Improving teacher retention is cost-effective and helps ‘future-proof’ schools

This month we catch up with Ian Armitage, chair of SGOSS Governors for Schools, and – in the lead up to the new school term – consider the value of recruiting a governor with commercial HR experience to support teacher retention

Ian ArmitageWhile an element of staff turnover is essential in a healthy organisation of any type, improving teacher retention brings two major benefits to schools.

Number one: it’s cost effective

The average cost of replacing a teacher ranges from £1,500 for advertising to over £5,000 if you use an agency. The cost of recruitment per position has risen – on average – by over 150% over the past four years as schools have turned to agencies for help. So it’s self-evident that improving staff retention will undoubtedly save money, not to mention the valuable time of the senior staff faced with resolving the situation.

Number two: it retains talent

Encouraging good teachers to remain in the profession for longer strengthens the pool of potential senior leaders.

Managing turnover

The question is how to manage turnover of staff to best effect while minimising the transition costs involved, such as agency fees and the cost of supply teachers.

Start by ensuring you are clear about the answers to these three questions:

  • What objective are we here to achieve?
  • Who do we need to deliver it? (thinking here about people, skills and attitudes) and,
  • How will we deliver it – what are our values, culture and processes?

Then build and maintain a three-year staffing plan. This means you’ll be better prepared to handle change because you will have anticipated events such as forthcoming retirements, maternity and paternity leave.

Know how your staff are thinking

It’s also important to identify those staff likely to be looking for a career move as early as possible. Set milestones to help you fill any gaps and remember to offer training and development opportunities to improve your team and demonstrate commitment to career progression.

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It’s a sobering thought that 60% of secondary teachers leave to join other schools so it’s vital to make sure your best teachers are as happy as possible working at your school.

Identify your key teachers – the ones with the highest performance and potential who really make the difference – and prioritise their retention. Spend more of your time with them, as opposed to those who you, sadly, judge cannot meet the standards required, nor have the potential to do so.

Improve your induction process so that new recruits settle in quickly and feel welcome and, of course, follow up on all promises to win trust.

Understand what teachers value and the reasons why they leave; you can then design and adapt your package of benefits around staff priorities accordingly – for example, we know that young teachers particularly value opportunities for continuous professional development.

A HR professional recruited to your governing body will be an invaluable support to head teachers during this period of financial pressure, providing a good sounding board and helping to develop staff retention strategies.

About the author

Ian Armitage is chair of SGOSS Governors for Schools, a charitable enterprise offering a free governor search and selection service for schools keen to bolster the existing skills of their Boards of Governors by recruiting candidates with commercial experience. SGOSS has an unmatched record of 18 years experience in placing talented business executives into school governing roles. Building on consistent year-on-year growth, SGOSS helped 2,047 schools by finding them 2,800 governors in the last year alone.

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