On 8 November a group of headteachers came together to consider how to meet the challenges we face around the recruitment and retention of great teachers and leaders in Southwark. By the end of the morning we had a good grasp of the issues; some ideas to tackle them; and the suggestion of forming a working party to develop the best ideas further.
We started the morning with an overview from Derek Boyle from the Pan-London Strategy Group for ITT who shared figures suggesting that at the time of the last school workforce census, there were only 3 full-time teaching vacancies and 13 posts filled temporarily in the whole of Southwark! Recognising that this presents a far from accurate picture and says nothing of the appointments made simply to have someone in post, regardless of suitability, Derek encouraged us to all fill in these (non-mandatory) fields in the next school workforce census, as it is where the Department for Education and Ministers get their data from. No wonder they keep asking “what crisis?”
What we do know from the Southwark data, presented by Cara Cahill from Southwark Council, is that we are not holding onto all our initial teacher trainees and have particular challenges in retaining teachers and middle leaders who are 3-7 years qualified. Some of this is explained by the absence of affordable housing for teachers reaching the stage in life where they want a decent family home and we need to keep the pressure on our councillors and the GLA to address this pan-London issue, as well as thinking creatively about what we can do ourselves.
Simon Wattam, co-head at John Donne Primary School and Schools Direct partnership lead, revealed that the partnership was only awarded 18 of the 25 places requested for this year’s recruitment – though this represents a higher success rate than the national picture of 30,000 places awarded against 65,000 requested. Getting more (all) Southwark schools involved in the partnership would be a good way of securing a bigger supply of teacher trainees for the borough.
On retention, Cassie Buchanan, headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School, explained how she uses flexible working as one way to keep good teachers and middle leaders. Tim Mills, headteacher at Angel Oak Academy, shared the benefits of offering fully-funded MAs (plus study leave and the chance to leave early on MA days) in attracting and retaining a certain type of teacher to his school.
By the end of the morning, we had distilled from our speakers and discussions a set of “ideas with legs” to explore further with a wider group of heads, including:
- Development of a collective approach (and collective “buying” power) on things like recruitment, ITT and a Southwark masters. The aim would be to benefit from having a bigger voice and economies of scale, while celebrating what is special and unique about each Southwark school.
- A single portal for anyone looking to teach in Southwark to make it easier for them to navigate the confusing plethora of routes in, and to sell the many positives of a career in teaching (without hiding the realities around the need for hard work and resilience to realise these).
- Tackling non-schools-based issues, like housing, and looking at the “offer” for Southwark teachers and leaders drawing on the many resources and opportunities across the borough (e.g. discounted gym membership, access to cultural institutions etc.).
In the coming weeks, Southwark Teaching School Alliance and the Council will be considering the best way to work with a wider group of Southwark heads – including existing headteacher groups – to develop these ideas further. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.