Portrait photo of Helen Stevenson

A guest blog by Helen Stevenson. Helen (a former teacher and MAT Executive Leader) is the Founding Director of Satis Education which deals with recruitment at all levels across the schools’ sector. Satis Education are market leaders in MAT executive leadership recruitment. Follow Helen on Twitter.

There’s a huge focus across the education sector about how we become employers of choice. However, I don’t believe we can ever become employers of choice until we operate in a sector of choice.

As education leaders, before we can begin to talk about how to become a sector of choice or employer of choice, it’s really important that we all understand what, in the 21st century, we are perceived to be.

We live in an increasingly consumerist society and as such education, like many other sectors, is viewed as a service industry.

We don’t make things, we don’t sell things – we provide a service. And to provide the best quality service we need to employ the best ‘service providers’. With the current crisis in recruitment and retention, we need to do everything we can to encourage a new generation of ‘service providers’ to join us.

When when it comes to promoting the education sector as a sector of choice, we all have two choices: We can be an Eeyore – the eternal pessimist, or we can be Forrest Gump – the ultimate in glass half full.

Unfortunately, in recent years, and certainly coinciding with an increased use in social media, I fear there are far too many Eeyores taking to social media to bemoan our wonderful profession. I don’t believe in ‘naming and shaming’, so I purposely won’t provide examples.

However, as someone who spends a lot of time on social media for professional reasons, please believe me when I say if you are connected to people within the profession, it won’t take long before you come across numerous posts from education staff complaining about their job, directly or indirectly.

How do you feel about this?

What impact do you think it has potentially to new entrants to the profession?

But before I offend anyone I want to make one thing very clear, I’m not for one second saying that working in the education sector is easy. There are a number of issues that need to be tackled – the most pressing of which is workload.

And I for one would love to provide the silver bullet that means we could rid our colleagues of overwhelming workloads in one go – sadly none of us can do that.

The challenge of teacher workload is not one that will be resolved overnight – it will take school leaders collectively and persistently knocking on the doors of those in power and those who would be in power before anything is done. Together we are stronger, together our voices are louder, together we become a crowd and are more difficult to ignore.

But for the time being we can also be relentless in coming together to promote the positives, as well as seeking to address the negatives. Building the reputation of the sector will allow us to try to do something constructive about the recruitment and retention crisis ourselves.

In preparation for a presentation I gave at a conference recently, I contacted some colleagues and asked why they had chosen to work in education. And without sounding like I’m presenting Family Fortunes their top answers included:

  • It’s more than just a job – you get the chance to make a difference
  • No two days are the same – it keeps you entertained
  • You become not just a teacher but a lifelong learner
  • It’s generally a secure profession – a job for life if that’s what you want
  • It’s a profession that allows you to be flexible in terms of where you choose to live and work – your qualifications and skills are recognised nationally and internationally

Now I have to say I don’t think that’s a bad list… it contains a great balance between altruism and personal gain.

If we let the Eeyores dominate we’ll reach a position where we’ve become part of the recruitment and retention problem, by promoting a narrative that puts people off joining the education sector.

I believe it’s incumbent on us all to accentuate the positives associated with the profession, in an attempt to ensure the sector becomes a sector of choice.

We are in charge of our narrative – let’s make it a positive one.