By Craig Keady, NPSCC's Senior Consultant for Education and Donya Pourzand, Senior Consultant for the NSPCC Consultancy Service
Pupil numbers are growing*, so it's never been more important that we recruit and retain the best people in our schools. You need staff and volunteers who champion your school's culture and values and are committed to protecting, supporting and developing children and young people. The statutory guidance for schools highlights the responsibility to ensure you have safer recruitment policies and procedures in place. But, as the schools we work with tell us, while the guidance tells you what to do, it doesn't tell you how to do it.
Safer recruitment practices need to be at the core of the whole process: through planning, shortlisting, assessment, vetting, induction and the probation period. And everything you do should be underpinned by your safer recruitment policy. We know that it can seem like a lot especially when you want to get on and recruit the right people for your school. But attracting the best staff and volunteers can take time. By applying safer recruitment practices you can be confident that you're not only doing everything you can to safeguard the children and young people in your care, but that you're taking steps to find the people who are the best fit for your school - a win-win situation.
So, how can you recruit and retain the very best people for your school and ensure you're keeping children safe?
1. Prepare well
It may be an often used phrase, "if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail" is just as true of recruitment. Planning effectively gives you a blueprint for the rest of the process. Clearly defining the role and responsibilities not only helps you create the job advert, but provides the basis for assessment criteria for shortlisting, interviewing, vetting and the probationary period. Make sure you keep notes of the steps you take - not only will this give you something to refer back to during the process but it will also provide a structure for future recruitment, ensuring that your approach is consistent.
2. Think carefully about the language you use
A safeguarding statement and an overview of your school is essential for any school job advert. Of course, there are details that have to be included but by personalising these, using your school's language and reflecting your culture you stand the best chance of attracting the people most suited to your school.
3. Use value based interviewing techniques
Once you've attracted some great candidates for your role, you need to use the interview process to delve under the surface. We've developed a value based interview technique focused on safeguarding that covers four key behaviours:
• establishing and maintaining professional boundaries and professional integrity
• establishing and maintaining relationships with children
• taking action to protect a child
• demonstrating resilience and ability to cope with pressure.
We use these as a basis to a safer interviewing framework and we work with schools and other organisations across the UK to help them apply these with advanced interviewing skills. This helps them explore a candidate's awareness, behaviour, attitude and motivation in relation to safeguarding children.
4. Involve candidates in the process
Recruitment is a two-way process. While you need to attract the best candidates, they need to be sure this is the right job for them. And while schools obviously have a responsibility to ensure safeguarding is at the heart of that recruitment process, candidates also need to play their part. So make sure you're clear on what you expect and give them direction on the process. Ensure they understand what's required in your checks - including vetting and barring checks, overseas checks and references.
By outlining and following your safer recruitment procedures you're demonstrating your commitment to keeping children safe. But safer recruitment doesn't end when you've appointed the right candidate - ongoing support and monitoring is an essential component. And the probation period provides an excellent opportunity to ensure that your candidate is a great fit for your school and is properly supported in their safeguarding responsibilities. We'll be discussing more about this in a later blog.