The education sector can learn a lot from business about staffing its schools.
Recent news that the number of graduates training to be teachers has fallen for the fourth year running, with a 2,000 shortfall in the number of people starting initial teacher training courses in 2016, is the latest in a long line of indicators that the current teacher recruitment crisis only looks set to worsen. However, leaders can help to take back control of their staffing strategies by mirroring big business in terms of talent management.
While the Government wrestles with strategies to broaden routes into teaching and encourages professionals who have left the profession to return, school leaders can help safeguard against external factors through strategic workforce planning (SWP).
Broadly speaking, SWP strategy starts with an assessment of internal capability and serves as a mechanism to identify critical roles and future demand. Plans can then be put in place to ensure that existing talent is deployed in the most effective way within an organisation and that skills are pipelined for the coming months and years. With SEN provisions often requiring more specialist experience, pooling this expert talent and sharing it over a number of special needs provisions can ensure time is shared efficiently.
Creating a workforce plan requires little more than effectively utilising existing HR and pupil data. For example, by mapping when senior teachers are likely to retire, plans can be put in place to pass on their skills before they disappear with them. Future Leaders Trust, Teaching Leaders and TeachFirst, recently found that England could be facing a shortage of almost 20,000 senior teachers by 2022 if action is not taken to pipeline talent. By retaining skills in-house, leaders stand the best chance of bridging this leadership gap.
While forecasting and leadership planning are a crucial part of SWP, immediate staffing needs cannot be ignored. Today, agencies place the majority of teachers in post and while the services that recruitment consultancies offer are hugely valuable, leaders should consider re-evaluating their suppliers or renegotiating rates to ensure that they are getting the best candidates as well as the best value.
Retention of existing talent is also vital. Aside from formal processes, heads who want to avoid losing great teachers should take time to communicate. Many teachers cite their reason for moving on as having reached their “shelf life” in their current role; open communication allows leaders to pre-empt if a teacher would prefer to work with another year group or to take on more hours. Heads should also encourage staff to take part in regular CPD to keep them inspired and engaged.
Pipelining talent for the future can also help safeguard against the predicted future shortfall in senior talent. Leaders should communicate the spirit of their school to potential recruits by sharing sporting achievements and exam results online and through local media. Promoting school values and successes also has the benefit of engaging with other stakeholders and increases the chances of potential staff members contacting you directly.
It’s no secret that teaching is largely a lifestyle vocation and many professionals have long-term aspirations to work with specific schools or in certain location. Place a careers page on your website which doesn’t direct visitors directly to an agency. Even if you have no immediate vacancies, invite those interested in working with you to pass on their details and keep in touch by sharing newsletters. When a position does come up, you’ll have a bank of candidates ready and waiting.
Of course, the education sector does not generally benefit from the heathy HR budgets and access to talent that many private sector organisations enjoy, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t take lessons from business to build efficient and productive teams with the right mix of skills and experience.