A new normal? Staff recruitment, retention and development during a crisis.
TIC Director, Andrew Wigford, is an ex international Headteacher and has 15 years experience in international teaching and leadership recruitment. Recently, he was involved in a webinar hosted by Fieldwork Education. The webinar raised important discussions on how we’re entering a ‘new normal’ when it comes to Education and specifically; staff recruitment, retention and development. Here we discuss Andrew’s comments in further detail.
What is the current situation?
Normally at this time of year we would be dealing with hundreds of late vacancies from around the world, but this year it is much quieter. May is usually the month when schools often realise they need to employ extra staff because enrolment has increased, but at the moment very few schools know what their enrolment is likely to be next year. Many are expecting it to decrease, in fact, as a direct effect of the global crisis and job losses. Therefore, many schools have put their recruitment on hold. They are not able to recruit any new teachers, so we have seen a reduction in the numbers of vacancies that we would usually expect this time of year.
The other issue that schools face at the moment is in relation to work visas. Many schools dare not employ any new staff because they cannot guarantee they will get them visas. As we know, due to COVID-19 many countries have closed their borders and they are not issuing work visas. Even in countries where the situation is relaxing, we find that visa offices everywhere are tightening up or have slowed down to a halt. In addition to this, many countries still have their airports closed so even if they have a visa, new teachers may have to wait to know their travel plans. In fact, many schools are preparing teachers for the fact that their few weeks in their new school may happen virtually only.
Can I still apply to teach overseas?
There are some schools still recruiting though (maybe because they have very reliable local student population) and I can honestly say that they are getting the pick of some great candidates right now. We are working with schools across the Middle East, Russia, China, Italy, France, a few countries in Africa as well as some schools in the Far East.
One thing we have noticed however is that there are not as many candidates applying for jobs right now. Normally our database sees about 100 new registrations a week but this has been reduced to about half, and they are mainly teachers in existing international school looking for their next move. The biggest drop has been in first timers, teachers from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada NZ, South Africa or Australia looking to go overseas for the first time. Teachers tell us they want to stay where they are until they know more about how the crisis will unfold.
In addition to this, we have noticed is that there a lot of teachers who are more nervous than usual about their next move. Those that have secured a new job complain that they don’t feel prepared and that their school is not giving them the information they need to make plans. They want to still keep looking even though they have signed a contract, because they don’t know they will get a visa in time. This is of course a problem for both the teacher and the school; it’s not the school’s fault – but some can certainly do a much better job at keeping their teacher informed.
How are current international teachers finding it?
This uncertainty is taking its toll on current staff in international schools. We have heard that some have lost their jobs. We have been working with a new school which was due to open this September that will now not open because of lack of numbers. This is due to the virus, and unfortunately the teachers and new Head are now looking for jobs again. If there are Heads or HR staff out there reading this wondering what you can do to help, you should do all you can to reassure your staff, existing teachers and new ones who haven’t arrived yet. There is a lot of anxiety out there and school will need to fight hard to keep the teachers they worked hard to find.
How do we move forward?
Teachers who are in the process of looking for jobs should take heart in the fact that there are lots of good jobs still available for August and I think this will be the case right up to end of July and beyond. Those of you that have new jobs to go to but are worrying about visas, try to stay calm and realise that we are all in the same boat. It’s the same in nearly all countries right now. Again, leadership teams and HR managers should try and do all you can to reassure your current staff and keep in very regular contact with all your new hires, even if you have no news keep in touch with them.
And finally, if you get the green light to take on any new staff at your school don’t wait too long, there may not be as many candidates around come June/July and you may have stiff competition for them.
Most of all, we wish you all good luck for the future during this difficult time!