Fishing in a Small Pool with Sharp Elbows and a Lack of Bait #Recruitment

I was recently asked to contribute to a TES feature about appointing teachers in the current recruitment climate. I commented that it was less like fishing in a talent pool and more akin to trawling a depleted puddle, minus bait and amongst others with sharp elbows. This inspired alternative titles for mine and Vic Goddard’s recruitment workshop at the recent HTRT Summit.

Our experience of the increasing challenge of recruiting teachers, novice or experienced, was shared by the delegates that attended our policy crowd-sourcing session. Gone are the days of long lists and shortlisting; managing to attract a credible field is the best that most schools can hope for (hoping for ‘a live one’ to apply is more typical for many positions).

We began the session with a ‘Have you ever…?’ activity, prompting colleagues in the room to reflect on some of the desperate practices that have been resorted to in order to fill teacher vacancies.

Depressingly, the consensus was that these kinds of activities have become commonplace in our schools. While the makeup of the delegates in the room was not representative of the UK, there was a spread across Eastern, South-Eastern, Southern and South-Western counties. What appeared universal amongst our sample of school leaders is that the pool of teachers was dramatically evaporating across all areas.

It was agreed that notion of shortage subjects was misleading; the challenge of teacher recruitment was now affecting most disciplines and phases. The only positions that those in the room felt able to confidently fill were Assistant Headteachers and secondary PE teachers. The following recruitment issues were cited.

Recruitment challenges

  • End of key stage teaching roles were becoming increasingly difficult to fill in primary schools. The accountability pressures associated with SATs classes in Years 2 and 6 is off-putting to prospective candidates.
  • Subject specialisms such as Design Technology and Dance have proved difficult to fill. Without the necessary expertise it has proved challenging to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. The diminishment of second subjects has added to this problem.
  • Recruiting Humanities and high-calibre teachers in other EBACC subjects, particularly languages, is increasingly difficult. National caps to ITT numbers have exacerbated this issue.
  • Schools with all Ofsted categories are experiencing teacher shortages and challenges with recruiting – this issue isn’t confined to those in challenging circumstances, in fact high performing schools are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve a field of applicants.
  • Single form entry primary schools and smaller secondary schools with one-person departments are struggling due to a lack of scope for collaboration and more pressure on individuals to deliver provision and achieve successful outcomes.
  • There are geographical cold spots, especially those that are remote from ITT providers and competing with London weighting or the pull of working in city areas. All areas appear to be experiencing relative difficulty in recruiting.
  • In-year recruitment is becoming particularly challenging. Filling positions during the academic year or maternity/paternity/sickness vacancies is increasingly hard as agency staff are in short supply and have been deployed to fill substantive posts.
  • The cost of recruitment and supply fees is crippling school budgets and are unsustainable. School leaders don’t want to resort to agencies and spend their finite resources on finders’ fees but there is often no alternative after advertising roles multiple times with no success.

We aim to light candles in the dark … on Thursday we’ll publish a whole series of crowd sourced policy ideas.

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One thought on “Fishing in a Small Pool with Sharp Elbows and a Lack of Bait #Recruitment

  1. […] To solve the recruitment crisis we need to look upstream and tackle the root causes of our depleted, shark-infested waters. We need to address the complex and confusing routes into teaching, the lack of investment, pride and value of the profession, the toxic accountability culture and crippling workload pressure and expectations that are causing the vacancies in the first place.  We wrote about these issues in the first blog, Fishing in a small pool with sharp elbows and a lack of bait. […]

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