In this insightful guest blog, inspirational Head Teacher and Educational Consultant Paul Mundy-Castle shares his views on how to create a welcoming and supportive environment for new recruits in your school.
The most important component of any school, I believe, is the staff body — especially the teachers, who play such a pivotal role in the success of any school. Teachers are charged with delivering the curriculum, safeguarding the children, ensuring that their own continuous professional development is up to date and sometimes are the major breadwinners in their own families.
It’s a multifunctional role that teachers must balance on a daily basis. For their part, the most important thing that a head teacher can do is to get the recruitment of staff right. Hiring the right staff will help ensure your school sees accelerated progress across the board. Recruiting the wrong staff can be a real drain down the line, both on your time and on the resources of the school.
My top tips for getting recruitment right in a secondary school context
Get your job description right
Ensure that the job description reflects exactly what you want delivered in your school. Sometimes generic job descriptions might tick the box but in reality, they can lead to real issues later as misunderstandings and misaligned expectations can foment tensions in the workforce. So, it’s worth investing time to ensure the job description is as specific as you need it to be. Review the roles and responsibilities attached to that job description to ensure that it is exactly what your school requires at that time (don’t simply copy and paste!) and ensure that the lines of accountability are well embedded it.
Get the recruitment process right
Not every job is suitable for commercial job boards. Some jobs are better advertised in your locality, be that your local newspaper, your own school website, or any other local publication where you think eyes will be on the advert.
Get the recruitment day absolutely spot on
Always prepare for a thorough interview process. I believe the more demanding the interview process is, the more likely you will get somebody coming to the fore who aligns with the visions and values of your own school and organisation. So, no light touch approach to interview. You have got to give candidates a full experience. A tour of the school is essential, so they get the experience of what your school is like on a working day. Additionally I have always put candidates in front of a student panel, because I think it’s important for students to meet prospective new teachers and have the opportunity to ask them questions. If possible, convene a staff panel too. If that’s not possible, then allow the candidates to have access to staff during the break or lunchtime in the staff room so they can ask questions and see what the culture of your school is like. You need to be able to envisage the prospective candidate working in your school, and I think the only way you can genuinely do that is by ensuring they get as real an experience as possible during the interview process.
Once you’ve made a successful appointment, it’s important you work methodically through your induction or onboarding process, so that that new member of staff feels valued and aligned to the ethos and values of your school from day one. Don’t overlook the simple things that can be easy to forget: ensure the new staff member has got all the day to day things they will need like a set of keys and the relevant logins to the computer system. A great tip I found was to ensure that they’ve got a buddy assigned to them, because it’s so important when you start in a new school to have a go-to person. A buddy might not be in the new starter’s department, but having somebody who’s a little bit more experienced can help a new starter get inducted properly.
If you overlook these things your new staff member might start having a negative experience that will be difficult to reverse later.
I always believe it’s better to retain than to recruit
Once you’ve got new staff members through the door, it’s essential you work with them in an open and transparent manner. That way they feel valued and feel they can add to the growth of the school. Schools must invest in meaningful continuous professional development of their staff so that new staff members truly feel that the organisation is invested in them. Investing in your staff from this early stage will create a benevolent circle of trust that will help you increase retention and reduce the turnover amongst your workforce.
Encourage the independence of all staff in terms of their ability to make decisions at the local level. Once everybody is up to date on what the school’s policies are, then as a school leader, you have to allow for distributed leadership. That way your staff feel empowered to make decisions that will actually help improve the workings of the organisation. I think it’s important to maintain a high reward culture not just for students but for staff as well. I’ve always put in initiatives like staff member of the week – this could be a small gift like a box of chocolate, but we always gave a trophy so the colleague had a visual manifestation they could put in their classroom or on their work desk. I found it to be a very public way of appreciating the hard work that your staff do on a daily basis.
Finally, as a head teacher, I’ve always been open and approachable to my staff. That way any problems that arise can be addressed before they become terminal. Clearly you have line management structures in schools, and people need to understand how to use those channels, but as the head of the organisation it’s always important that you’re visible and remain approachable so your staff feel they can pass something on to you if they feel the need to.