Siân Womersley from recruitment specialist Futures Education, which is part of recruitment group, Futures.co.uk, shares her views about the fast moving world of education recruitment.
Recently, comparisons have been made between head teachers and football managers because of the immediate impact they are expected to have, as well as the fact they’re often judged on their achievements over the short-term. As every football manager knows, their own success and that of the club is based in large part, on the team they work with and the new signings they make. Head teachers know that recruiting and retaining the best staff is critical to ensuring the best outcomes for students.
In attracting and retaining the best talent, schools are taking a ‘competitive edge’ approach to recruitment. This means, first recognising that their schools are drawing from an ever decreasing pool of talent and that schools are in competition for that talent. This is particularly true within the area of special needs and alternative provision, where 65% of vacancies for heads and deputies are re-advertised.
It used to be enough to place an advert in the local or national print media and then shortlist from a wide range of suitable applicants, but this is certainly no longer the case, and the few people that do respond to an advert are likely to be less motivated or less than suitable candidates.
Schools today are using more innovative ways to recruit, actively utilising technology including online job boards and social media. This can work in some circumstances but in the market of declining teacher numbers, the candidate often has a wide choice of options open to them. Underlying teacher recruitment is the fact that the very best people are not looking at recruitment advertising.
High Performing, highly motivated teachers are, instead, focused on their current roles. Recruitment for top talent must utilise other techniques to identify these high performers. These techniques include talking to colleagues, tapping into existing staff networks, utilising national contacts and of course, speaking to good recruiters who know where the best people are.
Additionally, schools need to ensure that their ‘proposition’ is one that engages the best people. With lots of options available, the savvy teacher will conduct at least some online research into schools. They will of course, visit the internet, so the online ‘content’ about a school, must show the school and the opportunity in a positive light. Consider that many new applicants to the teaching profession this year will have been born in 1994, for them, the internet is sometimes, the first source of information, research and first impressions do count.
Having an online presence is much more than creating a passive website. All online content should be positive and up to date and often students in the school can help with population of content. Social media posts, newsletters and positive news stories in the local media will also create a good impression and those stories will then appear when prospective candidates ‘google’ the school.
Once a shortlist of potential targets has been identified, it’s worth remembering that top performing people are likely to be very busy with demanding workloads and existing commitments.
As a result, a lengthy application process can often deter these people from applying for new positions, so it’s vitally important that the process is simple and concise. The best methods are generally online forms that can be saved and edited, a straightforward word document or an editable PDF. Questions need to be clear and logical and there should be a set deadline for the application to be submitted.
First interviews should then take place outside school hours so the applicant can attend in their own time rather than having to sneak out of their current job, which adds to the pressure they will already be under.
After recruiting the right person, it’s important to make sure they have all the support they need to thrive in their new role. This could mean offering independent coaching or mentoring with recognised education leaders, arranging one to ones with other successful school leaders and implementing a clear performance assessment process and career advancement programmes.
Futures Education provides senior recruitment and consultancy support to schools and local authorities. Specialising in Senior Leadership Team (SLT), School Improvement, Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Inclusion, as well as Capital Projects Futures Education also works closely with Irwin Mitchell who provides IM Educate, an Employment Law and HR Advisory Service for schools.