Navbar button The Headteacher

How to Tackle Staff Retention

November 16, 2017, 12:14 GMT+1
Read in about 7 minutes
  • Given all the voices in the profession telling us that recruitment and retention is an issue, what should we do about it?
How to Tackle Staff Retention

The statistics point to an increase in both pupil numbers and staff turnover in the coming years. It doesn’t take a statistician to work out that this isn’t a winning combination.

There have also been alarming numbers from the DfE, which indicate that just under half of the teachers recruited in 2011 were leaving the sector within five years of being recruited.

But is the issue all about recruitment, or is it about retention as well? If we can nail retention, then it follows that this will help address our recruitment issues too, but of course there’s more to it than that. We don’t always want to retain certain colleagues – and we can’t always keep the ones we want.

In terms of what’s likely to make a difference to retention in your school, here are a few suggestions…

Revise your appraisal process

An effective appraisal or performance management process should motivate, look at personal development and wellbeing and do much more than simply appraise people by reviewing their objectives. If you develop your colleagues, it’s far more likely that you’ll retain them.

Adopt a holistic approach by managing the objectives, behaviours, career progression, professional development and personal wellbeing of all your employees. That includes recognition – we’re quick to give ‘Well Done’ stickers to the children, but how do we recognise and praise our colleagues for a job well done?

It goes without saying that development and recognition make people feel valued.

Do you have a handle on how many hours your colleagues are working, either at school or at home during the evenings and weekends? We need good people working in schools who are bright and fresh, not burnt out.

Adopt a strategic approach

By capturing information about career progression and development, you can forecast where and when you might lose people so that you can plan recruitment strategies in advance, rather than being reactionary and too quick to recruit.

You can then wait for the right person – the one that fits and will therefore stay.

It’s worth putting in place a robust wellbeing strategy. This could be as simple as just adding a ‘How are you?’ box to your appraisal discussions, or even simply asking that question at team meetings and in the course of general conversation.

Doing so will ensure that you have your finger on the pulse of your colleagues, so that when they aren’t on top form you can act quickly and potentially avoid the need for absences and supply cover.

According to some areas of research, recruitment issues have led to a rise in the renewing of temporary contracts, which isn’t without risk.

Not only does this perpetuate uncertainty for children and parents, renewing temporary contracts without giving thought to continuous service may lead to situations where people are eventually entitled to redundancy payments or the right to be classed as a permanent employee.

Always seek advice before renewing or ending temporary contracts.

It’s never easy, but you should always ask why someone is leaving – maintaining a record of exit interviews can help to detect any recurring themes. Getting to the truth should have a positive impact on your staff retention. After all, you can only do something about it if you know what the issue is.

Look at your incentives

Could you enhance your offer to colleagues? Do you promote flexible working, for example? Job shares are often seen as inconsistent and complicated, but they could well be the answer to some of your retention issues.

With regards to pay, the 2017 School teachers’ pay and conditions document (or ‘STPCD’ - see dfe-stpcd) sets out pay lifts between 1% and 2% and includes uplifts to teaching and learning responsibility and SEN payments too. If you don’t employ under the STPCD, these uplifts won’t apply to you, leaving you free to set your own pay rates.

What do you need to do? Update your pay policy. Where a teacher is at the minimum end of their pay range, you’ll need to increase their salary in line with the percentage increase. The uplifts also need to be considered (but not necessarily made) when making recommendations for pay progression as part of your performance management or appraisal process, in line with your pay policy.

You can also make differentiated pay awards, where justified by an employee’s performance or any circumstances relevant to your school, which will allow you to make the best use of your budget.

Respect employees’ rights

Another thing you can do is end tribunal fees. What does this mean? Employees are able to make claims without having to pay an initial fee, thus making claims easier. Does this make a difference to how schools operate? It shouldn’t.

If we treat people properly and follow a fair process, we shouldn’t have to fear possible claims. We should always be mindful of having a fair reason for an employment decision, with due consideration for employment rights.

As of September this year, free term time childcare has increased from 15 hours to 30 hours for 3- and 4-year-olds. Have you accommodated this within your educational setting? Do you have the right number of employees to make it work? Have you linked with private, voluntary and independent nurseries to cover the provision?

If you offer this cover in your pre-school setting, you’ll need to have the right staff in the right place at the right time – with the right pay and the right contract.

If you’re outsourcing your provision, then you’ll need to consider Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) – TUPE – regulations and the employment rights associated with transferring your provision to an external organisation.

This works the other way round, too; if you’re looking to include the provision in your school from an outsourced agency, you’ll need to look at whether TUPE applies and go through the correct legal process.