MAT Resource: Leaders must be proactive in responding to recruitment challenge

Multi-Academy Trusts must be proactive in responding to the recruitment challenge

Michael Pain, Forum Education – March, 2016

The quality of any education system, and indeed any individual school, will never exceed the quality of its teachers. For school leaders – from headteachers to MAT CEOs – ensuring you recruit the very best candidates possible – and hold on to them – is absolutely central to your organisation’s success. Everything else is secondary.

So it is of great concern to school leaders, policy makers and parents, that schools are already struggling to attract and retain candidates. Last year’s new Education White Paper put the recruitment issue centre stage, and there are steps that government can take to help mitigate the challenge. However, with a stronger economy and a more competitive jobs markets, schools cannot wait for answers from high above.

The situation will become more challenging before it gets better. We know that there will be a steady decline in the population of 21 year olds from 2016 to 2022, meaning the overall pool of graduates is likely to fall. Competition for the best will become even more intense. At the same time, pre-16 pupil numbers are set to increase by about 615,000 over the next five years. In short – this is a perfect storm.

The most proactive MATs have already placed recruitment and retention firmly on their agenda, they are investing in it, taking sound advice, and looking at how their strategy creates an environment that appeals to top performing staff.

So what can schools do to attract and retain the best teachers and leaders? Here are a few tips:

  1. Articulate your organisation’s moral purpose. As Studs Terkel tells us “Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread.” This chimes with younger workers in particular, who want to work for organisations that make a difference. As the Economist wrote in 2013: “One way to build engagement in Gen Y workers is to appeal to their sense of connectedness to the world and belief in their potential to be agents of change.” Does your school have a clear vision that taps into candidates’ desire to make a difference, and are you communicating it well enough?

“the pleasure of teaching and being part of a school, coupled with the crucial experience of ‘making a difference’ is central.”

LKMco & Pearson ‘Why Teach’ October 2015

  1. Articulate opportunities for career development and progression. Research by Ashridge Business School found that 56% of graduates expected to be in a management role within 3 years of starting work. Whilst those expectations probably far exceed the expectations of employers, it remains important that schools can articulate the pathways to greater responsibility through professional development. Schools that do this well often provide case studies in recruitment materials of teachers that have accessed such opportunities and gone on to lead on key areas of responsibility. Others have published clear progression structures, which show the opportunities, training, networking and expectations for each stage of an individual’s career development.

“ultimately whether you are a corporation or an SME your employee value proposition must include a clearly articulated programme that, if they have the right talent, attitude and work ethic, a Gen Y employee can go all the way from new starter to senior manager.”

Hay Group

  1. Opportunities to work across a range of settings and environments. Today’s graduates do not expect to stay in the same job for very long. Indeed, research by the Hay Group found that 26% of generation y expect to have at least 7 different employers during their careers (72% expect to change jobs more than three times). Variety of work, the opportunity to work across a range of contexts, and exposure to new challenges are all key to attracting – and crucially retaining – top candidates. The rise of school partnerships – including federations, multi-academy trusts, and teaching schools – provide an excellent basis for developing and promoting such opportunities. Schools must ensure that they promote the potential opportunities – such as professional networking, secondments, job-swaps, coaching and involvement in school to school support initiatives – that enable candidates to work beyond the individual school.

“Consider for example how you can offer opportunities for Gen Yer’s to change jobs within your organisation, whether you are a corporation or a small to medium-sized enterprise.”

  1. Create and promote a culture of wellbeing, support and flexibility. One of the key issues in addressing the recruitment challenge is addressing the perception of long hours, high workload and little support. A NASUWT poll in 2015 revealed that 84% said their job had a negative effect on their health and wellbeing, with a similar number experiencing more workplace stress during the preceding 12 months. Schools and school leaders that attract high quality candidates know that they must invest in their staff as individuals. Key strategies include offering support such as stress counselling services, health insurance and ensuring a culture whereby colleagues are confident to talk about their concerns in a confidential environment. There are some useful hints and tips by Schools Advisory Service’s Head of Nursing, Mandy Gallagher, here: Promoting such a culture is key to recruiting top candidates. In addition, providing flexible working – where possible – can also make your school more attractive to top candidates. Has your school considered offering flexible working or job share opportunities for teachers with caring responsibilities? Again, promoting both this and indeed a school’s commitment to equality and diversity, can be key to appealing to the right candidate.

“More school leaders are now considering the role they have to play in supporting their teams – including referring staff to timely and relevant external support services when required.”

Mandy Gallagher, Head of Nursing, Schools Advisory Service

  1. Additional benefits. The wider corporate sector is very good at attracting and appealing to top graduates. It also has more flexibility in terms of pay incentives and additional benefits it can offer. As schools gain more freedom over the way budgets are spent, it is essential that leaders and governors carefully consider whether more is needed to incentivise high quality candidates – after all, it is an investment worth making. From healthcare insurance through to relocation allowances, schools must be willing to think outside the box in a way that they possibly haven’t done before. As LKMO & Pearson highlighted last year, “pragmatic factors like pay and convenience remain important (and may play an increasing role as teachers settle down and have a family).” At a time of tighter budgets, a commitment to investment in recruiting great teachers is one that must be worth making?

Read our article on strategies for retaining talented millennial staff: Talking about my generation – schools must work hard to retain millennial generation

Read our article on the need for a more strategic approach to recruitment and retention (including leadership training) in the education sector: BLOG: Can a more strategic approach to recruitment & retention also help ease the financial challenges facing our schools system?

Read more about our Thrive!Leadership Programme: Thrive! Leadership Programme

Michael Pain is Director of Forum Education, a consultancy providing marketing & communications, research & analysis, and training to the education sector. Forum Education has successfully worked with a number of schools and school groups on recruitment and retention strategies, and is currently delivering inputs to a number of conferences and events on this issue.

“Forum Education supported REAch2 on a project to enhance & better co-ordinate our approach to recruiting school leaders and teachers. Recruiting high quality leaders and teachers – from Executive Principals to classroom assistants – is an essential basis for school improvement. From undertaking research to help us understand how high performing education systems recruit, through to drafting inspiring and values-driven recruitment adverts and application packs, Forum Education provided an excellent service to the trust.” Cathie Paine, Deputy CEO, REAch2 Academy Trust


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