Ideas to Solve the Recruitment Crisis

Stephen Tierney, Chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable, opened this year’s HTRT summit with a poignant quotation from Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point when we need to stop just pulling people out of the river, we need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in”.

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.

Policy recommendations

Initial Teacher Training

  • Re-invest £15 million spent on basic skills test into more crucial aspects of teacher training e.g. SEND/subject specialisms/curriculum planning/managing workload and pressures of teaching.
  • Develop successful SCITT models with Further Education institutions to harness professional expertise to enable groups of schools to work effectively in partnership to ‘grow their own’. Incentivise strengthening of ITT relationships rather than competitive practices.
  • Implement Carter Review findings and recommendations to improve the quality of ITT provision e.g. lengthening content and enhancing professional support, knowledge and skills.
  • Change ITT census date to avoid risk-averse ITT recruitment or allowing struggling trainees to pass in fear of ITT inspection.
  • Improve quality of training for Teaching Assistants to enhance support and pathways into teaching.
  • Extend ITT initiatives (e.g. TeachFirst and Teach Now) across all the parts of the UK.

Marketing and recruitment practices

  • Create positive narratives and promotion of the teaching profession. Prioritise good news stories rather than the slamming school standards. Change marketing campaigns to focus on the long-term rewarding nature of teaching, rather than misleading starting salaries and superficial ‘wow moments’. Feature the impact that teachers have on education and lives.
  • Implement government-run teacher vacancy site to provide free and simple advertising of roles nationally without any further delay (promised by previous SOS in March 2016).
  • Change recruitment incentives to encourage commitment to the profession. Replace golden-handshake bursaries that are responsible for perverse incentives to train as a teacher and instead invest in paying back fees and loans over time.
  • Cap agency fees and legislate supply practices in teaching. Stop agencies being able to recruit ITTs from source. Develop effective DfE led/endorsed teaching agencies to tackle extortionate corporate fees and unethical recruitment behaviours by supply companies/schools/MATs.
  • Ensure that teacher salaries are properly funded and competitive with other graduate professionals. Enhance school budgets accordingly.

Retention strategies

  • Create attractive career pathways with centrally-funded extended support and obligatory professional development opportunities for the first 5 years and beyond.
  • Reflect on the successes of previously successful schemes e.g. FastTrack, teacher loan repayments and key worker housing.
  • Introduce government-led subsided housing and support with living costs for early career teachers.
  • Introduce funded sabbaticals and training opportunities to invest in teachers’ ongoing professional development.
  • Develop a coherent and successful strategy to enable qualified teachers to return to the profession. Ensure funding and support to tap into the large number of trained teachers that are not in UK state classrooms at present.

As we approach teacher resignation deadlines many school leaders are nervous about the ‘Have you got two minutes?’ requests from staff or white envelopes marked confidential in our in-trays. Duncan Spalding’s Harry Potter influx of owl letters analogy is the stuff of head teacher nightmares.

Despite encouraging colleagues to progress and move for personal and professional development purposes, when recruitment is so impossible leaders become desperate to retain teachers. We need to use this as a motivator to make teaching an enjoyable and worthwhile profession to stem the tide of teaching casualties. We need to use the agency that we have as school leaders to affect change on a national and local scale.

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