How schools can attract and retain talented teachers


It’s the best job in the world.

It’s the toughest job in the world.


A career educating the next generation is not for the faint of heart and many teachers will agree that both these statements hold equally true.  As many schools now face high levels of teacher turnover and acute shortages in Victoria, throughout the UK and most US statesthe question of what can be done to attract, support and retain valuable staff has become a hot topic in leadership circles.


So when, earlier this week, we stumbled across the U.S-based Twitter discussion, #K12prchat, we were intrigued to learn about some of the best global initiatives to attract and retain teaching talent. There are, of course, countless ways that schools can help teachers feel happy and loyal to their school, with many fresh ideas suggested from staff across the globe.


Culture is key, everyone agreed, and this encompasses a school’s values, mission, expectations and ethics. Schools can develop a strong school-wide culture through team bonding days, dances, scavenger hunts or even just an occasional drink after work. In fact, research from UK app, Teacher Tapp, suggests that teachers in the ‘best’ schools, as ranked by independent inspectors, go for Friday afternoon drinks more often than teachers in other schools.


We’ve already covered the myriad ways that schools can help staff feel valued, but we were intrigued to learn about the wellness committees, yoga sessions, as well as the partnerships with local gyms and chiropractors, in place at some U.S. schools. One contributor mentioned that all new staff at her school receive a ‘swag bag’ with branded laptop bags, clothing and stationery to help them feel part of the community from the first day.


Others stressed that strong communication is paramount to building a cohesive school community. Some favoured informal communications through social media channels – including public celebrations of staff achievements – while others valued a school-wide newsletter. It is critical to share school news and policies with staff ahead of any external stakeholders, said one contributor.


Generally speaking, schools must invest in high quality training, avoid a culture of micromanagement and provide support to all teachers – not just those who have recently qualified, said staff. Even schools on a tight budget can initiate low-cost ‘buddying’ and ‘teacher mentorship’ programmes, to make sure their staff feel professionally supported. Since teaching usually happens away from other adult peers, it’s useful to prioritise regular check-ins with every member of staff, from the newly qualified teachers to the senior leadership team.


In his blog post, ‘How can we retain the best teachers?’, educationalist, David Didau, argues that teachers tend to enter the profession young and unencumbered, but eventually become ‘stretched as they grow older and have kids.’ Didau points to the value of flexible scheduling, suggesting that schools can ‘try to chip away at this issue in small ways, such as giving teachers one late-start morning or early-dismissal afternoon each week’ because ‘these small things are highly valued.’ We couldn’t agree more and produced a free eBook on this topic available for download here.


What do you think? Do we need fundamentally to rethink the culture of education? Can a branded laptop case really make a difference? Could our schools do more to facilitate flexible working for staff? Why not join the conversation @EdvalTimetables.