6 thoughts on keeping great teachers

March 1, 2018
Paul Ainsworth

Paul Ainsworth

Professional Development Lead at the David Ross Education Trust

As the lead for professional development at the David Ross Education Trust, retaining great staff is an extremely high priority.

It’s especially important in our coastal schools, where recruitment is more of a challenge.

When I led a small secondary school, I was always concerned about losing my staff, as they were my most important resource. Here, I learned there are two key tasks in terms of teacher retention.

First is managing their wellbeing. What can you do for your staff to look after them so that they are fit and healthy to help the children in your care? The second is ensuring that they have appropriate professional development so they are motivated and effective in their roles.

That’s why my solutions are all to do with combining staff wellbeing and professional development, because if staff are happy and healthy, and feel as though you are supporting their career, they are much more likely to stay with you for the long term.

So, whether you are responsible for five staff or a thousand, here are six proactive things that you can do which will make a difference to retention.

1. Develop a wellbeing strategy

Have a wellbeing group at school which looks for initiatives that can aid staff in your school.

Every school will have their own ideas, which could range from yoga sessions one afternoon a week to cake and coffee Fridays. Then work with the group to see how they can be implemented.

2. Consider different career development routes

It’s good to talk.

Remember to communicate with your staff about how they can develop their careers in your school because it shows you’re taking their interests seriously.

In my experience, most staff dread being bored and want to do different things to stretch themselves. This could be via a traditional promotion or by taking responsibility for an initiative.

In multi-academy trusts, staff can be encouraged to move from one school to develop their career and have fresh challenges. They may be moving from one school but they are being kept them in the system.

In your school, you can consider secondments; such as rolling slot on the senior leadership team that a different colleague can take each term or year. At a middle leadership level there could be a specific project, which a colleague takes on for a time-limited period.

You could also encourage them to become Specialist Leaders of Education through your local Teaching School so they can support other schools.


3. Ask the question - what do your staff enjoy?

There are always elements of our job that we do not like or find challenging.

However, at the same time everybody has things that they really enjoy about being a teacher and this will be different for everyone.

Talk to your staff and find out which bits of the job really gives them a buzz and ensure they have opportunities to develop this aspect of their work.

This could range from leading assemblies, delivering training, running trips or leading a residential. The possibilities are endless.

4. Peer Coaching

Teaching can feel like a lonely job and conversations with other adults can become rare.

As we all know, even having the opportunity to talk about what has worked in a lesson or what hasn’t does not occur regularly. Establishing a peer coaching network in your school that allows teachers work in triads and complete regular observations can be beneficial.

The observations can be very short, just 15 minutes can be very effective and then colleagues discuss what they have seen and suggest one idea to improve practice.

5. Say thank you

Ok, this isn’t strictly professional development, but remembering to thank and appreciate your staff is vital.

This could be an individual Christmas card or post card at the end of the summer term with a short note to each member of staff. It could be a note when a colleague has made a difference or it could be a verbal thank you in a staff meeting.

One colleague once said to me, ‘always praise in writing’, because then they had a reminder of it on the dark days.

"What can you do for your staff to look after them so that they are fit and healthy to help the children in your care? "

6. Train your staff

Ensuring your staff are well trained and kept up to date makes a big difference. I’d recommend the NPQs that Ambition offers because they develop skills and knowledge and give you access to a network of thousands of leaders in similar positions in the UK.

From a well-being perspective you could offer a course in mindfulness for your all your staff or provide it as a session for staff to opt into.

You can also develop your own training opportunities in your school or by grouping together with other schools to share the costs of an inspirational trainer.

Plus, there’s always the option of your own in-house CPD. Empower your staff to train others in their own skill set, based on their own experience and it will benefit them and those being trained.

Staff will always leave for new challenges and I always feel proud when a colleague achieves a promotion, even if it means them leaving the school. You can do everything possible to keep a staff member and they will move on regardless, but it’s still vital that you show interest in their career and look after their wellbeing as a leader.

This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019, the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.

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