The Recruitment Drive

As any school leader will tell you, we are currently entering into a fairly frenetic period in the academic year where teachers begin to consider making career moves for Easter and September. Between now and May headteachers and school leaders up and down the country will be looking at their staffing and wondering who will be staying, who will be going and how can they attract the best teachers to their schools.

Within my own school we currently have three teachers who are due to have babies and maternity leave is beckoning (they are three talented individuals who help drive a lot of change in school), we need a new teacher as part of the expansion project we are in, and we have two full time vacancies to fill for September. As a result of this we thought we’d get our adverts in nice and early in February to beat the rush of advertised vacancies and therefore have the best possible chance of recruiting high calibre candidates. It turns out though, that many other schools have the same idea and this year, more than ever, there are an abundance of jobs out there. It seems to me that with the current stresses and strains on the profession, greater numbers are leaving teaching and less are coming on board. In short we have a problem. But, just when I was starting to have the odd negative thought about how we were going to make our school stand out from the crowd in terms of the recruitment drive, a number of things began to happen that filled with me with optimism. We started to have some really high calibre people look around and it wasn’t by chance.

CC Peter McCoubrie

CC Peter McCoubrie

Candidates who viewed the school came from a number of areas – some had seen our OFSTED report from last year (which was really positive so this helped) and some knew of the school’s reputation in the area – both of these facts were pleasing. However, what pleased me more was that we had candidates apply for the position as a result of networking the school had done – we had made links with schools in the Midlands and nationwide and this had enabled the school to be seen as a positive, forward thinking place to work which encouraged a number of candidates to apply. We also work hard to spot and nurture talented teachers in a variety of settings and, through keeping touch with these up-and-coming individuals, and offering them guidance and career advice, we ensured that when jobs came up they were keen to apply. This aspect I find the most pleasing because, as a headteacher, I feel a moral responsibility to develop, nurture and inspire (hopefully, although I can’t promise to get it right all of the time!!!!!) the next generation of teacher and leader coming through as many others did for me. There were times in my career when I’d phone up an old HT or a HT that inspired me to ask for career advice and my mantra as a headteacher is to repeat this kindness and trust that I was shown. The by-product of doing this has turned out to be that these people look for opportunities and want to work in the school.

In an ever competitive job market where schools struggle to recruit now more so than ever, the main way forward has to be to make links with talented people at the onset of their careers and that is where Schools Direct, links with universities, SCITTs, networking and other forums really come into their own. I also think that the benefits of Multi Academy Trusts, federations and established networks are becoming more and more evident because they enable the net to spread wider to harness talent and they also allow schools to retain talented staff because the secondment and developmental opportunities for a range of leaders are huge and varied.

The bottom line for me on recruitment is that if you want talented, passionate and vibrant candidates to apply then you have to put in the groundwork and make sure you do everything you can to attract these high calibre individuals after all – you only get out what you put in. The secret to a successful recruitment drive is the development of people and the investment of time in nurturing trust and inspiration.

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Reflecting on learning via social media

As Headteacher of a primary school I have been blogging for just over two years. The main aim was to engage parents and the wider community in showing them the learning that was taking place and how this was moving the school forward. A number of other positive aims were also achieved including: showing parents that I was a different style of leader to my predecessor, building further lines of communication and also creating an online evidence base for OFSTED to trawl. With this in mind I created ht1parkhill.wordpress.com and so far in just over two years there have been over 40,000 hits.

The aim was always to roll out blogging to each phase in the school and to allow the children and staff to personalise the experience further. The only problem was that I kept on putting off implementing this with staff (this usually happens when I’m unsure of the potential impact) because I know that, whilst WordPress can be easy for some to pick up, it can also be quite challenging for others. I started to wonder if there was an easier and more effective solution. The vision was about sharing learning and the journey the children were on – I began to question if WordPress was the right format because blogs of this nature take a while to write (especially for staff who already have marking and planning to do) and in the worst case scenario a child may show the teacher a great piece of work but, due to other pressures, this may not get added to the blog until the following week and in this case the impact of the learning is lost. The conclusion that we came to was that a traditional blog is great for the HT or a senior leader to relay information but there are better formats out there for showcasing work with the best being Twitter.

twitter v social media

The advantages of Twitter are: it’s not time consuming for staff (max of 140 characters), it’s easy to use and access, it works well on a mobile device and most importantly it is instantaneous. With a Tweet taking no more than 30 seconds to write it is the ideal format for showcasing learning – we live in an age of social media where people expect instant recognition. Twitter is great at providing instant feedback and, when a child has produced an outstanding piece of work, there is instant verification and recognition that they have achieved great learning. This is where Twitter has the edge over Facebook and WordPress. Below is an example of a Tweet referencing learning and top tips for showcasing children’s work on Twitter.

PH tweet

Top Tips

  • Make sure that you have upskilled parents (we do this with workshops during parents evening).
  • Create a Twitter account for each phase in school.
  • Always photograph the learning and add a sentence to place the learning into context.
  • Use only first names of the children so as to not give too much personal information away.
  • Use a hashtag. We use #ParkHillPrimary because that way if a parent wants to see learning from Nursery through to Y6 for the day they simply have to search the hashtag.
  • Ensure that you have enough mobile devices around school to capture learning.
  • Build in time for staff training – we use five minutes at the start of a staff meeting to practice Tweeting.
  • Place a minimum expectation for how many Tweets should be generated a day – we started with a minimum of one and worked upwards from there when staff were comfortable.

If you are interested in the learning at Park Hill then follow @ParkHillPrimary

The Waiting Game

In many ways the most difficult time after you have secured your first headship is the period in between accepting the job and taking up the post. This is often the time when it becomes increasingly difficult to focus on your role as deputy head due to the exciting and daunting realisation that you are about to become the ultimate leader of the school. You will increasingly find yourself strategizing about the job and thinking about what you will do, how you will go about things – this can become draining and below are practical tips you can act on before starting.

The Waiting Game

If you would like to see an example of the 1:1 staff meeting questions then please visit this blog over the next few days as this will be added.

Final thought…when you share with other colleagues and associates you know that you are set to become a headteacher you will inevitably find that some people like to point out the negatives in the job e.g. it’s a lot of pressure, why would you do that? Are you really ready? The pay is poor, the hours are long, you’re selling out by not staying as a teacher…the list could go on. I personally ask that you do one thing – fight your corner and be passionate about why you are going in to the job – to make a difference, to develop leaders, to improve the outcomes for pupils, to unite a community. There are just too many people who are negative about headship, make sure you’re not one of them. Yes it’s tough at times and can be a real roller coaster but ultimately it is the best job going and a massive honour. Never lose site of that!

Picking the right school for headship

Choosing the Right School

When applying for headships, candidates usually come in to one of two categories: those that are motivated to be a headteacher and want to climb the career ladder and those who want to increase their income. Both are valid reasons for going for that first post and when deciding which school to apply for consider the following factors below.

Image

All of the above factors should form part of your decision making process because changing one of these variables within a position can make a huge difference. A good example of this is how long the previous HT has been in post; if they have been there for a long time e.g. +10 years then it will probably mean that changing the mindset of the school will take longer to happen than following on from someone who has been there three years because they may have begun to initiate change. Both have their pluses and minuses but following on from a long established HT can provide a stern test in the first year. Only you can know which factors are more important than others but the key advice is to make sure you choose the right school that you will feel comfortable working at.