The International Experience
The needs of children at a time of war
Anna Azarova is the PR manager at the British International School Ukraine. Her account of an epic trip from Ukraine across Europe with her friend’s son in her care received a standing ovation at the 2022 COBIS conference in London. But as she suggests, her story is a sign of needs to come for children in Ukraine.
Dealing with the impact of global uncertainty on a school community
It seems we are now constantly dealing with the effects of local and global uncertainty. Milena Prodanić Tišma describes how one school in Zagreb helped children to cope after two earthquakes during lockdown.
Building a school’s reputation as a great place to work
If it is becoming increasingly tough to recruit, it has become doubly important to retain great staff. Simon Dunford looks at building a school’s reputation as a good employer in the age of social media.
Reputation is everything
Following on from the article in the February 2022 issue of ITM by Diane Jacoutot, which highlighted how the recruitment market is now going to be tougher than ever, what should, or what can schools do to give themselves a competitive edge?
Prospective teachers, like parents, are a key audience for what is being said about any school. If you can’t attract the right teachers, a school’s potential to attract new families is massively diminished.
Competition for staff is undoubtedly going to be increasingly tough. As a school, you need to set yourself ahead of the pack: having an historical reputation for excellence in education will not alone cut it if you also have a parallel reputation for not actually being a great place to work.
The undeniable fact is that teachers talk. They talk to each other, both within the school and with teachers from different schools, locally and globally. In the internet age this is so easy with different social and sharing platforms and forums.
The reputation of leaders
Teachers discuss how they are treated and valued by employers; they discuss the effectiveness of the leadership. In all industries, and education is no different, the expertise and behaviour of leadership can be the number 1 reason for workplace dissatisfaction and people leaving organisations.
People don’t leave bad companies. They leave bad leaders
On the internet, the sort of questions that are being asked about schools are:
- “What is it like to work there?”
- “Are staff treated well?”
These types of questions are asked before people even decide to apply for a position or join a school. Schools, in this tougher recruitment market, need to ensure that they also have a great reputation as an employer.
First things first
Even when finances are tight, they must prioritise finding a way to offer the very best recruitment packages possible. Money is always going to be important – most people ultimately work to earn the best living possible. So, to attract the highest level of quality applicants, you must be offering packages that are attractive.
Never move the goal posts. You must also protect the attractive packages that you have offered. A surefire way to erode trust and respect from you as an employer (and ‘encourage’ people to leave) is by making negative changes to your employment packages and conditions (salary/benefit/holiday changes). The news of you doing so will spread like wildfire across the internet and will do a huge amount of damage to your reputation as a trusted, supportive and ethical employer.
If restructuring is necessary – and it sometimes is – do things as transparently as possible. If you surprise your staff, the online backlash might be difficult to contain.
Money isn’t everything
While financial rewards are often a primary motivator in the recruitment challenge, it is not the only thing and there are plenty of other ways that you can make your school an attractive place to join.
Having the right culture is so crucial in everything that you do and, therefore, can achieve. Make sure that your leadership has created a strong culture within the school and staff that actively promotes, nurtures and protects –
Having a focus on providing excellent professional development opportunities for your staff can be an excellent way of showing that you value your staff and want to support their growth.
Ensure that the working conditions for your staff is appropriate. This might sound too obvious to mention but, whilst you are paying for your staff to provide you with a service, do everything you can to avoid staff burnout. Provide them with the best tools that you can to enable them to do their job. Actively look after their health and well-being.
Some ways you can demonstrate that you value your staff (other than uplifts in pay and benefits):
- Ensure you have the routines, policies and procedures in place to make their working day run smoothly. Does SLT maintain a visible presence around the school? Does the behaviour policy provide sufficiently clear guidelines for managing behavior and incorporate support structures for personnel dealing with regular misbehaviour?
- Ensure staff know you have their back. Should a complaint come to you, ensure the correct procedures are followed in dealing with that complaint.
- Offer opportunities for personnel to have a voice and feel listened to.
- Negotiate some discounts/services for staff from local vendors/companies (coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, hair and beauty salons, holiday firms etc.)
- Allow staff to use the school resources, e.g. swimming pool or fitness equipment for their own health and wellbeing or to share their talents and knowledge with others, e.g., through running book clubs, staff choir, sports/yoga sessions, arts & crafts, cookery or photography lessons.
- Trust your staff to be professional and to do their job. So, if a member of staff wants to leave right at the end of the school day (assuming they have no other commitments in school), then trust them, as both adults and professionals, to be ready and prepared for the next day.
- What are your values and how are those communicated and lived across the school community?
- As members of SLT, how do you stay abreast of what is going on in the organisation? Who has an opportunity to speak to you on a regular basis?
- Is your performance management system designed to promote and support growth, or is it seen as a stick to beat teachers with?
- What support structures are in place for a staff member who may be struggling?
- Is it clear that there is a progression pathway for those who are keen to grow and develop (at all levels of the organisation)?
- Is equality to the fore in your school? Is your team diverse? Is that diversity represented at all levels of the organisation? Are all children/adults welcome?
A great place to work
The bottom line here is that recruiting the best people is now going to be harder than ever before. Schools need to actively be promoting themselves as, and get a genuine reputation for, being a great place to work. Schools should be aiming to have people discussing and sharing online, things like, “They are really good to their staff; it is apparently a great place to work”.
Author and CEO of Dumond Education, Simon Dunford is an experienced educator with over 25 years’ experience in teaching, leadership and advisory roles in many countries and regions worldwide.
Feature and support images: by geralt on Pixabay
Keynote ideas from the FOBISIA Leadership Conference, 2022 and the winning entry from the 2021 FOBISIA Race4Good Journalism competition from the Year 8 Team at The British School in Tokyo.
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