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Recruitment and the Christmas tree syndrome

Recruitment and the Christmas tree syndrome

3 November 2016

Now that you're back for the second half of term, I hope you're looking at your new recruits with a warm feeling of 'so-far-so-good'.

If so, they'll be showing the early promise you hoped for from the interview process, and your induction programme will have bedded them in well.

Equally, there may be early signs that some may need additional management focus, or don't quite have the qualities you'd hoped.

Either way, with the early results in front of you, now is a good time to reflect on an area that is usually reserved for March/April. All too often, recruitment can be regarded a bit like Christmas: a once a year thing, often done in a bit of a rush and occasionally with expensive results. And once you're through it, it's a case of job done and see you next year.

The reality is that while the recruitment has its seasonal peaks, geared around the academic calendar, it should receive continuous focus throughout the year.

"Schools are having to work incredibly hard to attract talent"

If your focus on recruitment is largely driven by those peaks, you'll be approaching next spring with the assumption that there is a large talent pool out there, and that it's filled with good quality.

The evidence says otherwise. Two new surveys have recently caught my eye, and their message is broadly similar. Yes, there is certainly talent out there, but the landscape is changing.

  • The NFER analysis of teacher retention (September 2016) has found that the proportion of teachers who are thinking about leaving the profession has increased sharply, from 17% to 23%. Although fewer will actually put that intention into practice, the numbers exiting are up. The pool of experienced teachers is contracting.
  • The TES Teacher Recruitment Index found that schools filled a higher proportion of vacant posts over the spring 2016 period than at any time since 2012. But this quantity story masks a quality issue: 72% of school leaders also believed that the calibre of applicants they were seeing had deteriorated since 2015.

Now before we get too submerged in surveys, let's balance this with some patent common sense. There are thousands of great teachers out there, and indeed you may just have hired some yourself this term. But there's no doubt that, in the words of the TES, "the message from other school surveys is that they are having to work incredibly hard to attract talent".

Every day is recruitment season

Your school needs to:

  • Embrace recruitment as a year-round demand, getting your 'product' right to attract high-quality recruits
  • Remember that you're being interviewed as well.
  • Look at your school through the eyes of talented, and picky, teachers on the market; why should they choose you?
  • Consider all the touchpoints that potential recruits encounter. Most notably, your website: does it communicate a clear vision and purpose that a talented teacher will want to buy into? Does it also offer a confidential facility to upload CVs, so you can build up a bank of possible talent throughout the year, even without specific vacancies now?
  • Show tangible initiatives around how you will develop those teachers in the coming years
  • Be smart about succession planning, anticipating vacancies well before they arise
  • Develop close and continuous links with neighbouring schools: you may well be able to help solve each other's problems
  • Develop rigorous processes to gather information, enabling sound, evidence-based decisions.

Recruitment is a skill in itself, and every sector struggles with it. But by giving it the emphasis it deserves, you can still find the excellent talent you need for school.

For our practical guidance notes on recruitment, and an assessment tool to see how you're performing, click here.

Denise Inwood

This article was written by:

Denise Inwood
Managing Director

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