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Early bird

Last September, Roland Chant had to fill 25 new vacancies. He tells Martin Whittaker how

When Roland Chant took over as principal of Bideford College in September 2000, the school was in dire straits. An inspection had judged it to have serious weaknesses. There was also a debt that ran into six figures. Staffing at the 11-18 community school in North Devon was also in crisis.

The financial problems meant the governors hadn't begun recruiting for that September until the summer term. "We had too many part-time and temporary teachers and that wasn't good for the school." says Mr Chant. But by September 2001, the college had managed to fill 25 full-time permanent posts, across virtually all departments.

This term, the school also began with a fresh leadership team, including three new assistant principals.

So how did a school in remote part of the country manage to find so many teachers - equivalent to a quarter of its staff?

"We started early," says Chant. "We knew in January the number of jobs we needed to advertise. We started advertising in The TES and recruiting in late winter, early spring. Our first appointments for September 2001 were made in February.

"Once we had the applications, we moved very quickly on to interview, conscious that people coming to us would be applying elsewhere.

"There is a certain amount of fighting for the good candidates. If we heard that someone had an interview in a local school on Friday, we'd certainly have the interviews on Wednesday."

The school made no attempt to disguise its failings. On the contrary, Roland Chant made a point of being totally honest in job adverts and at interviews. "At no time did we try to hide the difficulties the school was going through."

He admits there was a large element of luck. Although some subjects only attracted a couple of candidates, they were good ones. Maths was the only subject for which the school was unable to recruit.

They tried to make part-time posts up to full-time where they could, conscious that candidates were unlikely to come to a remote area for a part-time job.

By summer half-term, the school had virtually met its recruitment target. "We worked very hard - the governing body worked about 35 days here," says Chant. "It became a significant part of my job, but I knew that if we didn't get this right we'd have missed a huge opportunity to strengthen teacher teams."

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