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How we did it

St Mary's C of E primary in Dorset has had a recruitment blitz. It was costly but worth it, says head Pauline Price

We have just been judged an improving school following our Ofsted inspection in March. The report says the school is beginning to benefit from good leadership and management skills.

The leadership team has worked hard on several fronts. The building was open-plan, which was hideous for teachers; with the numeracy and literacy strategies as well as ICT, it just didn't work. So we put partitions in the classes, built libraries and an ICT suite, and improved the outside area for children.

This has all happened since I started at the school in September 2001, so it's been pretty fast. But there's still a lot to do, but the staff we have now are capable of rising to that level of change.

Recruiting quality staff has been key. When I started, some teachers had been here for a long time, and some were strong. But there were gaps in subject leadership. Some staff were on temporary contracts, which was part of the problem. And some of them moved on after I arrived.

I was lucky in that I could recruit to fill those posts with people I knew would be able to do the job. I arrived from London, where recruiting can be difficult, but it's much easier here and you get to choose from a field of outstanding people.

We were lucky in that for most jobs we could choose from 12 to 15 good candidates - and that's for posts without points. The newly qualified teachers we interviewed were also excellent.

I have recruited seven new staff in a teaching force of 13. I knew exactly what we wanted: people who knew what they wanted, who could move the school along with us, and who weren't afraid of hard work.

Improvements certainly don't come cheap - and they come with heavy investment. The staff we have are excellent, but the cost has been great.

And when your budget changes, and your money from the Standards Fund has fallen drastically, it's difficult to maintain momentum. The choice not to take on NQTs but to buy in staff who are experienced has been one of the factors in us having a tight budget this year.

From September, we have to mix classes, which is a challenge for teachers.

And we'll have few resources, because we've put so much money into staffing.

But I don't regret that. It's the staff who have driven the change forward.

They are my most expensive resource, but as we all deliver the package they have been worth the outlay. Without them we wouldn't have been able to do it.

Pauline Price is headteacher at St Mary's C of E primary school in Bridport, Dorset. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share? Email:

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