Effective recruitment and retention of teaching staff within a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) – Management consultancy in action?

“It is widely accepted that the quality of teachers is one of the most important factors in improving our education system.” House of Commons Education Committee (2012)

I’m currently crafting a proposal for my MBA consultancy project focussing on recruitment and retention of teachers and how a management consultancy approach can drive change and improvement, and make substantial financial savings too.


Effective Schools understand the importance of recruiting and retaining high calibre staff and try and manage their retention, this can be difficult and limited in scope due to the organisational constraints of schools – regulations that limit incentivised payments and limited professional development or in school opportunities for career progression. Each year if a school stopped one member of staff moving or extended their stay they could save, £6,00-£12,000. For a school who has an average staff turnover of 10-30% (5-10 teachers) this could equate to annual cost/saving of £20,000 – £120,000.

“Almost 84% of school leaders reported that they were experiencing unprecedented challenges in recruiting teachers”, and this is set to continue. Key insights noted that school leaders are, “finding teacher recruitment and retention tricky, … they, and governors, expect to be their greatest challenge for the next 12-18 months”

To allow schools to better manage their affairs Government have created the Academy, publicly funded independent schools. Academies have considerable autonomy for operational and strategic management with a focus on driving up standards. Currently 25% of schools are academies and the government’s aspiration is for all school to join a Multi Academy Trust (MATs) by 2022 costing over £1.0 billion, Replacing the role of the LA and provide the management, infrastructure and HR services.

Academies as autonomous charitable ‘businesses’ are able to write their own HR policies, negotiate their own pay and conditions and have considerable flexibility in managing recruitment and retention of staff. For example, one Academy I worked in the Principal was able to offer overseas teachers a loan to purchase a car to help them commuting and travel and to pay staff incentives without being bound by custom or regulations. However, the NAHT survey of school leaders, “found that despite the greater flexibilities that academies have in terms of offering pay and conditions, they struggle just as much to recruit” and few are using these powers effectively.

It is argued that by adopting more ‘creative’ recruitment and retention process MATs could make considerable financial savings, particularly important with reducing school budgets and real term savings by as much as 10% per annum as well as improving the retention and moral of staff; But where do schools find new innovative and creative solutions?

In business, there is a historic acceptance and use of external consultants to manage change and improvement. In education the culture is more of a ‘consultocracy’, whereby elite and influential networks of consultants (SIPs, LA advisers, National Strategy Consultants) have been able to obtain a dominant position within education and do the governments bidding. Where these approaches have fallen down has been the lack of understanding of the consultant-client relationship and the split loyalty to the consultocracy and the client school. What is needed is a more pragmatic and dynamic management consultancy approach taken from business and tailored to the needs of schools.

Management consultancy is the creation of value for organisations through the application of knowledge, techniques, assets, to improve performance. This is achieved through the rendering of objective advice and/or the rendering of business solutions

It could be argued that within education we could adopt a management consultancy framework to support change and improvement, but it is essential that there is a clear client-consultant framework focussing on the needs of the organisation. As an MBA student, this field within education is in its infancy and I have proposed that to make the possible savings and have lasting impact it is essential that a new methodology and approach is used that blends best practice from business with experience and understanding of the educational sector. In terms of recruitment and retention of teachers there is a human resource management approach (business) but this needs to be tempered and adjusted through an understanding of the educational profession.

As part of my MBA consultancy project I’m looking at working with MAT’s to see how management consultancy can support school improvement particularly focusing on recruitment and retention of teachers.

The objectives and deliverables of this consultancy project will be to provide the Multi Academy Trust:

  • A detailed analysis of current recruitment and analysis process
  • A detailed analysis of teaching staff views and attitudes to recruitment and retention
  • An options report on possible strategies and approaches to make recruitment more effective (processes and cost savings)
  • An options report on possible strategies and approaches to make retention of staff more effective and sustainable.

So if you have any thoughts or suggestions on this project or leading a MAT and would like to be involved please let me know. I’ll be posting updates as the project develops!


Mastering your Cats, Dogs and Pets

I have loved paddling since I first went on the water at 11 years old as a scout. At university I spent a lot of time paddling – doing canoe polo, fun recreation – but most of all Whitewater paddling, the bigger the better.

As you get older and have breaks from a sport your skills do fade as well as your confidence. In 2015 I have set a goal to be a Whitewater coach again – something I did in the military years ago but with all the regulations etc now a must have if you want to take people on white water. Hence over the last 2-3 years I have been developing my white water skills to do the assessment this year. Having done the training my biggest barrier is getting time on the water to redevelop my own paddling skills so that I’m confident on grade III/IV water.

I therefore enrolled on a white-water course in January, in Devon. At the time, the Dart was in full flood and I had a real ‘epic’ having my canoe-roll fail me and then having to bail out and swim; Being held in the ‘dish-washer’ going round and round and only just managing to pull myself out; A bit scary. This really sapped my confidence to the point that on the following day I really did not want to go paddle – I did manage to coax myself back onto the water and had another go, on the same river, getting back on the horse so to speak, was not a comfortable experience.

Now I had already enrolled on to an advanced Whitewater paddling course at Plas-Y-Brenin over half-term (February), so there was no backing out. I arrived very demoralised and willing to quit, I know I had the skills to do advanced white water stuff but my confidence was very low.

On the first day after meeting Pete and Chris the coaches, both national coaches, and a great team of fellow paddlers, I decided to give it a go, take each day at a time.

The first day on the Dee (grade II water) was challenging but Pete, perceptively, introduced me to the concept of cats and dogs. The dog is your skills – you can train your dog, develop skills and learn new tricks – I was good at that. However, as Pete pointed out, your confidence was like a cat – if you scare it away it will not want to come back unless you do some serious coaxing. Clearly, I was good at developing the ‘dog’ but had tormented and scared off the cat with my ‘epic’ a few weeks previously, and it did not want to come back any time soon.

Obviously if I did not pamper, coax, and slowly nurture my ‘cat’ I was not going to be making progress, I would be surviving each day but not thriving. Over the next week we spent time doing a variety of things.


Skill development on a range of grade II-IV water (River Dee, chain bridge, serpents tale)



Steep Creeking down a 30 foot fall.

Loved this.



Upper Conwy grade III river run and the Afon Llugwy grade II-IV (Cobdens falls)



By the end of the week I had managed to coax my ‘cat’ to have some fun and developed my ‘dog’ tricks – I was definitely happy and smiling like a Cheshire cat. Interestingly the take away development point from Pete was to work on all my ‘pets’ as Pete called them – particularly my rolling skills in different situations, still a barrier to further development as a white water coach I think.

All in all, a great week with some exceptional coaches who were very supportive, perspective and encouraging. I’ll definitely be paying the extra for future courses at Plas-Y-Brenin

Once I do my whitewater coach in April I think I might look at developing my sea kayaking skills with a plan to paddle around Anglesea in 2019/20!

Want to join me?

Finally, we all have our own ‘epics’ that can create self-doubt and crash our confidence, even the best of us. What this has shown me is the power of a great coach who can make all the difference to helping you master your ‘dog’ and taming your ‘cat’. Ultimately Improving your performance.

Improving standards for teachers’ professional development

In July 2016 the Department for Education (DfE) published the “Standard for teachers’ professional development”. The expert group noted that, “Effective professional development for teachers is a core part of securing effective teaching. It cannot exist in isolation, rather it requires a pervasive culture of scholarship with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that pupils benefit from the highest quality teaching.”

As a teacher and deliver of professional development for schools I must admit that the classic model of delivering single day activities has not been effective.  “Evidence suggests that a one-day course as a stand-alone activity without a specific focus is unlikely to have a lasting impact on pupil outcomes.” The most participants seem to get out of it is a nice lunch, time to network and some new ideas. sadly once they are back into the fray of the classroom little impact is achieved.

Reviewing feedback from my development courses over many years shows that the model that has the biggest impact are those that are sustained over time, involves collaboration and support. As such a “professional development programme” approach that involves many activities designed to sustain and embed practice, including, individual and collaborative teacher activity but essentially expert input who acts as coach, mentor, guide.

The importance of professional development is fundamentally important and must ultimately make a difference to the young people we educate. As such I have reviewed the DofE standards and developed a range of programmes that focus on supporting and developing teachers through a model of face-2-face meetings, mentoring and coaching to have impact both in their own practice but across their school.

All my programmes are three-four months in duration and consist of ½ day face-2-face meetings that provide the support and guidance required to develop participants, intercessional tasks to ensure application of skills and opportunities to reflect, develop. Ultimately each programme will help participants to develop and implement a whole school improvement strategy.

Participants will be supported and guided by a very experienced mentor/coach who is a Specialist Leader in Education for science.

Department of Education Standard for teachers’ professional development

This is an exciting time for Professional Development, the barrier might be the marketing of this approach to schools who are so use to sending teachers on a ‘day out’ to improve, or, because of previous experience, not supportive of CPD..

Programmes I have developed:

  • Developing the role of the science subject leader
  • Developing whole school assessment in primary science
  • Effective Teaching and Learning in science
  • Developing a whole school science curriculum

Find out more: www.tvsn.uk