Ramping up school hiring procedures

Ramping up school hiring procedures

Within a context of budget squeezes, teacher shortages and an evolving employment landscape, how can schools best compete and attract the staff they need? REC’s Tom Hadley explores

Recruitment remains one of the major challenges facing school leaders, but it is important to note that education is not alone in this. Learning from other sectors is an important way forward and there are a number of practical steps that schools can take to ramp up their hiring procedures.


The feedback from schools and recruitment experts in the education sector is that teacher shortages in key disciplines are intensifying.

Figures published in late November for Initial Teacher Training courses starting next autumn are concerning; secondary applications have declined significantly with only 9,150 applying, as opposed to 15,760 for this time last year. It is not all bad news though as the government’s teacher training data shows an increase in the number of primary school trainees recruited.

The ongoing challenge is to ensure the right mix of subjects. Recruitment for PE, history, geography and classics was up and remained stable for English, maths, languages, computing and RE. However, other subjects were down, particularly in key areas such as design and technology and business studies.

The numbers for computing and physics, key subjects for the labour market of the future, are far below where the Department for Education (DfE) would want them, with only 68 per cent and 66 per cent of trainees required.

The recent report of the REC’s Future of jobs commission underlined the pressing need to build better bridges between education and the world of work. This reinforces the importance of ensuring the necessary quantity and quality of teachers in key areas such as STEM, digital and business studies. The World Economic Forum has estimated that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will end up working in new job types that don’t yet exist.

In the words of Hasan Bakhshi, executive director of creative economy and data analytics within the leading think tank NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), “this makes it all the more important that we set learning priorities for young people today that are grounded in a rigorous assessment of what skills will be required of them when they enter the workforce”.

Charlotte Alldritt, director of public services and communities at the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Future of jobs commission, echoed this sentiment by underlining the role of schools in “inspiring and informing young people as to the full range of possibilities and potential pitfalls they may face in transitioning into work.”

This accentuates the importance of teachers who can nurture a resilience, adaptability and ‘growth mind-set’ within students and underlines the need to ensure that recruitment procedures are as effective as possible.

Professor John Howson, chair of the REC’s Education Steering Group has argued that “the increase in pupil numbers and decline in trainee teacher numbers heralds a period when recruitment will become more of a challenge, especially in certain subjects and phases”.

As recruitment gets harder, one solution is to get better at it.

The REC’s JobsOutlook report – which tracks future demand for staff across all sectors – showed education as the top job function where employers expect a shortage of appropriate candidates for temporary assignments (ie supply teaching). Education is not the only sector experiencing staff shortages for both temporary and permanent roles.

The REC/Markit Report on Jobs shows that demand for new permanent staff across all sectors has now increased for 16 consecutive months, with the latest data showing the steepest growth since August.

Growth in temporary placements was among the sharpest seen for two years. Availability of candidates for permanent roles has been in decline since May 2013 – only 9.1 per cent of employers said availability had improved, while 39.9 per cent said it was worse. The decline in availability of candidates for temporary roles was among the fastest drops seen for two years.

The data confirms the employers across a range of regions and sectors are feeling the staffing squeeze. Common challenges create opportunities for collaborative solutions which is why an increasing number of employers – including schools – are looking to learn from each other in terms of innovative approaches to hiring. Initiatives like The Good Recruitment Campaign are already in place to help organisations benchmark their current methods and strategies through workshops, conferences, peer-reviews, self‑assessment tools, and key pieces of data.

The campaign is backed by many public sector employers, including Greenwich University, Sheffield College, and NHS Employers and covers specific areas such as attraction strategies, developing multi-channel approaches and effective management of a flexible workforce. The aim is to ensure that leading practices are captured and disseminated so that all employers facing recruitment challenges – including schools – can benefit.


Specific solutions include getting the basics right in terms of effectively ‘selling’ not just the post but also the department, the school and location to potential new staff members.

Good supporting materials are increasingly important and employers are looking at new ways of ‘standing out’ in a competitive market place. Schools will need to look outside of the normal recruitment channels and adopt increasingly proactive and innovative approaches. For example, a key focus of the Good Recruitment Campaign is on how employers can make the most of social media to reach out to build links with potential candidates.

In all staff shortage areas, making use of flexible staffing arrangements such a temporary work is an important way forward. Specialist education agencies are well positioned to provide an additional add-on to a school’s human resources function by providing supply staff at short notice, with the required qualifications and experience and having passed all required suitability checks.

The key for schools is to identify compliant agencies to work with, and to be aware of what they should expect from a good recruitment provider. As the professional body for the overall recruitment sector, a core part of the REC’s role is to facilitate this through Codes of Practice, Audits and other quality kite-marks that schools and other employers can look out for.

The REC’s recent Future of jobs commission report highlighted the need for inclusion and diversity to be embraced as a way of ensuring that employers are accessing the best talent they need, and this is particularly relevant to the education sector.

Attracting teachers from all backgrounds (including older teachers), as well as retaining staff, must be part of the solution. Government initiatives such as Disability Confident can provide additional support for schools looking to reach out to under-represented groups as a means of addressing shortage areas.

This is something where peer support or input from external recruitment advisors can play a big role. In the words of Rony Hacohen, advisor at The Behavioural Insights Team and a member of the Future of jobs commission, “the challenge is not just to convince employers that diversity matters, but also to provide them with tools that actually work.”


What are some of the key factors to look out for over the coming years that will impact on hiring procedures? The use of well-managed flexible staffing models will become increasingly important as a means of ensuring that schools can access fully qualified teachers at short notice.

In addition, the regulatory landscape covering recruitment will continue to evolve. Professional bodies like the REC and specialist recruitment agencies are committed to working with schools to implement any changes effectively.

External challenges such as teacher shortages, new regulations, safeguarding measures and financial restrictions will continue to impact on teacher recruitment. As well as helping schools to work with compliant supply agencies, the REC is committed to playing its part by promoting good recruitment practices. The stakes are high.

As the REC’s Future of jobs report concluded, building better bridges between the education system and the world of work is key to economic prosperity and individual fulfilment; this all starts with well-trained and highly motivated teachers who can prepare future generations for a fast-changing world of work.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) is the representative body for the UK recruitment industry, with a specialist sector group for education agencies.

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