Schools are feeling the pain of staffing issues earlier than ever.
For some lucky schools this new academic year are maintaining that initial buzz, whilst others are beginning to reacquaint themselves with staffing uncertainties.
The expectations of schools, from parents, children, teachers, the wider community and even the Department for Education is for consistency of high-quality teaching throughout the academic year.
In the distant past this belief was mostly met, sadly it is rarely true now.
Stretched budgets and unrelenting pressure on many staff who put so much in to educate is prompting teachers to retire early, fewer young teachers to remain and unqualified “teachers” to be employed to fill staffing gaps.
It’s self-fulfilling and no surprise. If the education system continues with a short-term view consistently failing to invest in its educators and infrastructure the downward spiral in outcomes will continue to accelerate. With more teachers leaving, more disruption, greater turmoil and fewer qualified staff willing to absorb the pressures of more staffing vacancies.
Already in September, even before half term, education recruitment agencies are experiencing higher demand than normal.
Given the above it’s clear schools and teachers are struggling to maintain staffing levels. Those optimistically applied and layered sticking plasters aren’t stemming the flow.
Part-time Cover Supervisors
An approach adopted by many schools was to employ an increasing number of unqualified cover-supervisors & teaching assistants to fill schools staffing gaps. There are around 281,100 FTE working as teaching assistants in 2022. These employees are often part-time, benefiting from flexible hours and the positivity of supporting enthusiastic children.
Macro-economic realities are kicking in. Cover-supervisors are not paid a great deal for the flexible part-time work they enjoyed, which can be too “part-time”. The wider economy with staff shortages too is offering better paid jobs outside increasingly behaviourally challenged organisations.
Offering Flexible Working
Offering flexible working for employees reduces attrition. Innovative schools recognise that and see school moral, and productivity improve.
School Cover Mangers
Having the systems to manage part-time employees with flexible schedules and the supply staff filling known gaps and day-to-day vacancies can be a full-time role. A challenge that is significantly less demanding when using an online availability and booking service. Schools without the resource to employ Cover Mangers, typically primary schools, rely on headteachers to manage all the staffing too.
It is a necessity for schools to not only consider it, but to deliver flexible working through the year to reduce attrition.
Systems that facilitate access to contacts availability be they part-time employees or preferred supply teachers and teaching assistants from various agencies. These supply teachers and teaching assistants are often represented by education recruitment agencies who are on Schools, Academy Trusts and Local Authorities preferred supplier lists.
Supply staff that know the school, know the children are instantly able to step in and are known to deliver. Access to their availability to supplement the schools flexible working schedule makes sense for everybody.
Supply staff are invited to share their availability, skills and qualifications with the school can be offered work, can be contacted online via the chat, sent induction documents and details of the curriculum for specific classes or children.
You will have noticed many innovative restaurants have their menus online, orders are online with the food delivered to the table. Groceries are ordered online, delivered to the door, and on it goes. Didn’t mention Amazon.
Schools have this option too. To review availability, offer staff vacancies to their preferred contingent staff, to search by skills, qualifications, proximity, ratings. To select the best applicants and book them via any mutual education recruitment agencies.
Schools are struggling to lift their heads to look at innovation. With too much change and uncertainty over the last few years it is understandable. But the staffing pressures and increasing attrition suggest schools can no longer ignore the flexibility their teaching and support staff expect. Other sectors provide flexibility. As do agencies who provide total flexibility to agency supply staff to benefit from.
Can Academy Trusts show leadership and innovation on behalf of their schools? Let’s hope so. Trusts focus on acquiring more schools to use and fund their tried and tested back office shared services. Systems and processes that have worked in the same way for years.
Trusts struggle to innovate too, in part due to limited resources. Mainly because anything that is new can mean risk, unless there are the resources to manage that risk which can require funding.
Avoiding change is a natural reaction, best to kick the can down the road for another academic year or two.
Can schools and academy trust carry on without staffing innovation for much longer?