Unusual school job advert seeks to put applicants off

'I am grateful for your interest, but I am going to try and discourage you from applying'

'I am grateful for your interest, but I am going to try and discourage you from applying'


A school boss hiring a new senior leader has tried to discourage prospective applicants, telling them in a job advert that heads are “exhausted, worn down and over-stretched”.

Hugh Greenway, the chief executive at The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust (TEFAT), wants candidates to know the “truth” before they consider applying to become its regional director on an annual salary of £110,000.

He has been praised for a “refreshing” approach to “boring, stale and at times lazy” job adverts. But others say it could put off good candidates.

In the advert, Greenway said he was “delighted” applicants were interested in the “challenging but hugely rewarding role. The simple fact that you are considering the position makes you one of the good guys”.

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The position includes oversight of 10 London primary schools with above-average pupil premium numbers and pupils with English as an additional language. TEFAT, which runs 32 schools, is one of the country’s largest primary-school only trusts.

The advert adds: “I am grateful for your interest, but I am going to try and discourage you from applying.”

School leaders are “exhausted, not just from the pressures of keeping their schools open whilst the pandemic ravaged their staffing, but from maintaining their optimism for staff and pupils over the years of continual erosion of funding and support”.

Greenway cites the return to performance tables, parents under stress and heads becoming “responsible for community cohesion, tackling poverty and hunger, supporting mental health issues, dealing with domestic violence and addiction problems”.

Job advert promises ‘support’ for school leader

“[Schools] receive little or no funding, support or recognition. On top of all this they now have to contend with unfunded pay increases and utilities bills spiralling into unaffordability”.

But if they apply, the trust will do “everything in our power to support you, develop you and protect you. Because through you, we make tomorrow a little brighter for our schools and our children.”

Mike Donnelly, the managing director at recruiters Premier Teachers, calls it a “double-edged sword shock advert,” adding: “On one hand it will get read, but on the other it could be overly pessimistic.

“Those leaders at that level know this stuff, they don’t need to be told so it’s shock and interest but could shock and put off too.”

Its tone echoes the mythical Ernest Shackleton ad – the Antarctic explorer who needed men “for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success”.

Similar adverts have picked up attention before.

Ladybridge Preschool, in Bolton, was praised last year for saying candidates must be able to “read a book upside down”, while warning that they could expect to be covered in “unknown substances”. “Eyes in the back of your head” was also of “utmost importance”.

The nursery was “inundated” with applications.

Recruitment ‘incredibly articificial’

Greenway told Schools Week recruitment was “incredibly artificial” as “so many job adverts begin with ‘an exciting opportunity has arisen’.”

He wanted to speak “truth to power” after a “decade of massive educational pressures”, but acknowledged it could put some candidates off. They should probably not be doing the job.

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“You need to go in with open eyes, knowing it will be hard and, at times, even painful, and still want to do it. Because on other days you can make a difference”

Leora Cruddas, the chief executive at the Confederation of School Trusts, said the advert reflected “the difficult realities facing school and trust leaders”.

“He expresses this with admirable honesty, but also with hope – which will perhaps capture the imagination of candidates.”

Marios Georgiou, the chairman at recruiters Step Teachers Ltd, said creativity and personalisation was essential as “there has never been so many job adverts”.

Analysis by vacancy website TeachVac found 1,450 leadership adverts were placed between January and July this year – up 78 per cent from the 811 during the same period in 2021.

Kimberley Evans, a teacher wellbeing specialist, said it was “a refreshing approach to recruitment … which over time has been boring, stale and at times, lazy”.

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  1. Reminds me of Roy Brookes Estate Agent in the 1970s. They used similar off-putting adverts to sell houses in North London featuring all the negative points. Marketing is about being noticed. People cannot decide whether to apply if they don’t know the job exists, and with stiff competition finding a way to stand out is key. I once recall advising a governing body to mention the nearness of the then new Jubilee Tube line in their advert for a headteacher. However, TeachVac signs up teachers and school leaders and can offer assessments about the state of the local job market. some vacancies are easier to fill than others.

  2. This is obviously working on the ‘any PR is good PR’ theory, and I agree that far to many adverts are the same and far too optimistic.
    On the other hand there’s an easy alternative – say and give evidence of why you’re a great employer and how you are working to support people. That’s assuming you are and do.