Focus on Employment| Irwin Mitchell | Attracting talent to your school

How you recruit and retain the best teachers and senior leaders for your school requires a school centred approach. This means thinking about your school, your setting and what is required to get the best talent to join your team.

The current publicised ‘teacher recruitment crisis’ is set against a backdrop of record growth in the UK with private sector vacancies at their highest point since 2007.

How this will translate to public sector jobs (and by public sector, we mean all maintained schools as well as academies and free schools) is open to speculation. However, it is already clear that a growing private sector means a shift by graduates from looking at careers in the public sector. Add to this, increasing workloads, league tables, Ofsted and shifting policies, it is no wonder than a recent NUT survey revealed that more than 53% of teachers were thinking of quitting in the next two years.

Schools are in competition for talent

The Association of School and College Leaders suggest that head teachers are being treated like football managers, judged on results for that year alone. Therefore as a head teacher it is even more critical to continually look at building a strong and successful team around you to ensure ongoing success.

With this challenge in mind here are some suggestions to ensure you are continuously able to attract talent.

1. Ongoing PR highlights your reputation

You are always recruiting, so it is critical that you have and maintain a great school image. How are you perceived in the community? How much information is out there about what your school has achieved? You don’t have to be an ‘outstanding’ school but you should always highlight and celebrate your successes. It is worth looking beyond your school improvement plan and looking at raising your local profile. Social media, local events and general publicity is a good way to maintain this.

2. Be clear about the opportunities available

All candidates joining your school want to know what you have to offer them and nothing is better at illustrating that than talking about the successes of your school staff. Newsletters on your website should be written for a range of audiences including your future staff. Highlight what your school continues to do well as this may be the detail that secures a candidate above another local opportunity.

3. Identify the person

Schools that spend time thinking about desired traits of their new recruit are more likely to make a good hiring decision. Understanding the personality traits required (the soft skills) is vital to making a successful appointment. Defining what your school needs may require an analysis of your current team but the time invested now will pay dividends in the long run.

4. Create engaging job adverts

If you are designing your own job advert, ensure that it is less of a job description and talks more of the opportunity available. When applying for a role, at any level, the overall opportunity and challenge at the school is often what appeals more than a list of job duties. Ensure you describe what is expected of someone within the team, yet highlight how this is supported by senior leadership. Also make sure the team have the attributes of the ideal candidate defined, so it is clear why someone should apply for the role.

5. Simple application process

The best candidates are predominantly in current roles and will be busy with their existing commitments. Demanding workloads means time can be limited and a lengthy application process can dissuade candidates from applying for a new position. The application process needs to be simple and positive. Short and concise application forms, clear and logical questions and set deadlines should be the norm and responding to all applicants is essential. Shortlisted candidates should be invited to interview by phone and ideally this should take place after school hours so they have an opportunity to ask questions.

6. Broaden your search

The traditional methods of recruiting to education roles are becoming more challenging and the current market is making many schools / governors think differently about their approach. The pro-active approach is becoming more favourable with many, but most will consider this in the wider context of the school and whether this is a chance to bring in some well needed external talent or whether it is a chance to develop the staff within the current team. There are different options to explore, but with the future of the sector looking more demanding it is worthwhile considering recruitment as a constant process.

Education Futures is a specialist company that supports schools with securing senior leaders in education. They provide support into schools in the areas of school improvement, development of leadership and subject specific support. They are also able to support interim needs at a senior level or complete full recruitment processes for senior roles.