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The Staffing Bus

9th March 2020

The recruitment season has well and truly begun. It feels like this gets earlier and earlier every year, but in truth, I am not sure that it ever ends. This recruitment season is made up of many moving parts: finance, curriculum expectations, national training backdrops, cultural values and stability.

StaffingBusIn terms of finance, initial indications suggest that, for this year at least, the government maybe making good on its commitment to fund the suggested pay rises for teachers and support staff. The Trust central team is working closely with SBMs (more at the Operations Team meeting on Tuesday this week) over the budget assumptions regarding income and expenditure. We need to ensure that we do not get excited regarding the increases in our income … how schools will be funded next year is very unclear … but it does seem to suggest the pay rises mooted by central government are likely to be funded in the settlement for the next academic year.

This change is a consequence of 10 years of austerity and 10 years missing teacher recruitment targets. While the last two years have been different, the stagnation, well below inflation, of teacher salaries, coupled with the more complicated routes into teacher training… and the fact this has to be paid for, have drastically reduced the pool of new teachers on the market. Add to this the rising demand now reaching secondary schools due to demographic changes, and we have a perfect storm. Headteachers have long felt held over a barrel by ‘average’ staff. In shortage areas the debate has been ‘are they better than no-one’? This is no way to work. Added to this we have, quite correctly, concerns over staff workload and burn out and the balancing equation we all have to undertake is becoming more challenging.

Whenever we consider recruitment, teachers, support staff and governors, we are always asking the questions around cultural fit. DO they understand the values of my organisation? Can I work with them? Will they be effective in my settling? Given all the concerns above, it is sometimes tempting to overlook, or gloss over these niggles. In truth we all know these come back to haunt us and, sooner or later, the cultural fit will be the deciding factor over whether appointments are successful or not. I would caution everyone from not listening or assessing the ‘cultural fit’.

Finally, we have stability. Schools are cautious institutions. Too much change and turnover can be as problematic as too little. We need to get this balance right. Sometimes we can find ourselves three years along the track and turn around and realise that those people who knew our schools and what we valued are no longer the majority – which therefore begs the question – how are we reaffirming and talking about the values that bind us? Without those, we are all lost.

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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