Solve your recruitment problems with home-grown talent

Could the answer to your school’s recruitment issues be staring you in the face? Grainne Hallahan suggests that today’s support staff could be the teachers of tomorrow

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Turn TAs Into Teachers To Help Solve Recruitment Problems

The librarian stamping books, the cover supervisor taking third period maths or the secretary signing in students: headteachers should realise that their next teaching appointment could be closer than they realise.

Many people come to the profession late in life and taking an interest in your existing non-teaching staff could uncover some future teaching gems. 

Staffing issues

Recruitment is a problem that isn’t going away. In 2017, secondary school initial teacher training (ITT) programmes missed their enrolment target by 20 per cent. Headteachers will need to take a strategic approach to recruitment if they hope to avoid empty posts in their classrooms.

Inside every school, there is a wealth of untapped talent: teaching assistants, cover supervisors, librarians, midday assistants. The people in these roles may have aspirations of becoming a teacher but have faced barriers preventing them from pursuing their ambitions.

Non-teaching jobs in schools often appeal to people who have a family, due in part to the holidays. The staff in non-teaching roles may have come to that job later in life, and have been drawn to the role because it fitted around a young family that is now growing up. Rather than return to their previous employment path, a career in teaching might now appeal.

From dinner queue to SLT office

Rachel Rossiter, assistant headteacher and special educational needs and disability coordinator in a 9-13 school in Norfolk, started her career as a dinner lady, serving lunch in the cafeteria.  

“The headteacher suggested I applied for a job as a learning support assistant, and I spent my first years as a one-to-one for a child in early years. Today, I am an assistant head,” she says. 

“My wide experience in a school environment gave me a real head start when I began the Graduate Teacher Programme. I had already learned a lot about teaching and behaviour management from being in the classrooms of some very skilled professionals.”

Rossiter believes there are plenty of people her age who are looking to develop their careers in new directions because of what she calls some “questionable” careers advice handed out in comprehensive schools in the 1970s.

“In the penultimate year of school, there were ‘career talks’ for receptionists or hairdressers. But then others went off to talk about university pathways. I was told I couldn’t go to the latter,” she remembers. 

What was the school’s explanation? Rossiter came from a working-class background and remembers the university talks being targeted firmly at those from middle-class families.

Supporting cover supervisors through degrees and QTS

Cover supervisors will generally not have qualified teacher status but will have plenty of classroom experience and, through classroom-based courses, can gain QTS in less than one academic year. 

Julie Green was working as a cover supervisor in the maths department of her school when students asked her why she wasn’t a maths teacher. It was this that sparked her confidence to pursue a career in teaching.

Supported by her head of department, Green began studying for her degree while remaining in class.

“My school has been incredibly supportive while I have been studying. They have allowed me to reduce my hours when I have needed to focus on my studies,” she says.

“I feel that working in a school while I am studying has spurred me on through my studies. Whenever I feel like giving up, I am reminded of the reason why I am pushing myself through a degree.”

Finding a route that works

Following a year of frequent hospital stays owing to a serious health issue, Michael Read finished university with a third-class degree, and his plan to go on to teaching was scuppered before it had begun. 

Rejection followed rejection, and Read was sadly without a place on an ITT course. Instead, he took a cover supervisor role in a comprehensive school. Read established himself in the school and enjoyed his work.  

After a few years, he spoke to his colleagues about how he still had ambitions to one day teach. The school then approached him about completing his teacher training and placed him on a Straight to Teaching course. He expects to be qualified very soon.

Four ways you can start planning for the future by looking within

  1. Audit your future needs for staff. Headteachers can take a strategic approach by identifying where departments will need more staffing in the future and looking to upskill their current staff in order to manage future staffing levels. 

  2. Audit your current staff. Schools should ascertain what qualifications non-teaching staff currently hold, and which ones are interested in changing roles. Once you know this, you can see what training they require.

  3. Make connections with training providers. There are many options available for on-the-job training, allowing your staff member to continue working for you while they train.

  4. Make subject knowledge a priority. Support staff who wish to move to the front of the classroom often feel unprepared, owing to their lack of subject knowledge. There may be many reasons a potential teacher wishes to revisit their subject knowledge: changes to the curriculum, teaching a new subject or just looking for confidence before starting their training. 

Tes has courses designed to help unqualified school staff gain QTS. Find out about Tes Institute’s course options.

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