Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Give notice to abolish deadline


By Ian Hyland, head of Cox Green School, Maidenhead

As leaders in schools and colleges, we are all familiar with the two edged sword that is the half term break.

On the one hand it is a great opportunity for staff and students to have a well earned rest and come back recharged.

From another perspective, however, it is the resounding ring of the escape hatch closing for teachers who want to gain another post - the resignation deadline at work.

Viewed from a distance, the week or two before half term must appear comical. The TES grows to four job supplements. Staff suddenly find five posts to apply for; they rush to send the same application out, forgetting to change the school or head's name.

Schools spend their entire advertising budget and staff doing interviews leave classes to be covered, just at the time they need continuity.

Then there is the darker side; the furtive telephone calls inviting staff for a 'look round'; the ex-colleague who rings to invite a teacher for a drink and a chat; and the final irony, the interview during the holiday!

There is an obvious question looming here that, as leaders, we are paid to ask but rarely think to: Why have resignation dates at all?

I have a suggestion: Abolish resignation deadlines and replace them with a fixed period of notice, say six weeks.

The following situation will be familiar to many of you. If a member of staff is offered a new post in October, the earliest their replacement is likely to be able to start is April the following year.

In reality, it probably means September, as many staff are currently reluctant to leave classes 'high and dry' in the spring, not least because they know their own schools will not have a chance to recruit their replacement.

I propose that, once a resignation is received, an advertisement should be placed and an interview held. This would take four weeks. Assuming an appointment has been possible, there will then have only been a four week period without a permanent teacher in post - a significant improvement on the current situation.

If the process is unsuccessful, at least the time involved in advertising again would be minimised.

The thought of change concerns many people. The current situation does offer a degree of certainty - once you get past a deadline, you are 'safe' for a while. I suggest this line of thinking comes from a time of teacher surplus and does not really apply now.

There are also a limited number of times of year when the existing system allows recruitment to take place without any gap at all. Some will ask, will staff be prepared to leave examination groups? Well they do now!

It might just make it easier to attract a strong candidate if they know there is a good chance that their school will be able to advertise for their replacement.

Other problems? Perhaps the notice period would have to be different for some senior staff. I am sure the university academic year for trainee teachers would be a significant obstacle to change. The methodology for calculating periods of service would certainly have to be reviewed.

A fixed period of notice operates very successfully in many occupations. Teaching is not that different.

I am genuinely pleased when a teacher gains a new post. I see it as a sign that my school has helped them make progress. It creates opportunities for other staff and, occasionally, it helps a member of staff learn that the grass really is not greener over the hill.

The problem is recruitment and the distorting effect this has on my work. Can any head seriously claim to be effective during the peak period of April and May? Frankly, finding good staff is hard enough without such self-imposed restrictions.

Can anyone seriously say they would have created this situation if it did not already exist? No? Time for change then. Roll on half term.

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