Pay Policy – Recruitment and Retention

The new language, as we emerge from the pandemic, is that the Government wants to create a ‘high skills, high wage’ economy. Teaching is a degree-level profession, with many colleagues qualified well-beyond that, or in specialist areas; we have high levels of skills (and expertise and experience), but will we have high wages to match?

The model Pay Policy recently circulated to schools states that we will not automatically recognise and match an appointee’s previous pay grade, but will decide in advance what a school is willing to pay from the given range. There’s an economic sense to it – you can afford this much so that is what is offered, but if the offer is less than a teacher is already earning how can a school possibly hope to attract new staff? Why would staff move on to other settings? Why would we not recognise the additional skill, experience and expertise that comes from having spent time (years) in the role? Are we to be so pompous that we think teachers will happily come to us for a cut in their salaries?

That’s the theoretical – I think we should honour pay positions from posts at previous or current schools when we appoint from outside our walls as standard practice. That should, I believe, include pay at the highest levels for classroom teachers – the Upper Pay Range – but the proposed policy says it should not be assumed that someone at UPR 2 will get that rate of pay if appointed in my school. The same would go for school leaders as well; a range would be set and the school would try to appoint at the lowest point on the range.

But the problem comes if schools fail to attract or fail to appoint. If there is a negotiation and the school does not offer something acceptable then they lose their selected candidate. If you state, as the policy says, what you are offering as pay and it fails to attract sufficient serious candidates, the question will be whether you have time to reconsider, re-advertise and try again.

I am hearing stories of schools in Sheffield struggling, over and over, to appoint. There are Headteacher vacancies that remain unfilled after multiple adverts and attempts to appoint. There are problems in the system – pay is only one of them of course, but if the incentive to become a Headteacher is not great enough then the necessary movement up the responsibility scale will not occur.

This might matter immensely to our school – we interviewed today and have made two excellent appointments (of people we already knew). We are concerned, however, about what is to come as we anticipate an unusually busy year for staff appointments at Lydgate Junior School.

  • We will, knowingly and deliberately, continue to select the best candidate for the role, with full understanding that doing so may cost us more.
  • We will ensure we are truly a good school so that good people want to work here.
  • We will develop staff, to feed succession planning for all Sheffield schools. (We have TAs training to become HLTAs, and an HLTA training to become a qualified teacher. We have teachers training to become qualified SENCOs. We don’t have vacancies for any of these roles right now, and they may not end up getting their promotions at our school, but we invest in people.)
  • We will welcome candidates to visit ahead of applying, and show them, honestly, what our school is about.
  • We will continue to treat staff well, so they can honestly say they enjoy working here.
  • We will try to retain our great staff, using the range of measures available to us.
  • We will act quickly, ahead of time if possible, to fill vacancies.
  • We will keep on hosting initial teacher training students, both first and third years, giving us an opportunity to undertake some semi-internal recruitment.

That last decision has been the hardest. We see how the school closures of the pandemic, along with ‘bubble’ and individual isolations, are impacting on the personal development, confidence and security of our children. They need continuity and consistency – they miss their teacher or key worker if they are off work – and a student taking a class can risk fragmentation. But the bigger risk is if we do not produce newly qualified teachers to take the place of those who retire or gain promotion.

Time will tell, and within the next half term I’ll be able to tell you if we are experiencing a recruitment challenge, difficulty or crisis.

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