It was the proud boast of one of the headteachers I worked with that the most important thing he did was recruit good staff. A friend of mine whom he appointed as head of humanities joked that he thought he was taking on the esteemed post of regius professor of history.
Ofsted's recent report highlighting the key characteristics of 12 successful schools found that they invested in staff and have "outstanding and distributed leadership". So, how do you recruit the best?
The first thing to do is know how to find them. Although newspapers and websites are still the first ports of call for most job advertisers - and applicants - they are not the only way of finding out who is out there.
As a teacher trainer, I am frequently contacted by schools and local authorities who have vacancies and opportunities that I can pass on to my trainees. Many schools now invest in welcome packs for student teachers, collecting their details for their contact lists. Students also share information on social networking sites about schools where they have worked.
Once you have found potential staff, next it is a matter of attracting them to you, especially if you are recruiting in shortage subjects. Candidates now know more about their entitlements, in terms of support and pay and conditions, than ever before, and it is not unusual for teachers to withdraw a job application if they were unimpressed by the level of organisation and efficiency that they encountered on the day of interview or the lead up to it. It is a cliche to say that interviews are two-way, but schools forget this at their peril.
When it comes to who a school chooses to recruit, it is difficult to give any unequivocal advice. Most teachers (and other staff in school) have a sixth sense about who will fit in and be successful. That said, it often takes people a while to settle in and it is easy to forget that even the best newly qualified teacher is not the finished article. It is also worth remembering that the person you see in the staffroom is a different character from the one in the classroom, which is why many interviews sensibly include the requirement to see people teach.
As well as recruiting staff, a key challenge for many schools is ensuring that they retain them. Giving teachers access to the proper professional development opportunities and considering them for appropriate promoted posts is crucially important.
Jon Berry is senior lecturer in curriculum research and development at the school of education, University of Hertfordshire Next week: Moving from manager to leader.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Be inventive. Facebook will spread the news as quickly as anything else.
- Show yourself, your school and your department in its best light.
- Watch candidates teaching.
- However good the candidate, they will take time to settle in your school.
- Retention is as important as recruitment.