It's All About The Teacher

Issue 79

Most people can remember one or two teachers who particularly inspired and motivated them during their time at school. It may be they conveyed enthusiasm for their subject or perhaps they devoted time to support pupils, helping them believe in themselves and achieve success

At the recent funeral of a long-serving former member of RGS staff, it was impressive how many alumni attended and it really made one realise how, across the course of their career, this individual had positive impact on the lives of so many people. The challenge for any school is to recruit people like this.

The spring term is very much the recruiting season for schools as they try to ensure that they have found all the teachers that they will need for September. This may be recruiting to replace long standing staff who are retiring or (perhaps) filling gaps left by those who have secured a job elsewhere. In the independent sector, teachers typically have to give a term’s notice which means that, as far as possible, appointments need to be made by Easter so, as in any year, we have been interviewing recently.

As in any industry, the recruitment process can be time consuming; creating the advertisement, reading applications, shortlisting and interviewing. However, recruiting is something I prioritise as this is what creates the future of the school’s community and finding the right person for a post will determine the success of the next generation of pupils. I enjoy meeting candidates, hearing about what inspired them to teach and understanding how they interact with our young people to ensure learning takes place. I also want to understand the broader contribution they will make to the school’s community. At the RGS, we expect teachers to do far more than just teach their subject. We make it very clear that they should contribute across the full range of academic, pastoral and co-curricular activity. A teacher has to radiate excitement for their subject and quality of teaching is always the starting point but great teachers also care about the wellbeing of pupils, act as role models and commit to engaging in the wider life of the school. Will they coach a sports team or direct a drama production? Perhaps they will help with the outdoors programme, take a service activity or lead a debating club? This is an opportunity for people to share their enthusiasm for activities that not only allow the teacher to see pupils outside the classroom environment but also allow children to see the teacher in a different light.

The question I typically ask when making a final appointment decision after interviewing shortlisted candidates is: “Who is most likely to inspire and motivate our pupils?” Getting this right is perhaps the most important decision we will make for the benefit of our young people. Often the ability to inspire and motivate has little correlation with length of experience or even quality of degree. We regularly recruit a mix of Early Careers Teachers and those who have taught for quite a number of years. As each successive cohort of teachers arrives, it will be our responsibility to ensure that they are properly inducted and given the support and training they need to do their job well both in and outside the classroom. There is also real satisfaction when this support helps a teacher’s career to develop and they receive a promotion, whether internally or through stepping up to a role in another school. To quote the first headmaster I worked for, “This demonstrates the strength of our common room.” While finding the right person who will inspire and motivate can be challenging, we are lucky that there are some wonderful teachers already in the North East and we also find that many people who grew up in the region want to return. Each and every one of them has an important part to play in helping to raise aspirations and attainment across the region

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