Recruiting the perfect teacher


What do you look for when recruiting staff? How can you tell that a teacher will fit in well? This is just one of the many challenge faced by our headteacher diarist during a tough week.

It’s Monday; the last week before the break and it’s snowing – again! So, up at 5am to check weather, update school website, send and receive emails from local heads, then dig the car out and set off.

I arrive on-site at about 6:15am to find site staff already clearing so I put the kettle on and make the tea, before picking up my shovel and joining in. As staff arrive they offer their assistance in whatever ways they can. 

At 8am we hold a leadership meeting before moving off to the staff briefing at 8:30am. In between, I meet with the five candidates who are being interviewed today before we are able to get things underway as students arrive and take them on a tour of school. 

By 9am, we have a year 7 assembly and then preparation for the initial meeting with our Investor in People Assessor. While I am doing this, my PA is preparing the next set of adverts for staff as we start thinking ahead for our needs in September.

The school reminds me of a complex organism comprising many cells, which share common features as well as having distinctive characteristics, but which are grouped together with diversification and compartmentalisation of function.

Our support staff teams are like those organs which keep us alive; they provide the systemic back-up of the heart, lungs and circulation, keeping all of the cells supplied with what they need and taking away what they don’t – finance, catering, network, admin, exams etc all have their role to play.

The teaching staff are at the key interface with students and drive school improvement. School improvement is brought about in classrooms as teachers improve their pedagogical skills to reach even the hardest to reach students, students become more aware of where they are and what they have to do to reach their goals, and parents offer their support in making sure that teacher advice is acted upon in the home.

Recruitment and the subsequent development of staff are of fundamental importance in school improvement and interviewing and appointing staff is one of the most important functions that leaders undertake. It starts with the decision to appoint staff and then targeting the timing and the principles of the advertising strategy.

After more than 20 years, I still find it both shocking and also sad that so many people rule themselves out of the recruitment process before they have even stepped foot in the school.

Application forms are the first connection and impression that most people offer to a potential employer; they should reflect the person at his or her best and too often they don’t. 

Some arrive folded like an origami piece in the smallest envelope available, some are littered with grammatical errors, some incomplete and others so obviously generic that you know that they have been used for many posts. Tipp-ex and other correctives don’t mix with applications. 

It is so important to get the right person for the post; someone who will bring something to the school and add to its capacity to offer the very best to students. 

We need good team players who are capable of being leaders at the same time, whether that is in the office, playground or classroom. New suits are optional in our school – we are far more interested in what is inside. 

All things being equal in other respects, a key question might be whether the person will enhance or diminish the lives of their colleagues.

We can all think of those colleagues who make life better and a few who don’t. The key is to recognise the difference!

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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