As schools and academies have looked to forge closer working relationships, particularly within MATs, it’s fair to say that there have been successes, failures and many lessons learnt along the way.
I firmly believe that the rationale for closer working relationships and sharing best practice between schools remains a sound one. The pressures on schools and MATs to deliver outstanding classroom experiences and drive up performance continues to increase, despite a consistently challenging budgetary environment. In my opinion, more collaborative, joined-up thinking and working, along with the economies of scale that MATs should deliver, can only help in that regard.
From an HR perspective, I can see for myself the positive impact that collaboration can have on the ability of schools and academies to find and retain the high-quality teaching talent they need to drive performance. When we’re facing such a profound talent crisis, collaboration can be used as a key differentiator and the basis for more strategic and sustainable workforce planning.
We’ve recently spoken to several MAT CEOs and human resource development leaders who are putting collaboration at the heart of their recruitment and retention strategies.
They’re communicating to potential and existing staff that they can build a varied and rewarding career within their organisation, with opportunities to experience different schools and different roles, progress quickly and get exposure to leadership positions earlier in their careers. They’re re-framing the way that teachers can build their careers, and showing them that they can fulfil all of their ambitions across a family of schools, whilst remaining with the same employer.
Where schools and academies struggle to find the skills they need, closer collaboration and communication can help to fix such issues quickly and efficiently. By looking at a teacher workforce across an entire Trust or cluster, schools and academies can share resources and deploy staff where they’re needed most.
A report recently published by Ambition School Leadership cited collaboration as a major ‘breakpoint’ for small and medium-sized MATs that are looking to expand. Progress has been held up by a lack of data and workforce visibility, and the inability to strategically plan. What’s more, collaboration takes time – something senior leaders simply don’t have when they’re so focused on improving and maintaining teaching and learning standards and providing enriching education experiences for their pupils.
When considering what makes a good potential employer, teachers want many of the advantages that MATs and true collaboration can deliver, such as increased flexibility, potential to experience leadership positions, and opportunities to move between schools more easily. I truly believe that a more collaborative approach to workforce management, both within MATs and between schools, can play a big part in tackling the skills crisis and revitalising the careers of many teachers who currently feel disillusioned and may be reconsidering their futures in the profession. I’ve seen and heard from enough headteachers and MAT CEOs to know that it really can make a difference.
Amanda Webb is strategic relationship director (education) at Affinity Workforce – a recruitment and management solutions provider specialising in the education, health and social care sectors. For information, visit affinityworkforce.com or follow @AffinityWF