Diary of a headteacher: The recruitment headache


With a national recruitment crisis hitting secondary schools, our headteacher diarist is feeling the pressure…

As we approach the exam season school leaders are anxious to ensure that their students are focused and that their staff have everything they need to give them the best chance of success in the summer.

However, as the pace and pressure crank up towards the first major examination, there is something else that will be giving school leaders a headache at this time of year – recruitment.

The month of May can become “silly season” in some schools, particularly large ones, where we work towards the final resignation deadline of the academic year for teachers, and recruitment becomes a big ticket item that consumes the time of headteachers and their teams.

It is crucial that no-one takes their eye of the “examinations ball”, but if we don’t get our recruitment processes right then the headache can quickly become a migraine further down the line! 

Therefore it is absolutely essential that we take the time to ensure we do everything possible to get the right people in the right roles so that our schools are well-staffed for September and the new academic year.

As a new headteacher I am entering the summer term for the first time in my career when the buck stops with me for student achievement and staff recruitment. 

I have organised plenty of recruitment processes myself in previous schools and I feel completely confident in my ability to not only make the right appointment, but to do so in a fair, challenging and thorough process.

Leading a tour of my school for prospective candidates last week made me reflect on the importance of visiting a school whenever possible when thinking about submitting an application. 

Being able to make a positive first impression is crucial and it goes a long way towards starting to build a relationship with the colleagues who will put you through your paces on the interview day. 

It also gave me a good starting point to begin thinking about whether our school is a good fit for this person and whether they are someone that could work within the team they are potentially joining.

It has also been interesting to see how processes have been traditionally structured at my school and I have been able to cast fresh eyes on how recruitment has been organised previously.

Having experienced several schools as a senior leader you get a great deal of exposure to the variation with which recruitment processes are run and 

I have picked out the best bits from each school to arrive at what I feel is a very well balanced and now a very personalised way of doing things.

So what are my concerns regarding recruitment? Like most senior leaders I worry about losing my best teachers at this time of year and we work very hard to ensure we provide great development opportunities (some people call this “talent management”) to keep our most effective staff and help them feel valued, professionally challenged and committed to working with us. 

Late resignations in May are also very problematic and these leave you largely limited to recruiting NQTs or teachers who are out of work. I also worry about the lack of teachers out there, particularly in shortage subjects like science, maths and languages. 

I know from talking to other heads, that almost every school is experiencing this issue but it is of no consolation when I think of the specialist subject knowledge my students will need in these subjects at GCSE and A level if I receive a resignation from a teacher in one of these shortage areas. 

As a new head there are always many balls to juggle throughout the year, but I have quickly come to the realisation that during this half term I will probably be juggling even more than usual! 

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



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