The right staff

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Ian Hartwright provides some useful tips on how schools can attract and keep the best teachers

Anyone working in a school knows how rewarding it is to help young people learn and grow. On a good day, there’s no better profession to be in than education. Yet we know that recruitment and retention of staff are two of the biggest challenges faced by school leaders. So what’s going wrong?

NAHT’s Leaky Pipeline report, published in November, clearly illustrated that there is still a major recruitment and retention crisis in education, and the teacher supply pipeline is leaking at both ends. At present, the Government is failing both to recruit enough new teachers and to retain those that we already have. The latest UCAS data for teacher training shows a dramatic 29 per cent fall in applications against this time last year.

These are truly challenging times. There’s no simple solution for attracting the best teachers, but the SEN sector is a hugely rewarding place to work. Many teachers and leaders have compelling stories to tell about their work with SEN pupils. This could be just the tonic to attract an early to mid-career teacher looking for greater job satisfaction. School leaders should set out the professional rewards of the sector, remembering to “sell” its unique and different aspects. Here are some other suggestions for both attracting and keeping teaching staff.

Recruitment of staff:

  • link to an initial teacher training provider to offer placements for trainee teachers to gain experience in SEN settings
  • work collaboratively with local schools in your community; share your expertise, and link to FE colleges and universities to elevate your school profile; people are more likely to apply if your school is known to them
  • use social media to spread the word about any staff vacancy; as one school leader said, “It’s amazing how social media can be just as effective as costly advertising and just by putting together a quick post and asking subscribers to pass on and share with anyone who they think might be interested.”
  • use your networks and share ideas with other leaders.

Retention of staff:

  • devise opportunities for staff to develop and lead while enhancing their skills base and engagement, deploying a range of methods to facilitate this, including teaching and learning
  • responsibility payments, unpaid status, coaching and mentoring; support aspiring leaders
  • engage staff in strategic developments to encourage shared ownership of the vision; ensure all are encouraged to contribute, goals are shared and regular feedback is provided; collegiality can inspire, motivate and boost team morale
  • invest time in developing the wellbeing and welfare of staff; review systems and processes to streamline workload and promote a supportive workplace community
  • develop roles for more experienced staff that reflect their individual strengths and interests, offer opportunities for professional growth, and ensure their contributions are spotlighted and valued
  • provide regular opportunities for staff to identify and celebrate successes, and to feedback on positive aspects of school.

In SEN, no two days are ever the same, but in many ways this is what makes it so appealing. Those who work in the sector help their pupils to overcome enormous challenges on a daily basis, often against the odds. They can look back on a day’s work confident in the knowledge that they are doing something that matters and that they are making a real difference.

Further information

Ian Hartwright is Senior Policy Advisor at school leaders’ union NAHT:
www.naht.org.uk

The author would like to thank Stuart Beck at Sacred Heart of Mary Girls School in Upminster and Sabrina Hobbs at Severndale School in Shrewsbury for their help with this article.

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