At a time when recruitment targets for teachers have been missed for five consecutive years, training applications have dipped 5%, and teachers in England have the lowest job satisfaction of all English speaking countries, it is little wonder that an increasing number of schools across the UK are struggling to source and secure the volume of quality talent they need.
The reality is that many teachers, for whatever reason, feel torn between their passion for the vocation and a need to build a career in which they feel engaged, rewarded and supported – and for some, they feel this is not possible within the education sector. However, school leaders can play their part in helping to stem the exodus of skills by fostering workplace cultures which are conducive to attracting – and retaining – the best talent.
My experience in recruiting teachers within local authorities taught me that teaching is, to a certain extent, a lifestyle profession. Teachers, by and large, thrive on influencing the next generation of young people within their own community and they may have an emotional connection to a particular school or area where they see themselves building a career.
For this reason, it is crucial that headteachers work towards building a compelling employer value proposition in order to engage potential recruits. For too long, recruitment agencies have been left to take the reins in terms of promoting individual schools as a great place to work.
But given the growing shortage of teachers, this approach alone isn’t sufficient. Many schools have gradually become further removed from sharing not only specific career opportunities, but also advice on how speculative jobseekers can get in touch. The first step to building a favourable employer brand is creating a careers page on the school or academy’s website which highlights the schools values, ethos and achievements – as well as contact details for those who are interested about learning more. Sharing results and initiatives on social media and in the local press will also help to boost your employer value proposition locally.
Government figures show that, in the last decade, £44 million has been spent on teacher training bursaries for graduates who never go on to teach. What’s more, many of those who do begin a career in the classroom quit before they have had the opportunity to reach their full potential: according to data from the Education Policy Institute, just 60% of teachers continue to work in state-funded schools five years after qualifying.
With this in mind, school leaders must ensure they are not only attracting great teachers, but also have strategies in place in order to retain them.
New research from teacher support charity, Education Support Partnership, shows that 40% of newly qualified teachers experience mental health problems such as panic attacks, insomnia and mood swings. Against this backdrop, it is vital that headteachers invest resources into wellbeing initiatives and have procedures in place to ensure that staff have access to the support they need to excel in their roles – whether that be through a stringent process to monitor and act on staff sentiment, a mentoring scheme or internal networks. In a similar vein, professionals must be offered clear guidance around opportunities for development – and support in upskilling in order to flourish professionally. Structured training programmes will enable schools to not only ‘grow their own’ talent from apprentice or NQT level, but also pipeline senior leaders to ensure future excellence.
The Department for Education’s latest recruitment drive may help to encourage individuals into the profession. However, the responsibility of retaining this valuable talent within the sector rests firmly at the feet of the schools that will go on to employ them.