why nurturing teachers and strengthening leadership is a must

The rise in numbers of school children and a lack of teachers to support this new cohort of pupils has meant that schools are finding themselves increasingly understaffed. So what can schools do to strengthen their leadership model and support the teachers they have to develop their classroom practice? 

Keren Prior, a qualified secondary science teacher and head of education services at EES for Schools, discusses how schools can develop their leadership model and ethos to ensure all members of staff are supported and motivated. 

There is no denying the importance of teachers. A good teacher not only relaysknowledge and information, but inspires pupils, fostering a lifelong love of learningamong their class. The majority of teachers cite the actual teaching of pupils, the imparting of knowledge, as the most fulfilling and enjoyable part of their job. Whilst teaching pupils provides rewards, teachers also require ongoing support from within the school in order to motivate and involve them in further learning, which in turn sustains learning within the classroom to make it engaging and exciting for the pupils. 

Strengthening and securing a transparent approach to staff development is one way in which schools can be proactive in retaining high-quality teaching staff.  Schools need an effective people management plan in place that recognises the importance of all staff and offers a strong development and support plan for teachers, either embedded within their school development plan or as a complimentary staffing plan. 

The basis of the plan should identify the contribution of every member of staff to the school, including their responsibilities and accountabilities. It should include succession planning for key roles and identify the training needs of staff to be able to fulfil those roles moving forward as ‘growing your own’ staff will become more and more necessary in the current climate. It also ensures that plans are in place for every eventuality, including staffing gaps that cause unnecessary disruption to learning, so that pupils and teachers alike experience minimal disruption during these occasions. As part of the plan, effective performance management comes into place. This ensures all members of staff are allocated line managers, with whom they can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and then create a detailed long-term plan for their development. This supports teachers’ independence when it comes to their own practice and shows them that the school values their capabilities as a teacher, and is committed to providing the necessary support and encouragement to enable them to grow within the profession..

It also allows for under performance to be swiftly addressed. Line managers and teachers can also discuss, agree, and then set clear objectives for pay progression, ensuring the process is transparent for both the school and teacher.

Nurture teachers 

The plan should also include regular opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD), linked to both the teacher’s and school’s development, and should be accounted for in the school’s annual budget.  

Providing current staff with regular CPD opportunities, relating to the latest developments in education, is a step in the right direction when it comes to retaining staff. It shows them that they’re a valued member of the team, working as a part of a professional learning community where their continued professional improvement is a prerogative. 

Opportunities for CPD take many forms including coaching, mentoring, in-school training, attendance at courses and conferences or through online training sessions. However, to improve learning within the classroom, this should always focus on developing knowledge of subjects and how pupils learn them, and should empower teachers to be inventive with their teaching methods. Peer observation and regular discussions enable teachers to share their practices and identify areas where they’d be interested in learning more in order to develop further. Providing regular opportunities for staff to share and discuss their own practice is one of the simplest ways to improve what happens within the classroom, as good professional development is always collaborative and evidence-led.

The impact of CPD should be systematically tracked, with a focus on the effect on pupil learning, to ensure that the needs of both pupils and staff are met. A long-term approach to CPD is favoured over a short-term implementation of ideas, as it gives teachers the time and space to embed developments effectively into their practice whilst also enabling them to keep evaluating the impact, in order to keep improving and developing further. 

The most effective teachers 

When it comes to people management, recruiting new staff plays a significant part in this strategy. The staffing structure and responsibilities of staff need to be regularly reviewed and aligned to the schools’ development plan, with cover strategies, retention and turnover and plan succession being a part of this review process.

During recruitment, schools need to evaluate their short-term and long-term staffing needs, so that any gaps can be filled appropriately. When recruiting, schools should openly disclose the aims and ethos of the school, the qualities and qualifications they are looking for, and the requirements of the role. Potential teachers need to be fully aware of the responsibilities and, as with any other job, they need to like and trust the working environment. By openly discussing the position, only the most suitable candidates, that are best-prepared and have the best skills, qualifications, potential, and experience where necessary, are considered for the position.  

Once positions have been offered, schools must maintain a continuous and open dialogue with staff during and beyond the induction processes, providing the support and resources needed, including regular continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. When teachers are encouraged to keep developing professionally and are a valued member within their working environment, their passion for teaching is upheld, motivating them to improve and achieve in their profession.

Stay resilient 

Whilst the education sector may be unsettled and experiencing significant changes, schools can steady themselves and remain buoyant by strengthening their staff model. All teachers are an important part of the professional learning community, so schools need to ensure that the people within the school environment are managed and supported properly. Having a CPD plan in place that recognises the importance of nurturing teachers’ professional development and implements regular opportunities for teachers to progress ensures that schools are always prepared, teachers are recognised as valuable assets to the school, and the needs of the pupils remain a priority.