Education recruitment isn’t just about teachers

When you hear the words ‘education sector recruitment’, your thoughts jump to the current challenge with teacher shortages. But there is also another area of recruitment in schools that is facing similar difficulties, namely all those other non-teaching job roles.

At Education Support Professionals (ESP), the lion’s share of our business is about sourcing schools’ needs for finance managers, bursars, administrators, human resources (HR), EdTech and data managers, to name just a few.

The difficulty with finding and retaining good staff is actually similar to that faced by the teaching profession: funding challenges, lower salaries than the private sector and sector specific skillsets.

There is quite simply more demand than supply. Staff turnover in schools is increasing and with that comes the difficulty in finding high quality replacements. In turn, the need for interim staff to urgently fill vital roles is increasing. Even the demise of many local authorities has added to the demand as HR services, for example, may historically have been provided by the authority. While some authorities will still offer this service, many schools now prefer to have this in-house.

At first glance, it may seem easy to contact any recruitment company to source staff for roles such as administration managers, IT staff or data managers, but of course without an appreciation of the complexities of the education sector, a significant amount of training and time will be needed before they become fully effective.

Staff not only have to have the necessary skills but they also need a clean career history and safeguarding checks such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (formerly known as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks).

At the end of the day, schools have to rely on non-teaching staff who love the school working environment. As a head of technology in one school once said to me, “I do twice the amount of work for half the salary that I could get in a commercial organisation”. Without this passion to support the learning pathway of children, the battle for high quality staff will continue. In fact, as budgets get tighter the problem is actually set to become more acute.

My recommendation to schools is based on the fact that having roles open for any length of time is just not an option. I encourage schools to recruit well, from the top. If you have an excellent, committed top level business manager at director level, they will  be better at managing the other staff to create a positive working environment where they are more likely to want to stay and finding savings elsewhere

But there is another side to the story – an area that, conversely, is currently growing in demand. This is the supply of people with education sector acumen into the corporate sector, such as BESA members.

More and more education sector facing businesses are recognising the importance of recruiting staff who really understand the sector. Particularly in roles such as sales and marketing, it is vital that they appreciate the very individual needs of the sector, which in turn affect how to sell to schools.

Of course this can be learned over time but the potential for a sales person who already has an understanding of schools’ buying points, policy requirements and budget constraints/opportunities is likely to be a lot more effective than someone who doesn’t.

For this reason, we have worked with numerous BESA members over the years to source their staff.

Having education sector insight and experience is certainly in demand and set to increase.