Ian Armitage is chair of SGOSS Governors for Schools, discusses teacher recruitment and outlines how a governor with the relevant human resources experience can instil and support good recruitment habits in schools
The teacher shortage is a significant problem for the UK’s education sector and one which is unlikely to go away any time soon. Recruitment costs are rising and good educational outcomes are entirely dependent on high-quality teaching – so it is evident that mastering recruitment can both save money and help improve standards.
Last year the English school system spent £200m on recruitment services for permanent positions – ignoring spending on supply teachers. This expenditure is rising by circa six per cent per annum, mostly driven by higher prices for advertising and increased use of specialist search firms which are frequently engaged when advertising fails to work.
Many UK vacancies have been filled recently by candidates from Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, where there has been an oversupply of NQTs. We cannot continue to rely on an oversupply from other countries and nor will EU countries, necessarily, be able to fill the gaps should the UK appear less attractive post-Brexit.
Planning to improve recruitment
The best course of action is to make human resources – perhaps now better described as talent management – the first priority of local governing boards and head teachers.
Schools need to be proactive, rather than reactive, in addressing recruitment issues. The starting point is to build a three-year staffing plan based on what is needed to deliver the school’s mission. Getting ahead of the competition will help you get the best candidates, save time and minimise expenditure on agencies or advertising.
Be careful to pick the right person in order to reduce staff turnover and hence the need to recruit
There are several areas to address when seeking to improve the flow of appropriately qualified, high-quality candidates. After all, the more applications received, the better the chance of finding the right person.
Number one is to build the school’s reputation – in the way companies build their brands. Be clear about what’s on offer and communicate these strengths at all times. Never undersell your school and the opportunities you can pitch to teachers. Your ability to attract and secure great candidates delivers the twin benefits of better teaching and lower cost of recruitment by reducing the involvement of outside agencies and advertising.
Next, work hard at converting the best candidates into employees by shaping your package to meet the things they value highly, beyond pay and rations. For example, research amongst The Key’s membership of school leaders shows that the best candidates want good continuing professional development (CPD) programmes and look for solid evidence of staff progression and development within the school or MAT they join.
Good recruitment habits
Developing good recruitment habits is essential. Here are a few to remember:
- Test different approaches, such as the wording of advertising and any agencies used, then repeat what works.
- Drive suppliers very hard on service levels, as well as costs. Ask for proposals from suppliers every year to make them feel they are tendering for the business.
- Make the application process simple, using easy to follow forms. Minimise the amount of navigation necessary online.
- Keep candidates informed throughout the process to reinforce a reputation for being highly professional.
- Make the selection process comfortable – perhaps even allowing the candidate to choose an interview time and location to suit them.
- Ensure there is a clear structure to the process and provide good feedback.
Be careful to pick the right person in order to reduce staff turnover and hence the need to recruit. We all know that, as well as having the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience, the ideal candidate will also have the right attitude, motivations and behaviours. Once you have your person, work hard at staff retention, providing job satisfaction, collegiality, pay and opportunities to build skills and progress.
An HR professional recruited to your governing body can bring excellent skills and experience to inform your deliberations around the main drivers of school improvement and your largest cost – your staff.
SGOSS is 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.