Recruitment and retention

How taster days are helping us tackle the recruitment crisis

There’s no room for complacency in attracting new talent to our classrooms, writes Kaye Patrick, and our taster days are already having an impact

There’s no room for complacency in attracting new talent to our classrooms, writes Kaye Patrick, and our taster days are already having an impact

6 Dec 2022, 5:00

It’s in the context of a recruitment and retention crisis that Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) has launched its teacher taster days to showcase what the profession really entails to prospective teachers.

With a fall in initial teacher training (ITT) applications and a mild and tenuous improvement in early-career retention, schools and trusts need to work creatively to attract applicants and ensure their trainees are well supported. The aim of our taster days is to provide aspiring teachers with an immersive experience of what it takes to teach in a local school.

A whole-team effort

As a first step, it’s important to ensure the headteachers and subject leaders at each school are fully on board and understand the benefits of providing this unique experience. The opportunity to showcase their bespoke career opportunities and the impact they are making on their local communities has proved a strong incentive for our academy leads.

As the majority of the experience is built around participants’ chosen subjects, we work closely with subject leaders to identify which lessons are best for visitors. Additionally, subject leaders support us in identifying members of staff who can inspire prospective trainees – including current early-career teachers (ECTs).

To ensure our academies get the most out of these experiences, we plan each visit around the needs of the department, which includes ensuring the lessons participants take part in offer a genuine sense of what the job involves and real insight into the breadth of the curriculum.

Our taster days also include ‘teach meet’ lunches with students. We work with our subject leads to identify in advance which of them are best placed to take part in these, ensuring the day runs smoothly and students feel well prepared to answer participants’ questions.

Getting the ball over the line

We want to ensure this opportunity is open and accessible to everyone who is interested in training to be a teacher. This means promoting the taster days through local media as well as social media and ‘get into teaching’ events, with an emphasis that anyone from any background and age is encouraged to apply.

Local media engagement has already resulted in a number of expressions of interest. These include  people looking for a second career, like the local designer interested in exploring what a career in teaching design and technology might hold. This is precisely the breadth of engagement we were aiming for in introducing the initiative.

We also received positive feedback from current university students who are keen to engage in an ‘on-the-ground’ experience day. This has particularly appealed to those who are looking to get into teaching but are unsure whether to pursue primary or secondary.

Finally, flexibility is a core part of ensuring we are reaching as many prospective teachers as possible. University students and employees alike have other commitments, so we offer separate work experience placements and visits for those who are interested but can’t attend a taster day.

Converting the try 

Providing support following these taster days is imperative to ensuring the initiative is having maximum impact. Therefore, at the end of each taster day we hold a Q&A session to answer queries about applying to teach, and to direct prospective trainees to the Ormiston and Keele SCITT application form.

We also support each participant with bespoke guidance on how best to complete the application, as well as tips for writing their personal statement. This is an opportunity to showcase from the outset how our academies offer holistic development support at each step of our employees’ careers, and helps to paint a picture of where a career in teaching can take them.

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding career and the best pitch for it is to let it sell itself. The recruitment and retention crisis is an opportunity to rethink how we attract applicants to our schools, who they are, where they are from, and how we will look after them once they join us. Complacency certainly isn’t an option, and our taster days show – above all – that we are keen to do that work.

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