This'll perk them up

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Heads are offering increasingly generous benefits to keep hold of top staff

Within a few years, research suggests, trained teachers are going to be in short supply, so the issue of how to recruit and retain good staff is rapidly moving to the top of school agendas.

While regular turnover of staff can be a good thing and bring in new blood, nobody wants a haemorrhage. Quite apart from the effect on morale and performance, the cost of recruiting runs into thousands of pounds. Clearly it makes sense - and saves money - to hold on to good staff once you have got them.

Just how serious an issue this has become was reflected by a gathering of school leaders last week in London. The meeting was organised by keys2marketing, an association set up to help schools develop and share the best ways to market schools.

"Any school without a stable and secure staff is on shifting sands," said Andy Kilpatrick, head of Northumberland Park community school in Haringey, north London.

Mr Kilpatrick, who has turned around the fortunes of Northumberland Park, believes that schools must now ask themselves "What can we offer our staff?"

It is a culture change some schools may have difficulty adjusting to. But it is not so different from the question schools should be asking themselves anyway: "What do we offer our pupils?"

Macia Grebot, director of Grebot Donnelly Associates and board member of keys2marketing, advises senior management to look at their school with the eyes of an outsider.

For example, the recruitment pack should contain details of the support the new member of staff can expect to receive once at the school, including any extra benefits such as childcare or gym membership, what the local housing situation is like, and a brief description of the area as a place to live.

Creches, free meals before staff meetings or on in-service training days, and other well-being perks, all send a strong message about how much a school values its staff.

So, once those first-class candidates are netted, how do you keep them?

Make good on your recruitment promises by looking after day-to-day welfare and professional development.

Retaining staff is good, but developing them so they never feel that leaving is the only way to refresh their career is even better. Study visits abroad, for example, generously funded by the European Union Teachers' International Professional Development plan, are hugely under-used by British schools.

On the day-to-day front, positive messages and public thanks all help. But top of the wish-list for teachers are schools that go the extra mile, offering reflexology, massage and other complementary treatments to staff.

Their senior managers insist that the fall in teacher absences and resultant drop in the agency staff bill will more than cover the cost.


How to get staff...

Be aware of your school's image - see it with the critical eyes of an outsider.

Advertisements and website are your shop window - lavish care on them.

Brief key staff so they are open, helpful and welcoming to candidates.

Make applicants aware of benefits on offer, such as creches, gyms or subsidised housing.

... and how to keep them

Have well-organised, meaningful continuing professional development in place.

Make teachers feel valued, with regular positive messages and public thanks.

Consider offering perks - they often pay for themselves in terms of staff retention.

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