I was appointed as headteacher of Parkside Primary Academy in September 2016. Along with two other schools – Carlton and Summerfields – we’re part of the Pioneer Academie s Community Trust.
All three schools are situated fairly close to each other, but quite different in terms of their intake. Summerfields is a fairly ‘affluent’ school, with Pupil Premium numbers below the national average. On the other side of the same village is Parkside, which has a Pupil Premium proportion of around 50%.
In September 2017 the headteacher of Summerfields left, which resulted in me having to spend half of my time there, sharing responsibility for overseeing the school with the trust’s CEO. We’ve since been able to appoint a new Head of School who, as it’s her first headship, still needs some support. However she’s already had impact on Summerfields through the positive changes she’s brought to the school.
The experience of that, combined with several other appointments we’ve made over the past year, have illustrated just how difficult it is for us to recruit at the moment. On one level, it’s a case of finding people who are the right fit for you and who possess the right skills. Knowledge is fairly easy to acquire – you just need to learn it – but skills can only be developed, practised regularly and coached over time. My usual thought process when dealing with applicants is around ‘talent spotting’; ‘What can I do with you? How can I develop you?’ I don’t want somebody just for ‘now’; I want somebody who can develop and grow and will have even more impact in three years’ time.
Recruiting good quality leaders, however, has proven particularly difficult, so we’re having to create our own. Aside from anything else, I know that I’m struggling to find headteachers because other trusts and schools have got good leaders they don’t want to let go. They’ll do whatever they can to keep them, which makes the talent pool smaller.
If your school is finding it tough to recruit staff, try joining and using as many different networks as you can. I’m able to call on connections I’ve made through Ambition School Leadership and the Teaching Schools Network, while our trust CEO is a Local Leader of Education. However sometimes recruitment challenges can come down to your school’s reputation, so do everything you can to promote your school, your children and your staff both regionally and nationally.
If you’re part of a trust, then always recruit as a trust. Even if only one of your schools needs an extra member of staff, by recruiting as a larger organisation you’ll be in a better position to offer candidates a greater number of attractive benefits and CPD opportunities.
Ultimately, we all need to take a longer-term view of recruitment. Teacher recruitment and retention is difficult in the current climate, therefore if recruiting headteachers is already proving to be an issue – with more headteachers currently retiring than there are people wanting to become one – then what’s the situation in schools going to look like in 10 years’ time?
Rachel Ward is the headteacher of Parkside Primary Academy and Carlton Primary Academy; for more information about Ambition School Leadership, visit ambitionschoolleadership.org.uk or follow @Ambition_SL