The month of May is by far and away the longest of the year; the whole month is an endless sea of recruitment and retention worry, disaster and euphoria that just goes on and on. The first time I really noticed this was in 2001; ask any head teacher or secondary school timetable and they will confirm my assertion.
The last resignation date of the academic year, 31st May, is always the busiest and most nerve wracking. The final week can be carnage; many years ago we lost three Maths teachers to promoted posts all at the end of May. Finding replacements at this stage is nigh on impossible in a number of subjects; want quality ones and the odds get even longer. Adverts appear saying “send your CV, interviews this Friday” as schools desperately try to fill last minute vacancies.
The chatter among head teachers and governors is of worsening budgets, redundancies often amongst support staff, and the absence or shortage of teachers applying for jobs. It varies geographically and from subject to subject; if you are a Mathematics of Physics teacher in the South East settle for nothing less than a chauffeur driven journey to and from school in your contract. Polls are appearing about the number of teachers and support staff considering leaving the profession. Having sufficient teachers will be one of a few defining issues in this Parliament.
The flip side of this is that teachers’ are now working in a job hunters’ market; it’s a really good time to be looking for a job. If schools had any money then both pay and opportunities may rocket; for better or worse they don’t and they won’t. My line remains the same, “We can’t recruit out way out of this crisis”. Wise leaders are focusing relentlessly on creating the right culture within their schools; is this the kind of place where people want to work? Wise job hunters are doing the same. A few more pounds and a toxic culture don’t add up; people are looking for schools in which they will be respected and treated well whilst also being remunerated properly.
Hopefully and without tempting fate, there have only been four teacher resignations from the Trust this academic year. There are approximately one hundred teachers across our three academies. Finding four great replacements isn’t always easy nor is it impossible, even in today’s labour market. One year’s data can be a blip but a similar outcome was achieved last year, when removing the age retirements of a number of long serving staff. We are hopefully getting some things right in terms of retention though I’ve recently developed a workload twitch. Every time a member of staff mentions workload my ears prick up, I go into a bit of a clammy sweat and my mind races to find solutions. We best not kid ourselves, there is still a lot to do; starting with reducing data entry and finding much, much more time for collaborative planning if we want staff to work in our three academies.
With the last few days of the eternity that is May now here; there are two competing sounds. The fat lady warming up her vocal chords, for the annual chorus of “Alleluia”, and the hammer chiming as it hits the head of the retention nail. Hope you’re hearing the same. If not and before you turn to despair think about the reason people are moving on: retirements, promoted posts and specific family reasons are different from a whole load of leaving the profession and sideways or backward moves. Some years more may leave than others but what’s the pattern over time. Is your current balance of retention and recruitment sustainable and good for the school? If not it may be time to look at rebalancing.
#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.