Everyone who works in education is driven by the wish to improve the life chances of young people and help them reach their full potential. Recruiting recent graduates into our schools is something that everyone benefits from. The growth of MAT-run teacher-training programmes is helping to address the need for a national pipeline of talent in schools.
Yet, with the stalling of graduate schemes such as the civil service fast stream, it is perhaps even more essential now that, as employers, we keep up our commitment to providing meaningful opportunities to those leaving university and wishing to make a contribution to civil society through their career choices.
At United Learning, we’ve found that our recruitment needs go beyond the classroom and we require a small but steady stream of graduates joining our central support functions.
We created our Graduate Scheme in 2019 with a first cohort of two graduates starting that September. We have since run the scheme annually recruiting more graduates and developing further the opportunities and experience they gain through placements in our central teams. Colleagues in the first cohort, who completed the two-year scheme in July 2021, were appointed to permanent roles. Those who have joined since have been doing equally well and we look forward to continuing and developing the scheme in the years to come.
Growing our own non-teaching talent is a vital part of our strategy for serving our schools with excellent support functions such as finance, HR, estates, policy development and project management. Alongside professionals with specific qualifications and expertise in these areas, we need professional support staff who are more generally qualified with excellent interpersonal and organisational skills and who understand and are committed to working with the specific challenges and opportunities of the schools’ sector.
Feedback from our heads and senior leaders demonstrates how much they appreciate being able to call on a strong central services function, not least because it allows them to focus on providing excellent education within their schools. During Covid, our ability to provide central support and advice on all the non-teaching aspects of handling the pandemic freed up our schools to focus on teaching, learning and adapting advice to what was specifically needed at a very local level.
So as a group we significantly benefit from the injection of bright, talented, energetic and committed people who can learn from the ground up for two years, before deciding where they want to specialise. This results in new employees who are well-versed in our culture, who understand how the organisation works and are able to make an immediate impact on the quality of the support the centre provides our schools.
Likewise, from a diversity and inclusion perspective, having a cadre of recent graduates ensures we have contributions from individuals who think differently and have had different experiences to many of their colleagues in our central team.
And, whilst our hope would be that each of our graduates develops their career within our Group, the core skills and experience they are gaining with us set them up brilliantly for any future career in consultancy, organisational management or the specialisms in which they gain experience.
The scale of our Graduate Programme will never be the same as our teacher recruitment; indeed we need only one for every 75-100 graduates we recruit for teaching. But, as the need for specialist support for schools grows – so that Heads and staff can focus on what they do best – the firm establishment of a career in practical as well as strategic Educational Support is fast becoming a reality. And will quickly become a necessity.