In 2021, I found myself with just six weeks to find a replacement teacher at that time of year when the strongest ECTs had already been snapped up. I advertised, contacted supply agencies and invited over 20 candidates to teach a trial lesson. Less than half turned up and most that did weren’t good enough. We only managed to appoint someone in the final week of the summer term. It was very stressful!
A fresh approach
Fast forward to this March and I received another resignation. Helpfully, a local supply agency was organising an event for schools to meet ECTs – effectively speed dating for teachers. Putting aside our distrust of agency recruitment, my deputy and I decided to give it a go. We had nothing to lose, except an hour of our time.
Head to the hall
After we’d set up our stall in another school’s hall, the agency introduced us to the first three of 12 ECTs and gave us 15 minutes to find a good match. The first two minutes were a chance for us to tell the prospective teachers about our school and what we could offer them. Then we had 10 minutes to ask them some questions.
We began with ‘Tell us about your journey over the last few years,’ so we could hear how they expressed themselves and understand their motivations. The second was the classic ‘What are your strengths and what do you need to develop?’
This told us how reflective and open to development they were, and, crucially, whether they might be a good fit for our school.
Lots to learn
After three more minutes, which allowed them a chance to ask us some questions, we gave them our documents (and a free school pencil!) and then moved on to the next set of three.
It was amazing how much we were able to learn in those few minutes, and how quickly we formed opinions about who were the strongest candidates, who we could potentially develop and who we would be happy to work with.
Within a few days we’d invited six candidates for interview. We then observed and interviewed two and appointed one onto our permanent staff. Yes, there was an exorbitant finder’s fee from the agency, but to be able to meet so many candidates and filter them out in just over an hour was incredibly efficient.
So, if you’re looking for a long-term school relationship, try the speed-dating approach… even if you’re already married!
Colin Dowland is a primary headteacher in North London. He tweets as @colindowland