Carolyn Woolley explains her college’s approach to the problem area of recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of maths and English teachers.

Among the many challenges that FE faces, attracting the very best teaching talent is certainly one of them.

There is huge demand for talented teachers across all educational sectors, with a particularly scarce supply of English and maths teachers.

As a major employer in our borough, we are not only in constant competition with other schools and colleges, but with industry too.

It’s ultimately a race as to who can get the best talent as quickly as possible.

As a result, we are always looking for ways to ensure we find, and ultimately attract, the right people to teach and inspire our diverse student community.

There is no doubt that teaching maths and English at our college and indeed many other colleges around the UK, is a great proposition.

By a college’s nature, students have generally chosen to be there, meaning they are keen to learn, listen and develop.

This in turn leads to success and real rewards for both the teacher and student.

Maths and English skills underpin all vocational disciplines and are simply essential for career success in any industry.

Being part of such a crucial element of a student’s learning journey is not only rewarding, but the reason that so many teachers choose to enter the profession in the first place.

Our innovative approach to teaching and learning appeals to many aspiring and/or trained teachers — the development of our maths and English provision, for example, and our continuous focus on securing successful outcomes for learners of all ages and abilities.

A shortage of teaching talent inevitably pushes costs up for a college, which is an additional challenge at a time of real austerity

A shortage of teaching talent inevitably pushes costs up for a college, which is an additional challenge at a time of real austerity across the sector.

However, in my experience, the best individuals are not incentivised by money alone.

A range of non-financial benefits such as a good work-life balance, a secure employer, continuous CPD and flexible working are all an essential part of the ‘package’.

We constantly review our offer, to ensure it remains both appealing and competitive to prospective candidates.

Crucially, teaching at an FE college offers a unique opportunity to move between age groups and develop the skills needed to teach people of varying abilities and with different goals.

This makes for an excellent developmental opportunity, bringing with it the chance for talented individuals to progress quickly and advance a very successful career.

But of course, financial incentives are important too.

These have to be finely balanced with the ever-growing cutbacks our sector is having to make.

At Bromley, we have implemented a range of incentives to help us attract the right staff from both the FE sector and from industry.

As well as top-scale salaries, we also offer an annual £4k R&R allowance, pension scheme, gym membership and generous annual leave scheme together with many other benefits.

For those FE colleges struggling to recruit, particularly in — but not only – maths and English, it is vital to consider what makes you unique, rather than simply trying to compete on pay alone. The consideration has to be how you can improve your offer, or indeed make it more interesting, than your competitors. Look at it from a personal perspective; where would you like to work and where would you take your talent? Money will only ever be one facet of the decision.

Recruitment challenges can be addressed by providing the right working environment, the right leadership and the right package of both financial and non-financial benefits. We must also pull together as a sector and wax lyrical about the many benefits a career in FE can bring.

We all want to feel like we have made a difference as well as advancing our own careers. There is no better place to do this than in FE — an environment which encourages aspiration and changes many lives for the better.

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  1. Mike Cooper

    It would be interesting to hear from Carolyn Woolley (or anyone in a similar or otherwise relevant position/context, for that matter) about the DISincentives connected with teaching English and Maths… and hence, the recruitment issues associated with such a mixture of plusses and minuses.