Top tips for recruiting the right teachers

26th May 2006 at 01:00
My first weeks back at school, after a term's sabbatical, have been very busy, as you would expect. This is a very short term and therefore most of my time has been taken up with the recruitment of nine new members of the teaching staff. Two of these are new posts due to our new specialist school status and therefore, the turnover is healthy. Nonetheless, the race is on to get the appointments made.

As you know, the May half-term is the deadline for resignations and we have to plan carefully to get advertisements placed in The TES in time to interview candidates before the deadline. Those headteachers who are really clever get their advertisements in early, in the first week after Easter, because the danger is that if you leave your interviews until the last minute, applicants may already have been snapped up.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those clever ones and our advertisements were part of a five-part jobs section. I still remember the shock I felt about four or five years ago (the bad old days), when we were told that The TES was full and they could not include our offerings. This has never happened before or since, and I hope never to experience it again.

Thankfully, the recruitment situation has improved in most subject areas and I am not having to panic quite so much. We have been very pleased with the response to most of our advertisements. It has been years since I had to spend whole days shortlisting with the chair of governors.

In the bad old days we had to scrabble around looking for enough good-quality candidates to make a shortlist. I take my hat off to the teacher-training institutions who are producing high-quality teaching professionals. The skill and enthusiasm of most of the potential NQTs has been impressive and we have had trouble agreeing on the preferred candidates. But, it is really great to have a choice! Staff are our greatest resource and it is vital that we employ the right people for the job. For us that means that we "tell it like it is" and are totally honest when producing recruitment packs and in the whole recruitment process.

If teachers are not able to commit to our ethos and culture both the pupils and the teacher will suffer. There is no point in pretending to be something you are not. We are not looking for perfection but for potential that can be developed. With this in mind we insist that prospective teachers spend the day in the school and teach a lesson before going through a formal interview. Nothing is foolproof but at least we can test out the candidates and make an informed decision.

As well as keeping an eye on The TES Jobs section, I read the tips given to teachers looking for jobs. I was particularly amused to see advice to "Google" headteachers' names to see what comes up.

If there are lots of entries, the implication is that they are never in school and are possibly ineffective. A bit unfair, I think.

I thought I would share some of the things we look for when recruiting new teachers - the same rules apply to teachers at all levels:

* A well-prepared, well-thought-out lesson (it does not have to be perfect);

* A clear ability to evaluate that lesson (what I would do differently next time);

* A good knowledge of how pupils' work is assessed (and we don't mean lots of tests);

* A willingness and eagerness to learn and continue to improve their practice;

* Enthusiasm for and excellent knowledge of their subject.

We also want to know why people are applying to our school. Prospective candidates need to do their homework and know what it is about this school that attracts them. We are very proud of our school and want others to show that they really want to work here. Apathy and aloofness and a standard letter will not do. Remember, it is always advisable to comment favourably on some aspects of the school, particularly the pupils and the staff.

Kenny Frederick is head of George Green's school in Tower Hamlets, east London

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