Why Climate Reigns Supreme: 7 Ways to Remain Ahead of the Game in Recruiting and Retaining Staff

Foxhill Primary School, an example of fantastic talent management

If predictions are accurate, 150,000 fewer graduates are expected to enter the job market by 2020 and in London alone, 115,000 additional school places will be required. Add to that challenges presented by the three As of:

  • Increased Accountability
  • Fiscal Austerity
  • Greater Autonomy

Making teaching the career of choice and providing high quality professional development, is the key priority for the next 4 years.

Andy Hargreaves describes how uplifting organisations create collective social power to improve performance and results: “it makes individuals and organisations do better than they had before [and] helps them outperform their opponents.  It inspires them to succeed despite [limited] resources.” In an era of education uncertainty, here are 7 ways to help schools re-position a potential crisis as an opportunity.

  1. Capacity Building Prevails

Why recruit in the first place if you are continuously building capacity, creating leadership opportunities and reviewing school staff structures?


  • Make capacity building a standing item on every governing body agenda.
  • Ensure the professional development and school improvement planning evaluates growing capacity alongside learning outcomes.
  • Identify potential leaders now (across all staffing structures) and create ‘leadership ladders’ or personalised career pathways.



  • Let historic staff structures define/limit possibilities for the staff growth
  • Limit opportunities for progression to just teachers. Companies like EduStaff are increasingly switched on to helping graduates into teaching. This is a great way to support teaching assistants into the profession.


  1. Try Before You Buy

At Woodhill and Foxfield Primary Schools, we now use open evenings as our main recruitment strategy. It’s a great way to meet candidates en masse, observe relationship interactions and ensure the match between teacher and school is a good fit. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to showcase your school with an audience. Our open evenings have enabled us to ‘get in quick’, establish relationships with candidates and involve staff and pupils in the recruitment process from the onset.


  • Place values and moral purpose at the heart of key messaging.
  • Use open evenings as opportunities for potential teachers to meet a range of stakeholders including existing staff and pupils.
  • Showcase the very best of your school vision and ethos during such events.



  • Overemphasise ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of your core mission when selling the school to potential staff. These can be a turn off.


  1. Programmes Trump Activities

Professional development programmes, involving a range of structured, collaborative, school based learning are much more valuable than stand alone, one day courses. In the Inspire Partnership, everyone has a learning pathway; an opportunity to collaborate with learning projects.


  • Audit your own school provision for professional development to ensure there are no gaps in your core offer. Our programmes include:


– Lesson Study/appreciative enquiry

– NQT and NQT Plus One Programme.

– Leading for Excellence.

– Primary Leadership Programme.

– Teaching Assistant Programme.


  • Ensure teacher learning is well designed; including evaluation of impact and high levels of collaboration. Professional development should:


– Focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes

– Be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise

– Include collaboration and challenge

– Be sustained over time

– Be prioritised by school leadership.


  1. Love Learning

Learning communities thrive together.  When everyone is invested in learning from each other, everyone benefits unselfishly.  At Bellville Primary School, for example, their learning library is a success because the school ensures learning feeds the culture.


  • model being learners, especially amongst leadership teams
  • ensure professional development meetings offer space to “give one, get one” so staff can learn from each other
  • evaluate the learning so that it informs new ways of working
  • make the learning visible by celebrating it publically (e.g. staff celebrating learning success displays).



  • Stifle potential new learning or kill creativity by mandating it as policy
  • Micro-manage the specific learning staff wish to share or focus on.


  1. Climate is King

If school culture determines what a school does (good or bad!), school climate regulates how it feels to belong. Our schools post home ‘good news notices’ for both staff and children.  Our celebrating success notice boards capture excellence in learning but also discretionary effort.


  • Take stock of how leadership celebrates discretionary effort. Who gets noticed?  What for?  How often?  How is this shared?
  • Involve pupils in this process by inviting them to nominate effort to celebrate.
  • Be aware of the rhythm of school improvement. Know when to ‘nudge’ rather than ‘push’ or ‘pull’.  We need staff to “thrive” rather than merely “survive”.  Recognise the benefits of thriving ‘low energy’ as well as ‘high energy’
  • Ensure praise is distributed fairly and where possible, linked to school values



  • Make discretionary effort an expectation by policy. Let it grow organically.  School climate is a complex business and full of paradoxes!


  1. Get Creative with Workload

Every minute counts in a primary school.  Find creative ways to maximise time for leading learning.  Lyons Hall Primary School, snatch an hour a week between 8.30 and 9.30 where teachers plan and deliver interventions with focused groups or hold learning conferences with other adults – gap watch!


  • Recognise pupils as our biggest and most effective workforce. Foxfield Primary School have their own school recruitment agency.  Woodhill Primary School have appointed ‘learning ambassadors’ who lead learning walks
  • Maximise collaboration when undertaking routine teacher tasks such as shared planning, feedback marking ‘parties’ and cross school working parties. These experiences bond staff, create shared ownership of vision and develop ‘group think’


  1. Know Thine Energies

Steve Radcliffe (Leadership Plain and Simple) encourages us to notice the energies needed to sustain improvement and pay attention to them.  These are:





Woodhill Primary School has its own staff Fit Club.  This builds relationships, shapes identity and maintains a positive spirit amongst the team.  Foxfield Primary School includes staff well being events as part of the core CPD programme and has its own book club.  Nightingale Primary School allows staff delivering after school clubs or interventions to bank hours, re-claimed when needed.


  • Make it your business to know the passions and interests of all staff
  • Take time to evaluate how planned professional development nurtures each of the 4 energies within your school
  • Encourage responsibility and independence in others; value ‘useful learning mistakes’; remind staff of the impact of their work on children’s learning



  • Make finishing or winning the race your only goal.
View comments (1)
Halui Angus
21 May 2019 / 22:05

Excellent strategies outlined here. Would make a fantastic CPD programme.

Please log in to add comments