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Taking the stress out of hiring locums

Published on 25th November 2016

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Find out how a supply teacher agency can hire locum school staff on your behalf

One of the many key roles for headteachers is the recruitment of staff and, like in any other company or organisation, it can be one of the most difficult tasks to get right.

Some headteachers delegate the recruitment of staff to other senior members of the team, but as it is such a vital component of the smooth running of the school, many heads work with governors and senior colleagues to recruit new staff and deploy them effectively.

Most schools have protocols and procedures for employing permanent members of staff that have been moderated over the years to become useful tools for interviewing and selecting new teachers and school staff.

However, it can be a whole different ball game when it comes to recruiting locum staff and supply teachers. All the same boxes have to be ticked as when recruiting permanent staff, but you might only need a teaching assistant to cover a two-day stint while a permanent TA is on a course and it feels like the recruitment process will take longer than the locum is actually needed for! This is where an agency can help.

Recruiting locum school staff

In England, Scotland and Wales there are four main sources of supply teachers:

  • pools of supply teachers maintained by a local authority (LA)
  • the school’s own external contacts
  • part-time teachers working at the institution or locally who are willing, temporarily, to work extra hours
  • employment businesses and agencies

The number of local authority pools has reduced over the years with many authorities having either abandoned them or tendered the service to an agency. And when you look at the whole recruitment process, you can see why some schools are happy to hand over the selection of locum staff to a supply agency.

The whole selection process can be time consuming and labour intensive. Some schools insist on going through the ordeal themselves but many busy schools do not have the time to go through the recruitment process for a supply teacher they may use three times a year. Yet at the same time they need to ensure the supply teacher or locum teaching assistant is qualified, experienced, CRB checked and is able to work in the UK as well as fit in with the school’s ethos and have the necessary skills for the role in hand.

Recruiting involves advertising, collecting responses, sifting through applications and short-listing and that is before you have decided on the format of the interview and how you are going to ‘test’ the applicants to ensure a good fit at your school. Time needs to be allocated for the interview process and aligning diaries between the interviewees in itself can be a headache. Then there are the interviews themselves to conduct… and potentially second interviews.

Once a candidate is selected there is then the endless realms of paper work ensuring you have got all the necessary documentation including proof of identity, permission to work in the country, health checks, proof of qualifications, references, employment history, and criminal record checks.

Using a supply agency

Many schools are now turning to supply teacher agencies for their locum needs to capitalise on their experience and save time.

Benefits include:

  • Supply agencies save you time
  • They are experts in the field of recruitment
  • Agents work with you to find out your requirements to ensure they find the best matches for your school
  • Agencies have huge networks of locum teachers and teaching staff
  • They can usually act quickly on your behalf as many will have staff already on their books ready to work
  • They will go through all the paper-work for you
  • They can ensure all the vital documents and checks are in place
  • They can interview on your behalf
  • They will only send you potential supply teachers who meet your criteria
  • If the locum who was going to work for you is sick or unavailable, the agency can arrange for a replacement ensuring the smooth running of your school.

Some headteachers may be put off using agencies as they do not want to be taking frequent telephone calls from ‘pushy’ and over-zealous agents. However, there are some high calibre, reputable locum agencies who will provide good-quality teachers and teaching staff with the right skills and attitude but without the pushy approach and tsunami of phone calls.

It is wise to do your homework when looking for an agency to supply your locum school staff. Some agencies such as Tripod Partners Education pride themselves on a ‘non-pushy’ approach so it is worthwhile looking at what agencies have on offer and what they can provide for you. Also don’t be afraid to stipulate how this arrangement can work best for you such as stipulating what time of day is best to receive phone calls and who should be the point of contact within the school.

Read more about key things to look for when recruiting a locum teacher or teaching assistant.

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