It’s no secret when hiring for positions including principals, teachers and even cleaning staff at schools, the need for hiring for positions of trust is key.
While principals and senior educators aim to hire the best teachers for their teams, there are many cases in which the wrong hire has been made and the question always arises: “who was checking that they were suitable for that role?”
Australia’s current national skills shortage means many schools try to hire as quickly as possible to avoid missing out on the best talent but without robust and data-led processes in place, this need for speed can lead to corner-cutting and details being missed.
Lee Martin Seymour is CEO and co-founder at Xref, an online reference checking software that delivers detailed feedback reports in as little as 24 hours giving leaders greater confidence in their hiring decisions.
“Hiring for positions of trust is key for any educational facility. We trust these employees around our children, our nieces, nephews and grandchildren,” Seymour told The Educator.
“It’s the responsibility of those hiring to ensure they know exactly who they’re employing. Background checks, traditional references and resumes can only tell us so much about a person and their previous experience.”
Every single staff member must be checked
Seymour said the assumption made when looking at the education sector is often that all employment is about teachers specifically.
“However, when you look at any institution – school, university and college – in reality they’re all made up of a small percentage of teachers and a larger number of admin, support, and facilities staff, parent helpers, student workers and visiting contractors.”
Seymour said the ease at which the Working with Children Check can be obtained can sometimes open schools up to unforeseen risks.
“As we’ve seen from the cases exposed through the media, there are people working in educational institutions who are lying about their identity and background,” he said.
“So, when we look at education, we're not just thinking about permanent staff, there are a number of people surrounding our children daily. Every one of them needs to be checked.”
Seymour said a recurrent question that arises after wrong hires is ‘who was checking that they were suitable for that role?’
“Products like Xref allow employers to get a more in-depth understanding of a candidate before making a hire,” he said.
“However, if the focus of a hiring decision is on the level of education a candidate has, they need a qualification check and these can cause a massive delay because, traditionally, they are manually filed.”
Seymour said this is a problem that only schools can resolve.
“They need to prioritise the digitisation of qualifications and availability of them. The sector doesn’t just owe it to industry, they owe it to the students as they leave and join the workforce,” he said.
“When we can't check qualifications accurately, we have to rely on experience.”
Seymour said that ensuring that references are checked thoroughly makes up for a shortfall in qualification verification and that reference and ID checks should remain a priority for all staff of educational institutions.
Beware of cutting corners
Seymour said a national skills shortage can have a major impact on organisations looking to hire quickly.
“The consequences this can have on the business and quality hires in the education sector are significant,” Seymour said.
“A national skills shortage means that organisations are all trying to hire quickly to avoid missing out on the best talent.”
However, without robust and data-led processes in place, this need for speed can lead to corner-cutting and important details being missed, Seymour said.
“The education sector’s workforce has also become as transient as every other and as parents we can see that,” he said.
“But we must remember that institutions hire in spikes, predominantly during the summer for their intake of teachers for the next academic year.”
The result, says Seymour, is a massive migration of teachers every year.
“Because the recruitment happens in such a small timeframe, they can’t find talent because they’re all trying to do it at the same time, which means competition is high and the recruitment timeframe is short,” he said.
“They’re under more pressure because it’s a hotbed of recruitment between terms times and no one has a competitive edge. So, checking candidates properly instead of just trusting they’ve been somewhere is key.”
Seymour said that if teachers are willing to fake their backgrounds or bend the truth about their achievements, they should not be sharing the room with children.
“Whoever students come in contact with will mould them,” he said.
“Their motives to teach our future talent should be honest and above board.”