September 14, 2016

Teacher Transfer Window: Why can’t we fill our vacancies 365 days a year?

The football transfer window has closed again for another four months. If you haven’t heard of the transfer window or ‘Deadline Day’ - it is an agreed period of time when players can transfer from one club to another. It condenses much discussion about which player is leaving where to a slot in July-September and then for the month of January the following year. It tends to keep the discussions about players going from here to there to a sustained period in the lead up to and during the actual window. Manchester United spent a reported £89million on a player that they sold only four years ago for £1.8million – two decisions that were almost forced upon them by the unfortunate nature of the window. The team that bought the player four years ago made a very healthy £87.2million profit and in every transfer window there are both winners and losers.

Schools have similar transfer windows namely the end of February, May and October. These are the dates defined within the Burgundy Book when teachers have to inform their current school that they intend leaving by the end of the term. If a teacher is successful in gaining a position in late May another teacher already in a post will not be able to join the new school as a replacement until the following January, unless special agreement is reached. It rarely is.

Headteachers often get a little anxious (as do football managers) in the lead up to the resignation date (transfer window) because they know that their chances of securing a teacher (star striker) already in post elsewhere (another club) are negligible. Conversations between headteachers and teachers (managers and players) going for interview during the lead up to the deadline are sometimes a little fraught as they ask them to consider the impact on their current school (club). It has been known for teachers (players) to have up to three or four interviews (clubs) crammed into the last few days prior to the resignation date with one school (club) offering the post to a candidate (player) who keeps them waiting to discover whether they have been successful in another interview the following day. And even more disgraceful is the tactic whereby a teacher (player) secures a rather secretive deal (encouraged by an agent) on the understanding they do not inform their school (club) of their resignation until the resignation date has been reached.

In 2015 FIFPro said that the current transfer window is “failing football and its players”. Is it fair to say the same of teaching?

In business, unlike teaching, employees are generally free to inform their managers that they wish to terminate their contract providing they give an agreed period of notice. This can be as much as six months but is often three. I cannot understand why teachers cannot benefit from this approach. It would ensure that a steady flow of posts being available and would prevent the sudden rush to meet the various deadlines. At a time when teacher recruitment is an apparent issue I just don’t understand why we maintain hurdles that make the selection and appointment of new staff so difficult. Surely, we should encourage teachers to provide a reasonable period of notice and then ask schools to fill those vacancies as quickly as possible.