The growing storm in teacher recruitment - and how to weather it

In a candidate’s market, good teachers are hard to find. To help you attract more of the top talent, we’ve pulled together some tips on how to make your role stand out

Simon Lock

Teacher Recruitment

The teaching jobs market is currently weighted heavily in favour of the candidate. While in some parts of the country, vacancies attract more CVs than schools can manage, many others find themselves advertising for a job and not getting so much as a “please can you tell me a bit more about the role?” in response.

In shortage subjects especially, staff on the lookout for a new job can be spoilt for choice, and that means that schools need to work harder – and smarter – than ever to get the attention of potential employees. 

So, now looks like the time to put together a more proactive recruitment strategy. But where should school leaders begin? We asked the experts.

Changing face of recruitment

First, it helps to understand how and why the teacher recruitment market is changing.

With teacher workloads so strained, many NQTs are opting to join supply agencies and let their consultant take the burden of finding work. This has led to a dwindling pool of applicants looking at job advertisements.

At the same time, a growing international schools market, hungry for English-speaking teachers, has lured increasing numbers overseas, with many such schools offering lucrative salaries, accommodation and better working conditions.

On top of shifting trends in recruitment and offers from abroad, the ratio of teachers to jobs in the UK is moving slowly in favour of the jobs. Although the teacher shortage isn’t as stark in some areas of the country, such as the North East, other areas, including the capital, are really feeling the squeeze, according to John Howson, teacher recruitment expert and research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education.

“The problem in London is that you’ve got rising school populations causing a big demand and supply imbalance,” says Howson. “You’ve got to be as fleet-footed as you possibly can in making sure that people want to come and teach in your school.

“If you’re in Newcastle or Sunderland, you may have a supply problem in the shortage subjects, like physics and business studies, but in terms of your other subjects, the number of people looking for jobs is probably close to balance.”

What can schools do to attract more candidates?

With a difficult market and stretched budgets, some schools are finding more proactive ways to appeal to teachers looking to make a move, who seem to have plenty of options to choose from.

New-starter incentives

When your job advert sits amid a long list of similar roles, especially in a shortage subject, any incentive you can offer that might give your role an edge is worth exploring.

“When you’ve got a shortage of candidates, you offer them sweeteners,” says Ben Clemson, assistant headteacher at The Burgate School, a secondary in Hampshire. “You offer them money if they stay at the school for X number of years, you offer them extra free time on their timetable, or you offer them extended leadership positions.”

This idea of offering roles that are more senior than the vacancy requires is an interesting tactic but one that a number of schools appear to be exploring.

“There’s a school local to me that is currently advertising for an assistant headteacher,” says Clemson. “They don’t want an assistant head, they want a head of maths, but they’re giving the position the title of ‘assistant headteacher’ so that someone who’s looking to be in leadership will apply for it.”

Keep in touch with former pupils

Another way of maximising your network of potential employees is to tap into the school alumni.

“Keep in touch with those people from your school who go to university and encourage some of them to consider teaching as a career,” suggests Howson.

This is a tactic that has worked for Clemson’s school.

“We’ve got four ex-students ranging from an NQT up to assistant headteacher,” he says. “You wouldn’t have a policy on it, but obviously if you have students who express an interest in teaching, then it’s worth keeping in touch.

“You wouldn’t want all of your teachers to come from the school but a handful is good. It’s mainly about understanding the community rather than understanding the culture of the school or the culture of the students.”

Upskill less-qualified candidates

If you’re struggling to find a teacher who fits the bill, you could consider looking for someone less qualified but having a structure in place that will enable them to take the step up.

“Some agencies have been doing this for a long time,” says Michael Watson, Tes recruitment director. “So, you start earlier, even with NQTs, and then you home-grow them.

“For a special school that we’re working with, they are looking to appoint a candidate who has to have a background in a particular specialism. But, having struggled to find a candidate, the school is now ignoring the specialism and training the person in-house.”

Providing a potential new recruit with a CPD pathway from the moment they join carries the added bonus of helping them to feel that they’re making progress, which will help you with retention, Watson adds.

Train up your TAs

And when it comes to upskilling, don’t forget about the potential new teachers who are right under your nose: the teaching assistants already working in your school.

“Training your own teachers, particularly if you’re a primary school, can be a good option. Schools should definitely be looking at the TA train-on-the-job route,” says Howson.

Offer existing staff incentives

As well as incentivising new staff, offering existing teachers a reward for helping to fill a vacancy is, according to Watson, a tactic that can prove successful.

“If a member of staff can recommend somebody from their network for a particular role, you could incentivise them,” says Watson. “You might provide a £500 voucher or something like that.

“I’ve heard that it’s quite successful because, as a teacher, it’s based on your credibility, isn’t it? You’re not going to recommend someone who’s not very good.”

Appeal to international teachers

Three years ago, Tes reported that one in six UK teachers came from overseas. Brexit may have an impact on this figure in years to come but, with English-speaking nations still likely to contribute to the pool of potential candidates, it’s a market you should consider when recruiting.

When advertising, it’s important to think globally and to sell your city or local area. Whatever you can do to reach international candidates is a good move. Increasingly, MATs are now attending careers fairs to try to tempt travelling teachers back to the UK.

“Some companies will travel overseas, to Australia for example,” says Watson. “They attend a fair where teachers sign up and they bring them over. The biggest markets are English-speaking, so Australia, South Africa and Ireland.”

Are you struggling to find the perfect candidate? Speak to our smartMatch team who can help match staff with your requirements.  

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