Following the release of global education reports showing Australia lagging behind fellow OECD nations in student outcomes, the issue of teacher quality has been in the spotlight.
To address this, a radical revamp of education standards was announced by the Federal Government to ensure that student teachers are ‘classroom ready’ when they leave university.
However, until the results of these new standards become apparent, principals face the challenge of ensuring that their teachers are not only the best fit for their school’s culture but also of the highest quality.
According to Smart Teachers founder, Tyson Wood, a proactive advertising approach can make a big difference.
Smart Teachers, founded in 2005, serves Independent, Catholic and Christian primary and secondary schools Australia-wide, working collaboratively to help manage the increasing demand for highly qualified and passionate teachers.
Since the company’s inception, it has recruited over 130,000 teachers and educational leaders for hundreds of client schools.
Wood told The Educator that schools need to think of recruitment proactively in the same way that a career recruiter does.
“For example, our organisation is constantly advertising, bringing in candidates, interviewing them and appraising them,” Wood said.
“The system we have in place allows schools to access our database and call us. We don’t just get lucky every time – we know so much about our candidates that we can go back and strategically target them.”
Wood said that while schools might not be able to do this at the level his company does, there are other ways to make sure the best talent is on their radar.
“A lot of schools have teachers that come directly to them – whether they have jobs or not – and make sure that they’re tracking those candidates by taking their CVs and storing them,” he said.
“Schools don’t necessarily need a database because they can do this in many ways, including by using an Excel spreadsheet to retain employee information that might come in useful down the line.”
Wood said that he has seen instances where the company has helped schools looking for a qualified teacher source a pre-service teacher who did their prac at that same school.
“The same goes with contractors. If you bring them in during Term 1, make sure you have the means and capability to go back to them if they were good at their job and talk to them about a job you have the following year if they’re available,” he said.
“This means that you’re not just being reactive – which is putting out an ad and hoping you get a candidate. This is particularly important given that we’re experiencing a shortage of quality candidates.”
A critical mistake that schools make, says Wood, is “putting all of their eggs in one basket” when marketing themselves in the public domain.
“When schools go to market themselves, gone are the days when they put an ad in the newspaper and get so many candidates that they could make a good hire straight away,” he said.
“Today, when you decide to use one avenue to place an ad and choose the best of that bunch, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best teacher. Schools need to be agile and advertise their positions across so many digital spaces.”
Wood said another important area schools could be focusing on more is equipping middle and senior leaders with enhanced interviewing skills.
“If we know what we’re looking for and we go to interview, what are the types of questions and questioning techniques that will flesh out the information you’re seeking about these candidates?” Wood said.
“These include open questioning, forcing contextualisation, knowing probing questions, the roles and responsibilities within a panel to create an effective interview.”
Wood said that a number of principals had expressed interest in Smart Teachers coming to their schools and helping their staff with this issue.
“It’s an area that is so important and which schools could be improving on,” he said.