Recruitment & retention

I am in my 14th year of headship at the same school, which enables me to have a long view of how Recruitment and Retention has changed during that time. We are a high (56%) PP school and less than 5% EAL so we fit the context of schools that are classed as challenging with the majority of students from the lowest achieving socio economic group in England. What that means in reality is that we have the full range of students, from the brightest, politest and kindest to the most challenging in terms of behaviour, the most vulnerable in terms of high needs and the neediest in terms of disadvantage and deprivation.

One thing that has not really changed with recruitment if you have managed to recruit a teacher is the following; we may recruit teachers who instantly find their feet here, connect educationally and inter personally with our students and love the very supportive staff, approachable SLT and making a difference to the children who need them most. They stay for a long time or in some wonderful cases, forever. Or we get those who may not have done their homework on us, just saw the TLR, the status and/or warmed to our wooing and they can’t give the students the passion, consistency and commitment that they need or they find that behaviour management is too difficult for them so they stay for a year or two and move on. I think in the most case this type of teacher is honest and honourable and the school is just not the right fit for them. The new kid on the block though is the flibbertigibbet teacher who jumps from school to school for the lucre leaving carnage in their wake. They know there is a recruitment crisis and boy do they exploit it. Hedteachers that poach (and there are more and more of them because we are all desperate for staff) have made this category of teacher more prevalent.

What has changed is finding a teacher full stop. It no longer matters what the subject is because apart from PE, there are no teachers out there. At entry level the teaching schools cream the graduates off making the gap between those that have and those that don’t even wider. At the level of 3-4 years experience, staff are not moving because its so hard to start in a new school and because a lot of this bracket have already left teaching due to the workload demands-even in a kind school. Getting strong middle leaders is also a challenge even with a TLR and if it is in a core subject, just pray because there are none out there.

What this means in reality is that (as always) you cherish those who are strong teachers and do stay, you cosset them in ways I was never cossetted as a teacher/head of department/year. You look for innovative ways to advertise posts, you probably promote younger staff before they are ready or without the right level of mentoring but needs must. You rely on your longer serving middle leaders to keep the engine running and your expectations of a small SLT including yourself are probably excessive but the work has to get done.

At the other end of the spectrum school’s now keep staff that they would not have kept before and work even harder to help them improve because they know they cannot replace them.

What this means for children is instability, uncertainty and increased pressure on them in terms of achievement. We have lost two teachers since September. That’s classes with supply teachers or internal cover staff. We are usually successful with recruitment and generally have loyal staff but I cannot work miracles or magic staff from no applicants. I know schools with large numbers of vacancies and supply staff. It isn’t fair on the children or the staff. The next Government has to grasp the urgency of this issue and put a 10-year non-party plan in place and fund it ambitiously to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best graduates into teaching. In order to achieve that they also have to tackle the issues of workload and punitive accountability that is decimating the profession. Every child deserves well trained, valued teachers in front of them, don’t they?

Helen Keenan


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