In the expansive world of education, much like Star Trek’s journeys, schools confront a significant challenge: recruiting staff. Despite progress in advertising jobs, schools and multi-academy trusts are trapped in a cycle of continuous vacancy postings. This situation echoes the perpetual missions of the USS Enterprise.

Our blog dives deep into this recruitment crisis. We investigate how education’s top leaders might draw inspiration from Captain Kirk. Their mission: to convince others that a career in education is not only noble but deeply fulfilling. The aim is to attract a new wave of educators and support staff, highlighting the profound impact of working in schools.

Go where no one has gone before.

Recent statistics underscore a troubling reality: only half of the secondary school recruitment targets were met last December. This shortfall, as reported by the Department for Education, is part of a nearly decade-long trend, especially pronounced in key subjects like Physics and Maths.

A deluge of job advertisements across various platforms reflects an ongoing struggle against staffing shortages in our schools. Unfortunately, the primary beneficiaries of this scenario seem to be job boards and school recruitment agencies, able to offer only temporary solutions to an issue that resurfaces each term.

The Government, despite their rhetoric of ‘record-high funding for schools in England’, seems to overlook this critical shortfall. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan insists on the unparalleled quality of our schools and teachers, underscoring the need for continued support as standards rise. Yet, as has been strongly stated by Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, the crisis is not just about school recruitment but also retention. With over 40% of teachers leaving the profession within ten years, according to the Education Policy Institute, the situation is dire.

How do schools tackle worsening staff retention, and keep their crew together?

Drawing a parallel with Captain Kirk’s leadership in Star Trek, we see a compelling approach to problem-solving. The USS Enterprise continuously encounters a number of villains, none greater than Kahn, a former ruler of Earth. Khan Noonien Singh was a genetically engineered superhuman and became Star Trek’s greatest villain after he was overthrown and exiled into space. Kahn’s disillusionment about what the future should look like and the subsequent threat to the USS Enterprise crew reflect the dangers present in our education system under the current government’s policies.

So, if Captain Kirk was in charge – what are the key behaviours he’d use to combat disillusionment and inspire hope amongst his crew.   

Empowering Autonomy and Decision-Making:

Kirk values the expertise of his crew, granting them autonomy and authority. This approach could alleviate feelings of powerlessness among education professionals.

Maintaining Open Communication Channels:

Kirk fosters an environment of open and honest dialogue, allowing crew members to discuss concerns and ethical dilemmas freely.

Prioritising Crew Well-being Over External Demands:

Kirk consistently puts the well-being of his crew first, a lesson vital for our education system where financial and bureaucratic pressures often overshadow the welfare of staff and students.

Fostering a Supportive Environment:

Mental and physical health is paramount on the USS Enterprise. Schools that want to ensure the resilience and well-being of staff should mirror this advice.

Leading by Example:

Kirk’s leadership style, marked by a strong moral compass, instilling a sense of purpose and integrity, crucial in preventing feelings of disillusionment and moral injury among educators.

Valuing and Respecting the Crew:

Unlike the current trend of treating educators as expendable assets, Kirk’s approach of valuing each crew member could significantly improve morale in the education sector.

This battle may have been won but the continuous and unending missions of the USS Enterprise cannot be anything else but exhausting as the casualties begin to mount up. Where would Kirk have been without his faithful crew of Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and McCoy – he needs to think strategically about the longer-term challenges of his five-year mission. 

How do you replenish your lost crew and keep everyone motivated for the next mission?

The current job advertisements, despite improved branding and design, lack originality and fail to effectively communicate the diverse opportunities available in education. A Teacher Toolkit blog reveals that 21% of senior leaders spend most of their time on school recruitment, a significant diversion of resources from other critical areas.

Some trusts are innovatively using LinkedIn for school recruitment, recognising its potential in the education sector. This move is a stark contrast to the saturated presence on traditional platforms like Tes, which lists over 11,000 teaching jobs.

To tackle the recruitment crisis, CEOs and headteachers must channel Captain Kirk’s leadership style. Importantly, they should spotlight individual achievements within their schools or trusts, not just the organisations. This strategy will motivate the future education workforce, especially when recognising and rewarding public figures. The approach must showcase the vast array of school professions, proving rewarding opportunities in education for all roles.

Beam me up, Scotty.

The influence of role models like Montgomery Scott, played by actor James Doohan, highlights the power of inspirational figures in shaping career aspirations. Scotty, with his distinctive Scottish accent and ‘can-do’ attitude, not only resonated with audiences but also significantly boosted interest in engineering programs. The University of Milwaukee recognised this impact and awarded Doohan with an honorary engineering degree, noting that 70% of their engineering applications were inspired by his character Scotty.

The education sector needs public facing champions who can elevate the profession making it desirable to new external audiences. Effective school functioning transcends teaching roles. It crucially involves IT technicians, finance managers, and careers advisors. Additionally, various support roles play a key part in this dynamic. Each contributes significantly to the school’s overall effectiveness.

Don’t let the Government dictate schools’ fate. Importantly, school leaders must act decisively. They should reshape the narrative on education careers. Celebrating the impact of school roles is crucial. Leaders should advocate for systemic changes. Consequently, this can shift public perception and attract recruits. A strategic communication approach is vital. Specifically, use media and social platforms for sharing successes. Advocating for change is essential. By showcasing role models, we address the recruitment crisis effectively. Meaningful reforms are necessary. Thus, we secure a brighter future for schools and communities.

Live long and prosper!

Multi-academy trusts and schools must actively attract and retain staff. Importantly, clarity in your values aids this process. Additionally, supporting staff development is crucial. Promoting wellbeing, including mental and physical health, is key. Furthermore, simplifying the school recruitment process is essential for support.

Implement these strategies to make your trust an attractive employer. Offer a positive, supportive, and professional environment for staff.If you’re wondering how to get started, or would like to talk to the team about how these strategies can help your trust, get in touch with Eduprise today.