There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most important things to get right as a head is recruitment.
Now that we have come back to work following the Christmas break, the number of vacancies in the education sector tends to rise and the recruitment season for schools really kicks off.
I have always followed the mantra that “you live and die by your appointments”, and getting the right people into the right positions is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways of improving a school.
Get the recruitment process right and appoint the right candidate and the effect on the educational provision for students can really be life-changing.
Get the process wrong, however, and it can cause you a lot of pain as a school leader – but more worryingly it can negatively effect the life chances of the students in your school.
Recruiting people in the education sector is often very different to how private firms organise their recruitment processes.
We have recently appointed a couple of high level members of support staff and once in position they commented about how challenging the day had been – but also how surprised they were at the “open and friendly nature” of our recruitment processes.
They had not been to an interview day at a school before and were unfamiliar with some of the processes. For example, they thought it was unusual that they were allowed to meet the other candidates.
This made me think about the way in which we recruit people and whether our processes are any less rigorous than those of large private organisations.
I have no doubt that the candidates I interview go through a very intensive series of processes throughout the day – but now that the buck stops with me I have consciously conducted a thorough “root and branch” review of how I recruit.
I have organised and taken responsibility for many recruitment processes as a deputy headteacher in the past, and I feel very confident in my own judgements – but I have always had a headteacher behind me whose responsibility it was to actually make the final call, or at least to approve my decision or recommendation.
I have worked for a number of headteachers who have all taken very different approaches to recruiting staff and because of this I have been very conscious of finding my own way.
I have worked for a headteacher who delegated the responsibility solely to me and who trusted my judgement implicitly. Conversely I have worked with a head who ensured they oversaw almost every aspect of the recruitment for all staff members themselves.
I would say that I have learned an enormous amount from both approaches and now it is time to decide which way works best for me when it comes to getting recruitment right.
One thing is really clear to me though, and that is the fact that schools are only as good as the teachers teaching in them and the leaders leading them.
How these people are recruited is incredibly important and no part of the process should be underestimated.
As the headteacher, it is now up to me to get the best people I can into the classrooms and the most inspirational leaders driving forwards our strategic vision – and this is an aspect of the job I am really excited about.
SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his first year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.