Finding the right candidate to fill a vacancy isn’t something that you can rush.
Matching up qualifications, experience and personality takes time and the last thing you want is to make a hasty appointment. After all, a rushed appointment can mean you find yourself having to re-advertise the post in the next academic year – or worse, having to advertise the posts of the staff members who decided they would rather move on than work with the new teacher.
But how can you support teachers who need to make the move to an international school with only a few months, or even weeks, before the new term begins?
Ross Armitage, head of primary and early years at French International School Hong Kong, has experience of late appointments, and spoke to Tes about the strategy he has adopted to try to ensure that those new starters who have been appointed late in the recruitment cycle feel supported from the moment they accept, to the airport check-in, to walking through your classroom door.
1. You can’t hurry love or paperwork
When working on a short turn-around for a teacher to accept and then move for a new international role, Armitage says you have to be absolutely sure that your communication is clear and constant to avoid any unnecessary delays.
“We make sure that we have regular contact with the staff member and that we give clear guidance on what is needed and when,” he explains.
However, just because there is a rush on doesn't mean this is a stage you can skim over.
“For safeguarding reasons, the school has to wait for the required paperwork,” he emphasises. “These things are non-negotiable, and we can’t just ‘speed it up’, so each stage must be done properly.”
2. Home, sweet home
Accommodation is an important stage of the move but a short turnaround time can mean a new member of staff arriving without having had much time to research where they want to live.
At French International School in Hong Kong, Armitage tries to assist with this situation by providing those new teachers with a bit of breathing space.
All new staff are given two weeks in a hotel while they house hunt, but there is also temporary accommodation for teachers who can’t find what they need right away.
“If a new starter has specific needs in their home, or they just haven’t had time to check out all their options before their start date, we try to assist by offering temporary accommodation to ensure they don’t feel they have to rush into a decision."
3. Buddy up
Many schools assign buddies or informal mentors to their new appointments as part of the induction process. Armitage believes it is just as important to assign buddies to a new starter who has been a late appointment.
A lot of thought goes into matching the new teacher to their buddy. “We choose someone who is usually of a similar age and or has a similar family situation – for example, is single or has a family,” he explains.
Why does that matter? Armitage sees this relationship as one that can offer all those inside tips that someone who has already been through the process can provide.
“The aim of the buddy is to open the dialogue about experiences of moving to the new country, top tips from their experience, pitfalls to avoid, places to live, and social and sporting activities. The buddy can be there to answer any questions or provide assurances.”
4. Engage them quickly
If a teacher is joining an international school for the first time, one of their fears might be the struggle with the new curriculum.
In a UK school, a teacher can usually arrange a day visit to meet the department, but can you recreate that when you’re short on time and your school is so far away? Armitage thinks it is worth trying.
“We put the new teacher in contact with a teacher from their new team to discuss teaching and learning,” says Armitage. “We also provide the new starter with relevant school policies to prepare them for the start of the term.”
Technology can be key to helping new staff to overcome geographical barriers, too, and get them feeling part of the team before they arrive.
“We enable all of our new teachers to do an online course design for our curriculum. This includes specific international school information.”
5. Give them time
Previously, French International School had provided a one-week induction, where new staff had time to settle and find new accommodation before the term began.
But staff feedback caused Armitage to make some changes. “New staff said they needed more time to think about where they would live, banking set up plus teaching and learning, and this was difficult to achieve in one week,” he says.
Should an induction be all paperwork? Not at all, says Armitage. At French International School, they plan for a mix of paperwork and face-to-face contact. “During the induction period, new staff meet with HR, IT, banking, estate agents and we allow time for home hunting and meeting the school leaders,” he explains.
“But we also plan two to three social events, and invite existing staff who are already in Hong Kong. Sightseeing on the ’Ding Ding’ Hong Kong tram is an excellent opportunity for staff to meet, and discover their new country.”
And then the focus turns back to the job in hand: “We end the induction with a day and a half of curriculum and school policies and procedures induction to get the new staff back into the starting school zone.”
6. Don’t worry
Too often, the recruitment process can be rushed – and you can understand why.
When there is a limited pool of candidates out there, you don’t want to miss out on getting the best pick – and you definitely don’t want gaps in your timetable come the start of the new year.
But in the rush to get there first, you might miss important cues that this candidate isn’t as committed, and when they eventually let you down, you will look back and realise you missed the red flags in your rush to fill the post.
The remedy, says Armitage, is to be found in taking a longer time over your recruitment process. “Although we plan to finish our recruitment process in February, we will always be prepared to take our time if needed,” he says.
“Sometimes, we have still been recruiting in the final few weeks of term because we feel it is more important to take our time to find the best candidate for our school team.”