This post was written by Written by Jon Tait @TeamTait.
We’ve been hearing for a few years now that we are in the middle of a recruitment crisis. While teachers are leaving the profession in droves (more than 4,000 teachers a month left the profession in 2014/15, nearly 50,000 in total, around one in 12 full-time teachers according the DFE statistics), the government are trying to off-set this number by introducing more innovative ways to recruit student teachers into the profession. Initiatives like Teach First, Get into Teaching and financial bursaries have all been used to tempt graduates into the classroom. But even with attractive packages and jazzy marketing campaigns, high quality recruitment of new teachers into the profession still remains a national challenge. This was highlighted in the recent Government white paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’:
‘We recognise that teacher recruitment is becoming more difficult as the economy grows stronger and competition for the best candidates increases. The challenges are particularly acute in some areas of the country and the number of teachers we need is increasing as pupil numbers grow’
In recent times, this has been made even more challenging with the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and the double weighting of both English and Maths. More and more schools are redesigning their curriculum to meet the needs of the modern day performance tables, meaning that the demand for teachers in subjects like Maths, English and Science is rising even faster than ever before. More hours on the curriculum for these subjects means more specialists and schools are struggling to meet this need. This is also more acutely challenging in certain parts of the country where supply and demand can be a million miles apart.
You only have to look on the TES to see the size of the problem. At the time of writing this article (May 2016) I ran a search for secondary teaching jobs for English, Maths and Science in the North East of England and was not surprised by the results. Although English jobs were the scarcest (only 8 jobs within 30 miles of my house), there were 21 Maths jobs and 20 Science jobs all within a 30 mile radius. So not only are we struggling to attract graduates into the classroom, as school leaders we now have a further challenge on our hands – Why would student teachers or experienced teachers looking for a different challenge, want to work at your school above the other 20 schools that are currently advertising for the same post? For the first time in my educational career, I am seeing the tables turning to a world where schools are having to significantly market themselves to candidates, rather than the other way round. More and more innovative strategies are being used by schools trying to steal a march on other local schools in the hunt for the very best teachers to make their annual search for new talent, that little bit easier. Open days, job fairs and glossy marketing campaigns are starting to pop up wherever you look. It’s a candidate’s market and the generic photocopied pack just doesn’t do the business anymore. Take a look at the standard pack that goes out from your school. What does it say about you? Would it entice you to apply for that job above the other 20 packs that you receive in the post on the same day?
Highly skilled teachers looking for new challenges hold all the cards now. The scramble for these greatly sought after commodities in the aforementioned subjects has led to a ‘football style’ environment where enhanced financial packages, incentives and golden hello’s have been the deal breakers for some. But the sustainability of such strategies in the long term is unrealistic. With the tightening of budgets and the new national funding formula on its way, schools will have to find more creative ways to sell themselves. Money is not the key driver for everyone and ultimately people want to work in organisations that go the extra mile for them, demonstrating how much they would like you to be part of their team and not in an organisation where you are just a body filling a void that someone has left.
Are we therefore edging closer to an educational recruitment Dragons Den scenario, where schools are going to have to pitch to the very best candidates in order for the candidates to select who they want to work for? Will the onus be on the school to present what they have to offer that candidate such as facilities, professional development and carer opportunities?
And if we are, what would be your USP? What makes your school stand out from the crowd? What would you use to market your school above another school? And why would a teacher want to come and ply their trade in one of your classrooms as opposed to the school across the road for exactly the same money? If we truly are beginning to enter a changing landscape in educational recruitment where the candidate is king, then these are the questions that your school needs to have answers for. What is your strategy for being the school in the county that teachers are clamouring to work at? And if you are not doing anything different than you were 10 years ago to boost staff retention, staff well-being and general employee benefits, then now might be the time to start before you get left behind.
Over the next few years one of the biggest challenges we are going to face as school leaders is the ability to recruit well in a market that is becoming ever more competitive. The overall performance of any school is going to be significantly dictated by the quality of teachers that they can recruit to fill the voids left by staff who are moving on for retirement, promotion or the glamourised teacher lifestyle promised by the school across the road in their flashy new recruitment campaign!
It might be worth brushing up on your pitching skills, before you get told to leave the Den because all the Dragons have declared themselves out!