Eight ways to get talented teachers to your school

Mark Steed

25 October 2019

Dubai landscape

The demand for teachers in English-speaking international schools is growing, which means they need to sell themselves to candidates. Mark Steed, director of JESS Dubai, looks at eight ways – beyond salary and benefits packages – that schools can stand out from the crowd

There is something attractive about experiencing exotic cultures and seeing new places, so it’s not surprising that one of the major reasons why people look to teach abroad is to travel and explore the world.

However, there can often be an underlying concern that the price of the adventure is a stalled career, which could remove the option to return home should the desire or need arise.

Schools need to recognise and harness these emotional drivers in a systematic way if they are to attract top international talent. Here’s how: 

Sell your location

One of the unique features of international recruitment is that schools have to sell both the organisation and the city; clearly this is easier for some than others (Dubai vs Chongqing, for example). Schools need to paint a picture in the recruitment pack of what it is like to live in the particular region. This need not be an onerous task and local tourist guides can provide suitable copy.

Promote your training and development opportunities

A common question asked by teachers moving abroad is whether they will have similar training opportunities to those available in the UK. Young teachers are particularly interested in the opportunities for professional and personal development. Most international schools provide routine Inset, but schools can set themselves apart by providing access to portable formal qualifications and training that is recognised in the UK, such as NQT support and the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership or National Professional Qualification for Headship.

Establish the school brand 

Schools that have established reputations within a region or globally are likely to be more attractive to talented teachers. Effective ways of putting a school on the educational map include playing an active role in international schools’ organisations (such as the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, the Council of British International Schools and the Federation of British International Schools in Asia) and applying for (and winning!) international schools’ awards.

Maintain close links with the UK

It is all too easy for an international school to sit comfortably and distance itself from the issues that are driving education in the UK. This is a huge mistake. It is important for international schools to remain part of the conversation. Schools should encourage contributions to contemporary debates about educational developments in the UK on social media, by writing articles and speaking at conferences.

Promote what your staff are doing

Schools that provide opportunities for teachers to share what they are doing and to develop their professional reputation are hugely attractive to prospective candidates. For example, hosting a regional educational summit can bring great benefits: talented staff have a platform to share their expertise, the school will be seen as a centre of excellence leading the debate and it will be, in effect, a prospective staff open day, drawing hundreds of teachers in to the school.

Develop a social media presence

Some teachers are happy working in a silo; their classroom is their castle and they are comfortable there. However, increasingly, there is a generation of teachers who have grown up in a world of social media, and who want to network with like-minded colleagues and share what they are doing professionally.

An effective social media strategy is a cost-effective way of promoting the school at home and around the world, at the same time as providing an important platform where teachers can connect and gain recognition from their peers.

Use your website

International school websites are typically designed to recruit pupils and provide information to parents. Few schools consider their potential to be a shop window for recruiting staff – this is to miss a real opportunity.

Consider developing a section of your website on “Working at Our School” that includes sample videos of staff talking about what it is like to be part of the school community and a blog that pulls together contributions to the regional and international educational debates.

Set up a LinkedIn group for staff

Any school that can establish a professional network of influential and successful past and present employees will be attractive. Such a group would provide evidence of the sort of roles former employees went on to do and show that the school is the sort of institution that is genuinely interested in developing its staff even after they have moved on to their next challenge.

The quality of teachers determines the quality of a school. One of the most important factors that distinguishes great international schools from their competitors is the ability to recruit and retain talent. International schools would be well advised to put as much effort into building their “employer brand” for staff recruitment as they do marketing their “school brand” to attract students.

Mark S Steed is director of JESS, Dubai and has been appointed principal and chief executive of Kellett School, Hong Kong, from September 2019

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