IE Today, 30.03.16, schools are adopting a new 'three Rs' as they seek to recruit, reward and retain the best teachers, writes Simon Fry. HMC Chair Chris King, headmaster of leading independent Leicester Grammar School and Nigel Lashbrook headmaster of leading independent Oakham School are quoted.
These are challenging times for the education sector, with recent predictions of teacher shortages and education recruitment provider Eteach reporting that more than 50,000 teaching professionals visited their site on New Year’s Day 2016 to search for their next role – 16,000 had searched on Christmas Day. However, independent schools across England and Wales are finding solutions, with proactive training schemes providing new recruits with opportunities for continuing development and simple-but-effective innovations ensuring that teachers feel valued.
The shortage of good qualified teachers is one of the most important problems facing education today, according to Chris King, HMC chair and Leicester Grammar School headmaster. “Put simply, too many are leaving whilst not enough are joining,” he says. “A recent NAHT poll showed two out of three schools struggling to recruit senior teachers and rising pupil numbers means future supply, at least in the state sector, is unlikely to meet demand. Whilst the independent sector is not immune to these problems, especially in physics, maths and languages, our schools are well placed.
“We can offer trainees the chance to teach as a specialist, gain access to a wide range of school activities and achieve higher salaries. To help build on these strengths and grow the pool of available recruits, HMC has launched HMC Teacher Training (HMCTT). Over 1,500 graduates and career-changers registered their interest in 2014-15, and early in this school year it has already attracted around 2,500.”
The 24/7 nature of boarding communities results in a closer working relationship between staff and pupils, according to Robin Fletcher, national director of the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA). “Boarding schools offer a unique teaching experience for staff,” he says. “Those working in the boarding house may be provided with accommodation and in return staff have the opportunity to develop their skills, lead extracurricular sessions and expand their role within the school beyond their normal classroom duties. There are many CPD opportunities for staff working in boarding, adding an extra dimension to CVs, such as the BSA’s professional development programme, accredited by Roehampton University.”
At Oakham School – and all schools – the biggest challenge is to recruit the very best teachers. Oakham headmaster Nigel Lashbrook says: “There are four main challenges we face – all of which are exacerbated by the well-documented ‘crisis’ in teacher numbers. Firstly, the escalating cost of recruiting teachers; secondly, maintaining the right balance of teaching staff; thirdly, ensuring we recruit teachers who are the right ‘fit’ for Oakham; and finally, offering enough professional development opportunities to retain and engage our teachers.”
Nigel summarises the current teacher recruitment climate: “On a positive note, it is now easier to recruit really good teachers; a result of the improvements in teacher training, as well as there being more avenues from which to recruit teachers (schemes such as HMC’s new teacher training programme). So whilst the pool may be decreasing, the quality of candidates has improved. Nationally, there are a number of key subject areas that have traditionally been harder to recruit and attract teachers for. Whilst we luckily haven’t had problems finding excellent science teachers, we’ve certainly found maths to be a problematic subject area to recruit experienced or new teaching staff for. As with all good schools, we simply have to ‘roll again’. This repeated search obviously incurs a very high cost, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure we engage the very best teachers for our students.”
Certain areas will ‘feel the pinch’ going forward, according to Nigel: “Drama, music, art and DT are all subjects that, under new governmental measures of school performance, could begin to decline in the maintained sector. As such, there will be fewer training opportunities for NQTs. This means all schools could struggle to recruit teachers into these areas down the line. We are already thinking about the future impact this will have on our recruitment into these key areas of our curriculum, including how we attract and train good graduates directly.”
By thinking outside of the box and being proactive and open, independent schools are continuing to attract the teachers offering the best possible education to the citizens of tomorrow. Challenges lie ahead, but such schools are more than ready to overcome them.
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