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Bridge MAT: Enabling schools to regain recruitment control

OpinionPrimary Education
By Heather McLean | 28 March 2017
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Create DateMarch 28, 2017
Last UpdatedMarch 23, 2017
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By  Stephanie Bass, business manager, Bridge Multi Academy Trust.

Teacher absences have always presented challenges for schools. When you couple this with a recruitment crisis, it creates further issues; there won’t always be a staff member available to teach, and gaps cannot simply be filled by a body in the classroom.

Often, schools will be required to approach recruitment agencies to find additional staff members, but this can be inflexible and often involves paying fees and commission every time there is a classroom gap.

Alleviate pressure

So how can schools alleviate the pressure that comes with staffing classrooms in the event of an absence? Bridge Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in Bodmin searched for a way to cut out the middleman. Bridge MAT is a family of primary schools based in the South West, that embrace a universal culture of excellence to ensure each child enjoys a memorable learning experience from a creative curriculum.

With the current teacher recruitment and retention crises, schools have been hiring supply teachers to ensure children continue to receive their education with minimal disruption. However, sourcing supply teachers through agencies has proved a costly process, in terms of time, money and uncertainty.

Also, schools need to know that the supply teachers they bring into the school are well-trained and able to provide good quality lessons in the absence of the class teacher, and when working through an agency, they don’t always know who’s being sent to them.

Rather than solely using an agency, we wanted to manage the process internally, streamlining the process for all our schools without it causing too much of a burden on staff in terms of administration and workloads.

Cutting costs

With the amount of technology available it’s important to research what’s out there. We soon realised there was an app available to help connect schools and supply teachers directly, cutting out the expenses of an agency.

For us, it was important to keep costs and administration as low as possible, so we decided to use TeacherIn to manage the recruitment process. There are no daily commissions or finder’s fees, meaning we can engage teachers for longer term supply without the concern of paying huge amounts. The one-off annual fee is also significantly less than our usual annual recruitment agency total, allowing us to better utilise our budget.

We now have access to a database of local supply teachers and their professional profiles, including their CVs, so that we can see, for example, whether they are experienced in Early Years Foundation Stage, or Key Stages 1 or 2. All teachers have been through an interview and vetting process, including DBS checks, which enables us to quickly identify suitable and available teachers for the schools in our region. This ensures that our lessons can be effectively covered which not only makes it better for our learners but also has a positive impact on the supply teacher coming into school.

Effective options

The good thing about managing the process from start to finish is that we can monitor all cover periods, provide the supply teachers with information and requirements ahead of time and, if needs be, provide them with a range of free continuing professional development (CPD) courses to build their skills and expertise, which we can also access through the app.

While sometimes it seems easier to stick with what you know, there are better and more effective options out there; it just requires a little research. We’re delighted with the process so far and I estimate our schools will save a total of £16,000 this year.

Bridge Multi-Academy Trust opened in November 2013 following an approach from the Department for Education for Wadebridge Primary Academy to sponsor another large primary school in Cornwall. Since then the Trust has grown to include 10 primary schools and is managed from a centrally located office on the Lanhydrock estate just outside Bodmin.