Recruitment and retention

How our trust is beating the recruitment and retention blues

Investing in an internal recruitment business has been transformative for the trust, its schools and its pupils, explains Lee Mason-Ellis

Investing in an internal recruitment business has been transformative for the trust, its schools and its pupils, explains Lee Mason-Ellis

26 Aug 2023, 5:00

Schools across the country start this academic year under significant financial pressures and the recruitment and retention crisis shows no signs of waning. In this context, the work we have put into establishing an internal recruitment business within our trust has been transformative.

Our internal recruitment business has been running for four years now, spearheaded by a lean but highly effective team of three. I have been overwhelmed by the impact this small team has had.

At the end of the last academic year, we had no outstanding class teacher vacancies in any of our schools and we received multiple applications for all our class teacher adverts. In one case, we had 19 applicants for one teaching post.

The savings have been significant; this academic year alone, we estimate that we have saved more than £500,000. We’ve calculated this by working out how much it would have cost to fill all vacancies using external recruitment agencies charging 15 per cent of a candidate’s salary.

Schools in our trust do pay to use our internal recruitment business, but this cost is already accounted for in this half-million figure. Crucially, the money they spend on recruitment is also invested back into the trust and across our schools, rather than going out to external agencies.

We have also established an internal supply pool to support with supply cover in addition to our focus on advertising permanent roles, which has proved particularly transformative. For this, our executive recruitment assistant manages our internal supply pool, with 37 teachers and several teaching assistants signed up.

Our schools contact the supply pool directly to book out these ‘flexi teachers’ – who we know to be trusted staff – to arrange cover as needed. The fact that the ‘flexi teachers’ are already familiar with the trust has been a huge advantage.

On a practical level, it supports safeguarding because teachers in our supply pool attend annual face-to-face training and complete online training in line with all our contracted staff. Staff knowledge and skills are therefore always up-to-date with any changes to policy, while we also know that all pre-employment checks have been completed already.

We estimate that we have saved more than £500,000

Working with the same pool of supply staff also means that anyone teaching at one of our schools is fully aware of and aligned with our values. To realise our vision, which is to put children first and champion every child in a safe and happy learning environment, we have to be sure that every single member of staff is fully committed to our efforts.

Our internal supply staff also know our curriculum as well as policies and procedures across all our schools, from behaviour policies to methods of assessment, marking and feedback. This means we can maintain a consistent approach for our pupils and deliver the highest quality teaching and learning provision possible.

The knock-on result here is also so valuable to us, since having a supply pool helps with staff retention. Staff considering looking for more flexible working patterns have more options, so we are more likely to be able to continue to benefit from their greatly valued expertise.

It has taken time and hard work to get to this point, whereby for September 2023 we have not outsourced any teacher recruitment to external agencies. But that investment has most certainly been worth it.

For trusts looking to start building their own internal supply pool, I would recommend first starting small with a couple of teachers, perhaps even those who are already looking for more flexible working options. Retaining these teachers is a useful first step in reducing the pressure to recruit.

When looking at refining permanent long-term recruitment, streamlining advertising avenues and seeking out free advertising systems to reduce costs is also a really useful first step.

With the financial pressures we are all working under, schools will increasingly need to think outside the box. That’s why I am grateful to have our own internal recruitment system in place to support our trust, our teachers, our schools, and most importantly, our pupils and their learning.

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