How to find the perfect teacher

In the first of two articles on appointing new staff Gerald Haigh offers tips on attracting applications and making a short list

APPOINTING staff is an awesome responsibility - and if you recruit the wrong person it is very hard to get rid of them It is vital to realise that the whole business is ultimately governors'

responsibility. The Department for Education and Skills plans to restrict governor involvement to leadership posts. Currently, though, they can delegate almost everything to the head - or take over the whole process. A reasonable course lies in between.

Typically when it comes to appointing a new teacher or assistant the first thing governors must decide, with the head, is whether there is a vacancy. This could be created by someone leaving or the school expanding.

Of course you may decide, for financial reasons, not to replace the person who is leaving. or use this chance to review the school's staffing structure and create a vacancy, but not a straight replacement.

You then decide what sort of person you need. You will be heavily guided by the head, to whom you will probably delegate the drawing up of a job specification and wording of an advertisement.

The head also draws up "further details" of the job, to be sent to enquirers with an application form. At least one of you should read this - make sure it is not full of jargon and isn't worded so tightly as to put people off.

You may want a particular subject speciality, but in these days of teacher shortage, if you can get an excellent teacher with the "wrong" specialism, the head will find a way of organising the school to fit them in. Ask the head if this is an option.

It's best if a governor reads applications with the head. Just remember that how the reading is done is your decision.You may feel ill-equipped to study a professional's job application but you can see all kinds of things - patterns of promotion, evidence of professional development, gaps in the record, even handwriting and spelling.

Take photocopies and discuss each application - you can highlight issues that might not surface if you read separately. Remember equal opportunity guidelines.

Agree quickly on obvious non-starters. Note the pros and cons of the remaining applications against your desired attributes. Draw up a short list and take the "airline option" at interview, invite more candidates than you need in the expectation that some will not turn up. When you've made your short list, go back through applications to make sure you have been fair.

Decide on an interview date - make it as soon as you can, because good candidates will have several irons in the fire. Then phone the interviewees straight away, without leaving the table if possible. Confirm in writing the next day.

Ask for references. Increasingly, these are sought only for short-listed candidates or even just the person appointed. The assumption is that they are only useful for making sure a person is truthful and the person he or she claims to be. Again it is for governors to decide.

Close to the interview day get a secretary to ring candidates to make sure they are turning up. You may get a shock at this point, which is why you need to move the process along quickly.

Next week: how to conduct the interviews

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