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Staff recruitment is a burning issue in schools and colleges, especially due to a severe teacher shortage, so it’s vital to get it right. Managing Director of BlueSky Denise Inwood advises on how to get the right person for the job.
There is a major teacher shortage crisis and the message from schools and colleges is that they have to work incredibly hard to attract the right talent. What’s more, with school and college budgets under pressure, getting the right person for the job has never been more vital than it is today. The reality is that teacher recruitment is costly and the staff salary bill typically accounts for 75 to 85% of the overall school budget. Therefore, it’s self-evident that attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is something that should receive continuous focus throughout the year. Every season is recruitment season. So now is a good time to reflect on your plans for the year.
So what can you do to ensure that your school or college embraces recruitment as a year-round demand, and to get your ‘product’ right so that you attract high-quality recruits?
There are a number of ways to recruit and I am going to look at two of them – first, my preferred option of ‘growing your own’ and succession planning and, second, the advertising and interviewing route.
Grow your own staff and succession planning
Growing your own staff is a long process, requiring careful analysis and, I believe, including a place for psychometrics. Succession planning is something that many schools and colleges do not approach in a systematic way, yet if all the right policies and processes are in place, it will be a huge help in creating an environment where staff are more likely to want to stay and progress.
There are two aspects to this: operational and strategic.
Operationally, you need to have a rigorous process for assessing performance and spotting and supporting talent, along with a very well structured mentoring process to grow leadership and foster talent development.
The first step is to be certain about which staff you want to retain in order to fill existing or planned posts. You need to know the skill set that you are looking for and then be able to spot staff who show promising signs of being able to develop and master that skill set.
This means having secure evidence about all staff performance and potential and being clear about the value they add to the organisation, that is, in relation to classroom performance/pedagogy, leadership, their behaviour as a role model for others and impact in their role.
The latest analysis of teacher retention, by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), identified six ‘protective factors’ that encourage teachers to stay in post (see http://tinyurl.com/gsn9hk6). These were job satisfaction, being proud to work at the school, having adequate resources, being well supported and valued by school management and having an effective governing body. I heartily endorse these and would suggest supporting them by:
- providing positive and constructive evaluation of teachers’ performance that involves them as participants and is based upon continuous improvement of them as professionals
- playing to their strengths by sharing practice; where excellence is identified, encourage these staff to participate and lead action research or deliver support across your learning community, for example
- providing appropriate challenge to motivate teachers to improve practice further as well as encouraging them to support others
- rewarding excellent practice
- removing barriers to teachers’ development or work as far as you can – for example, providing clarity over marking to help reduce the burden of it
- giving time for development where possible; staff often appreciate time over money and a small gesture, such as one late-start morning, could make all the difference to their work/life balance
All of this underpins a culture more likely to make staff want to stay. There is a strong interaction between teacher engagement and retention. According to the NFER survey, most ‘engaged’ teachers (90%) are not considering leaving their jobs, compared to 26% of ‘disengaged’ teachers.
Then, thinking strategically, you need to routinely – and at least bi-annually – stress-test the staff profile to understand the strengths, weaknesses and bottlenecks. This will help to anticipate vacancies well before they arise. Think about the likely movement of your own staff. As well as retirements and resignations, be prepared for maternity leave and sickness. Work through ‘What if …?’ scenarios and consider what would happen in those situations. Do you have the budget to cope? Whom would you move into those positions? Think about other schools and colleges, find like-minded heads and decide how you could help one another. As senior leaders, we have a responsibility to help others move on and develop their careers.
Working collaboratively with other schools and colleges can be a huge help in finding the right staff. Developing close and continuous links with your neighbours means that you may well be able to help solve one another’s problems by providing opportunities for one another’s teachers. This is ideal in a multi-academy trust (MAT) where you share similar values and expectations – you can talent spot for one another.
It’s not enough to recruit a good teacher and consider it job done. There’s a continuous job to do in ensuring that they don’t leave for want of opportunities, feedback or reward.
Recruiting from outside your organisation
The first thing to do here is to think about your school or college and view it through the eyes of those talented, and discerning, teachers on the market – why should they choose you?
The starting point must be to define who you are as an organisation and be clear about your expectations.
Consider all the touch points that potential recruits encounter. Most notably, your website: does it communicate a clear vision and purpose that a talented teacher will want to buy into? Does it also offer a confidential facility to upload CVs, so you can build up a bank of possible talent throughout the year, even without specific vacancies now?
Have a look at your job advert. Does it make your school or college’s vision clear? Does it outline the role and your organisation’s expectations? Have you painted an accurate picture of your organisation to help you get the right fit?
Ditto the application form. Does it ask the right questions and offer applicants an opportunity to show their expertise or their passion for their subject?
Reviewing applications can be a time-consuming task, with the potential for bias and inconsistency, so it is important to have some objective criteria for selecting applicants to invite for an interview. This critical first stage of assessment can be improved dramatically if, as part of the application process, applicants can complete a self-review against professional standards and upload supporting evidence online. Furthermore, the fact that a school or college has such online systems in place immediately identifies it as being an organisation that recognises values and has a culture of learning and progression. This in itself will ensure that the best applicants, who are happy to self-evaluate, for example, are attracted to the role you are advertising.
It is also important to show how your subsequent induction process will support staff and to outline tangible initiatives around how you will help them develop their careers.
An effective recruitment process comprises a number of key elements and an online staff performance and development solution can help at every stage. BlueSky Education, an ASCL Premier Partner (www.blueskyeducation.co.uk), is the leading online staff development, professional learning and self-evaluation software for schools and colleges.
Denise Inwood is a former senior school leader, now Managing Director of BlueSky.