You’re hired: Recruitment and retention

Brookside Academy in Somerset is currently one of the top 100 apprentice employers in England. Here we speak to their business manager, SANDRA BARTLETT, to find out about the benefits of the scheme and how apprentices are made to feel valued by school staff

Apprenticeships are a key part of the public sector workforce and, as of January 2017, public sector organisations, including schools, are expected to make good on a government target of employing 200,000 more apprentices by 2020. The Department for Education has released a response to its consultation on apprenticeships setting out a compulsory target of 2.3% for schools in England. The target is based on overall staff numbers meaning, for example, if a school or academy has 1,000 employees, 23 must be apprentices.

Valued members of the team

Running the numbers, Brookside Academy in Somerset has 13 apprentices in a staff of 122 which works out at nine per cent of the workforce – an admirable achievement. The apprentices are all students at nearby Stroud College, typically working towards the award of a vocational diploma; they all receive a salary for the work they do at Brookside.

“We first employed apprentices in our nursery in 2009; two secondary school leavers arrived while progressing through a level three childcare course,” Sandra says. “The learners are employed by the Academy and paid the relevant apprenticeship rate for their age. Most apprentices work fulltime – 37 hours a week – and the cost is built into our annual budget process.”

The school benefits from having additional resources to help support pupil development and administrative staff, whilst the apprentices receive valuable mentoring from senior employees and gain a practical insight into educational, business and childcare careers. Evidence of high rates of retention suggest that this approach is an efficient one; those completing the course vastly outnumbering a select few who, in the past, have opted to pursue other career options. How does the school deal with the age-old problem of a new start feeling out of place?

“Making apprentices feel like valued members of our school begins with integration. Part of that process includes being welcomed into staff meetings,” she says. “We foster a teaching and learning environment where our apprentices will learn from, and be supported by, all team members who act as role models throughout the apprentices’ time with us. For example, our current finance apprentice has needed to get to grips with some very specific systems for school human resources.”

This is an abstract of an article that appeared in the May issue of Education Executive. Read more about Brookside Academy’s apprenticeship programme here.

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