Diary of a headteacher: Just let me get through May

Written by: Diary of a Headteacher | Published:
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As the final resignation deadline approaches for teachers, our headteacher diarist is facing a month of sleepless nights…

We are approaching silly season in the education world and this time of year makes me extremely nervous. You know it, right? That perilous month of May, where headteachers are nervously watching time tick agonisingly towards the final resignation deadline of the academic year for teaching staff.

Most people would think that a headteacher might be stressed during May because of the impending examination season, but at this point in the year most schools will have done everything possible to squeeze every last ounce of effort from their students. If you have prepared the examination year groups effectively throughout the year then you and your staff should feel confident going into the summer exams.

However, securing your staff and ensuring you have brilliant teachers in front of classes on the first day of the autumn term is the one thing that can keep me awake at night during May. Up until that point in the year, all bets are off and you can never be certain of what your staffing picture will look like for the forthcoming academic year.

A late resignation in May can throw an enormous spanner in the works and when this happens there are often slim pickings to choose from. Beyond May 31 schools cannot employ teachers who are currently employed in permanent positions in a different school as it does not give them the opportunity to serve out their notice period of at least one half-term.

Therefore, if a school needs to make a teaching appointment in June, July or even August for a September start then your pool of potential applicants is normally formed of NQTs or teachers who are not currently in permanent positions.

The best NQTs have all been snapped up in the current educational landscape of teacher shortages and there are very legitimate questions to be asked of individuals who are not currently employed on a permanent basis in a school and who are seeking a role from September.

Of course, there are many different and very understandable reasons as to why a teacher might be in this situation and there have been a couple of occasions where I have luckily found excellent teachers in June and July because of very specific and unusual circumstances.

However, I have noticed a number of emerging trends in the way in which some teachers are moving between schools. Because of the teacher shortage in certain subjects there is a premium to pay for science, maths, English and MFL teachers. Schools have to accept that they will have to dig deep at times if they want to recruit talented teachers in these subjects and it is not uncommon for headteachers to offer financial incentives to teachers in order to retain them when there might be an offer on the table elsewhere.

I’ve learned, over the past few years, that if you are a good teacher in a shortage subject then more often than not, you can pick your school and name your price (within reason).

Football clubs are often sanctioned for “tapping up” talented players, offering lucrative financial enticements. Now, I don’t think we are at this point yet with our talented shortage subject teachers, but I do know of several headteachers who regularly go out head-hunting for maths and science teachers so they can secure the best possible standard of teaching in their schools.

Working on the word of mouth inside intelligence that comes from colleagues who have worked with individuals in the past, I know headteachers that have recruited several teachers in recent years without even bothering to advertise. A great result, especially if you save money on the cost of a national job advertisement. One headteacher said to me recently that by not advertising for a particular vacancy and finding a “local solution”, they were able to bank the £1,500 recruitment cost and add this figure to the salary they were prepared to offer the teacher as an incentive to join the school!

At a time where most school leaders are gravely concerned about the state of our education system, I know I have much larger things I should be worrying about. Just let me get through May first!

  • SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his third year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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