Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Teacher Transfer Window?

Outside of education (particularly maths education) and my family, one of main interests is sport. Like many sports fans, I have been following the dealings in the football transfer window with fascination - I must admit I wouldn't have ever thought that a player would be worth one-fifth of a billion pounds.

My second in department and I, along with a couple of members of my team, have in the past joked about the idea of a teacher transfers. With the advent of performance related pay and some teachers in a school therefore being paid more than peers who may have joined the school/profession at the same time, we have occasionally laughed at the idea of a school making contact with our head teacher to try and 'buy' someone, with compensation being agreed between the schools and possibly even swap deals being done. Seeing the behaviour and dealing of some clubs during the transfer window, I started to wonder how long before some of the schools and trusts out there began to behave in a similar way.

We all know of those schools and trusts that offer incentives for 'the right candidate' when advertising for certain positions. Those TLRs, R&R allowances and 'Market forces payments' (as I saw advertised by one school) that are designed to attract people to a school that feels like it might otherwise struggle to appoint a candidate of suitable quality. Personally I have never approached someone working at a school to try and convince them to join my school, but I know of instances where others have been 'tapped-up' (to use a football parlance) to see if they are interested in changing school, or what it would take to get them interested.  A lot of this mirrors the extra wages, bonus structure, guarantees of first-team football or other approaches that teams will use for players they want to recruit. 

In education, this behaviour is still quite limited. The standard practice is still to advertise a job, see who applies, and then choose the best of those who do. Whilst an increasing number of these adverts will offer incentives, it is not yet standard practice to go out and actively recruit certain people. I do wonder though whether this will change. I wonder when it will become more standard for schools, like football teams, to scout particular talent from other schools or ITT institutes and approach them with offers rather than just encourage them to apply. I wonder if or when schools will actively building teams of particular people, rather than choosing from those that show interest. I wonder if it will ever come to the point where schools will 'compensate' other schools if they allow their staff to move before the end of a notice period (in fact I know this has happened at least once already) and a big thing I wonder is whether it would be a bad thing?

Typically I am not in favour of market forces being at work in education. I am generally of the feeling that all of us in education should collaborate with each other rather than compete, share our time and resources freely rather than compete with each other or try and make money from each other. This is why my TES shop is and always will be free for any of my resources. However we all know about the difficulties that schools in certain urban areas, coastal areas or more removed areas have in recruiting. Some (but admittedly not all) of these schools and trusts will have more money than average - they will have larger numbers of disadvantaged students or will be federated and making savings from economies of scale. I wonder if it would be a bad thing for them to be able to scout teachers (the TES talent bank might allow for this in part at least but it would probably need more performance data included, as well as more teachers signed up). I wonder if it would be a bad thing for them to be allowed to buy teachers out of their contract with an appropriate compensation package for their schools. 

Mainly I wonder if this is at some point inevitable. 

If increased autonomy for schools and trusts is to become the norm, including the ability to set pay and conditions as they see fit, I think we must at some point get to very highly effective teams being paid beyond the main and upper pay scales that most state schools still adhere to in some form. It wouldn't surprise me if, at some point where I am still teaching, we see schools or trusts begin to approach high performing schools to enquire after their staff, or having whole departments being offered improved terms in order to stay. I can see no good reason why the TES talent bank, or even a government website couldn't hold performance data for teachers exam classes alongside details of CPD and other contextual information, allowing schools to try and tempt the highest performing staff. Some people reading this will no doubt be saying to themselves things like 'yes but it is easier to get good performance data with higher attaining classes' or 'yes but just because you do well with classes in one school doesn't mean you will be to do it in a different environment'. I accept this completely, but then how many stories do we hear of footballers moving clubs and failing to perform as expected, or reach the heights that they seemed capable of (for those of you that don't follow football, it is a lot). In this sort of system there are always risks that the change will impact performance, and one would assume that schools and trusts would be aware of this. 

Maybe I am completely crazy, and have this completely wrong. Maybe there are good reasons I am not seeing why this model wouldn't work in schools, or would be wildly unpopular. But given the amount that schools spend each year on advertising for positions, particularly when they have to go 'into the market' 2 or 3 times for the same position, I wonder if this money wouldn't be better used as incentives or compensation to secure the workforce they need. I wonder if schools arranging 'transfers' or even 'loans' might not be better than a school being left in difficulty because one of their staff decides to hand their notice in on the last allowed day and they have no time to secure a replacement so have to rely on expensive agency staff of (possibly) dubious quality. More and more I wonder how long it will be before some schools and trusts decide to try this approach in earnest, and if it ends up being successful, how long before it becomes the standard practice for schools.

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