Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created some challenges for ‘traditional’ recruitment activities, groups in pre-opening have continued to hire new staff. New Schools Network has witnessed a variety innovative recruitment practices, with greater use of digital tools and technology improving the efficiency of the hiring process. In this blog, we illustrate how pre-open groups can build an effective recruitment strategy.

Planning to recruit  

Opening a new school brings exciting opportunities, as well as unique challenges. For free schools in pre-opening, recruiting high calibre staff is essential for the successful opening and delivery of your new school. The team you have during your first year will help to put your school on track to an Outstanding Ofsted rating. 

You could consider:

  • How will future staff members communicate and demonstrate the vision and ethos of the school through their role?
  • Where will you advertise?
  • How will you attract the right candidate?
  • How will you assess the candidates?
  • What skills are you looking for?
  • What is your long-term timeline for staff recruitment?

Principal Designate recruitment

Your Principal Designate will have extensive responsibilities within your school, such as preparing the school for opening and being the spokesperson for the school. Your Education Expert, from the Department for Education (DfE), will work with you to provide advice on job specifications, skills and specialisms and may also be a member on the recruitment panel. You can find more detailed guidance on Principal Designate recruitment here.

If you have already recruited your Principal Designate, don’t forget to direct them to the NSN Hub where they can speak to other free school heads, sharing best practice, experience and resources.

Free school recruitment practices

During our recent virtual event series for Principal Designates, summaries of which can be found on our blog, Heads from existing free schools shared their recruitment tips. These included:

  • Taking time and effort with recruitment - Where recruitment was rushed, appointed staff members typically were not right for the free school.
  • Choose the panel members wisely - A Principal Designate shared that their recruitment panels usually included a variety of roles, such as teaching assistants, the CEO, caretakers etc. This facilitated a more holistic assessment of candidates.
  • Embrace virtual recruitment – you can review the candidate’s teaching by setting up a webcam in their current school or asking them to run on online lesson.
  • Always be involved - One Principal Designate said that they sit on the recruitment panel, no matter what the role is.

Additional considerations

There are many things to consider, both short term and long-term, for the recruitment process.

  • Due diligence – before an appointment is made, the governing body must carry out pre-employment checks and obtain suitable references.
  • Training – for appointment panel members, it is good practice to be appropriately trained in safeguarding; when recruiting staff there needs to be an accountability structure which promotes the welfare of children.
  • Equality Act 2010 and non-discriminatory recruitment practices – schools should ensure that individual pay decisions for all staff are fully complaint with the Equality Act 2010. The school teachers’ pay and conditions guidance may assist you with this.
  • Staff retention – staff retention, well-being and an excellent workplace culture is key to the successful running of the school. You may wish to consult the reducing school workload toolkit to think about staff well-being.

You may also wish to read the DfE’s staffing and employment guidance document for further information on recruitment.

If you require support for your free school, the NSN Delivery Programme is a bespoke support service that can provide personalised products for your project. You can find more information about our support here and you can access NSN’s multiple resources on staff and recruitment here.