Introducing FindEd

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It’s been 7 months since I decided that the teacher shortage problem was the one to tackle next. Since then, a team has been assembled, we’ve taken a view on which aspect of the problem we should work on first and have been busy designing, coding and getting prepared for the journey we’re about to set out on.

Introducing FindEd

The idea for FindEd came about when we spoke to headteachers and asked what the biggest problems facing education were. The answer that came back the loudest was teacher recruitment and retention, so we did our homework and found that it seemed to be a problem everywhere.

  • 56% of schools are paying recruitment agencies between £1000-10,000 per vacancy.
  • The average spend on advertising is £17,000 per year
  • Yet 79% of schools still find recruitment problematic

Anecdotally, schools told us that they were spending a lot on advertising, weren’t getting enough quality applicants through the door and had ever shrinking budgets to contend with.

On the other side of the coin, teachers were telling us that they were frustrated with trawling job boards, copy and pasting word applications and wondering when they might hear back.

It became clear that we weren’t going to help much by offering yet another recruitment service or place to advertise with similar costs. So we decided to rethink job advertising from the ground up, with the goals of increasing applicants and saving a whole lot of time and money in the process.

A New Online Platform Matching Teachers and Schools

Rather than spending thousands on job advertising and recruitment fees, hoping that they work this time, we thought it would be better if schools go to a website, tell it which teachers they were looking for and find them directly. Then they could be sure that your vacancy was reaching the right people and none of the budget was wasted on trying to stand out on an overcrowded page.

We also thought candidates would be more likely to apply for your vacancy if, rather than searching job boards and writing dozens of emails, they received the job straight to their phones and could apply with one click.

So, we built a website that does just that. It’s due to launch in early February.

How Schools And Teachers Can Benefit For Free

As well as being free to teachers, every school can claim a free account too, which allows them to send vacancies to matching teachers. Since candidates only see relevant jobs, there’s a much higher chance of them seeing your role and acting on it.

There will also be a pro account, which allows one click applications, feedback from potential candidates and saves hours on shortlisting.

The website will be launching in February and we’re going to be offering some very special deals on the pro account for the first schools to sign up to help get this process started.

So let’s Get Started…

If stage 1 of this project works, we’ll see the cost of recruitment in education drop by a staggering 96%. For that to happen, we need schools and teachers to hear about it, so if you like what you’ve read, please share the news with like minded schools and teachers. You can also

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A note to new teachers

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I’ve been a little quiet with the blog recently because I’m in the midst of starting a new company. Doing that and writing about it at the same time is tricky, because the doing requires so much brain space that there’s not much left for writing. Starting a company occupies a lot of grey matter because it involves making hundreds of new decisions every day. Routine decisions, like what to have for lunch, require a lot less effort because we’ve made them many times before. New decisions are a lot more taxing.

It reminds me of when I first started teaching, another time when everything was new. Unexpected situations seem to come from every angle and you’re constantly deciding what to do with them. It happens so many times in one day that by the time you’ve packed up and gone home, your head can feel a bit like Jonny Brownlee at the end of a triathlon. The good news is that because of all this mental marathoning, your brain hard wires those decisions so that they’re not nearly as taxing next time round. You learn to recognise similar situations and take care of them automatically, which is extremely helpful when it comes to such an all encompassing job.

This September, thousands of new teachers are experiencing this as they step up to lead a class for the first time, including the 17 musicians (pictured above) who have just started with Rocksteady Music School. I wish you every success in getting to grips with your new role and remember, whilst your head might be spinning to start with, hang in there. Your brain will soon catch up and you’ll be handling classes like a pro before you can say Christmas.

Have fun and enjoy the journey. There aren’t many like it.

A Great Teacher For Every Child

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The united nations has committed to giving every child a quality education by 2030 as one of 17 global goals. The single most important ingredient in a quality education is a great teacher.

Whether it’s live in person (direct), watching a video (indirect), one to one, or one to many, a great teacher is almost always behind our most important learning experiences. This is especially true in the formative stages, where great teachers change the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, we’re facing a global shortage of teachers right now and whilst trends are heading in a positive direction, we’re not moving fast enough. 61% of countries will not have enough primary teachers in classrooms by 2020 and at our current rate of progress, we’re still looking at a 34% shortfall by 2030. As a global society, we need to recruit and train 25.8 million teachers over the next 14 years to fill this gap, which means improving on two counts:

  1. Recruiting more of the right teachers into the profession.
  2. Creating the right conditions to keep them there.

Governments have a role to play in this and will be looking to fix the problem through the broad strokes of changing  policy, but there’s no need for us to sit around and wait for things to happen. There’s a big opportunity for the teaching and entrepreneurial community to contribute, starting with some original thinking on the problem and then crucially, doing something about it. Here’s some of my ideas.

How would you make it happen?

 

 

 

 

Teacher Shortage Problems? Let’s Solve Them.

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After 8 years of building Rocksteady Music School, I started this year intent on making a difference to education on a much wider level. As well as working on new paradigms of education, I’ve also been looking for areas where we can make a practical difference now.

I started by visiting head teachers from primary, secondary and special schools in the UK and talking to them about the biggest challenges facing education right now. Time and time again, the same three problems came up:

1.     Teacher shortages

2.     Falling budgets

3.     The wrong sort of accountability

Finding and keeping great teachers, being required to do more with less and a culture of fear around outcomes, are all making schools difficult places to work right now.

This blog dives into the first two, teacher shortages and the knock on effect on budgets. We’ll take a look at the situation in the UK, related problems globally and discuss opportunities to make an impact.

Why do we have teacher shortages?

Teacher shortages are caused by two things, difficulty finding teachers and difficulty keeping them. The two are closely linked; every teacher retained is one less that has to be recruited and a strong recruitment system which matches the right teacher to the right school, significantly increases the chances of them sticking around.

Let’s take a look at the recruitment side of the coin. A 2015 survey of schools in England and Wales conducted by the NAHT found that 79% of schools found recruitment problematic. Here’s the breakdown:

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It would seem that finding the right teachers is difficult across the board and only gets more challenging as we move up the totem pole of responsibility. So why is this?

When it came to recruiting newly qualified teachers, the top three reasons for having difficulty or failing to recruit were:

1.     The quality of newly qualified teachers in the area (47%)

2.     Not enough newly qualified teachers in the area (40%)

3.     High cost of living in the area (24%)

The one that piqued my interest the most was the quality of newly qualified teachers, or in other words, how prepared they were for the job. It’s usually a good idea to ask the question ‘why’ a few more times when trying to get to the bottom of something and the NAHT did a good job of that, finding that new teachers were not prepared because:

1.     They didn’t have a good understanding of the demands of the role (77%)

2.     They didn’t understand classroom/behaviour management (70%)

3.     They lacked subject knowledge (55%)

Related areas of not understanding pedagogy (how to teach), child development and a lack of ability with analysing or using data also featured highly.

 

When it came to recruiting more experience teachers the top three reasons given were

1.     A shortage of teachers in the area (52%)

2.     Lack of quality teachers in their area (47%)

3.     Number of teachers leaving the profession (33%)

School’s recruiting for experienced teachers feel that they aren’t getting enough applicants, the one’s they are getting aren’t high enough quality and that retaining the teachers who are in the profession is exacerbating the problem. (Around 10% of teachers leave the profession each year)

How much is this costing us?

British Pounds - Money Down the Drain

These problems are proving expensive, both in time for the school’s leadership and in recruitment agency fees. Difficulty recruiting through the standard advertising channels means 56% of school’s surveyed used recruitment agencies to and paid between £1000 and £10,000 per vacancy. The education sector in the UK spends £1.3 billion per year on supply staff. With budgets thinning as they are, we need to start looking for more effective ways of preparing, finding and keeping the right teachers in our schools.

It turns out that this isn’t just a problem in the UK either. The cost of teacher turnover in the US is estimated at $4.9 billion. Spain are short of 46,000 teachers as we speak whilst forty percent of Nigerian children do not attend school due to a teacher shortage of 380,000. The UN have produced a visual map of their research, the headlines of which, are that globally, at least 74 countries face an acute shortage of teachers and that we need to hire an extra 2.7 million primary school teachers to meet today’s demands. Looking forward across the next 15 years, we will need to recruit a total of 25.8 million additional primary school teachers by 2030. Given that, as an international community, we have committed to providing every child with a quality education by 2030, we’d better find a way to do something about it. If we can create something that not only serves education in the UK, but also makes a difference on a much bigger scale, then so much the better.

Some ideas to consider

I don’t propose that we can solve all of these problems at once, but I do think we can do a few things that will make a big difference.

  • Make it easier (and more enjoyable) for schools and teachers to find each other.
  • Help teachers at all stages of their career prepare for their roles, including students and those considering teaching as a career option.
  • Help schools retain great teachers once they find them.

One of the great levers in the world today is technology, so, I’m looking to build a digital solution that achieves these three aims. In order to simultaneously address the falling budget problems, it must do these things in a radically more efficient way than is currently possible and for the purposes of making a significant impact, it must have the potential to reach people globally within the next 15 years. Consider a turbo charged Linkdin meets match.com for education that connects the right schools with the right teachers at a fraction of the current cost.

Make it easier (and more enjoyable) for schools and teachers to find each other

The education sector largely uses outdated forms of recruitment, such as advertising job specs in trade press, on council websites and the like. Here’s an example from my local area. As the NAHT noted, when these methods fail, schools are forced to turn to expensive recruitment agencies.

It’s my experience that attracting and securing the best candidates is made much easier through

  • A strong brand identity for the organisation.
  • Clarity on exactly who is needed in the position and why.
  • A direct line to that person.

Schools need to do everything they can to help the right people find them. Clear, consistent and up to date communication of who they are and what they stand for across a range of channels is important. On the other side of the coin, they need to be very clear about exactly who that right person is so that communication can be tailored to them specifically. These two principles can be covered with existing knowledge and technology.

Hand carrying businessman icon network - HR,HRM,MLM, teamwork and leadership concept.Hand carrying businessman icon network - HR,HRM,MLM, teamwork and leadership concept.Hand carrying businessman icon network - HR,HRM,MLM, teamwork and leadership concept.

 

The part which is missing, is the ability to not only advertise for that person using channels and messaging specific to them, but also a direct line to them across a range of geographical areas and job sectors if necessary (without having to travel to the other side of the world!). It should be as easy as logging onto a website and saying, ‘I need person X’ and the website saying ‘here are all the X’s, would you like to contact them?’

Similarly, teachers of all levels looking for a school should have an effective online presence that communicates who they are effectively and the opportunity to find schools who are looking for someone like them, regardless of where they are in the world.

Help teachers at all stages of their career prepare for their roles, including students and those considering teaching as a career option.

Making it easier and more enjoyable for schools and teachers to find each other is useful, but only if the candidates are adequately prepared. This is about building a more effective on – ramp to teaching and the various positions that exist within education. There are different markets to address here:

  • People who have never thought about teaching but would be great
  • People who aspire to work in education who haven’t yet had any training
  • Newly qualified teachers without experience
  • Experienced teachers with the potential to move into roles with more responsibility

This can be addressed through:

  • Schools and training bodies creating specific content for each group of people
  • Approved and user rated online training systems
  • A way for schools and training bodies to connect their content with the appropriate market

These ideas would be particularly valuable for sharing skills and philosophies between different cultures and creating opportunities for teachers in developing nations.

Whilst there is little doubt that teacher training must include a heavy dose of classroom experience to be effective, using an online platform opens opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness through flipped learning approaches, which will also bring down the cost of training significantly.

Help schools retain great teachers once they find them

We hear a lot about pay and workload in teaching but the large majority of those who leave the profession take a pay cut in order to do so. And whilst the workload is undoubtedly having an effect, there are still other areas where we can make a difference before we give up hope. The art of nurturing a sometimes very large team of employees is one of the many things on a head teacher’s plate which could be better supported. Leaders and managers from all sectors benefit from:

  • The ability to understand new recruits more thoroughly through the recruitment and onboarding process.
  • Up to date, relevant and customised information on managing specific members of staff.

Gaining a deep insight into a person on your team pays large returns further down the road when it comes to managing them. Not just what they can do, but who they are, how they learn, how they make decisions and what motivates them to perform to their full potential. A database that tracks and delivers relevant information for staff, including their capabilities, training needs, responsibilities and flags up customised solutions ahead of time will do wonders for the happiness and performance of teachers in your team.

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The tools to achieve these things already exist but often come in the form of a well resourced HR department and expensive consultancy fees, both of which are unsustainable for the large majority of schools in the world today. Digitalising these processes and building cutting edge techniques into the system could make practices that would otherwise be out of reach to schools affordable and scalable.

Why this is important

It was Nelson Mandella that said ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’ and he was right. Education has the power to give a person an identity, confidence and the ability to reach their potential. It gives people the tools to lead a good life themselves and to be useful to others. It is the foundation upon which prosperity is built in society.

I was excited to see that providing every child with a quality education by 2030 had a place amongst the UN’s global goals for sustainable development.

Whilst government policies can and will play a role in getting us there, this mechanism is not enough to create sustainable change on it’s own. A government is responsible for achieving balance across a wide range of obligations, and individual areas don’t always get the attention they need to make progress. The entrepreneurial community can and should play a part by using it’s ability to focus on a specific part of the problem and creating things that solve it.

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Great teachers change our lives. We all remember at least one who did so for us. At the moment, there aren’t enough of them finding their way into classrooms and the trends are heading in the wrong direction all over the world.

I believe that we have an opportunity to change that. By harnessing the power of technology, we can connect the right teachers with the right schools far more effectively than we are today and at a fraction of the cost. The cost of specifying an executive role, headhunting, profiling and preparing for employment currently sits at a market value of about £20,000. Using technology, we can make 90% of the value available at a fraction of the cost, to a market that would benefit from it the most. Moreover, by making targeted, cost effective training available to the teachers who needs it and developing tools to assist with the ongoing development of their careers, we we can create a platform for the education sector to thrive on in the coming decades.

What Next? 

My goal for 2016 is to build a founding team and get this idea off the ground. I’m looking for team members, advisors and potential partners who have experience in

  • Education Leadership: Recruiting and managing teachers and other school staff.
  • Teaching: Finding work and different recruitment processes.
  • Technology: Conceptualising, designing and building scalable online platforms.
  • Recruitment: Recruiting at all levels for organisations with turnovers between £500k and £500m.
  • Investment: Financing and managing scalable technology companies.

I’m particularly interested in talking with people who have experience and insights across multiple disciplines. Above all, I’m looking to connect with people who are energised by the idea of solving this problem. If that’s you please get in touch, or if anyone springs to mind when you’re reading this, please feel free to circulate it to them along with my contact details.

The opportunity to make a difference is right in front of us. All we have to do, is take it.

Schools, Curriculums and Standards. What if we’ve got it all wrong?

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The education system in most parts of the world is built around three practices.

  1. Organising children and teachers to be in the same place at the same time.
  2. Passing on a pre-defined set of skills and knowledge called a curriculum.
  3. Setting standards and assessing the children and teachers to see whether they’re meeting them.

Like a three legged stool, remove any one of them and the whole thing falls over.


Behind these three practices are three beliefs, three principles, three stories that we tell unconsciously tell ourselves and each other:

  1. Children learn best through being taught.
  2. We are best placed to know what it is that children need to learn.
  3. Judging children and teachers against set standards is the best way to motivate learning.

What if we’ve been wrong on all three counts? What if we switched those principles out for different ones. For example:

  1. Children learn in a variety of ways and it’s different for every child.
  2. We don’t know what it is that children need to learn for their future.
  3. Teachers and children perform better when they set their own standards.

What sort of practices would we build our system around then?

Come up with three.

If we want to create meaningful change, we need to question everything.

 

Einstein On Education

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I recently came across a speech given by Albert Einstein on education. His insight was astonishing (as always) and his ideas are as relevant today as they were in 1931. Check out the key messages in his own words and a brief summary at the end:

On the purpose of education:

‘Sometimes one sees in the school simply the instrument for transferring a certain maximum quantity of knowledge to the growing generation. But that’s not right. Knowledge is dead; the school, however, serves the living. It should develop in the young individuals those equalities and capabilities which are of value for the welfare of the commonwealth. But that does not mean that individuality should be destroyed and the individual becomes a mere tool of the community, like a bee or an ant. For a community of standerdized individuals without personal originality and personal aims would be a poor community without possibilities for development. On the contrary, the aim must be the training of independently thinking and acting individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem.’

On learning by doing:

‘But how shall one try to attain this ideal? Should one perhaps try to realize this aim by moralizing? Not at all. Words are and remain empty sound, and the road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal. But personalities are not formed by what is heard and said but by labor and activity. The most important method of education accordingly always has consisted of the where pupil was urged to actual performance.’

On the role of motivation in education, the most overlooked area in our system today in my opinion:

‘But behind every achievement exists the motivation which is at the foundation of it and, which in turn is strengthened and nourished by the accomplishment of the under- taking. Here, there are the greatest differences and they are of greatest importance to the education value of the school. The same work may owe its origin to fear and com- pulsion, ambitious desire for authority and distinction, or loving interest in the object and a desire for truth and understanding, and thus to that divine curiosity which every healthy child possesses, but which so often is weakened early.’

On sticks:

‘To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force, and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity, and the self confidence of the pupil. It produces the submissive subject. It is not so hard to keep the school free from the worst of all evils. Give into the power of the teacher the fewest possible coercive measures, so that the only source of the pupil’s respect for the teacher is the human and intellectual qualities of the latter.’

And carrots:

‘The second-named motive, ambition or, in milder terms, the aiming at recognition and consideration, lies firmly fixed in human nature. With absense of mental stimulus of this kind, human cooperation would be entirely impossible; the desire for approval of one’s fellow-man certainly is one of the most important binding powers of society. In this com- plex of feelings, constructive and destrutive forces lie closely together. Desire for approval and recognition is a healthy motive but the desire to be acknowledged as better, stronger, or more intelligent than a fellow being or fellow scholar easily leads to an excessively egoistic psychological adjustment, which may become injurious for the individual and for the community. Therefore the school and the teacher must guard against employing the easy method of creating individual ambition, in order to induce the pupils to diligent work.’

On what success is and isn’t: 

‘Darwin’s thoery of the struggle for existence and the selectivity connected with it has by many people been cited as authorization of the encouragement of the spirit of competition. Some people also in such a way have tried to prove pseudo-scientifically the necessity of the destructive economic struggle of competition between individuals. But this is wrong, beacuse man owes his strength in the struggle for existence to the fact that he is a socially living animal. As little as a battle between single ants of an ant hill is essential for survival, just so little is this the case with the individual members of a human community.

Therefore, one should guard against preaching to the young man success in the customary sense as the aim of life. For a successful man is he who receives a great deal from his fellow men, usually incomparably more than corresponds to his service to them. The value of a man, however, should be seen in what he gives and not what he is able to receive.’

On developing intrinsic motivation:

‘The most important motive for work in the school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its results, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community. In the awakening and strengthening of the psychological forces in the young man, I see the most important task given by the school. Such a psychological foundation alone leads to a joyous desire for the highest possessions of men, knowledge and artist-like workmanship.

The awakening of the productive psychological powers is certainly less easy than the practice of force or the awakening of individual ambition but is the more valuable for it. The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition and to guide the child over to the important fields for society; it is that education which in the main is founded upon the desire for successful activity and acknowledgement. If the school succeeds in working successfully from such points of view, it will be highly honored by the rising generation and the tasks given by the school will be submitted to as a sort of gift. I have known children who preferred schooltime to vacation.’

On giving teachers freedom:

‘Such a school demands from the teacher that he be a kind of artist in his province. What can be done that this spirit be gained in the school? For this there is just as little a universal remedy as there is for an individual to remain well. But there are certain neccesary conditions which can be met. First, teachers should grow up in such schools. Second, the teacher should be given extensive liberty in the selection of the material to be taught and the methods of teaching employed by him. For it is true also of him that pleasure in the shaping of his work is killed by force and exterior pressure.’

On what subjects we should be teaching in school:

‘If you have followed my meditations upto this point, you will probably wonder about one thing. I have spoken fully about what spirit, according to my opinion, youth should have instructed. But I have said nothing yet about the choice of subjects for instruction, nor about the method of teaching. Should language predominate or the technical educa- tion in science?

To this I answer: in my opinion all this is of secondary importance. If a young man has trained his muscles and physical endurance by gymnastics and walking, he will later be fitted for every physical work. This is also analogous to the training of the mind and of the mental and manual skill. Thus, the wit was not wrong who defined education in this way: ”Education is that which remains, if one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” For this reason I am not at all anxious to take sides in the struggle between the followers of the classical philologic-historical education and the education more devoted to natural science.

On the other hand, I want to oppose the idea that the school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments which one has to use later directly in life. The demands of life are much too manifold to let such a specialized training in school appear possible. Apart from that, it seems to me, moreover, objectionable to treat the individual like a dead tool. The school should always have as its aim that the young man leave it as a harmonious personality, not as a specialist. This in my opinion is true in a certain sense even for technical schools, whose students will devote themselves to a quite definite profession. The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowl- edge. If a person masters the fundamentals of his subject and has learned to think and work independently, he will surely find his way and besides will better be able to adapt himself to progress and changes than the person whose training principally consists in the acquiring the detailed knowledge.’

In Summary: 

  • Teach people as individuals
  • Don’t use sticks
  • Be careful with carrots and competition
  • Awaken intrinsic motivation for work, results and doing good for others.
  • Give teachers freedom in how they do this
  • Don’t worry too much about what you’re teaching as long as you’re teaching people to think for themselves.

Two questions for us:

  1. Do we agree?
  2. Are these ideas possible in our current education system?