In a typical year, 20% of permanent teaching vacancies remain unfilled1 and in 2015, over £800 million was spent on supply teachers;2 that’s equivalent to six percent of the total amount spent on school wages.
Some areas fare even worse. London, Yorkshire and Humberside spend the highest on supply staff; one school spent £953,807 on supply cover in one year.3
Recruitment is one of those areas that tends to be battled ad hoc, in the belief that without the resignation you are powerless to act, but in reality, such reactive activity is invariably panicked, inefficient and costly. As we near the resignation deadline, schools can make valuable preparations now to their career site and job application system so that unexpected resignations can be filled quickly and painlessly.
Most importantly, it pays to review the cost-effective specialist services and software available now, because the long-term effects of relying on an inefficient recruitment process can resonate far beyond the budget.
Cost 1: Behaviour Deterioration
Your first worry will naturally be that the discontinuity of a continuously rotating carousel of short-term teachers will have a detrimental effect on the children. Class sizes might be expanded, or a high density of children with behavioural or learning needs be transferred to a permanent staff member, but these attempts to accommodate an absent class teacher retrospectively can result in negative repercussions for the remaining students, not to mention the class teachers.
Cost 2: Unhappy Teachers and Resignations
Lack of appropriate teaching staff also results in extra responsibility piled onto existing teachers. In the short term, it detracts from the teaching and planning time for their own classes and in the long term, the pressure of larger class sizes and supporting temporary teachers can lead to compromised wellbeing and morale. Furthermore, pressure put onto experienced staff detracts from the investment they can make into your NQTs, damaging your capacity to cultivate home-grown skill. In this way, a systemically poor provision of the right teachers when needed can be enough to seriously impair both the progression and the retention of your existing staff.
Cost 3: Lack of Learning Depth
In some cases, teachers without the correct specialism are hurriedly drafted in to navigate the curriculum at often challenging academic levels. Despite sometimes exceptional effort (again unremunerated) these stand-in saviours cannot be expected to provide the enrichment of teaching that a specialist with several years’ subject experience and qualifications would command with ease.
Cost 4: Ofsted scrutiny
Back in 2000, Ofsted reported that supply teachers in secondary schools are four times more likely than permanent teachers to deliver lower quality lessons. This is not due to a poorer quality of professional: the reality is that it takes a while for a teacher to gather sufficient information on all of the children to make a measurable impact. It is understandable, therefore, that underperforming schools may need to be scrutinised for the effectiveness of both their initial recruitment processes and their ongoing retention of good teachers.
Sean Harford, Ofsted National Director for Education, has updated the Ofsted position on staff retention as follows: “Inspectors are required to check that systems reflect a culture of safe recruitment. Unless there are concerns, this detail is not required.”
The Ofsted guidebook states that inspectors evaluating leadership and management will consider:
- how well leaders ensure that the school has a motivated, respected and effective teaching staff to deliver a high quality education for all pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
- the quality of continuing professional development for teachers at the start and middle of their careers and later, including to develop leadership capacity and how leaders and governors use performance
It is for this reason that we recommend schools maintain a robust audit trail of all recruitment activities. A formal, written recruitment process is the first step in achieving this.
Cost 5: Office and Leadership Time
The top two recruitment challenges according to 544 school leaders surveyed by the Guardian were a shortage of good candidates (93%) and then attracting those good candidates (65%)5. The typical lack of specific HR or marketing expertise means the process can be inefficient. In absence of the right staff member in place on time, the leadership team can be left repeating recruitment activities time and again, firefighting a constant need for supply cover – instead of leading teaching and learning. Without a dedicated recruitment function within the school and an appropriate software system, it is unlikely that advertising decisions are evidence-based and truly cost-effective.
Now more than ever, expert advice is critical for schools to recruit quality teachers quickly and inexpensively. To find out how to attract and recruit the teachers that you need in place on time, contact us on 0845 226 1906 today.
 NAHT School Recruitment Survey 2015, cited in The Squeeze, schools’ response to restraints in teacher recruitment, published by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2016, p6.