When the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to close their doors, it may have seemed that recruitment would take a back seat. Surely, as school leaders grappled with the transition to online learning and an overhaul of the exam system, hiring new staff would be the last thing on their minds?
But even with the new restrictions on our daily lives, the need for schools to recruit and replace departing teachers remains, and the world of virtual interviews has sprung into life.
Headteachers in different parts of the world report that recruitment remains front and centre for them, despite the current lockdown. This anecdotal evidence is backed up by data from the Tes Jobs team, which clearly shows that schools are back on the hunt for top teaching talent.
Teacher job opportunities exist
With the current number of UK teaching and education vacancies on tes.com at around 4,000 at the time of writing (up from 3,350 the previous week), it looks as though a slow start to the spring recruitment window is gathering pace. When including international jobs, the number of vacancies rises to more than 5,400.
In the week preceding the UK’s Easter break, 200,000 teachers came to the Jobs section of the Tes website. The number of applicants per secondary vacancy actually rose on average this year from 2019, with each job advert attracting one extra candidate than at this stage last year.
These figures make sense to Caroline Derbyshire, executive headteacher of Saffron Walden County High School in Essex, for whom staffing is still very much a priority.
“September is going to be an exceptionally challenging month, if that is when we return from virtual school,” she says. “What would make it even more challenging would be to be understaffed or staffed in an unsatisfactory way at this time.
“Year 10 and Year 12 will need our very special attention, and education needs to recover well. A strong staff team is crucial to this.”
New staff 'critical'
Steve and Paula Kenning, CEOs of Aspirations Academies Trust, which has 15 schools in Southern England, agree with this. They point to the need for a strong staff body to help close any gaps in knowledge left by the closures.
''Aspirations continue to recruit teachers for September,” they explain. “Interviews are being conducted remotely but otherwise it's business as usual.
“Our priority, as this crisis ends, will be to accelerate the learning of a whole cohort of children. It is critical, therefore, that we continue to grow talent within our schools and recruit the next generation of teachers to our profession in readiness for the academic year ahead.”
Tom Hammond, the UK sales director for Tes, is working closely with schools to ensure these recruitment needs are met.
“The need for teachers and school leaders is inevitably still there,” he says, “and our joint challenge is assisting in conducting interviews in a remote setting.
"After a very uncertain couple of weeks for schools of all sizes, things have slowly started to settle down. While the posting of ads was understandably a little down as schools navigated the new world of remote learning, we are still seeing a consistent flow of jobs, which is steadily picking up again.”
Patience required as schools 'regroup'
What about those completing their initial teacher training? Are jobs still available for them?
There were, understandably, concerns about obtaining qualified teacher status with placements cut short. But even having been given reassurance by the Department for Education that trainees will still qualify despite missing out on classroom time, fear remained that jobs would not be there in September if teacher movement decreased.
However, according to Jan Rowe, head of initial teacher education in the school of education at Liverpool John Moores University, these fears are unfounded. Jobs opportunities will more likely appear slightly later, rather than not be there at all, she explains.
“Schools will continue to need NQTs in September and there is no reason to believe posts will be fewer than usual," she says. “Adverts might be delayed while schools regroup, consider their staffing needs and establish online interview processes, but this should be resolved in the summer term.”