Issue 131 - 2024 Summer term
Are you finding it difficult to recruit staff? Are there particular roles or subjects you are struggling to recruit for? Here ASCL members share their views.

Recruit and retain

School business and support staff

For school business and support staff, just as for teaching staff, recruitment is getting harder. There are ever-expanding expectations on our core purpose and accountability, a reducing talent pool to recruit from and lack of funding and ability to match other sectors.

We need more experienced and qualified colleagues to keep up with the demands on our sector: ICT and developing technologies, cyber awareness, health and safety, estates management, financial management, governance and HR. Additionally, compliance requirements and the tasks that fall to school business leaders and their teams are increasing and becoming more specialised. 

In the past, schools have relied on families where one parent can afford to work part-time and term-time only. It’s often not the case anymore, with both parents now having to work full-time. And, without more funding, schools can’t match the pay, conditions and flexibility that other sectors can offer. 

Christine Ellis
Chief Operating Officer 
Cranmer Education Trust

Make links

It is increasingly difficult to recruit staff. If you are forward thinking enough to link with local universities and make links with local businesses and other organisations, people will know who you are and want to be part of the great things you do. If, however, you struggle with those links and rely on limited knowledge, you will suffer from the huge hole created by the massive numbers leaving the profession in the various roles. 

It is extremely important that we, as leaders, do not give up and accept that recruitment will fail to provide what our children deserve. We must get out there and make the links, engage with colleges and universities, show the world that education does matter. With positivity and determination to succeed despite the recruitment and retention crisis, we will get the right people in our schools to enjoy a profession that is hugely rewarding. 

This is how I work, and it seems to work. There is an issue but if we are positive, we can overcome the obstacles we are faced with.

Denham Kite
Croft Junior School

Huge concerns

Recruitment and retention in the past 18 months have been incredibly difficult. We’re a successful school with an established reputation, however, lately when we have advertised teaching vacancies, we’ve had no applicants. This is unprecedented for us. English has been one of the most difficult subjects to recruit for, but we’ve also had problems recruiting in design and technology, science, maths and history. Maternity cover is also very difficult to find and don’t even get me started on support staff roles. We are close to having enough learning support assistants, but you can understand why people would rather work in retail jobs for more money (and, probably, less stress).

We can see that investing in our prospective and new teachers is an important strand moving forwards. However, I’m concerned that the early career framework (ECF) carries a workload burden and the new Inspiring Future Teachers (IFT) programme requires mentors to do at least 20 hours training and 90 minutes a week of protected time with trainees. Absolutely, those new to teaching have an entitlement, but existing teachers are suffering under workload pressure, and this does little to alleviate it. I don’t want to sound negative, but I am hugely concerned.

Caroline Lowing
Head of School
Thornden School

Fix the fundamentals 

I’m the headteacher of an 11–18 school in Sheffield. We have a great reputation and lovely children. We’ve often recruited well because teachers wait for a job to come up in our school and move sideways. So, when the recruitment and retention crisis reaches us – as it has – things must be bad. 

This year, we’ve seen good teachers resign and leave the profession. One, last week, had only been with us a few weeks and came highly recommended. She said, “I came here to find out if the reason for my unhappiness was the school I was in or the profession.” She said this school is “as good as it gets and I’m still unhappy – the job is all encompassing; I’m exhausted and there’s no room in my life for anything else.”

We’d had a good field when we appointed her, so I thought some phone calls could plug the gap. Sadly, all the rest of the shortlist, who were appointable, had also left the profession over the summer and didn’t want to return. Better paid jobs with hybrid working mean they can work from home and don’t have to deal with the pressure of accountability and needs of vulnerable children. None of them were interested in teaching now, even with us. 

We must fix the fundamental problems that have created this situation, and no amount of tinkering with workload strategies or below inflation pay rises will generate the size of change our children need to see if we want to reverse this crisis. 

Paul Haigh
King Ecgbert School


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