A competitive edge


How schools can find and attract the best teachers

Recently, comparisons have been made between headteachers 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. Headteachers 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 per cent 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. Schools today are using more innovative ways to recruit, utilising technology including online job boards and social media. This can work in some circumstances but in a 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.

Using technology effectively

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.

Having an online presence is much more than creating a passive website. All online content should be positive and up to date. 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 search for the school online.

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 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.

Further information

Jarrod Gaines is from recruitment specialist Education Futures:

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Education Consultant, Education Futures


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