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Recruiting and retaining enough teachers to serve growing numbers of pupils is one of the key challenges currently facing schools. So reading the latest NFER analysis of teacher engagement set me thinking about how to help senior leaders encourage their most effective staff to stay in their school.
As a starting point, it's essential to know which teachers are actually your most effective! This means having secure evidence about all staff performance and potential and being clear about the value they add to the organisation. This is only possible where schools are able to capture a full range of data, including quality assurance, appraisal, professional learning and to evaluate individual performance.
It is also worth reflecting on why staff might want to leave in the first place. Often it's because staff:
- Don't appreciate (or buy into) the school culture or working environment
- Feel under-valued –professionally or personally
- Lack the support or working conditions to do a good job or to improve
- Want better career or development opportunities
By conducting thorough and effective appraisals, senior leaders can drill down into these issues and rectify them where possible.
Creating an environment where teachers are more likely to want to stay and progress means having all the right processes in place.
Number one priority is always to be clear about the school's values and expectations. It is also important to:
- Encourage staff to take (approved!) risk- to use their initiative, to be innovative and creative in their practice.
- Provide positive and constructive evaluation of their performance which involves them as participants.
- Ensure there are opportunities for bespoke professional learning.
- Play to their strengths (not their weaknesses) when you can – sharing practice; taking part in action research or a learning community for example.
Provide them with (appropriate) challenge to motivate them to improve practice and support others. Not every teacher necessarily aspires to leadership, but they may still want to stretch themselves professionally.
- Reward them for excellent practice.
- Remove barriers to their development or work as far as you can.
- Give time for development where possible…staff often appreciate time over money! That energetic and enthusiastic NQT you employed seven years ago may now have a house, a partner and several children - a small gesture such as one late-start morning or similar could make all the difference to their work/life balance.
There is no one magic bullet for retaining teachers. But if we work to keep our schools happy, creative, and exciting learning environments, we may be able to refresh the best teachers and keep them in the classroom, gaining from their experience. In such schools teachers can find the personal rewards that will nourish them for their whole career.
*This is an extract from an article written for the latest issue of School Leadership Today Vol 7.5