This week has seen some frightening, but not unexpected, statistics regarding the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on unemployment.
According to the ONS, the number of workers on UK payrolls dropped by more than 600,000 between March and May. Separate figures published by HMRC showed more than a quarter of the UK workforce are having their wages paid through the government’s furlough scheme. With economists saying the full effect on employment will not be felt until these wage support schemes end in October.
Thankfully, those in the education sector, whilst facing a myriad of other challenges, have been largely unaffected by job cuts. With one notable exception: this week a number of Teach First candidates were informed that they would not be offered a placement.
No doubt there are genuine reasons for Teach First taking this decision. However, now is the time when the education sector can really benefit from a talent pool likely to be more readily available, as it did during the 2008 crisis. Education has an opportunity to become the sector of choice.
Therefore, we need to be careful about our messaging: we must ensure we can inspire confidence, to attract the very best into the teaching profession. Education is more than a safe haven; it is a place to really make a difference in a post-COVID world.
As I write, thousands of graduates are finishing their university studies in a way they never anticipated. The usual support networks they would rely on for careers advice aren’t necessarily as accessible as they would be under ‘normal’ circumstances. This provides a huge opportunity for teacher training providers to encourage highly qualified graduates into the profession. It is a time to really make the case for this great profession!
There are also many graduates completing BEd degrees with QTS, who are still looking for NQT roles. And whilst most schools will have a full staffing complement for September, it is worth considering that the ‘new normal’ might require ‘new teaching’.
Some Headteachers and Trust leaders are ‘ahead of the curve’ and are already considering (budget permitting!) a degree of ‘over staffing’. And one positive thing to come out of the current situation is that there is a talent pool just waiting to be recruited to these roles.
But be warned! Promoting opportunities and advertising vacancies will cost you time. There is no shortage of potential candidates. Therefore, expect to be inundated with applications.
Since working with schools and trusts during lockdown we have noticed a marked increase in the number of applications. Understandably in the current climate, unsuccessful candidates are looking for feedback, as they are desperate to improve their applications to secure a position.
Treating candidates well during the ‘good times’ will reap its rewards in ‘tough times’, when the talent pool is not as wide. Candidates don’t forget their first experience with an organisation, and as with customer service in any other sector, news of bad experiences travels fast.
Working with our partners, we pride ourselves on delivering a positive candidate experience, so that the schools and trusts we represent build strong reputations for being employers of choice.
In conclusion, depressing though the employment figures are in general, the availability of talented professionals is a huge opportunity for schools and trusts. For once, the education sector can get ‘the pick of the best’: ensuring we are as prepared as possible to address the challenges the whole of society will undoubtedly experience in the years to come. Do everything you can to take advantage of this opportunity, but don’t miss the opportunity to do it right!
Director – Satis Education
Helen Stevenson was previously the Director of Development & Governance of a large MAT. She has been responsible for the successful conversion of over 40 academies and has led on the development of numerous successful Free School applications. She is a former teacher and senior leader with NPQH, and has worked extensively on the Academies and Free Schools programmes since 2008, working directly for DfE, local authorities and a number of multi academy trusts, including diocesan MATs.