Recruiting, Retaining and Celebrating Teachers

As we near the end of term there have been the usual events to mark the service of those colleagues moving on from the school at the end of the academic year. For some this is retirement, for others to a promotion. For one this summer to start a business. In a time when retention in teaching is just as much in the news as is recruitment this prompted some questions on what an ideal pattern of school staffing might look like.

And let us be clear first that there really is a problem with the number of teachers. Despite many initiatives and inducements recruitment, especially in key areas both in terms of subject and geographically, is poor. Retention is also too low, with many leaving the profession for a whole range of reasons. Bolton collectively has done some proactive thinking about this, with some secondary schools being teaching schools and a real effort to encourage recruitment into the borough. At Bolton School we are the northern hub of two national schemes, one for Languages and the other for Physics and Maths. Professional Development, to keep teachers interested and fresh, is a priority across the borough.

It is hugely important in all schools that some colleagues have served a long time. Frequently we celebrate those retiring after more than 30 years and this year is no exception. It is all too easy to imagine that long serving staff may be needing modernisation. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Very often such colleagues are the ones still embracing change. Yet they do something more important.  They carry the ethos and tradition and values of the school. They provide the folk memory of what the school is for and how and why things have evolved. This folk memory of the school is vital. Without it, transient pupils meet transient teachers for an educational transaction. That is not what a school is – it should be the centre of something enduring in a community.

It is equally important that colleagues arrive, feel motivated, develop and leave to promotion. A staffroom where everyone feels they could leave if they wanted to, that they would get the interview and the promotion, is another great sign of strength. It is this group, making their own waves and so prompting the school to make waves itself, that drives change in practice within the continuity of purpose provided by longer serving staff.

Let us hope more come to teaching. Let us further hope many more retire after many decades of making a difference for good.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton