Coronavirus: Be 'flexible' on resignations to avoid recruitment blockage, schools told

Schools should be “flexible” over staff resignation dates to ensure there’s not a “deficit of teachers” unable to move this year, with leaders urged to conduct interviews online.

Education unions say schools should not be conducting face-to-face interviews amid the coronavirus outbreak, and instead should consider managing applications and interviews virtually.

In this difficult period, there will need to be an element of flexibility all round

This has come at what is usually a busy recruitment time. Resignation dates for staff starting in September, followed by most schools, are set through the burgundy book. Headteachers must hand in their notice by April 30, and the deadline for other staff is May 31.

However, unions have ruled out changing the notice periods and are instead encouraging schools to be flexible around late resignations.

They are in talks with the government over support to ensure there’s not a deficit of teachers or leaders, who have been unable to move around the system, in the autumn term.

Julie McCulloch, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the current situation presented a “significant challenge, particularly because recruitment is already difficult as a result of national teacher shortages”.

She added employers will need to decide whether to continue with recruitment processes if they feel that it can be done in a “meaningful and fair way” through technology and video interviews, adding that ASCLE believes school leaders will find a robust process.

Helen Stevenson, a multi-academy trust chair of trustees and director of education leadership recruitment consultancy Satis Education, said the only issue with tech-based interviews is the lack of engagement with pupils, which is traditionally part of the selection process.

Stevenson has used online interviews to longlist clients, but is working to find out for whom technology can be used in the final stages.

Joint guidance published this week by education unions, the Local Government Association and the National Governance Association states there will be disruption to the recruitment and resignation processes for schools governed or using the burgundy book.

However, it states the “extent of the impact will vary from school to school and therefore we do not believe that there should be any changes to the notice periods”.

“In this difficult period, there will need to be an element of flexibility all round. We would encourage schools to have a flexible response, if it appears that teachers and leaders are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and submit a resignation outside of the normal timeframe.”

They add that any employees looking to resign or retire should provide the governing boards or senior leadership teams with “as much notice as possible” and stay within the standard notice dates.

The LGA said they were “confident” the industry was working together to be flexible. But they added school closures will “undoubtedly” cause significant disruption to notice periods, adding it will be “inevitably be limited” on what schools can do with virtual applications and interviews.

A spokesperson added: “The ongoing uncertainty for the country may also mean some teachers decide that now is not the right time to seek employment and some schools may decide to delay advertising vacancies.”

SchoolDash, which monitors teacher recruitment by analysing school websites, has seen a “big decline” in activity.

Founder Timo Hannay said that up until March 13 there were higher levels of activity than during the same period last year. However, they are now about 60 per cent down on job advertisements compared to last year.

He said: “If this proves to be more than a short-term blip, which seems likely in the face of school closures, it may have an effect on school staffing when the new academic year begins in September.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the situation will pose a “challenge”, but said “all job offers already made and resignations will need to be honoured.”

The Department for Education said it will trust schools to use their judgment in implementing online interviews or choosing to delay them.