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Buckinghamshire CC: A unified strategy let us find and keep teachers

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Mapping actions, gathering data and creating a strategy board boosted teacher recruitment and retention in the county


  • Project: Schools recruitment and retention strategy for Buckinghamshire CC
  • Objectives: Review recruitment and retention situation and find solutions
  • Timescale: 2016-2019
  • Cost to authority: Staff time
  • Number of staff working on project: 1 on the strategy paper and implementing actions, and 5 on school recruitment and social media
  • Outcomes: Improved recruitment and retention and better awareness of authority activity in this area
  • Officer contact details: Lorna Fisher

Buckinghamshire is a thriving, growing county with increasing demand for school places, and therefore teacher recruitment.

We’ve seen regular national news about teachers leaving the profession in droves, as well as reports from headteachers that recruitment in Buckinghamshire has become a bigger issue. Thus we decided that a strategy was needed to address this.

The council commissioned its in-house recruitment team to write the strategy, investigating current local and national issues, looking at trends and identifying trusted and innovative actions to address the issue.

The team began with a SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – of Buckinghamshire, carrying out extensive research with other local authorities and the Public Services People Managers Association, and looked at what had worked for other hard to fill roles such as social care.

It also gathered data on recruitment, leavers, forecasts for school places, and new housing. As not all our schools buy our payroll service, gathering data on staff recruitment or turnover was difficult.

The team then mapped actions not being taken for recruitment and retention and could see that teachers and headteachers faced the opposite situation. While there was a focus on teacher recruitment but not retention, for headteachers this was reversed.

To plot future actions, the team engaged with a wide number of stakeholders to get their views and buy-in. Case studies were included in the strategy paper.

The team then identified a long list of potential actions, costing them and identifying likely return on investment. The final list had 67 actions to take forward, which were then laid over the original mapping.

To put these into practice the team created a strategy board of headteachers, with a representative from the Buckinghamshire CC’s education team and a council resourcing consultant, who met regularly to agree priorities, trial actions and feedback to other schools.

Trying to engage with heads, business managers and governors at more than 230 schools was a real challenge – one not fully overcome. But some people were positive, willing to try new things and change how they currently recruit and retain staff. Most who engaged are seeing a real improvement.

It was difficult to get data showing what impact the actions have had. Our recruitment team also wanted to share good news stories about our schools, but found some heads reluctant to share these widely in case the staff at the centre of these stories are poached by other schools or agencies.

Retention activities are fairly quick and easy to implement and make a real difference, but many schools seem to prefer to focus on recruitment activities. This may be because staff are busy and when a vacancy arises there is only energy focused on filling the post, not on a more holistic approach to staff retention. Sometimes it’s a business manager or head’s PA who is dealing with recruitment and they need the buy-in of the busy head to implement changes.

And although our focus was on teacher and headteacher recruitment, we discovered geographical pockets of the county which were having problem with teaching assistant and midday supervisor recruitment.

We had a diverse array of feedback following completion of our project, including positive press coverage, while the strategy paper was shared with directors of education across England as an example of best practice.

Our strategy recruitment and retention board was thrilled with all the work done, saying they were grateful to Buckinghamshire CC for taking on this issue. The board had lots of good ideas as to how to maximise the resources that have been created and gave a snapshot of the work done to Buckinghamshire Association of Secondary Headteachers.

Online, our meet the teacher videos have had an incredible 100,000 views in the first month. One school liaison officer reported that schools were getting more applicants for their vacancies, while more websites picked up school adverts, publicising them for free.

There have been a lot of additional benefits to the project, including more awareness of the help available, better networking, sharing of ideas and more resources available to schools to help them recruit and retain staff. No one thing will solve recruitment and retention issues and not all actions will be right for every school, so spreading a diverse selection of ideas is of obvious benefit.

55 of the 67 actions have been implemented and are making a real difference. We know that we won’t solve the recruitment crisis, but our actions have helped. We will continue to work together to make sure we have high quality staff in place to give our pupils the best education we can.

Lorna Fisher, resourcing consultant, Buckinghamshire CC

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