Finding your perfect fit: the recruitment challenge

By Rachael Westgarth, CEO, Round Square on 23/11/2016

A desire to make a difference, work with young people and have a job that is varied with no two days the same. These are the top catalysts for a career in teaching quoted in a 2015 survey by the UK's Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

But with growing numbers of experienced teachers leaving the profession citing stress, excessive workloads, bureaucracy and behaviour issues, for many the reality falls short of their initial aspirations.

With the annual TES Teacher Recruitment Index quoting 72% of UK school leaders believing that there has been a deterioration in the quality of applications for vacant posts since the previous year (TES 21 October), the continuing challenge is all too clear.

"It is becoming increasingly more difficult for schools to attract and retain high calibre teaching staff," says Freddie Dennis, Head of the Schools Practice at international executive search firm Odgers Berndtson

"Our clients come to us because they recognise that the leading and most experienced senior leaders can afford to be selective when making important career decisions, and that also applies to the best classroom practitioners and middle leaders. There is a greater awareness and understanding now of the importance of finding the right cultural fit for both the school and individual, so factors like school ethos and values, a commitment to holistic education, and the availability of quality professional development opportunities are significant in candidates' decision-making."

These factors are familiar to Round Square schools, for whom finding "the right fit" in an environment where a belief in, and commitment to, character and values-based education are central to the successful development of the holistic approach to teaching and learning that Round Square encourages and supports throughout the school.

"When we appoint new staff they often comment on the fact that we are a Round Square school." says Chris Townsend, Head of Felsted School in the UK "They will have done their research and they can see huge value in it.... The staff who come to the school definitely see the value in the Round Square movement and the personal value to them in developing themselves as teachers."

As Rebecca Purdy, English Teacher and Clubs Coordinator from Felsted School explains: "I think you definitely see a different perspective... Everybody approaches education in a different way and I think, as a teacher, the more experiences you can get the better you are going to be in the classroom. The narrower your focus or experience is then that focus, that narrow focus is going to be passed on to the students as well. If you can be broad, it broadens their horizon too."

For those that are successful in joining the Round Square community the rewards can be significant. Formal Professional Development opportunities often go hand in hand with the chance to work with students in non-classroom environments where the teacher can both build understanding of how learning takes place in different settings and also develop innovative approaches of their own. In a recent study of Round Square schools carried out by researchers from the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University, the greatest proportion (41%) of teachers cited their own development of more holistic approach to teaching as a key benefit of teaching in a Round Square school. Engagement with the Round Square network also offers the opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from other teachers on an international scale.

"The benefits of Round Square are multitudinous." says Vicky Chilvers HOD Life Orientation from St. Stithians Girls' College in Africa "I love the enrichment of being in a school that's dynamic, having international guests who visit us and having opportunity to travel, to go with young people, to engage with you people, to take them on take them on community partnership outings, the research and writings that come out of Round Square, the opportunities for developing a young person, especially with that ‘can do’ mentality which is something i’m very passionate about: Developing efficacy in young people."

Round Square schools share a belief in a particular approach to education build on theories outlined by the educational philosopher Kurt Hahn. Broadly speaking, Hahn felt that provided with the right environment, circumstances, guidance and challenge, young people could discover in themselves, and harness for the greater good, a capacity for achievement, generosity of spirit and positive servant leadership that exceeded their perceived capabilities, making a positive contribution to society. Round Square schools embody and enact this theory through embedding six Round Square IDEALS in the values, ethos, activities and curricula of the school: International Understanding, Democracy, Environmental Stewardship, Adventure, Leadership and Service

"Working at a Round Square school gives me the opportunity to engage with my students in the broadest sense of the world, and at the same time reach out to educators all over the globe to help inform my teaching" says Ann Hansen, Director of Global Education at Herlufsholm Skole in Denmark "My experience is that working with Hahnian philosophy in a school setting ensures that you are always working with fully engaged youth, who are challenged to become the best versions of themselves in all areas. My colleagues appreciate working here because they are afforded with so many opportunities ranging from participating in conferences to going on service projects, to helping out with adventure activities."

"I have worked at The Armidale School for 20 years" says Anna Barnier "My greatest satisfaction is seeing a predominantly regional boarding and day school population grow their international understanding and awareness through our Round Square exchange and GAP programs.  Our extra-curricular program provides the challenges and opportunities that gives our students avenues for personal growth and empowers them to lead others.  We see it in action every day and that is exciting."

"Teaching in a Round Square school gives you a great opportunity to put the theories of Kurt Hahn into practice" says Tasnim Abed from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa "It's important to me as an educator to work in an environment that embraces values-led education, and this academy does that in very practical ways. Our girls learn through life-experiences, which is very much the approach that Round Square takes. I love being part of a movement that is making a genuine difference in the world. In this school, it is helping to develop a new generation of dynamic women leaders who by virtue of their unique education, will lead the enduring transformation of their communities and country."

The sense felt by Round Square educators that their schools give them genuine opportunities to make a difference is also observed by Odgers Berndtson as Freddie Dennis explains: "We have worked with a number of Round Square schools in recent years and have found that they are very popular with high-quality educationalists who admire the spirit of adventure, genuine commitment to internationalism and the variety of service-led initiatives that other schools are unable to offer. These schools are attractive to teachers with a genuine desire to educate students who will go on to make a positive impact on the world through their global mindset, belief in sustainability and the importance of responsible leadership among other key qualities."

"A teacher from a Round Square school is not an ordinary teacher" says Rajbir Sandhu from Vivek High School in India. "Round Square has contributed immensely to my growth and personal development... I cant see myself wanting to work in a non-Round Square school after this."

This is a sentiment shared by many teachers in the Round Square community, where we find that the skills they develop are retained within the network as teachers seek to progress their careers within and between Round Square schools. When educators do leave the Round Square network we know that they take something of the Round Square approach with them to their next appointment and will have gained immensely in terms of their professional development. Both can only be good news for the education community as a whole.