Supply teachers are a great resource for long-term staffing solutions in schools – not just short-term cover.
Every school wants to attract and keep great teachers. The latest Randstad employer branding research tells us that workplaces with positive brands and a great culture get twice as many applications as those that have a negative perception by candidates. This suggests that there's more to finding the perfect member of staff than putting out a job advert – and, increasingly, schools are turning to supply teachers not just for short-term cover but long-term staffing solutions.
Make your school into a great place for all staff, and chances are that long-term supply teachers will want to stay. It all starts, say experts, with the ethos. Get that right, and everything else falls into place.
"To me, it's all about the having the right culture and climate," says Helen Mackenzie, a former headteacher who now works in a consultative role with teaching leaders in schools across the north-west. "A big part of that is the nurturing and development of the staff – not just teachers, incidentally.
Everyone in the institution is important. Staff should be listened to, so they feel that they are intricately involved with the decision-making process. You need a strong head and very strong principles, supported by the governing body which really puts into practice what it preaches. You can feel that kind of ethos when you go into a school. It makes you think: yes, I want to be a part of this."
Every school should have a continuing package for all staff.
With supply teachers themselves now realising that cover can be the way to a permanent position, it's important that the school makes clear the opportunities it can provide. Take training, for example. Every school should have a continuing package for all staff, whether they want a path to headship or to a specialised area such as special needs teaching. But it must be relevant and linked to career progression within the school, says Mackenzie. "Otherwise it's meaningless," she points out. "It's not just about 'you need to go on this course'. It's all got to be linked."
Using supply teachers regularly can also help ensure continuity of learning. Attrition, after all, is inevitable in any organisation. A supply teacher who is familiar with the school's systems and has already proved that he or she fits well with the ethos makes transitions much easier.
"There are always people looking to move on and people looking to move in," says Mark Griffiths, former deputy head of Tarleton Academy, Lancashire and currently National Business Development manager for Randstad Education. "So as long as you've got school-wide systems in place – for example, the expectation that everyone produces weekly lesson plans or schemes of work, or regular staff observations – then there should be minimum disruption."
Plus, if there's a culture of growing and encouraging talent within the school, says Mackenzie, then there's already capacity within the system to take over when a teacher leaves. "If a member of staff does want to leave, then you know you've got the right person already within your own school, or academy chain."
"your job advertisements should talk about the ways in which your school works and what systems are in place to not just support staff but develop them as well"
The very factors that encourage staff to stay – ethos, professional development, vision – will also attract new talent. There's a real crossover, says Griffiths, in staff attraction and retention. But, he says, schools always need to be aware that supply teachers, with their experience in different schools, could be the solution to staffing issues – and consequently, make it clear that the door is open.
"For example, when a school advertises a position, it needs to give more information – not just the usual stuff about pupil numbers and being in the leafy suburbs. They should talk about the ways in which the school works and what systems are in place to not just support staff but develop them as well. We always talk about the right match – and I can't emphasise that enough."