The statistics around teaching staff shortages are well known, but they bear repeating. Data from the NFER has indicated that targets for the required number of secondary school trainees have been missed for seven years in a row, and 33% of state school NQTs leave within five years. And while the Covid-19 crisis appears to have triggered a spike in graduate teacher training applications, it’s too early to say whether this will deliver sustainable growth.
Yet it is possible to buck these trends. There are a number of schools who are managing to hold on to their experienced staff at far higher rates than others. Step forward Huntington School, a community secondary in York, which has a miniscule staff turnover rate of 7%. Around half of teachers work part-time – including members of SLT – on contracts ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 FTE, and there are several job shares.
The importance of a supportive culture, championed from the top
So, what’s the secret? According to Headteacher John Tomsett, it’s all about the culture. John’s philosophy is that good schools don’t just pop up overnight; they grow over time out of a supportive culture, led by the leadership, that guides the school’s vision in the right direction.
In practice, at Huntington School, this means busting the myth that part-time teachers have a negative impact on students, and that the timetable can only accommodate a few part-time jobs. It means understanding that happy teachers stay, and that supporting the other aspects of their lives allows a school to get the best out of them. And it means taking a positive, proactive approach to flexible working, with a process built on the presumption that “We will make it work.”