Teacher recruitment in a pandemic

So I started my first headship post this academic year. Six months in and there has been a huge range of tasks that I never thought I would need to do as a head and a longer list of things I thought I would have to and haven’t yet. Six months in and I still haven’t delivered an assembly to a groups of students in person, haven’t met parents at any live event and whilst I have been able to watch nearly all my teachers teach – all my meetings are on teams.

It has, therefore, been great to crack on with more traditional tasks this term. We are well underway with our KS4 options process – 6th recruitment meetings are taking place, virtually of course, and I wanted to get a head start on recruitment. Our projected numbers for Year 7 are strong and I knew I needed a number of additional staff.

Get them in the door

The first challenge for recruitment is to get candidates in the door – how can school leaders make their adverts more attractive to candidates so that, once you get a good field into the building, you can get a good look at them and they get to see the strengths of the school at first hand.

One of our particular strengths is the camaraderie of the staff – but it is very challenging to showcase this when we can’t invite candidates in for a tour or interview and we don’t encourage staff meeting in groups at the moment. To combat this, when we invited a video company to produce our Year 6 Open Evening presentation video I asked them to produce a staff recuirtment video as well. I wanted to use this on our recruitment page so that anyone considering making an application could “see” our staff and hear about what makes our school a great place to work.

I also thought very carefully about the wording of our adverts – I wanted to emphasise that we were not just looking for subject specialists but we also wanted specific character traits that would fit in well with our existing staff body.

Interview process

It would seem that the above approach has worked, although it also seems that the disruption to recruitment during the lockdown last year has created a bottleneck release of applications this time around. For our 6 initial advertisements we had approx. 100 applications. So designing an interview process that complied with the lockdown legislation as well as protecting our staff and students was vital. I also wanted to make sure that our shortlists were long – applications are not a great way to shortlist candidates – there are simple rules for applicants to follow of course, but once you have x number of candidates with great qualifications or a range of experiences it really comes down to their personality, skillset, enthusiasm for their role and ability to fit in well with the team. So, we needed a process that saw a large number of applicants but would still be manageable in terms of time.

Our process

We designed a process where up to 8 candidates were seen, per role, by the curriculum leader and SLT link. The day started off with a welcome meeting with me and I went through the aims for the day, an overview of the school and some encouragement to relax – I emphasised that I wanted them to relax and give the answers that they felt were true to them rather than ones they thought we wanted to hear. The candidates were asked to prepare a lesson and resources that would be used and submit this in advance of the interview – the interview then consisted of the panel discussing the lesson plan and intent with the candidate to get a good understanding of their awareness of assessment, progression through a lesson from objectives to the end and valid task design. Once these discussions had taken place a number of candidates were recommended to progress to a formal interview in the afternoon with me and another member of SLT who had been involved in the day.

Results?

Well, we have made a number of excellent appointments following this process. All candidates thought that they had had a fair interview, they felt that the experience was relaxed and they valued the messages at the start of the day. All the candidates enjoyed meeting with subject specialists to discuss their lesson plan and have the chance to exchange ideas – it also gave my staff a good insight into how the candidates planned their lesson and designed their resources.

End of the GOTCHA culture?

I wrote a post years ago about the hazards of the GOTCHA culture – the methods that some leaders employ to catch people out. Their logic is that you can only make fair judgements on a person’s abilities if you trip them up and they respond well. It is a terrible approach and is completely incompatible with a respectful workplace where all people are valued. I don’t want to catch people out to see how they handle being pressured – I’d much rather reduce the pressures on them and let them work in as stressless experience as possible so that they thrive in our school.

I am very happy with this process and what it has shown in terms of making appointments – it is really making me reflect as well if this model of peer discussion of planning and intentions could be a much better alternative to observations as a vehicle for staff development – would certainly be less GOTCHA and a more enjoyable experience for all involved.

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