How to improve recruitment in a seaside town


There is little doubt that most local Headteachers and Principals are currently experiencing significant challenges in recruiting teaching and non-teaching staff. The reasons for this are complex and cover national, regional and more local reasons.

National factors include pay levels, confusing teacher training routes and changes to bursary awards from one year to another, media outlets suggesting teaching is a very tough job (it is!) and poor behaviour shown by many pupils (it is not!), long working hours, the impact of Covid on mental health of staff and pupils.

Regional factors include a sense that the North is a poor region where innovation is not pursued (wrongly!) and social and economic deprivation make life hard for many families (it does).

Local factors include the ongoing national view that Blackpool is a poor area where schools are equally poor. We know this is not true, but it is a factor. The town is coastal so can only attract staff from inland areas, wages for some school posts are less attractive because other employers are offering more to attract staff and are often not subject to national terms and conditions. The Fylde Coast SCITT has successfully filled some key posts in local schools, but it is to close in 2024 with no replacement yet announced.

Local Intelligence

Frank Norris reviewed the way current local vacancies are advertised and what is included in the information for candidates.

Some schools/trusts advertised in a variety of ways including social media, TES (but not Schools Week), school and trust websites, INDEED and the government’s free job vacancy website. However, quite a few appeared to rely heavily on TES and their own websites to attract staff. There may be perfectly good reasons for this.

In addition, using a well known search engine, it became clear that there was an existing website developed by the Council that was not being used regularly by all schools.

This site has been developed by the Council in conjunction with a number of other NW Local authorities. Currently, only schools that have bought in the HR service agreement have access to it. I am proposing that we begin to discuss with the local authority how we can ensure all posts are included on this site. We must be aware that there may be a cost to this.

The review of the way schools and trusts advertise individual posts also revealed significant differences. Some just post the job title, a job description and a link to the application form. Others created application packs with photos and links to various videos and papers. Occasionally, headteachers and CEOs created short punchy videos that spoke directly to prospective candidates. Chatting to local authority HR staff responsible for social care applications they believe this approach is a useful one. They believe it appeals directly to candidates who often come away thinking they could work for, and with, the leader on the video.

When I was a CEO of a large trust I was fortunate to work with some very creative designers and social media wizards within the Coop business. They helped develop a template booklet for all jobs within each academy. This is a good example of an application pack for a post at one of the large secondary academies in North Manchester.

It is worth noting that the images in the booklet relate to the post so prospective applicants can see the classrooms and facilities they will have access to. It is relatively easy to create a template where a school can insert the text for a specific role. This makes it appear that the school has taken considerable time in trying to make the right impression.

Meeting of those interested in recruitment for Blackpool schools

On 16th March a virtual meeting was held of colleagues from schools, Colleges, trusts and the local authority to consider whether sharing approaches and greater cooperation could begin to address emerging concerns about recruitment. All colleagues acknowledged the scale of the problem and that it was likely to get worse. It was clear that some had well developed and quite closely targeted approaches which were managing to fill most vacancies. There were others where there was a genuine call for help to improve the way they advertise positions.

Following the meeting Frank Norris had a follow up discussion with colleagues from the local authority who explained how the area had been used to attract social care and health staff. They were open to discussions with schools and trusts to see how the service they offer as a service level agreement could be opened up to more schools. These colleagues were clear that relocating colleagues from further afield was a tricky challenge but worthy of further consideration. They explained that their social care and health recruitment drives had drawn colleagues from local and regional positions into Blackpool. They felt this was likely to be replicated in education.

At the end of these meetings we agreed that we should try and raise recruitment expectations be explaining the learning we had gained from the research we had undertaken.

If you want to raise your game and improve the chances of securing high quality staff for your school you may want to undertake some of these activities (if you are not already!)

Some actions to consider (If you are in a Trust it is worth checking on the communication policy)

  • Ensure all posts are advertised on the free government website 
  • Ensure all vacancy adverts include a personal letter to applicants from the Headteacher/Principal and/or CEO 
  • Utilise social media ie twitter, facebook and Linkedin
  • Consider including a short video where the Headteacher/Principal/CEO talks directly to applicants explaining why the post is important and what they are looking for? 
  • Commission an agency (I know the LA may be able to assist at a cost) to produce a standard vacancy booklet template for the schools where space is left for specific information can be inserted

Actions to be taken forward by BEIB

  • Create a publicity video for the town that would be posted online and all vacancies would include a link to it. 
  • Enter into dialogue with LA HR team to allow all vacancies to be advertised on the website 

Frank Norris
Independent Chair of BEIB

25th May 2023


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related articles

Get in touch