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Is there a recruitment crisis within our schools?

Is there a 'perfect storm' brewing across the UKs schools due to their inefficient recruitment processes and our surge in population growth?

Today's topic is about the warning given by Teach First who have stated that the recruitment crisis is & lsquo;worse than 2002'.

I have been involved with schools and education recruitment for over 16 years and I have to agree with Brett Wigdortz (Teach First CEO) recent comments, the recruitment landscape for schools is definitely as tough as it was in 2002, but this time its going to get much, much tougher. Its an amazing state of affairs, almost the & lsquo;perfect storm’ is brewing. On one side we have the erudite human capital experts with their charts, big data, statistics and demographical forecasts, along with the quangos, trade press and the bloke running the pub quiz, all shouting about the the approaching crisis and the possibility of school dystopia. While, in general, schools are walking slowly towards the precipice, clutching a copy of the TES or the Guardian with a standard cloned advert, showing that they are still recruiting in the same way as Schools did in 1910 when the TES was first launched as a jobs supplement!...What’s the definition of madness? to continue to do the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, when in fact they see nothing but diminishing returns! I recently read a piece by Jim Knight, the ex-secretary of schools for labour and an advisor to TES, where he openly stated than even in & lsquo;TES Towers’ they know that schools are receiving less applications than ever before.

We have over 8.2 million children attending schools in this country and rising. Primary schools alone saw a rise in pupils of 2.1% on last year, with what looks like another huge underestimation on future immigration and birth rates that will continue to augment the issue of increasing roles.

So we all know that we are going to have more and more children to educate over the foreseeable future, but we also know we have less and less teachers to educate them! So far in 2015 we have seen a 12% reduction in teacher training numbers, stats showing that almost a third of teachers leave within their first 3 years and total attrition rates of those with 5 years plus at over 10%, not to mention the demographical time bomb of 40% plus of our post war baby boomers, who make up the majority of our schools heads and senior leaders, that are about to retire! See what I mean by a & lsquo;perfect storm’!

Most schools spend over 75% of their annual budget on human capital. However, relative to the financial spend, the time spent looking at how they can make the most of their recruitment and retention is very small. Over the last 16 years I have been responsible for setting up more partnerships with schools and school groups, within the UK and internationally, across the state and private sector than any other recruiter. We, Synarbor, have originated and innovated to help support and improve outcomes with schools and large education groups, through quality driven, sustainable resource solutions, delivering amazing results both in educational output and financial efficiencies. However, it continues to baffle me that once run rates are improved, osmotic pressure has been applied to vacancies to keep them in the right concentration, that many schools become disinterested in continuing to cement, better and safeguard their processes.

It may be that this is just indicative of the public sector, the short-termism that seems to prevail over most actions and policies.

As a seasoned education recruiter, who has worked at pretty much every level, size and skill set possible in this sector, I can say that there is no one fix that suits all schools, or a magic wand that will solve their problems, but I can honestly say without hesitation or doubt, that our most successful partnerships are with those who think outside of their schools four walls, those who look at the issues in front of them today, tomorrow, next year and over the next five, addressing them in their totality, future proofing their school or group. It is resoundingly obvious to me that those who work with us to form a relationship in order to build a partnership, are those who will avoid stepping over the precipice and falling into the & lsquo;trough of disillusionment', skipping straight to the & lsquo;Slope of enlightenment’, check out the graph by this name and you will see what I mean.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the new regional commissioners will do to address the recruitment needs of their regions. The eight defined regions are very large and therefore the issues within may be very different, but it may also be the catalyst for change that is required to help create a solution. Lets hope they are sapient leaders, who avoid the standard public sector pitfalls of picking partners by the size of their tender team and the weight of paper in the submission.

My advice - Schools need to look at resource partnerships that can support their future needs, in terms of recruitment and retention. A huge mistake is to put the weight of decisions on price, as this is the cause of so many public sector and government contracts being written off after catastrophic failures. An efficient, quality driven process will deliver savings in multiples over a pure price weighted contract and it will continue to give. Heads and school leaders need to lead the recruitment process, not administrators, procurement or financiers, it is their future and that of their charges that is on the line.

Darwin was right, only the most adaptable will survive and in this case avoid the perfect storm.

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