Recruitment and retention in schools is more important than ever – but who's going to take on the challenge?

Recruitment and retention in schools is more important than ever – but who's going to take on the challenge?
20 Oct 2022

In 2019 people were worried about teacher recruitment and retention. I spoke about marketing-based solutions at a number of conferences and started writing a book - ‘Recruiting Teachers’.

However, the book was finished just as the first COVID lockdown took place and in the two years since schools have had to concentrate other challenges – and there was a short-lived improvement in recruitment and retention numbers which allowed this.

But these issues are back with a vengeance – in many ways the situation is worse than 2019 as many schools and trusts are paying less attention to it.

Take these recent headlines for example…

·       Schools struggle to find the support staff they need, Schools Week

·       DfE shake-up to shrink teacher training market by 25%, TES

·       School leader pay ‘down 24%’ since 2010, TES

·       ‘Grim news’: Secondary teacher recruits fall a third short, Schools Week

·       Jump in teachers leaving, Schools Week

To summarise the problem, the next few years will see a toxic combination of attractive alternative jobs (the recent drop in the pound has made teaching overseas more lucrative, while other graduate careers such as accountancy have increased starting salaries significantly), a potentially huge reduction in new teachers due to uncertainty in the initial teacher training market, the lingering impacts of COVID and Brexit and an increasing number of students in secondary schools (primary numbers will fall). Against this school budgets are facing huge pressures and there is little scope to raise salaries.

So, what can schools do? Some people I’ve engaged on social media with this topic think there’s no alternative but to wait for Government support, while others are resigned to paying their way out of the problem with repeated adverts and use of agencies. But the way the school market is set up means that this will just favour the larger providers with deeper pockets – and in the meantime your school’s provision will be suffering.

All schools and trusts need to be competitive in recruitment – to do this I would suggest the following four steps...

1.    Put someone senior in charge of the issue – with a holistic focus across recruitment, retention, and staff development. Too many schools split these up and are happy with the different parts of the process – for example getting (any) response to a job advert or running a CPD programme – rather than looking at the staff turnover rate and quality of hires.  And don’t assume that because you’re a primary school, or a private school, or have had low staff turnover in the past that you’ll be OK – shortages can hit any school.

2.    Predict your staffing issues and assess the risks – both financial and in terms of being able to deliver your curriculum. How much will last minute recruitment or supply cost you next year if you have the same problems as this year? What will the impact be on income generation if you can’t find a caretaker? Will students choose your Sixth Form if you can't offer physics or languages? Then make it a priority to find the people who can solve these problems.

3.    Innovate – think what you can offer that is different to keep and attract people. Examples would include using links within a trust to create new roles or offer secondments, offering flexible working, reducing workload, make applying for jobs easier or setting up a talent bank. The best way is to listen to your current and future workforce and let them tell you where to act.

4.    Communicate - develop and use your networks, sharing compelling content* and letting people start conversations with you before applying. When you spend money on advertising make sure to try and evaluate job boards if you need them - try TeachVac or Senploy well as the Tes - but remember it's a buyers’ market so they're not silver bullets.

*Here’s an example from St Paul's Catholic School Milton Keynes – can you beat this? (created by Wise Guys)


Please get in touch if you’d like to explore how your school or trust can become an ‘employer of choice’ and win the ‘war for talent' through research, innovation and communication!