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Unlocking the power of diversity and inclusion: how schools and colleges can attract and retain teachers

Staff turnover is a major problem in schools and colleges. In its annual report on the teacher labour market in England for 2023, the National Foundation for Educational Support (NFES) found that the situation has got significantly worse since the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of teacher vacancies posted by schools, for example, was 93 per cent higher in the academic year up to February 2023 than at the same point in the year before the pandemic. Recruiting staff to teach STEM subjects is particularly difficult and many schools and colleges have to use non-specialist teachers to cover these important subjects. 

The NFES says that trends in recruitment and retention are primarily driven by the competitiveness of pay and working conditions in teaching compared to alternative jobs and careers. The recent strikes support that view. Schools and colleges can do something about workloads, but they have much less wriggle room when it comes to pay. So what can they do to attract and retain staff? 

Improving the attractiveness of workplaces in the education sector requires effort and dedication. While there is no quick fix, prioritising diversity and inclusion is an important step. Creating an environment where all employees feel respected, supported, and valued takes intentional action, perseverance, and commitment.

Five tips to help your organisation attract and retain staff

1. Job adverts

Make sure that your recruitment process is efficient and friendly. If it isn't candidates may be put off working for you and may turn down your offer if they already have another one on the table.

Emphasise your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Don't just say that you are an equal opportunities employer as this is something that practically every school and college will say. One option is to personalise that sentiment and make it clear that having a diverse workforce is something you value and that you have a culture that values and respects people from all backgrounds (provided that's true). You could also include examples to demonstrate this, such as training you provide on, for example, unconscious bias and/or staff testimonials.

It should go without saying that you shouldn't include unnecessary criteria that will restrict your pool of candidates. For a good example of what not to say in a job advert, click here

2. Professional development 

Make sure that your staff know how you can help them improve their skills and progress. Upskilling staff through training and development courses will help them to keep up to date with new approaches and the skills required in their role.

It might be helpful to also set up a mentorship scheme which matches experienced teachers with newly qualified ones. This can help bridge knowledge gaps and help more inexperienced staff feel supported.

3. Culture

Create a culture that is welcoming and inclusive for all staff, regardless of their background or identity. This can include things like celebrating cultural holidays, providing resources for LGBT staff, and having open conversations about diversity and inclusion.

You can also create a create a sense of belonging by creating opportunities for staff to connect with each other and build relationships, via social events and mentorship programs.

Line managers have an important role in setting the tone of the organisation. Some are naturally good at handling people but many aren't. Help them to improve via training and mentoring, and make sure that they've got people who can support and advise them when they need it.

4. Workload

Look at ways to reduce teacher workload - particularly administrative tasks. Can these be done by someone else? Is there a better way of achieving the same objectives? Consult with staff and find out if they have ideas that will reduce their workloads and test these if they sound feasible.

5. Speak out

Encourage staff to communicate openly and honestly with colleagues and management. In a speak out culture, employees are listened to and their opinions are respected, even if they differ from those of management. This will help to build trust and improve employee morale, as well as lead to better decision-making and problem-solving.

How we can help

Our D&I solution is made up of:

  • Our D&I assessment to understand what you have already done and what your next steps will look like.
  • Advisory support to help you implement a plan and manage the complexities of a diverse business.
  • Training to create a safer, more productive environment for all colleagues including our new eLearning modules.

If you'd like to know more, please visit our website or contact Charlotte Rees-John or Jenny Arrowsmith.

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