Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Identifying staffing needs

Unit 1

In Guyana, the appointment of staff for government schools is done by the Teaching Service Commission (TSC). In schools with a Board of governors, it is the responsibility of the Board. Various arrangements exist in private schools but normally staff are appointed by the trustees in conjunction with the headteacher. You could find yourself as head of any of these three types of school.

However, as head, it is important that you have a say in the appointment of the staff in your school. The success of the school depends upon it and even if you personally do not appoint the staff, it is incumbent on you to be in frequent contact and discussions with those who do. Successful heads who run thriving schools do not leave it to chance. You can sit back and allow others to do it for you or you can be proactive and work with the TSC, the Trustees or the Board to achieve the best for your school. The TSC will be only too willing to discuss your staffing needs and to assist in trying to achieve the best for your school

In many countries, staff selection has been delegated to the school and ultimately the headteacher who is best placed to understand the needs of the school. Although staff selection in government schools is carried out by the TSC in Guyana at the moment, it is important that you understand the process if you are or become Headteacher of a Board School or Private School. The following pages will explain that process. However, you should note that, at the time of writing, this is not the normal practice in Guyana in government schools.

Currently, the appointment of Headteachers in Grade A and B schools follows a process not too dissimilar to the one below. All other posts, including senior ones, are filled using a procedure which identifies suitability for the position based on the Annual Appraisal Report for Teachers.

Individual study time: 3 hours

Learning outcomes
After working through this unit you should be able to:

¨ be aware of current recruitment practice in Guyana through the TSC
¨ understand the ideal process of staff selection in Board Schools and Private Schools
¨ understand the roles of the key figures in selecting staff members.

Types of vacancy
A vacancy may be either permanent or temporary in nature.

Reflect on the type of vacancy that occurs most frequently at your school? What difference does the type of vacancy make when you are considering an appointment?

When any appointment is to be made, it is crucial to ensure that the right person with the most appropriate skills is appointed.

For a temporary appointment, although this is still important: it will often depend on the period of time for which the appointment is to be made. Whilst the TSC would try to appoint someone with the appropriate skills, it may be more important to have a committed teacher in the classroom rather than leaving the post unfilled simply because no‑one with exactly the right combination of skills can be found.

Assessment of needs
A vacancy on the staff of the school offers an opportunity for a reassessment of needs. In some cases it will be desirable to find someone who can offer the same combination of skills as the person who has left the staff; but on many occasions it may be better to rationalise or to introduce new skills.

Activity 1.1
A teacher has recently resigned from your school.
(1) What steps could you take to assess the needs of your school in replacing that particular teacher?
(2) What factors will influence your assessment of those needs – subject choice, gender, extra-curricular abilities? List as many as you can.
If you are able to relate this to a real situation, do so.

As an example, mathematics may have been fragmented among several members of staff because it was a subject in which no‑one was qualified and which no‑one really wanted to teach. Irrespective of which subjects were taught by the teacher who left the school, this may be an opportunity to secure the services of a mathematics specialist.

In assessing needs, the school head should consult with the rest of the school management, with the school board if one exists and with other members of staff who may be involved in any changes that might be made. It is often not just a case of replacing the teacher who is leaving but using the departure as an opportunity to achieve your overall staffing plans.

Creating a staffing shadow structure
Waiting until a vacancy occurs can often be too late in terms of time and the urgency of the situation to make decisions about what your school’s human resource needs are. It is essential, therefore, that you are proactive in making plans about what your ideal staffing structure will be. You are, of course, limited by the National Curriculum and the staffing allowance of your school. However, within that structure, you need to have a plan to meet the individual requirements of your school. This is called a “staffing shadow structure”. It is a plan in waiting for when the opportunity arises, either through retirement, transfer, sickness or dismissal, for you to achieve the ideal.

Although to a lesser extent in a nursery school because of the limited numbers of staff, it is equally important in both primary and secondary schools to ensure that you have achieved the right balance of staff skills to meet the needs of the curriculum. Although in a primary school, staff will need to have abilities across the curriculum, to have a Maths or English specialist, for example, will be important to guide the rest of the team. In a secondary school, staff subject specialist skills are essential. As head, you must eradicate as much as possible the idea of staff teaching subjects in which they are not qualified.

Advertising the position
In a government school, this will be done by the TSC either as an advert for senior posts or a pool of teachers who may be transferred to meet the needs. In schools with governors, they will take on the responsibility.

Reflect for a moment on what skills you would like in a science teacher for your school at this present time. How would you advise the TSC of your requirements?

Often posts are advertised in circulars and in newspapers. It is not possible to put all of the relevant requirements in an advertisement. This is why the job description and person specification is so important. (See Module One, Unit 4)

Whether the advertisement is placed by the School Board or whether informa­tion for an advertisement is submitted to the Teaching Service Commission, care should be taken that the information submitted is clear, correct, and complete, and that it is submitted as early as possible.

The school should keep a copy of the information submitted. Some types of appointment will have very short notice periods, while for others a month's notice or longer is required. But a month does not normally allow sufficient time for the advertising and filling of the vacancy. The school head should develop an atmosphere among the staff which will encourage them to give notice of their intention to leave at as early a date as possible, so that the post can be filled with minimum disruption to the activ­ities of the school.

The requirements for your science teacher will depend on the type of school, the level of teaching he / she will be expected to do and whether he / she will be required to advise others. When working with the Board or the TSC, make it very clear what your requirements are. It will help them and ensure that your needs are met.

Applicants for a particular post will almost certainly have to complete an application form or write a letter outlining their suitability for the post.

Try to obtain a copy of an application form that would be used to appoint staff in your school and study it.

Although you may not have a direct responsibility for selection, it is important that you understand the process. Ideally, selection should never simply be on the basis of documents submitted, although these will play an important role. Documents should be carefully studied to determine:

¨ whether the applicant appears to meet the advertised requirements
¨ whether the applicant meets most of the needs of the job description and person specification.
¨ the applicant's previous employment record
¨ the qualifications of the applicant
¨ the care which the applicant has taken in filling out the application form.
¨ whether the documents are genuine. Watch out for possible forgeries.

The necessary follow‑up should then be undertaken. Applicants who do not meet the advertised requirements cannot be consid­ered for permanent appointment, while in some short‑term temporary posts exceptions can be made. If copies of certificates are enclosed, it may be necessary to verify their authenticity, even if they are certified as true copies.

The previous employment record will indicate whether the applicant's experience matches his or her qualification. It will also reveal whether the applicant has progressed from one position of responsibility to another or, on the other hand, whether he or she is someone who apparently cannot stay in any job for long. If at all possible, the applicant's manager in the most recent post should be consulted about his or her abilities. A written record should be kept of these inquiries.

The appearance of the application is important. A candidate who has taken little care over completing the form and attaching necessary documen­tation, is not likely to take much care in lesson preparation or in following ­up pupils' difficulties.

During this sifting exercise, those candidates who are clearly unsuitable will be eliminated and will be advised accordingly. If many apparently suitable candidates remain, further sifting can be done by making contact with their former managers. Those who remain on a short list of suitable candidates should be interviewed for the position.

It is essential that, at all times, throughout the process, dealings with the candidates are fair and that all have an equal opportunity to be considered for the post on grounds of age, gender, race and ethnic group.

Use of the Annual Appraisal Report on Teachers
In Guyana, however, the Annual Appraisal Form is used which provides evidence of the performance of a teacher based on the current system of appraisal. This is scrutinised by the TSC along with any other evidence. For further information on this process, see Unit Four of this Module – Staff Appraisal. It is on the basis of this information that the Teaching Service Commission recommends the transfer of a teacher from one school to another including promotions.

In non government schools, applicants who have been short‑listed should be advised in good time of their interview. If at all possible it should be arranged for a time which is not going to interfere with their present job. Usually around 40 minutes is allowed for the interview, after which the members of the panel should have about 20 minutes to discuss their impressions of the applicant before the next interview starts.

Activity 1.2
If you were a member of the interview panel for the science teacher in your school, what questions would you want to ask the candidates? Remember that as head you would be more concerned with learning and teaching than other issues which might be dealt with by other panel members.

The questions you would ask as head would relate to the professional competence of the candidate, his / her ability to teach, their understanding of the processes of learning and how they would deal with incidences of indiscipline etc.

Interviewing is normally undertaken by a panel of at least two or three. Too large a panel might intimidate the candidate, while leaving the interviewing to a single person places an extremely heavy responsibility on that person. Remember, two heads are better than one. For Headteachers in Grade A and B schools, persons from various organisations such as the TSC and the GTU would form an interviewing panel.

If the interviewing is being done at the school, the panel might consist of members of the School Board, the school head, the deputy (or a head of department in the subject field for which an appointment is to be made) and a representative of the parent committee. The members of the panel should decide among themselves who is going to head the panel for a particular interview. This person will take the lead in asking questions, but should also give the other members of the panel an opportunity to ask questions.

All members of the panel should be thoroughly familiar with the docu­ments submitted by the applicant and with the results of any other inquiries which have been made.

The assumption when interviewing starts is that all those to be inter­viewed are equally suitable for the position. If this were not the case, the less suitable ones would have been eliminated without an interview. There are two purposes of the interview - to confirm the suitability of the candidates; and to distinguish clearly which candidate is best, which one second best, and so on. This can be done by testing further aspects of the person specification such as, presentation and oral skills, abilities of persuasion and argument, technical ability, subject knowledge and other additional information.

When the applicant is shown in for the interview, he or she should be intro­duced to the members of the panel. The head of the panel should engage the interviewee briefly in casual conversation to establish a relaxed atmosphere.

Questions should focus on the job which the applicant will be expected to perform, and may take the form of posing problems and asking the appli­cant how he or she would deal with them, or of asking how routine tasks would be tackled. For example:

¨ How would you ensure that all pupils in your class were catered for whatever their level of ability?
¨ How would you deal with a pupil who fails to bring written homework to school, and says it has been done, but left at home? How would you deal with the same pupil the second time this happens?
¨ How would you deal with a group of a dozen pupils who have performed very poorly in a test?
¨ What sort of preparation would you do before conducting a lesson on an English poem?
¨ How do you integrate theory and laboratory work in the curriculum?
¨ How would you respond if your head of department were to give you what you considered to be an unfair assignment?

At the end of the interview the applicant should be given the opportunity to ask questions, then thanked for coming, and advised that the result of the interview will be communicated as soon as possible.

During the interview and in the course of the discussion which follows it, brief notes should be made of the applicant's responses to questions. (It might be necessary at a later stage to remind the successful candidate of a response made during the interview if he / she fails to perform adequately).

At an interview, what you see and hear and read is what you get. It is your opportunity to set the expectations of the post. What candidates communicate to you is what you shall expect of them.

After the interviews, the process of appointing the best candidate should be kept as brief as possible. The best candidate should be contacted soon after the interview, told that he or she is being nominated for the position, and asked whether he/she is likely to accept. (It may be that the applicant has been short‑listed for two or three posts, and would actually prefer one of the others.) The other candidates should be contacted and offered a debrief as to why they were not considered suitable on this occasion. They should be thanked for their time and wish them success in future applications.

Finalising the appointment
The Teaching Service Commission or the Board of Governors has final responsibility for the selection and appoint­ment of teaching staff. This authority is delegated to an appropriate official, who will probably not be the same for all levels of posts. For example, authority to fill a short‑term temporary post might rest with one officer and another might be responsible for the permanent appointment of teachers. A panel is always responsible for the appointment of a Headteacher of a Grade A or B School.

If the power to finalise the appointment does not rest with a member of the interviewing committee, the necessary documentation and recommen­dation should be forwarded to the responsible official as speedily as possible, and if there seems to be undue delay in acting on the recommenda­tion, the head of the interviewing committee should follow up, as there is always the danger of a good candidate being lost to another post.

The successful applicant should receive oral confirmation of the appoint­ment as soon as possible, followed up by a formal letter of appointment (setting out any conditions attached to the appointment) and a clear job description. The successful applicant should sign the forms for the accep­tance of the post.

The provision of good human resources in a school, that is the appointment of dedicated, hard working, motivated and committed staff, will have the greatest impact on the quality of learning and teaching in the school which in turn will contribute to overall success for the pupils.

It is not a matter which should be left to chance and, although, a head may not, in all cases, have direct responsibility for appointing staff in Guyana, s(he) must ensure that those who do are fully appraised of the school’s needs so that they can make the appropriate decisions. Hence, the completion of a “staffing shadow structure” is essential so that action can be taken to achieve the best staffing in a short period of time.

Those responsible for appointments must make them with considerable attention to detail, ensuring that all have an equal opportunity to be considered whatever their age, gender, race or ethnic group

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