The challenge and opportunity of recruiting staff to a brand new school
John Taylor Free School is in the unusual position of being able to recruit a team from scratch. This presents some challenges, in terms of getting the right “fit” for the team from the outset and not being able to offer GCSE and A Level courses to those who enjoy teaching older students. On the other hand, we are lucky enough to have numerous opportunities to create something new, on a fabulous site with amazing facilities. As a new school, we can set out our vision and attract those colleagues who share it. Our staff will be focusing solely on year 7 students. Consequently, all our children will be known as individuals and challenged accordingly. For parents, this offers reassurance that transition is smooth and for teachers it is the chance to get the foundations for future success right from the start. We also have the support from a local outstanding school which is part of a high performing MAT, Teaching School Alliance with its’ own SCITT. As a result of these challenges and opportunities, we have taken a slightly unusual approach to recruiting teachers, leaders and support staff.
As we do not have a building to show prospective employees around, it was really important to create an opportunity to share our journey, and what we hope to achieve, with anyone considering applying to join us. Our open event earlier this month was a great success with over 400 people spending a cold and wet Saturday morning listening to our plans to develop a school community where everyone can succeed and thrive. We were delighted with the response and with the level of enthusiasm; so many people excited and enthused by the prospect of creating a very special type of education.
We have chosen not to use more conventional (and also expensive) advertising and use social media instead. We know already that this has reached people across the Midlands and beyond. It is important to us to maximise our available budget and we would rather spend this directly on quality teachers and resources.
As we will require our staff to be flexible in their approach, we have stated clearly from the outset that flexibility is important to us – this means we welcome applications from those people who would prefer to have a flexible working pattern. We also want our staff to be have a “can do” attitude which will help the smooth running of the school. Subject specialisms have been stated clearly and examples of areas of responsibility have been suggested. This is instead of a more traditional approach of an advert for “Head of Maths” or “Head of Faculty – Science”. We want to use the opportunity for prospective staff to tell us what they think they can offer our school; what experience has led them to this point and how do their vision and values align with ours. We think this is an exciting way of recruiting – maintaining an open mind, role modelling flexibility and expecting people to be creative.
In times of teacher shortage and staff retention problems, we are keen to show staff what it will be like to work with us. Yes, there will be fabulous facilities with the latest technology but this alone will not keep people in the profession. Our mantra is “succeed and thrive” and this applies just as much to staff as it does to students. We will invest in our team; as Richard Branson says “train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”
Our professional development programme will be highly personalised using a coaching model to enhance performance. We will be research led and make best practice from what we know works. This will include using the latest observation technology so that staff have the opportunity to reflect, share and learn. Not in a climate of fear but in one of professional trust and mutual respect.
The enriched curriculum will require an investment and commitment from staff but equally, we want them to have the opportunity to try a new sport, join the gardening club or sit and read with students and colleagues; enrichment is about all of our community (not just the students) and giving staff the time to join in with the programme will enhance well-being for all of us.
At John Taylor Free School, students and staff will sit and eat together. This will enable positive relationships to develop but it is also about providing time for people to talk and learn more about each other, argue over a newspaper report, complain about their favourite sports team or just relax in good company – all important aspects of being part of a successful community.
Recruitment will be a challenge; we have limited budgets, a single year group to open with and a small staff which might not appeal to everyone. The opportunities though are immense – a vision for education where everyone can succeed and thrive in a climate of trust, respect and kindness.