary school in Hammersmith and Fulham – one of the service's first customers – schools minister Vernon Coaker said: “This is a watershed in how schools recruit staff. Too often recruiting staff takes up far too much time and is a costly, long-winded process.

“This harnesses innovative online technology to make it a painless, speedy and more cost-efficient exercise. Recruitment is not rocket science – it is about matching jobseekers with the right skills to the right jobs. This will give schools everything they need to do the job.”

The Schools Recruitment Service was previewed in January at BETT 2009 by former schools ministerJim Knight and went live on September 23. Since then 52 local authorities (representing more than 8,000 schools) and 32 academies have signed up.

Charges are based on head count, but the new service, run by Tribal Group Plc – already a provider of recruitment services to schools, colleges, universities and public sector organisations including local authorities and the National Health Service – will cost a typical secondary just £250 a year.

Private equity TES gets most of schools' recruitment cash

Even though large schools and academies could pay more, it's a very tempting offer considering that an estimated £46.7 million is spent every year by schools to fill 150,000 teaching and non-teaching positions. Traditionally, most of that revenue would go directly to The Times Educational Supplement, now owned by private equity, which has dominated school recruitment. Curiously, there has been very little press coverage of the service to alert schools of potential savings.

The latest applicant-tracking technology, designed to save time and money, means schools and local authorities can upload their job vacancies and identify skill shortages and other recruitment patterns. And the candidates can create personal accounts to apply for jobs online and job alerts for roles that match their criteria, creating a "talent pool" from which candidates can be invited to apply for a position. The added bonus is that it will be fairly easy to evaluate recruitment campaigns.

A quick glance at the site reveals there is still some way to go as there appear to be only 17 job adverts. But a notice on the site points out that "it will take some time for vacancies to build up on the system, but with over 8,000 schools preparing to upload their roles, job alerts will ensure you see new vacancies as they are added".

The initial appeal of big savings alone, however, may not be enough to transform schools' ingrained practices for recruitment. The Schools Recruitment Service will have to prove easy to use and effective - and relatively quickly - to successfully challenge what has become a powerful monopoly. Despite the fanfare at BETT 2009 it's not clear whether most schools yet know about the service, and the media that chase the same advertising will be in no hurry to spread the message.

Failure to market and promote the venture adequately could yet lead to a costly and embarrassing flop. In which case the £30 million "lost" in expensive advertising fuelled by a national recruitment issue for schools will be added to by the investment in the new service.

Key education agencies welcome new service

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has welcomed the service. “The TDA is pleased to support the Schools Recruitment Service, which will provide the kind of modern, customised online application service that schools and prospective teachers expect," said chief executive Graham Holley. "The service complements the support that the TDA provides to those who choose teaching as a career, and the help with induction and professional development that we offer during their subsequent careers as teachers.”

And the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services is equally supportive. "The Schools Recruitment Service will be an important service for schools and local authorities, helping them to recruit the very best leaders," said chief executive Steve Munby. "It will also benefit individuals seeking new leadership positions by helping them to flexibly manage their applications to get the very best outcome."

But of course schools and local authorities retain the right to choose who they want to advertise with. And through the  Schools Recruitment Service they will be  given the wherewithal to evaluate and target all their advertising campaigns with other media. There is also a suggestion on the site that users can get access to discounted advertising rates with key media.

Online Schools Recruitment Service benefits at a glance:

  • The opportunity to streamline the application and administrative process leading to time savings for those school staff involved in recruitment;
  • The opportunity to standardise transferable job descriptions leading to time savings when preparing vacancies to advertise;
  • Intelligence around candidate behaviour and attraction leading to better targeting of individuals or groups (talent pooling) and reduction in advertising spend;
  • Improved candidate experience leading to higher number of completed applications;
  • Better matching of candidates to jobs leading to less need to re-advertise posts;
  • Intelligence on effective media routes leading to better targeted advertising spend;
  • Cash savings on paper, postage and printing;
  • Maintain links with other data-gathering initiatives leading to a clearer departmental view of the school workforce;
  • Use of data from previous recruitment campaigns leading to possible reduction in amount of money spent on media advertising;
  • Improved reputation of recruitment in education sector leading to a positive effect on people moving into education or considering it as a career, to be measured by candidate feedback.

More information

Schools Recruitment Service
Schools Recruitment Service on Twitter
On Facebook

BETT 2010 logoBETT2010

You can find out more about the Schools Recruitment Service on the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) stand at the BETT Show at Olympia in January (13-16). Stand K29

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