Teaching is a strange career in many ways, and none more so than when it comes to recruitment. For a start, we’re trapped in this strange cycle of term dates and academic years. Everyone knows that the big turnover of staff happens just as summer turns to autumn, and so the big stride in recruitment happens just as winter gives way to spring. How many other roles are routinely recruited six months in advance?
It’s made all the more complicated by not knowing what will change in the meantime. If you’re fortunate enough to have a steady roll and a stable staff, then maybe planning that far ahead can work. But not everyone has it so easy. Find yourself in a small rural community and you might need different staff numbers each year; the large school in a big city might well find itself with a handful of staff leaving over the course of the months ahead.
And then there’s the application process. With lots of jobs and lots of applicants around, the whole process can become hard work for everyone, particularly because it’s so important to find the right fit between school and teacher. For the trainee coming to the end of their final teaching practice – or maybe even just beginning it – it seems so soon to be thinking about applying for jobs, yet for the school looking for the best teachers around, panic starts to set in once Easter is out of the way.
Tinder for teachers
So we end up in spring months with applications left, right and centre. Teachers looking for a first role, or a new opportunity, might find themselves filling in several application forms, each with their different layouts, and each accompanied by a personalised letter of support. And the personalisation matters. The standard letter with a modified opening line is easy to spot, especially if you forget to modify the first line quite well enough.
It’s surely about time someone set up a matching agency for exactly this time: a sort of Tinder for Teachers? Instead of applicants applying to as many schools as they can find that suit, each with a lengthy application, and then schools trawling through the detailed supporting letters looking for the right fit, surely the technical wizards could come up with something that could narrow down your focus more easily.
If they can manage it for online dating, why not recruitment? Instead of a person specification that each teacher tries to prove that they can meet, why not a simple set of questions on the online matching website that some magical algorithm can then use to find the perfect match?
That way, teachers who pride themselves on including opportunities for kinaesthetic learners and think that maths is best taught through dance can be saved the bother of applying for posts at my school, and equally no school that prioritises written feedback would ever need waste their time reading my application.
Happily ever after?
I’m not quite sure we’d want to go as far as simply swiping left or right – and certainly not based on a photograph – but surely if the online dating agencies can match people well enough to live happily ever after together, it can’t be impossible to come up with the tools to match teachers and schools in the right geographical area.
Mind you, maybe it would suffer from the same risks as online dating: you think you’ve found the perfect school that looks outstanding, but when you turn up on the first date, you find out that its profile was using a fifteen-year-old Ofsted banner and hasn’t really got over the departure of its last teacher, yet.
Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979