Can we make the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy a reality?

News earlier this year that teachers’ pay has fallen by more than £4,000 a year since 2010 in real terms helps explain why schools regularly miss their recruitment targets.

While a submission from the Department of Education to the School Teachers’ Review Body states that: “From 2002-03 to 2017-18, classroom teacher median salaries have seen a drop of 10% and overall teacher median salaries of 11% in real terms.”

With education secretary, Damian Hinds signalling that only a 2% increase can be expected for the next academic year, what action can head teachers take not just to find the staff that they need, but also to retain them?

Part of the answer lies in the new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy, developed by the Department of Education in collaboration with teachers and head teachers. The four key recommendations of the report are to:

  • Create more supportive school cultures and reduce workloads
  • Transform support for early career teachers
  • Make sure teaching remains an attractive career as lifestyles and aspirations change
  • Make it easier for great people to become teachers

Taken together, these four steps will help to address concerns from educators that teaching is too difficult to enter as a profession, that it is too stressful and bureaucratic, that too much is expected of newly qualified teachers and that working hours and contracts are more inflexible than they are for other professions.

Supporting the strategy

The question that remains is how the strategy will be enacted in practice. Looking at the new early years’ framework, most areas that are highlighted are already covered by the teacher training curriculum, but are hampered by a lack of support, mentoring and an inclusive community.

While frameworks proposed within the strategy do come with support and budget, the danger is that – like many initiatives before them -they will not have the infrastructure to make them successful.

As an EdTech company focused on recruitment and retention, Opogo has worked behind the scenes for several years to address these same issues – and we could not be more delighted that our platform is now in a great position to help support the delivery of the DoE’s strategy.

We will do this by providing a rich, supportive talent management solution for school leaders to tap into, one that can also be used by schools to create their own internal staff platform should they wish. Our online tools and resources help improve the value proposition of education by constantly investing back into our users, assisting our schools when they don’t have the budget to do so.

This extends into support for early career teachers who often feel isolated and thrown in at the deep end for the first few years in the classroom. Through our pioneering new programme TeachGrowth, our goal is to prevent new teachers from falling out of love with teaching – and help schools retain and nurture them along the way.

Our recruitment platform enables schools to tap into the professional education gig economy and find exactly the skills that they need when they need them. Equally, educators seeking a particular work pattern or more flexible working options can search for and secure their ideal opportunities.

We want to celebrate and re-energise the teaching profession, recognising its value to our society and to our economy. We are engaging with international education experts to provide insights and support to our community.

We are committed to the ongoing development of our platform and fully support the DofE’s strategic goals. Together with our community, we can transform the experience of education for everyone, for the better.

What is a teaching assistant and how do I do it?

A teaching assistant is just that, an assistant to the teacher; and as such being skilled, experienced and qualified to fulfil this role is becoming increasingly necessary.

Whether you are working alongside a teacher in a mainstream school, providing essential 1:1 support for a pupil with special educational needs or a disability, or delivering a specific area of the curriculum or leading and managing an area of the school, it is essential that you know the expectations of the role and the opportunity you have to bring your own skills.

TA words

What then is the role of a teaching assistant and how can you ensure that you are well prepared for being one in today’s schools and educational settings?

  • Working alongside the class teacher in a mainstream school

The staffing structure of most schools allows for there to be an additional, non-pupil assigned teaching assistant in the classroom at least for part of the day if not all. This role requires a range of very specific skills, the main one being the ability to be flexible and to have fantastic interpersonal skills as you are not only working with up to 30 pupils but also of having a fairly intense working relationship with another adult, the class teacher.

This type of teaching assistant needs to be able to second guess situations, adapt and be responsive to the daily life within the classroom. You will be asked to support with planning, deliver an introduction and explain again the concepts to your group and mark, assess and outline next steps for the pupils you are in charge of.

  • Providing essential 1:1 support for a pupil with special educational needs or a disability

This can be an incredibly rewarding position and one that can enable the pupil to truly achieve all they are capable of and to reach their targets. Working directly with a pupil often means that you are involved not only in the planning of the curriculum for them but also your input is needed at the planning and review meetings with the SENCO and often outside agencies and parents that support and now the child.

Patience, skills to negotiate and engage and a knowledge and understanding of the specific need or disability are all required for this role.

teaching board

  • Delivering a specific area of the curriculum and leading and managing an area of the school

Schools have many different facets and the development of how pupils research, record and present their work has meant that increasingly staff with technical skills are needed to support the leaners. More and more we are seeing schools with their own librarians, technicians for the computer suite, coaches skilled at refereeing and art specialists.

These roles are not always filled by teachers, more often than not it is a TA with the skills and experience to support in that area and the ability to equally relate to and understand how best children learn.

1. What are the expectations of the role?

The role is a key one in the school and there is an expectation that you work to support the children and colleagues and be an active part of the school community.

2. What skills do I need?

Just ensure that you are able to work collaboratively, sensitively and with a flexible approach.

3. How will I further develop?

There is usually the opportunity for specific professional development for all staff and TA’s are no exception. The school will have a development programme and all staff members will be set targets, be given the opportunity to attend training and courses and to be received on their progress.

For a lot of people being a TA is rewarding and enjoyable. It can provide the balance so often required for adults who would like to work in schools, but not as the teacher. This is definitely a role well worth looking into!

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About our Community Expert

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Jane Wood-Chambers
Editorial Advisory Board Lead

Over 27 years of educational experiences in a number of settings. Developed a clear vision and ethos for inclusion which puts the child at the centre and a clear understanding of how to support, engage and nurture the individual.

Ability to train all staff through effective and reflective continual professional development in behavioural management techniques that begin, establish and maintain change in all.

The importance of connections for school leaders

Relationships among teaching and non-teaching staff in schools can be integral to your success as a teacher or leader within a school. Trust among colleagues, collegial relationships, and widespread buy-in and support.

A well-shared vision for what you would like to achieve can have a real positive impact on your career, but how can you harness this?

I have just moved job; a nice sideways move from a lead pastoral role to a Head of Curriculum role, nothing too dramatic, but I had not counted on one major obstacle: my entire support network had broken down.

table comms

All those years cultivating relationships around the school, from the administrative assistant who handles the photocopying to the exams officer, the data manager and the facilities lead, all really important people who have helped me be the success that I am to this point.

School leaders need a network, setting up and maintaining a system of support to help them meet the many challenges of the job. For some school leaders, it is counter-intuitive to think that they might need to ask for help. But in order to thrive, it is vital that school leaders reach out for support, but how do you achieve this?

Connect and identify

Firstly, find a connection and identify who you can trust to discuss the various challenges whilst providing advice. These relationships are important for any school leader. Connecting with colleagues in your school offers you an opportunity to discuss your situations and scenarios with someone who understands your context. Having that go-to person enables you to find the movers and shakers within the organisation.

Elliott et al. (1999) for instance found in their study that there were certain contextual factors that led to teachers maximising their effectiveness in schools, including established well-developed communication networks and strong administrative support for curriculum initiatives.

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Cultivate culture by reaching out

These relationships and support mechanisms do not occur naturally as they need to be cultivated. It was noted in particular that when teachers felt confident, valued and trusted they were more likely to engage. In my context, I have a large faculty to manage, including an array of established teachers, under-performing staff, NQT’s and long term supply.

Time-manage

I manage many time-consuming activities such as lots of questions, ego massaging and general day to day support, but insist on developing a friendly and supportive relationship with key people from the beginning. This is either by inviting them to lunch, introducing them to others in the school, offering to help locate supplies, and so on. These go a long way toward reducing patterns of isolation and building teacher-teacher trust.

Support your networks

SLT can support relationship-building between new and returning faculty by creating opportunities throughout the school year for teachers to meet and get to know one another. Create—and support—meaningful opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively.

Too often, schools are structured in ways that prevent teachers from working together closely. Authentic relationships, however, “are fostered by personal conversations, frequent dialogue, shared work and shared responsibilities.

bubble communicate

Make relationship-building a priority

As a faculty, select a small but diverse group of teachers to do some initial legwork: locating an assessment tool, measuring teacher-teacher trust in the school, talking to faculty about perceived strengths and areas of concern, and investigating relevant professional development strategies.

Peer coaching, mentoring, team teaching, professional learning communities, and networking are all models that can be used to strengthen teacher relationships by bringing individuals together around issues of mutual interest and/or concern.

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About our Community Expert

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Richard Endacott

Career Development Lead

Richard is a history Teacher by Training and for the last few years been head of sixth form. His specialism is leadership and career development in the classroom.

10 ways to look after your wellbeing as a teacher

Having spent up to two days a week in schools for the last 18 months I have seen how much pressure teachers are under daily and I can only begin to imagine how much it could affect your personal wellbeing.

You are shaping the lives of thousands of children every single day and believe me I truly think that is the most important job in the world. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not feel selfish to say that you need time for yourself or create habits that are just for you.

brain and heart

I have put together 10 tips that I really think will work specifically for you, even if you try one, it is all about starting somewhere!

1. Acknowledge your importance

Know that you are the most important person in that classroom. When you are feeling motivated and energised the children will feel it and you deserve to feel like that.

2. Accept that we feel different every single day

I teach Yoga 6 days a week (on average) and I keep an energy diary to work out how I am feeling. Even a scale of 1-5, that simple, so that you can start to understand how things in your life are affecting you daily and perhaps where you may need to change some patterns in your life.

3. Breathwork is your new bestie

Seriously. Even close your eyes in the classroom while the students are on a break and take 10 deep breathes. Try to make the exhale longer than the inhale so that it works with your parasympathetic nervous system and calm you down.

brain thoughts

4. Create your own excitement

Create something first thing in the morning that you cannot wait to do! Something that inspires you to get up in the morning… maybe it is reading an amazing book for 5 minutes, meditating, doing a HIIT workout, something that you can do for 5 minutes that YOU deserve.

5. Know that you’re not alone

Know that being overwhelmed, not getting enough sleep and feeling anxious are all normal feelings that we all experience. After speaking to so many teachers I know that this is actually very common and I want you to know that you are doing GREAT. When I feel like this, I write things down no matter what time of day, and allow my emotions out onto the page and then look at it a couple of hours later for perspective.

6. Time block

This is my secret love. I am self-employed and my days can literally run away with me where I am “busy” but have accomplished nothing. I even block out time to have breakfast, when to shower etc. I know your day is laid out but once the school day is over, it is YOUR time and I think trying this out and blocking out time for self-care will truly make a difference.

palm tree

7. Move your body in some way every day

I do Yoga every day and cannot even begin to talk about the benefits and how much it will change your life (really) but I also get it’s not for everyone. Find something that works for you and that you enjoy, and just do it.

8. Do you

Set yourself a monthly goal that is nothing to do with work. Maybe it is to do a hike you have always wanted to? Or read a book a month that is pure fiction? Something just for you!

9. Talk to people

If you are feeling overwhelmed please do not hide away, share it with people in work, friends, us, we are here for you every step of the way.

10. Sleep

I cannot stress how important this is, you have to make sure you are resting enough, it is the key to recovery and mental wellbeing.

Breathe, drop those shoulders and remember you are doing just great!

 

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About our Community Expert

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Kirsty Raynor

#TeachFit programme lead

Kirsty is a yoga teacher on a journey of empowerment, building confidence and pushing the boundaries of what traditional yoga is and can be.

She leads the TeachFit Yoga workshops in our partner schools.

Email in School – Helpful or a Menace to Workload?

Electronic mail or email was invented in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Originally invented to help us communicate better, today you would be forgiven for thinking that emails are unhelpful and a workload burden.

In 1993, I recall sitting alongside my head of Department, observing him pulling up a wooden stool, perched in front of a PC like a meerkat, working on a makeshift desk inside a woodwork-store-come-office; happily satisfied to be typing an email to another colleague who worked in the same building.

Sending a message electronically was quite the revolution at the time, particularly in schools. Gone was the need to walk to the staffroom and post a memo in 30 or 40 different pigeonholes.

Hand email tablet

One email now did the same job and I remember him feeling quite smug about the fact that he no longer needed to waste time chasing colleagues or bumping into the grumpy deputy headteacher who may give him another job to do, or remind them about all the ones that we hadn’t yet completed.

Such is the life of those who choose to work in schools, as a new teacher I looked on with a sense of wonder.

Email Research

Fast forward 30 years and today, with the outburst of social media, mobile devices in everyone’s hands and applications with notifications 24/7,  you can start to get a sense of why so many human beings are wishing to disconnect.

Time and time again, research into teacher recruitment and retention sites that teachers, working in independent and state schools in England are working in excess of 50 to 55 hours per week just to keep up with the day job. With most full-time teachers tied into the classroom to deliver 20 hours of teaching per week, and with an endless pile of marking, assessments and lesson planning to do, trying to keep on top of an endless supply of email messages, as well as communicate or answer countless questions or poorly-worded messages, is it any wonder that we are all cracking up?

Over the last five years, I have conducted research into my email behaviours have started to see how I could optimise the way in which I work. Aside from the obvious responses to emails on my personal devices, I started to think about how I close tackle my ‘inbox’ with automated messages, delay delivery, or simply stating a period of the day in which I would or would not read or reply to emails.

Hand email

 

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