The recruitment challenges facing schools are not going to improve any time soon. Then again, while one in five teachers are looking to leave the profession in the next two years, many merely want to find the right school for them.

Education recruiters Affinity Workforce recently surveyed senior leaders in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts about their key concerns and objectives. 95% of respondents cited improving their employer brand to attract the best teachers. The same survey asked teachers what attracts them to schools other than pay. 95% said it was the reputation of the school as a good employer. 

Like elite sports teams, the best schools attract top talent. Strong employer branding will bring better candidates, differentiate you from competitors, and reduce time and costs when hiring.

#1 Play to your strengths

Be intentional. Be strategic. Showcase your best features, whether that be the facilities, the people, the place, your position in the league tables.

Unsure where your true strengths lie?

#2 Ask your greatest resource

…your teachers!

A staff questionnaire will sharpen your focus, as well as motivate present staff. To that end, ask current staff about what attracted them to the school and what keeps them. What do they value most about working at your school? Is there room for improvement?

#3 Objection handling

Teachers are leaving the profession in significant numbers, citing unrealistic expectations, unsustainable hours, and excessive accountability. Many say they need more support from leadership and more resources. A concern shared by many is that they’re teaching to please Ofsted rather than improve pupils’ learning.

These are all contentious, knotty, intractable problems. If, however, you are addressing some of these issues, then say so. Perhaps you have a buddy system to help new recruits settle in. Better still, mentoring is factored into timetabling.

#4 Sell the teaching experience…

…as much as the advertised position. For instance, too many listings read like a joyless job description. Too many focus on what the candidate can do for the school, and not on what the school can do for the candidate.

You may have great facilities and the most up-to-date tech. Science teachers will want to know about laboratories and assistance from technicians. Geographers may be interested in the sheer range of school trips. English teachers may want to know about the library. Musicians will have questions about school choirs and bands. Set yourself apart by making clear all you do to help staff grow, thrive and flourish.

#5 CPD may be your USP

How does the school promote, recognise and reward achievement? Some job specs, for instance, mention ‘developmental lesson observations instead of grading’. Teachers all want the chance to teach A-Level. These things matter to the very best teachers, and schools vary enormously in what they offer.

Explain what you do – in a clear and compelling way – and edge ahead of the competition.

#6 Ethos sets you apart

Sell the culture, values and ethos of your community. These are the things that make every school unique. Teachers don’t so much want to join schools as join communities. Staff socials and a busy common room go a long way to foster a sense of group endeavour and identity.

Furthermore, ethos ensures the best fit and circumvents a mismatch between employer/ee expectations, improving retention and reducing unnecessary turnover of staff. Shared aims are a powerful motivator. High aspirations inspire current staff and attract ambitious, conscientious candidates.

#7 Great teachers attract great teachers

Ethos is embodied by people rather than policies. We all enjoy being on the winning team, playing alongside those who will help us raise our game. Supportive, inspiring, hands-on role-models make such a difference. There is a ripple effect.

All this filters down to those who matter most…

#8 …The students

Clear, consistent expectations on matters such as uniform make a world of difference to the world outside the school gates. Word of mouth is nowhere more important than in the world of education. Smart, polite pupils present the school in the best light, on the pavements before and after school.

Let’s not forget your biggest brand advocates…

#9 … The parents

They’re often your best brand ambassadors. And, in the age of Mumsnet – which turns 20 this year! – Facebook and WhatsApp class/parent groups, channels of communication are active and immediate.

#10 Create a buzz locally

Open evenings, plays, concerts, sports fixtures, trips and residentials all go to show what a busy, exciting place a school is. Be sure to spread the word, through the school’s website and social media, as well as the local press whenever possible.

Furthermore, giving back to the local community through charity work is both a civic duty and good marketing sense.

Final thoughts

To borrow from Shakespeare, think: “Reputation, reputation, reputation.” A strong employer brand inspires present and future employees, in the short and long term, as well as reducing hiring time and costs.

For many, teaching is still the best job in the world – if it’s at the right school.