Teaching crisis addressed by Strategic Workforce Planning

There’s little doubt amongst professionals in the education sector that the shortage of teachers, and in particular supply teachers, has created a situation where spending has spiralled out of control, in spite of continually diminishing budgets.

Recruitment, retention and workforce planning have all become significant areas of concern for the sector in recent years. And in light of worrying figures published by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers (ATL), it’s likely that schools will have to be increasingly scrutinous over recruitment expenditure in coming years and work to develop ever more efficient ways of planning and managing their workforce.

According to figures collated by the NUT and ATL, secondary schools stand to lose an average of £365 per pupil by 2019, while real term cuts for primary schools will equate to a loss of £401 per pupil over the same time frame. What is perhaps even more worrying is that schools with the most deprived intakes stand to face the greatest average real term losses, £579 per pupil in primary schools, and £784 in secondaries.

These additional cuts come at a time when school procurement managers are already feeling the pressure of ever rising costs, which are, no doubt, being exasperated by an increased reliance on supply teachers in the face of a growing shortage of full time professionals. According to figures from the Department for Education, that national spending on the procurement of cover teachers rose to £1.3bn in 2015, a staggering £300m increase on two years prior.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that schools need to adopt a far more sustainable, collaborative and strategic approach to sourcing both temporary and permanent teachers in order to effectively manage imminent funding cuts. All too often schools are left with no option but to rely on their incumbent recruitment agency to supply cover at relatively short notice, which leaves them exposed to the indefensible fees charged by generalist agencies who are not invested in the best interests of the school, or indeed, the wider profession.

In the past, schools relied on sourcing supply teachers through their own networks, however in the last 15 to 20 years there has been a significant drop in such practices, with teacher recruitment from local authority supported provisions falling to as little 8%. In fact, a recent survey of more than 1,000 schools by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) indicated that two of the greatest cost pressures on schools are the decline in local authority services and government changes which have passed the costs of employing staff on to schools.

The only way to effectively manage budgets, and help address the growing shortage of talent in the profession is to adopt new, innovative procurement methods which allow teachers and schools to work closer together to build strong professional relationships. While the current model caters to the urgent nature of requests from schools, it prevents them from forming relationships with individual teachers, and limits their ability to establish long term strategic workforce plans. However, that doesn’t mean that recruiters should be eliminated from the supply chain entirely – they continue to play a vital role in the procurement of supply teachers.

The ‘bank first’ approach adopted by The Supply Register, works to build relationships between professionals and schools themselves, by partnering with other local schools and academies to create banks of reliable and easily accessible talent. The online platform allows schools to establish valuable relationships with their supply teachers, whilst also ensuring that they are paid fairly for their work. Crucially, the platform also allows schools to access groups of carefully selected and reliable recruitment agencies should they be unable to fill urgent requests through their own banks.

By using technology which prioritises pools of localised talent, before filtering down to a selection of reliable specialist agencies which understand the needs of the sector, schools can proactively work to bridge the talent gap. And by establishing a more personal and direct relationship between supply teachers – who are often newly qualified – and schools, the profession can not only work to prevent educators from leaving the profession but also create pipelines of engaged talent for when permanent roles arise.

One of the most important prerequisites of an effective strategic workforce plan is an easily accessible talent pipeline, which can only be built up through meaningful and personal interactions which are undoubtedly limited by the nature of the current procurement method. The only way to address shortages and ensure that expenditure is effectively managed is to embrace new ways to source talent.

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