Are you ready for your new staff? Planning an effective induction programme and why it matters. By Andrew Wigford
Welcoming new staff to your school requires careful planning. For those who may be new to the country and also new to international school and expatriate life, this is even more necessary.
First impressions count and there’s a clear link between effective induction and the retention of new staff. The recent COBIS teacher supply research tells us that and so much more. Well supported, informed and content teachers are crucial to the success of your school which is why a carefully planned and managed induction programme is so important.
Supporting the settling in
The first few weeks of the new academic year can be a difficult time for new international school teachers who are often caught in a trap of mixed priorities. They will have many immediate personal needs to sort out such as accommodation, finances and banking, transportation, utilities, communication and more. But school is also beginning, and with that comes a great deal of pressure to ensure the first few weeks in the classroom are well planned.
Regardless of their own personal priorities, this is a vital time to focus on the requirements of the school and it’s important that senior leadership delivers this message clearly to all new staff. It’s the time of year for all staff, both new and old, to get to know and embrace new structures and systems, and to learn to work together to achieve the school’s philosophy and mission. It’s the time for everyone to reacquaint with important safety and security procedures and policies, and to prepare for a successful, learning-focused year ahead. If new staff feel they have been given time and support in advance of this, to organise their essential personal priorities, then they are usually fully appreciative of the demands of a new year in a new school.
Schedule new recruits to arrive a week before formal induction to allow them to move in, set up home, establish their communication and finance needs, and get acclimatised before expecting them to plunge into school life. Assign a member of your staff to be available to provide the advice and guidance they might need during this time.
A school induction programme usually happens the week before the start of the new academic year but can sometimes be spread throughout the early days or weeks of the first term too. Designed primarily for new staff, many schools use their induction period to introduce developments in policies, procedures, or teaching and learning to all staff, and provide a chance for the entire school team to connect.
A good induction programme will give new staff enough information about the school, and a flavour of what to expect when students arrive without overwhelming them. It may also allow for personal and team planning time, and often includes social events. It is a good time to introduce your school ethos, community spirit, international perspective and local cultural considerations too. Crucially, an induction programme will set expectations for new staff that will form important foundations for life in and out of the school.
An induction programme shouldn’t only be about standards, procedures and utilitarian needs. Some schools include local tours, basic language training, professional development, time for collaborative planning, and launch group incentives within their induction programmes. These can be excellent team-building experiences as well as providing fun ways for new recruits to get to know the wider staff and acquire valuable local and school knowledge.
Some of the most successful induction programmes are spread over a period of weeks or even months. This allows new teachers time to get to know the school and its community in a way that helps them to develop a clear understanding at a pace they can cope with.
Many schools assign one or more ‘buddies’ or mentors to each new teacher. These are often existing staff members and spouses with similar interests or circumstances. Induction buddies should be prepared to help with local as well as school information, and be willing to offer advice and support regarding accommodation, local infrastructure, socialising, etc. Mentors can also be assigned to help with specific areas of school life such as curriculum, assessment and MIS. Other staff members can be assigned to lead training sessions to introduce all new recruits to school-wide policies and activities.
As life settles down
The heady first weeks in a new country and new job may well be stressful, but they’re exciting too. It’s once this initial excitement has abated; when the reality of missing home, family and friends, combined with the challenges of settling into a new culture and job hits new expat staff, when life can get more challenging. A school induction programme can actively prepare for this period by providing access to the school guidance counsellor or human resources representative after working hours, and by ensuring new recruits are participating in all-important social activities within and beyond the school community.
The more support that the school can offer throughout the early days, weeks and months, the happier your new staff will be and, as a result, the better they’ll do their job.
Andrew Wigford is the Managing Director of TIC Recruitment which, for over 14 years, has provided international schools with a highly personalised approach to staff and leadership selection including advising on the strategic planning for all stages of recruitment.