The recruitment crisis looms large over the whole profession of teaching. Most simply bemoan the situation; others choose to do something about it.

Professor John Howson is probably the sagest example of an individual working to understand and reverse this current crisis. In an illustrious career spanning 40 years, Howson has played many parts. Starting out as a supply teacher, he quickly scaled to head of department in North London, before moving on to train teachers in Oxford. He was appointed as the first Dean of Education at Oxford Brookes University, where he served for 9 years. In the early 1980’s he became concerned about the lack of robust data on teacher recruitment – how could one hope to understand the complex issues of teacher supply without any information on, well, teacher supply? Professor Howson began gathering such data, assembling it into frameworks that would allow the teacher labour market to be properly analysed. In little time he became the nation’s singular expert on teacher recruitment, appointed as a chief advisor to the government as well as serving as Director of his company Data For Education.

Although most people with such achievements behind them would be aiming to power down, the recruitment crisis has galvanised Professor Howson back into action. His approach to the problem is three-pronged: his regularly updated blog provides snappy and sober analysis of educational news, especially relating to teacher supply; he works through the press and his rich networks of prominent players in education and politics (he serves as a Lib Dem councillor in Oxford) to influence government policy; and, of course, he set up TeachVac – a free jobs board for schools helping them avoid the exploitative ad fares of major hosting sites.

Teacher Booker were delighted and honoured to have the Professor join us for a meeting at our offices in London Bridge last week. Over the course of a wide-ranging discussion, it became clear that we shared the same ethos of challenging the injustice of current teacher recruitment procedures through technology and heterodoxy. Professor Howson spoke in praise of the concept of Teacher Booker, with strong interest in future collaboration in our mutual quest for an enlightened, fairer system of teacher recruitment.

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