Warning over looming recruitment crisis in Suffolk schools

Some schools in Suffolk are closed today because of coronavirus Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ ISTOCKPHOTO M

There is concern over attracting more people to work in schools in the future - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A recruitment crisis for frontline school staff may be looming as the sector is unable to meet home working demands, a Suffolk education meeting has heard.

Suffolk County Council’s education scrutiny committee meeting last week heard that schools had traditionally been seen as family-friendly jobs for frontline workers like teaching assistants and support staff because their work day was aligned with those of their children.

But Northgate High School’s headteacher Rowena Mackie raised fears that the desire for home or hybrid working from the Covid-19 pandemic could see fewer people drawn to those jobs in future.

“The challenge still to come is actually a real recruitment issue in the future,” she told the committee.

“That is something that as a school leader I worry about very much, about where we are going to get our support staff and our teaching staff so that we can offer the best for our young people, because that is an issue that might not necessarily be bubbling up today but it is certainly something that is in our near future I would think.

“We are finding in our sector it very difficult to recruit to support staff roles and our support staff roles are really important, for example pastoral care, teaching assistant roles, our student facing and front facing roles.

“We are finding it very difficult because of low pay and also because schools cannot necessarily offer a remote working arrangement.

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“I think the tide has turned where schools might have been seen as a family-friendly organisation for people to work in because you could work school hours, possibly have school holidays with your children.

“Now we have got a whole level of employees who can, probably quite rightly, say actually I want my flexible work arrangements, finish early or start late, and those sorts of things.

“I can’t believe we are the only school struggling in that regard, and more widely it is known in the forecasting data that the DfE undertakes that we are at a crisis point, or soon to be at a crisis point, around teaching in schools.”

National research indicated that teaching assistants had been among the job roles facing the biggest shortages during the pandemic, and entry level posts can range between £14,000 and £18,000.

Many employers of office-based jobs have begun offering longer term or permanent arrangements for hybrid or home working, after the Covid-19 lockdowns forced people to quickly switch to new working practices.