How we partnered with DfE to find a way to identify users and deliver services more effectively.
The Department for Education (DfE) oversees children’s services and education in England and is responsible for the provision of teachers.
Currently, DfE lacks a single accurate database of UK teachers. While DfE’s database of qualified teachers (DQT) holds details of teachers with qualified teacher status (QTS), it’s possible to teach without this, so the DQT is incomplete.
There are 465,526 teachers in the UK and approximately 25% are new joiners, change jobs or leave the profession each year. Since teachers aren’t required to notify DfE of job changes, a huge proportion is difficult to reach quickly and easily.
Teacher Reference Numbers (TRNs) are one way of keeping a current record. But teachers regularly forget their TRNs, leading to a significant number of help desk emails to DfE and ineffective use of administrative resources.
The lack of a reliable teacher database prevents DfE from effectively delivering its services to support teachers across the UK. It also means employers don’t have a full and verified record of teachers’ employment histories.
We partnered with DfE to explore the complex issues around identifying users and better understand teachers' journey through the education system. Working together, we aimed to find the most reliable and efficient way to keep all relevant teacher data in one place. This new system would keep an accessible record of who teaches what and where, improve the effectiveness of DfE’s services and create a user friendly system for those working in education.
We worked closely with DfE to determine if there was value in creating central Teacher Identity (Teacher ID) profiles for candidates, teachers and former teachers. These profiles could include identifiers for individual teachers to confirm their identities, such as a unique login, a Teacher Reference Number (TRN) and a combination of characteristics. For example, TRN + first name + surname + DOB.
To complete this Discovery work, we provided a product manager, service designer and technical architect to work alongside DfE. Together, we co-designed hypotheses to explore.
We started by identifying the needs of DfE staff, people in education and external organisations to understand how the Teacher ID model should look. This included interviews with people in education, from head teachers to school business administrators. We also spoke to stakeholders from numerous DfE service teams, including CPD, Teaching Vacancies Service (TVS) and additional payments for teachers (known internally as Claim).
We discovered that the lack of a cohesive identity for individuals in education led to duplicated efforts and missed opportunities for DfE and education services. Greater visibility of teachers would be useful both externally for employers and internally to help DfE deliver several initiatives.
Thanks to our collaborative Discovery work with DfE, we identified 12 areas where Teacher ID could provide a trustworthy teacher record. It could reduce organisations’ administrative burden and help DfE services to reach the right people. This central form of teacher identification would eliminate the need for separate login credentials, reducing the burden on all users and services.
We also worked on a service called Find a lost TRN, which helps people retrieve their unique TRN without contacting DfE. Find a lost TRN has reduced the volume of email requests, enabling more efficient use of administrative support.
We then tested the scalability of Teacher ID in two key DfE services — Claim and Teaching Vacancies Service (TVS).
Claim is a DfE service which sends retention payments to teachers of shortage subjects, such as physics. Teachers can claim by logging onto the service and filling out a long application. The Claim service relies on manually connecting multiple data sources, making it prone to delays when there’s a spike in applications.
We created a roadmap for using Teacher ID to automatically connect multiple data sources, generate an eligibility list and validate the information with schools. This approach would make it faster and easier for teachers to claim and for DfE to make payments.
TVS is a DfE service for posting and applying to teaching jobs. Because employers have limited access to teachers’ employment histories, they allocate substantial administrative resources to checking employee credentials. In total, schools are spending £75m per year on recruitment solutions. TVS could help with this, but it's not widely used.
Finally, we recommended a way to use Teacher ID for automating work history and qualifications from existing but disjointed data, meaning candidates wouldn’t have to manually fill this in. This would make the TVS platform more user friendly and provide employers with reliable data while cutting costs and administrative efforts.