Teacher Recruitment Musings

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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An abundance of teachers and head teachers across the country exclaim that the recruitment process is disordered and continues to fluctuate. (@MyEdHunt slideshow provides quotes and statistics). As a consequence, many head teachers resort to recruiting overseas. As a classroom and senior teacher, I can only agree that the job-seeking process is tangled in protocol and defragmented at the core. In schools across England, whether this is looking to employ a new teacher, or individuals such as you or me applying for a post ourselves, we could quite easily condemn cutbacks and recent government policy.

However, this would be mere finger-pointing!

(This article was supposed to be published in The Guardian tabloid in March 2013. However, it did not make the cut, hence a delayed publication here. I also used the content as part of my presentation at #SLTeachMeet on 14th May 2013 when I discussed Teacher Recruitment and @MyEdHunt. You can find the slideshow in first link above and the video in full, at the bottom of the page. It is a lengthy article, so get comfortable.)

“…mere finger-pointing!…”

Recruitment Issues:

I am absolutely convinced that recruitment issues will remain for the foreseeable future. Given the general nature of social mobility, one could argue that the removal of a national pay scale and introduction of Gove’s ‘performance related-pay’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2013/jan/31/headteachers-performance-related-pay-schools-michael-gove), may resolve regional pay-scales and recruitment.

“Nonsense”, I here you scowl!

Alternatively, another perspective is to look at the statistics according to the DfE (Department for Education) 2010 School Census (http://www.education.gov.uk/researchandstatistics/statistics/a00196394/). For example, a job-seeking teacher working in London would have a larger selection of potential secondary schools available to them for consideration; 450 in total.

Now weigh this up against a teacher moving out of the capital city and relocating to, for example, Northumbria which has approximately 48 secondary schools. Remarkably the odds for this teacher are already reduced ten-fold.

In anticipation of any factuality, you will not be flabbergasted to hear, that this is quite simply, circumstantial. Every school is different. Every vacancy that is advertised is unique, and some head-teachers will be able to predict their annual advertising campaigns. Filling vacancies, according to the individual needs of the school is relative, as it is for the potential application field. The DfE School Census 2010 says; “in November 2011 there were 350 teacher vacancies reported for full-time permanent teachers in publicly funded schools, a rate of just 0.1 per cent.”

Teacher Statistics:

According to the latest (April 2012) national statistics on School Workforce produced by the DfE (http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s001062/index.shtml), “in November 2011 there were a total of just under 0.9 million full-time equivalent school workforce employees working in publicly funded schools in England”. “Between spring 2000 and November 2011 the numbers of full-time equivalent teachers in service has increased by 32,200 from 405,800 to 438,000.” This represents an increase of potential recruits by 7.9% and put simply, more competition! (Source: http://www.education.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s001062/sfr06-2012v7.pdf)

Equality Act 2010:

Given the fact that the Equality Act 2010 was refined to take into account gender and age discrimination, the following facts should make little relevance to any job application in the sector… but it serves as interesting reading:

  • In England 2010, 73.2% of full and part-time regular teachers were female with just 26.8% male.
  • 65.2% of all head teachers were female.
  • 23.0% of the workforce were aged under 30, with 22.8% aged 50 or over.
  • Other noteworthy statistics include 53.4% of full-time equivalent head teachers who were aged 50 or over and;
  • the vast majority (94.8%) of teachers held degree level qualifications or higher.

What races to the forefront of my mind in this present climate, is job-security – teachers not wanting to move or redundancies in some cases – plus reduced professional development budgets to allow those already in positions to train for new roles.  This is exacerbated by the proposed Pay Policy and the new proposals from moving school-to-school. Headteachers no longer need to match salaries.

If you have not read the recommendations, I suggest you read ASCLs condensed version (here), or if you can spare a day, read the full 111 page draft policy from the DfE.

NQTs / Overseas Trained Teachers:

For those at the beginning of their career, we could also consider the lack of teacher-trainee places in higher education and the ever-increasing competition for those places, as well as employment itself. From my experience, I have worked with teachers from Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, as well as teachers from native speaking countries such as France, Spain and Germany. During my discussions with various teachers, there was an abundance of variety experiences communicated of those working with teachers from other parts of the world. For example: Romania; Switzerland; China and Russia. Michael Gove is keen to see more foreign teachers in schools. From 1 April 2012, teachers who qualified in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US are to be recognised as qualified teachers and awarded qualified teacher status in England.


Nonetheless, to what extent are school leaders having problems sourcing the right teachers for their schools? Irrefutably, sourcing calibre can be an issue and conducting a very stringent interview process will enable real quality to shine through. However, a rigorous interview processes can hinder those who find the process daunting. Two head teachers I spoke to were very unwavering about recruitment. They exclaimed that; “there was no need to look overseas” and believed that “there are plenty of good teachers in UK!” Another teacher from Yorkshire, believed it was; “…difficult to recruit quality, be that experienced or not. Shortage-subjects makes this more challenging…” and “…working with a wide range of primary academies, I can confirm that successful recruitment is a major issue!”

A primary school head teacher said; “NQT (Newly Qualified Teachers) applications – not all – are patchy, which is often a mismatch between the application form and their ability in the classroom.” Unfortunately, this forms part of the interview process and those who are unfamiliar with this, will fall short. Some believed having only 1 or 2 days to form a judgement on an applicant made it difficult to make an informed decision. The conversations and testimonies I have go on and on…

A teacher in Manchester said; “…attracting quality staff two pupil referral-units were virtually impossible! Staff are poorly paid and teacher reputation is dire.” An additional primary head teacher in Suffolk, who works in a good school with outstanding features said; “We advertised for a year 1 reception teacher twice. We received zero applicants!”, but yet a deputy head teacher in Suffolk said; “we are very lucky and have no problems.”

National and International issues:

Is this just occurring in a few schools or is it a national issue?

A lead teacher in Sheffield said; “unqualified teachers may be a solution, but in other schools where I have worked, overseas applications rarely got more than a quick glance!”

Farther afield, I spoke with a head teacher in Stockholm who recruits immigrants from countries in the Middle-East with foreign degrees. She stated that “they were not certified by Swedish standards, but because they spoke Swedish, this was beneficial.” She added; “We do have a shortage of teachers, not only due to retirement, but also because becoming a teacher is not so popular. The Swedish School Act of 2010 requires more from the schools. By 2015, all teachers must be certified and the hiring of unqualified teaching staff will be banned.”

In several international studies, Sweden has been ranked among the very best. An overview of the past decade in Swedish education can be found here.

Regarding temporary staffing, two supply agencies I spoke with accentuated, that some regions will have more demands than others. For supply teachers, an evolving national issue is that recruitment agencies are now recruiting from abroad to avoid national insurance contributions. Even so, how many schools are recruiting from overseas? One repatriated assistant head teacher I spoke to said, “I worked in Abu Dhabi for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) for nearly 4 years and was seconded back to Sheffield.” This shows how some teachers make the most of this recruitment trend, but how do the majority?

Those teachers who shared their experience, talked about techniques they have used or seen others employ successfully. Examples include Skype interviews – equivalent for those British teachers who move overseas. Or, those attending mass recruitment fairs to attract candidates with the wind-in-their-sails and are then shipped off on a 2-year contract with very attractive benefits. Other riskier techniques include applying for temporary contracts which may lead to permanence.

A call to arms:

During the last decade, I have interviewed hundreds of teachers myself. I’d like to think I know exactly what employers are thinking and looking for; but totally understand that when we all apply for a promotion or a new position. Afterall, we are all taking a step into the unknown. In short, we may be deluded and unaware of something that may still be out of our reach. I have talked about my own job-hunting anecdotes here and know that the interview process must be taken seriously. That all decisions must be deliberated and fully consulted to ensure accurate safeguarding procedures have been followed, and that the process is robust and fair. I understand this entirely.

However, the problem I see is this. For many, many schools, they are not compliant. They fail to address the latest Equality Act 2010 reforms. Curriculum vitae are accepted in independent schools and in some schools I have worked in, I have witnessed applications being accepted after the published deadline. Internal candidates are also considered – and often appointed – for published adverts. There is no consistency.

Why does it happen?

Nevertheless, I know every single reason why schools may do this and fully expect to do it myself! Schools simply need the ‘right teacher’ in front of their students and at the risk of not recruiting, or spending extortionate sums of money to re-advertise, this may not an option for some. If needed, I would go overseas to recruit too!

What I’d like to suggest, is the alternative which follows on from my thoughts on nationwide CPD (Continued Professional Development) for all teachers and have written about the alternative to the recruitment process here. (https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2013/02/09/job-applications/)

Of course, current solutions include a ‘grow-your-own’ philosophy of which I advocate; but not where this is detrimental to others who have applied for posts that include external applicants as part of the process. Teach First, Future Leaders, Teaching Leaders and the evolving School Direct programmes will continue to cultivate the next generation of teachers on home soil; but what we really need to do is provide a simpler forum for current teachers to move easily and regularly to keep the profession alive.

I call all teachers and encourage you to make the most of your own professional development.

Every teacher should have a professional portfolio. I envisage a national, self-sustained, online forum for managing your own work-history, CPD and job applications. In short, this website could be a private profile for schools and teachers searching for work containing your history; detailing performance; references; data; CPD; attendance; evidence and so on. The possibilities are endless and can only benefit the recruitment process.

We will always have a need for schooling. We will always have students and a prerequisite for those that teach. Recruiting teachers and helping those move from school to school is much more complex and it needn’t be. It is up to us, for you and I to succour our employment on our very own doorstep, as well as for the profession.

My presentation at SLTeachMeet (just click play):

My slideshow presentation:

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@TeacherToolkit by Ross Morrison McGill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on all work published at www.teachertoolkit.me.

One thought on “Teacher Recruitment Musings

  1. Not sure whether this excites me or frightens me more. I know I’m always glad when the 31st May is over each year and I know which staff are leaving and which are staying. I’m interested in the different perspectives around recruitment – I had thought, with no evidence to back it up, that there would be a flight from schools in challenging circumstances to those where student numbers, budgets and hence jobs were more secure. A good, strong core of “lifers” are needed at all schools with a few people to come in and give you a burst of new ideas and energy, as ever balance is the key. Hope @myedhunt really takes off – the costs of advertising are madness.

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