Since March the education sector, like many others, has faced a once in a generation challenge due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst schools have done a fantastic job in tackling the situation head on, we can anticipate that a new set of challenges, particularly around recruitment and workforce, will emerge when the school year starts. Here we’ll look at some of those challenges and how school leaders, MAT Central Teams and Local Authorities could look to develop action plans to ensure as smooth a return to school as possible in September.

Typically, the busiest time of the year for school teacher vacancies is during April and May. This is due to the usual resignation deadline dates for teachers seeking new opportunities falling in May. At this point, adverts are posted, candidates are engaged and the school recruitment cycle begins. This year however, perhaps due to uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, the number of teachers handing in their resignations has dropped hugely, resulting in a significant drop in the number of vacancies being advertised.

For example, on a certain day at the end of April 2019, one of the major education job boards had approximately 8000 live vacancies. Fast-forward to the same time in 2020, there were 5600 vacancies posted on that job board — a drop of 30%.

Understand the mindset of your potential candidates

Alongside the hard figures of the number of open vacancies and the number of adverts being posted, we have to consider the mindset of those who, if it hadn’t been for the coronavirus pandemic, would have been seeking new opportunities during the last few months — but now are staying put.

Throughout the school year, many teachers will have been thinking about what their next career move might look like. They would of course know when the resignation dates are and when they would have to start looking for a new job — and many would already have been signed up to job boards and agencies in order to assist them with their new moves when the pandemic hit.

Data from our candidate base shows overall, 44% of EYFS and Primary teachers; 35% of Secondary STEM teachers and 44% of Secondary Humanities teachers are actively seeking a new role. Many of these teachers are currently in long term or permanent roles, but over this year have been in the mindset to seek a new challenge or progression in their career (for example, 28% of our community of appropriately qualified classroom teachers are actively looking to move into a management position).

Our conversations with them indicate that they may be unwilling to resign a secure job without first knowing what opportunities may be available in the new school year (opportunities which would normally have opened up over the summer but didn’t due to the coronavirus pandemic). Uncertainty has meant fewer resignations this summer, but if some clarity around our way out of the pandemic emerges, we can expect a flurry of activity both in resignations and recruitment activity, potentially resulting in increased competition for candidates due to this pent-up demand.

It is already extremely difficult to recruit and retain certain subject specialist teachers, so for schools delaying the initial stages of candidate engagement until they actually have a resignation, engaging candidates from a standing start could present a serious challenge from September onwards. Our database of highly engaged candidates provides a great, easy to access network of staff for schools that anticipate having to hire in the next school year to tap into early.

Predicting future recruitment requirements in your school

Future school recruitment can be difficult to predict at the best of times as you never truly know if a teacher is leaving until they hand in their resignation. That said, schools with good planning usually have a clear idea of what to expect by looking at patterns from previous years; which includes permanent vacancies, long term sickness, maternity cover, and of course how many days of supply teaching needed by the school.

The anomalous drop in vacancy advertising this summer suggests that teachers’ resignation decisions have been ‘on hold’ and resignations may be shifted into the coming year. If this is the case, schools may experience what are effectively ‘delayed’ resignations during the autumn — and this extra vacancies will be combined with the normal recruitment cycles of the year. If this prediction bears out, the question becomes: how are schools going to prepare, and how are they going to attract and engage new candidates in what could be an even more constricted and competitive recruitment window come the autumn?

This summer, with the hiring activity there have been new channels incorporated and tools to facilitate remote assessment, and that trend looks like it is here to stay. It has also become more important for application processes to be mobile friendly to ensure completion rates remain high (see our recent blog in SEN Magazine on hiring during a pandemic for more information). In addition, we have found that the trend of candidates looking for greater flexibility in work opportunities — related to work/life balance, workload, and juggling other commitments — has been intensified by the pandemic and its associated uncertainties.

Prepared schools and MATs will be adjusting their hiring strategy now. The schools will be looking to extract maximum value from candidate attraction and school engagement efforts by ensuring their recruitment function is:

  • attracting candidates before a resignation is confirmed, for example, through social media presence and community engagement
  • engaging and retaining candidates who express interest in their school, even if the timing is not exactly right, for example, using Talent Pooling software, which is a service we offer at Teacher Booker
  • appealing and easy for candidates to apply for roles, for example, by making it mobile-friendly

Key takeaways:

In the coming year, we can expect

  • Different peaks in resignation activity and short term absence activity (e.g. October may be higher than usual for resignations if confidence and certainty return, on the other hand short term absences may increase if there are localised outbreaks)
  • Different, more candidate-friendly hiring processes will be expected by candidates including increased use of remote and digital, mobile-optimised channels
  • Different attraction, employer branding and engagement techniques will be most effective as candidates look for the ability to work flexibly in schools

One thing is for sure, it is going to be a very different year for schools in every sense and will require out-of-the-box thinking. Get in touch if we can help in your recruitment this school year.

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