The colder weather and lack of opportunities are two potential reasons why teaching staff are taking flight for better progression and benefits abroad. However, a recent spike in staff challenges and HR issues is seeing a larger headache at many schools across the UK.
In the independent sector, and certainly when Gabbitas Managing Director Ian Hunt was a Principal, the key challenge for every head was appointing the very best staff. Ian says: “unlike some colleagues in the maintained sector, I felt it imperative that my school became known for being a provider of first class professional development for all staff. Of course this led to some staff moving on but these promotions were celebrated and the very fact that they secured high quality positions elsewhere meant that new talented teachers were always looking to fill their shoes.”
Anne Haydon, Principal of 1,500-pupil Surbiton High school, agrees: “I believe my fundamental role as Principal is to support the development of my staff. They in turn will offer a unrivaled experience for the pupils. And when they move on, we congratulate them on their success. It is a win win for everyone.”
Sharon Mohan, a Senior International Recruitment Consultant who works with both clients and candidates overseas at Gabbitas, said: “We had over 400 applicants for a small range of vacancies we were recruiting for recently – for just one school! The client, based in the Middle East, was able to offer an excellent package of benefits and were really flexible in their recruitment methods which we supported. The individuals we work with range from fresh starts through to educational veterans who are also starting to see the appeal in working abroad.”
Staff recruitment and retention is going to be the greatest challenge for even the most famous schools in the coming years. A succession of failures by the government to hit training target numbers for the past four years has exacerbated an already acute crisis. With overseas British schools opening in record numbers and the UK school-age population rising fast, we have the perfect storm.
Hunt continues: “However, paying teachers here in the UK huge sums will not solve the crisis, although a better starting salary and clear career progression would help. Respect for the profession needs to improve and this can only be done by improving teaching conditions and offering further professional development opportunities to recruits.
“These are expensive solutions but we are playing with a ticking time bomb and it will only become worse as international schools exercise their freedom to be innovative and entice the best of our young graduates to sunny, tax free and interesting climes.”