Affinity Workforce: putting data at the heart of teacher workforce planning

Amanda Webb, Strategic Relationship Director (Education) from Affinity Workforce, talks to QA Education about the skills shortage within teaching and how to get a better visibility and understanding of staff:

The skills shortage within teaching is having a profound impact on the ability of schools and academies to drive performance in the classroom. Head teachers and senior leaders are all feeling the pinch, caught up in a never-ending battle to get teachers in to fill vacancies, and often having to compromise on the right skills, qualifications and cultural fit, simply to ensure they have enough bodies to keep the lights on.

It’s a challenging time and there are no easy answers. We need more qualified teachers and we need to do better at looking after and retaining the teachers we do have.

However, one area where I think our industry could do better, and that could help schools and academies to overcome the teaching skills shortage, is in strategic use of workforce data to get better visibility and understanding of teaching resources.

Recent research which Affinity Workforce carried out showed the extent to which senior leaders in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) struggle to develop meaningful plans for workforce management and recruitment due to the complete lack of data they are able to access. More than two thirds (69%) say that they lack the data they need to drive change in how they recruit and manage teaching staff.  Amanda Webb, Strategic Relationship Director (Education) from Affinity Workforce

Many schools and MATs do not regularly review key workforce metrics, such as employee performance, expenditure on supply teachers and leadership pipeline. Worryingly, a quarter of schools and MATs don’t even measure the overall cost of recruitment each year or their rate of staff turnover.

This inability to make informed, data-driven decisions represents a major hurdle to any school or MAT looking to improve their current teacher recruitment and retention activity.

However, based on conversations I’ve had recently, it seems that senior leaders within education are now really waking up to the power of data as a means to achieve better decision-making in workforce management, both in the immediate and long-term. 

One example of this is Tim Coulson, Chief Executive of Samuel Ward Academy Trust, who summed up the power of data rather neatly. He said, “By taking the time to understand the data and spot patterns, we can start to be more forward-thinking and proactive in our planning, save time and reduce costs.” And that’s it in a nutshell – it’s simply about tracking data (and the technology is now available to make this easy), analysing it and using it to make better decisions. We’re helping numerous schools and academies to do it, and it’s having a big impact.

Encouragingly, our research showed that 95% of senior leaders recognise that having greater visibility of their entire workforce would help to drive high performance in their establishment, and that improving their workforce planning and recruitment strategy is their number one recruitment objective during 2018/19.

So, whilst it’s certainly not the silver bullet that we all wish we had to solve the crisis within teaching, more strategic use of data within workforce planning could and should be helping schools and MATs to improve their teacher recruitment and retention, and to drive performance. It’s time to put data at the heart of workforce management.

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