The recruitment and CPD trends driving overseas hiring

A new report details the major recruitment trends affecting international schools' and why CPD is an increasingly key part of retention strategies too
3rd December 2021, 5:52pm
Sam Fraser

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The recruitment and CPD trends driving overseas hiring

https://www.tes.com/magazine/analysis/specialist-sector/recruitment-and-cpd-trends-driving-overseas-hiring
Global recruitment trends for international schools

International school recruitment is highly competitive as schools leaders, recruitment agencies and candidates know too well.

Demand for teachers has escalated as the market has grown. Indeed in just five years, the number of international schools worldwide has increased from 10,537 to 12,746.

During that same time, the demand by international schools for teachers grew from 447,000 to 555,000.

Recruitment was not helped by the pandemic of course, which restricted the movement of many, but even without Covid-19, the talent pool for international schools has caused challenge and controversy.

So, how are international schools tackling this issue? That's what we set out to find in our recently published Recruitment and CPD in international schools report that pulled together frontline insights gathered by our field-based research teams from international schools, recruitment companies and CPD experts.

Here are some of the key findings from the report that international schools - and teachers worldwide - should be aware of as we head into 2022.

New timelines

Recruitment timelines have shifted for much of the market.

Many international schools are now demanding earlier notice periods for their current teaching staff. Resignation is now typically required from teachers working in Northern Hemisphere schools (and those following an August to July academic year) between November and January, and some schools are asking for notifications of intention from their staff as early as October.

For example, 60 per cent of the recruitment agencies we researched said that this year, 2021-22, they have frequently experienced the recruitment process beginning earlier in the year for the international schools they represent.

This early knowledge of staff intentions means that international schools have been able to move their hiring processes forward.

Some of the best teaching jobs within the sector were advertised as early as November 2021 for commencement in August 2022. This model is expected to continue in the forthcoming years.

Online recruitment is now the new normal for all but the most senior appointments, with virtual job fairs and online interviews commonplace for most international schools.

Furthermore, an increasing number of international schools are also adopting additional recruitment routes; sourcing from a more diverse talent pool, training teachers on the job and developing local teaching talent. 62 per cent of the recruitment companies we interviewed said that most international schools they support are now hosting or participating in virtual recruitment fairs.

Meanwhile, 80 per cent said international schools are considering more teaching candidates from the host country of the school than in previous years, and 58 per cent said international schools are now considering teaching candidates from a wider range of originating countries or nationalities than in previous years. 

More diversity

Our research found that some recruitment companies supporting international school recruitment have received critical attention as a result of advertising for native English speakers or shortlisting candidates with this as a criteria.

However, our analysis of faculty trends shows that the range of staff nationalities, including local staff, has been increasing within international schools for several years, in some cases, as a strategic move by the school to improve diversity and equity within the staff mix.

Local teaching staff are increasingly valued by international schools for the local cultural knowledge and language skills they bring to the school.

A growing number of schools are setting standards for the sector by acknowledging that hiring teachers based on nationality or native language alone is not acceptable for an international school. These schools are taking a more global view to their recruitment practices.

Dr Alan Knobloch, director of the International School of Dakar, told us: "We have a line in our position advertisements stating that we want a faculty that mirrors the diversity of our students. We are public about our diversity and inclusion work and have a link on our website's homepage to our action plan." 

Meanwhile, Judith King-Calnek, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the United Nations International School, New York, that has a faculty from 69 countries, said the school works with a raft of organisations to ensure it is not only diverse but that there is a "culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging".

This means working with the parent association's DEI committee, alumni, students, faculty and staff, and running activities including "anti-bias/anti-racism (AB/AR) workshops, webinars featuring DEI specialists and members of our community, reading groups and a student mentorship programme".

Overall, our research shows many more international schools are addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice within their recruitment strategies, prompted by calls from such organisations as the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Association for International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC).

Skill priority and development

Research for the report highlighted that international schools are increasingly seeking teachers with proficiency in technology to support learning, as well as those with skills related to student wellbeing, special educational needs and diversity and inclusion.

Indeed, 89 per cent of the recruitment agencies researched said most international schools they serve are seeking teachers who demonstrate adaptability and flexibility while 67 per cent said that many international schools want teachers who are innovative in their teaching.

In a move to ease the heavy competition for new talent, many more international schools are prioritising CPD to develop their faculty as well as encourage staff retention.

Our research found that 76 per cent of international schools said an offer of CPD is important for recruiting and retaining staff as it can help attract candidates and retain them for longer than their initial contract.  

Vincent Chian, principal of Fairview International School in Malaysia, is one such leader to have implemented a strategic approach to CPD for several years in line with the school's recruitment and retention goals.

"To truly grow as a school, you need CPD to be coherent, and that is what we aim to do. We constantly share with our new applicants that, as a teacher or leader, if you're not ready to grow, this is not a place for you."

He explained that this means all new teachers who come into the school complete a fully-funded two-year work-based postgraduate diploma in education that focuses on the international baccalaureate programmes that suit the school's talent development needs.

"Nowadays, we rarely have to parachute in experienced talent anymore because we were training all of our teachers. We aren't really reliant on the expatriate population jumping in and out of the country," Chian added. 

Of course, access to quality CPD has traditionally been a challenge for many international schools due to budget or travel limitations.

However, online solutions, which escalated during Covid-19, have transformed CPD and staff training opportunities.

Although this might ease costs and increase accessibility, not everyone wants online-only solutions.

In open research we conducted with educators through social media (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), respondents were asked their preferred format for CPD.

Perhaps surprisingly only seven per cent said they preferred online, but 39 per cent said their preference would be for a hybrid CPD approach combining some face-to-face provision with complimentary online offerings.

All of which should give schools plenty of food for thought as they plan their recruitment efforts for the years ahead and the challenges and opportunities they face in attracting and retaining the right mix of staff to deliver on their education goals.

Sam Fraser is research director at ISC Research which supplies current and objective data and intelligence on the world's international schools market.

The full report Recruitment and CPD in international schools is available via the ISC website and a recent webinar that addressed some of the issues from the report and the recording is free to access here

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