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How schools can become employers of choice

Posted by Justyn Randall on Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Justyn Randall
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There’s no denying it, great staff are in demand. Whilst I'm very lucky to be surrounded by some of the best out there, the education marketplace remains competitive, not only for pupil admissions but also for attracting and retaining quality staff.

In a competitive environment where demand exceeds supply, the best teachers, leaders and support staff can pick and choose where they will work.

Schools need to become Employers of Choice to retain, attract and compete for talented staff. Demand for quality teachers and leaders is high and will continue to grow. Demand is already exceeding supply and the education system is on the brink of being in a NET deficit as class sizes increase.

Being an ‘Employer of Choice’ simply means becoming an employer whose potential and existing employees want to work for, over and above others in the same marketplace, industry or geographic region.

Teaching is demanding. Engaging, managing and motivating today’s students, requires high levels of skill, energy and intellect. As a result of growing up in a digital age, many of today’s students have shorter attention spans, expect all the ‘bells and whistles’ of full production and demand immediate, personalised attention. That’s not easy in a traditional school environment with finite resources.

Demand for educators who are positive, enthusiastic and dedicated team players is high. The staff of this calibre have a range of employment options and can almost choose which school they would like to work at. When the packages offered are largely comparable, other factors come into consideration.

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1. Benefits

When it comes to retention, research shows us that benefits and development opportunities have a larger impact than pay. A reputation for flexibility can help your school to stand out and it is useful to be explicit in adverts and on websites.

Some examples of this are;

  • Holidays: how much work is required during the holidays? Are holiday dates, frequency and length in line with standard school practice, or are they unusual?
  • Flexibility on leave: what are policies for taking time off during term? How easy is it to get permission for family events, childcare or training?
  • Childcare: is there any support, facility or subsidy for looking after children?
  • Personal development: would the employer support personal studies, such as academic or professional qualifications, or would they subsidise or loan money for these?
  • Housing: does the school offer any support for finding housing, for relocating, or for subsiding costs? Some schools or schools offer their own housing at a much lower fee to teachers, for example.
  • Other benefits: employee discounts for certain purchases (e.g. certain shops or experiences), health and dental care, mental health support, fitness suites, etc.
  • As before, sharing stories can be powerful. Do you have employees who can celebrate a positive story about how they were helped back into flexible working after paternity or maternity, for example? Could you produce a case study of caring for an employee through a family trauma or serious illness, to emphasise how you value wellbeing and treat people with respect?

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2. Work-life balance

Employees will be interested in whether this job will still allow them time to live their own lives. Increasingly, schools are making more out of updated marking, data and lesson-planning policies that save teachers significant time.

Some leading headteachers are making waves on social media and sector publications by sharing their efforts to ensure that staff are out of the building by 6.00pm at the latest and only rarely have to take work home. With these schools increasingly in the limelight, there’s greater pressure on others to showcase their own sustainable workload practices.

School employees remain highly dedicated individuals, happy to go above and beyond, but a better work-life balance is ultimately better for employee and employer to get the best out of everyone.

Some questions to ask yourself about how you manage wellbeing in your school are;
  • Will employees have lunch times protected or will they be expected to work through?
  • What are the expectations on taking work home to do in evenings and weekends?
  • Are there policies on sending or answering out-of-hours emails?
  • How many meetings will there be outside of main commitments?
  • What is the email burden – is it manageable?
  • What extra-curricular activity is expected or encouraged?

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3. Development and recognition

Employees will be interested in the amount of training and learning that they can access. The Teacher Development Trust’s CPD Audit award is often seen in job adverts to signal how seriously some schools take development, while others are trumpeting their success on social media and local newspapers to ensure that their attention to development is visible to potential new recruits.

Employees will be interested in how the appraisal process works. With many schools moving away from graded lesson observation, teachers will be looking out for employers that are up to date in their appraisal practices. This could also include the extent to which teachers are held to account for their students’ exam results – there are so many factors outside of their control that we are hearing of more schools that are dropping hard performance targets and instead of following the evidence toward effort-targets instead.

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The recruitment and retention challenge shows no sign of easing in the next few years so it is increasingly important for schools to take this agenda seriously and not only review and address these areas in-house, but also ensure that they are looking externally for new and improved ways of working through trusted partners, like Opogo. Schools that fail to grasp this nettle could be seriously left behind, but the prize for making it a priority is becoming the Employer of Choice with the sort of reputation that money cannot buy.

If you can adopt a strategy that develops your school’s reputation as an Employer of Choice then you will find people are coming to you, wanting to work for your school and putting the choices in your hands. When partnered with streamlined technology that makes the candidate experience simple and time-efficient for a candidate, you can put your school in a powerful position and ensure that you are winning the fight for top talent.

Opogo’s latest release Opogo Talent is a fresh way for you to save up to 20% off of your current supply spend. This saving can be directly placed into offering some of the suggestions offered above, on top of the added employee perks offered through partnering with Opogo such as; Perk Box, free CPD and Leadership and NQT events.


About the CEO


Justyn Randall

CEO  |  Founder

With extensive experience and strategic skill in building leading global marketing businesses across multiple sectors, Justyn is the CEO and founder of Opogo.

From his deep understanding of the industry and its challenges, Justyn launched Opogo with the prime motivation of transforming the experience of educators within the industry.

Topics: Leadership


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