Breaking the Rules: Values-Led Recruitment

As a Headteacher of a brand new school, with a small budget, I have consciously tried to innovate through my recruitment strategy. I find it quite staggering how much money schools spend on adverts in the Edupress. I have seen many schools and MATs in my career go straight to expensive national adverts when there are candidates locally and regionally who could be engaged in a different, less expensive way.

So when I was appointed as Headteacher I pledged to do things differently re how I recruited. Below I have shared some of my recruitment and marketing strategies.

community principles 2

Strategy 1:

Growing a following of educators who were interested in the journey of creating a school from scratch:

  1. Headteacher blog – I started blogging about my vision and values as soon as I was appointed via @staffrm and then moved across to setting up this blog – the idea was  would create a following of educators who were aligned to my vision and values
  2. I set up a school twitter account @AureusSchool and trust hashtag #growlearnflourish and started connecting with the local community – as above this was about drip feeding vision and values
  3. LinkedIn – I am connected to a lot of educators  so I shared the above on this platform too as it is easier to search by geographical groups or by roles/ subjects – I connected with teachers locally who taught the subjects I needed and anticipated who would be looking for promotion (I think this is how I found my STEM AHT)
  4. Informal Networking – I go to a lot of events – I consciously went to speak to people I didn’t know and made new connections  (this is how I found my computing LP – in a library at #Teach2017)
  5. Formal Events – I went to the university ITT recruitment fairs (this is how I recruited our 2 NQTs)
  6. Communities – I engage with the educators who are connected to #womened and #bameed – so I am connected to existing and aspiring leaders who are ambitious, dynamic but who are also looking to challenge the system and affect change (I recruited 2 of my DHTs and 1 of my AHTs from these networks)
  7. Word of Mouth – we forget how powerful this is as a communication tool (the STEM AHT told a colleague about our school and she is now our Art LP)
  8. Whatsapp and Facebook – I know a lot of teachers so I used my soft networks of friends of friends of friends to share opportunities too (this is how I met my Maths Mastery teacher)

Strategy 2:

With Wellbeing, Diversity and Equality as core values in my leadership and in the school vision I wanted to emphasise them in the recruitment process.  In all of adverts, job descriptions and person specifications I made this explicit. I promoted the fact I was an inclusive leader and was seeking to create a school where we can be teachers and have a life, where staff will be valued, where the people in the building will be names and not numbers.  I pledged to model the #womened and #bameed values and recruit diverse leaders, offering flexible roles from the outset, not just to retain great staff (we have appointed 3 flexible leaders and our SLT are 60% female and 60% BAME).

Strategy 3:

Open Events were a key part of the relationship building with my prospective team. I know how much time and energy it takes researching, applying, planning and preparing for interviews take. Teaching is full on and the timings are key re when we market and recruit. I chose to lead with face-to-face open events. I had EOIs (we had 115) on our website where everyone was directed to register – we then invited them all to come and meet me. So on a Saturday afternoon (in our generous neighbouring school) I presented my vision and value of the school to interested parties (about 70 came) and explained who I was looking for to join my on the journey. This enabled applicants (45 applied for 10 roles) to go away and decide if they were aligned or not, of they ultimately wanted to work with me or not. I then published the opportunities available.

Strategy 4:

Focusing on the souls not the roles, I created an open recruitment window. I didn’t advertise formally. All adverts went out a week before half-term and gave applicants half-term to process and apply. I didn’t detail the posts I was looking for, I instead emphasised the type of people I wanted to recruit. Applicants could build their own jobs from the outline of which subjects we needed, which positions we could create, which contracts we could offer. This gave those interested a clean sheet to design their own role. This values-led recruitment process was liberating for all involved. How many times in your career have you been asked to define your own role and shape your own career?

Strategy 5:

The recruitment process thus culminated in a values-led selection process. Each task provided an opportunity for the applicants to shine, to demonstrate their skill set, to show their potential and to develop relationships with their potential colleagues as our team evolved. With no staff, students, parents nor building to use our neighbouring feeder school hosted us and we held interviews for 5 days back to back. We interviewed NQTs one day, Teachers another, aspiring LPs another day and Senior Leaders the last 2 days. Everyone understood that the process was about finding the right team so offers would be made at the start of the following week in the reverse order: Senior Leaders, Aspiring LPs, Teachers and NQTs because I only needed 1 teacher from each subject so this would eliminate people despite their performance. The reassurance was that we would consider making offers for the following year, which we did and we have 2 LPs joining us in 2018 who are part of our extended team from 2017.

equity inclusion workplace

The interview tasks are detailed below to show we created opportunities based on our GLF trust values of Grow, Learn and Flourish:

Task 1:  GROW (written task – individual)

  • Curriculum planning – outline your vision for your primary subject
  • Include core knowledge and key skills
  • What will success look like for your Year 7s at the end of the autumn, spring & summer term?

Outcome – evidence of curriculum knowledge

Task 2: LEARN (5 min presentation – group)

  • #teachmeet for days 1-3 – 5 min micro presentation on 1 strategy you have used for differentiation or assessment for learning and the impact it has had on your learners
  • #leadmeet for days 4/5 – 5 min micro presentation on 1 leadership theory, model or piece of reading you have explored reflecting on how it has shaped you as a leader

Outcome – evidence of subject knowledge & teaching practice

Task 3: FLOURISH (discussion – group)

  • Group discussion on how to build resilience in our students

Outcome – evidence of values & learning knowledge

Task 4: NURTURING HEARTS AND MINDS (micro-teaching – individual)

  • Micro-teaching – plan and deliver an 8 min starter to engage your learners in their 1st lesson with you in September (this focus and brief varied by group of candidates to increase the challenge and see QFT from aspiring LPs)

Outcome – evidence of subject knowledge & teaching practice

Task 5: PORTFOLIO OF EVIDENCE (1:1 with one of our Governors – individual)

A record of your teaching highlights, to include examples of:

  • Resources
  • Marking
  • Feedback
  • Results

Outcome – evidence of professional impact & commitment

Task 6: NURTURING HEARTS AND MINDS (written task – individual)

  • Extra-curricular offer – outline your vision for how you could contribute to the wider community
  • What enrichment activities and trips could you offer?
  • How would these activities engage and nurture the learners?

Outcome – evidence of community ethos & whole child development

TASK 7: PANEL INTERVIEW (with GLF representatives and Headteacher – individual)

  • Why? Vision…Values…
  • How? Flexibility…Cross-Curricular…Impact…
  • What? Career plans…

Outcome – evidence of fit for Aureus & GLF


Each task was the same length and had the same weighting – they gave us a holistic overview of each candidate. The candidates also had a tour of the construction site so they could see where they might end up working. On some days we had 8 candidates, so I had to explain that we would shortlist at lunchtime and send some applicants home – this was probably the hardest bit!

I honestly found the whole recruitment process exhilarating and a really pleasurable experience as I met a phenomenal group of educators. The whole recruitment team from GLF and our Governors were incredibly impressed by the high calibre candidates we had the privilege of interviewing. I spent a lot of time considering my values, my vision and our this becomes our values and our vision. The #teachmeet component for teachers and the #leadmeet component for leaders meant that I also learnt lots. Moreover, the candidates bonded and a team began to evolve. I cannot recommend breaking the rules and doing things differently, authentic to your leadership style enough.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The amazing team we have recruited for our founding year of Aureus School and the appointments we have already made for our extended team from 2018.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The written responses from each candidate is being fed into the shaping of the vision of Aureus so that is co-created from the outset.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • An opportunity to grow a school team and school community from scratch. It is really exciting to be the co-designer of such an innovative opportunity.







Networking: Connection, Community, Collaboration

Networking can sometimes be a dirty word for teachers. For the cynics out there we don’t go into teaching to become corporate and to behave as business people do. For the optimists out there, we go into teaching to make a difference – we can do this alone, head down, in our individual classrooms or we can see ourselves as being part of something bigger, contributing to the system rather than a school.  In a lot of other industries networking is an expectation, an opportunity to connect with the community, to communicate what you are doing, to create collaborations. When described like this we see that it is aligned with what we do in education too.

Networking has become a hot topic in education, for those of us who engage in it or those who are intrigued by it. In the last few weeks I have been asked to contribute to several educational events to share my networking story and to encourage others to appreciate the potential power of their Professional Learning Network.


I think these 3 values embody for me why I network:


I meet people who I would not normally connect with. Each connection starts a new professional relationship. Many of these professional connections have grown into personal friendships with people who I would not have met had I not put myself out there. Each connection brings value to me as a person, as a professional but equally brings value back into my school community which will ultimately impact the children. I share my connections and am constantly introducing people who are working on similar projects or who are exploring similar ideas.


Teaching can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your classroom by yourself. Leading can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your office out of hours, and work in a school where it is them against us. Networking raises you above the local politics and drops you into a space with people who get you, get your situation but who are also seeking different ways of doing things, different ways of working together to find solutions to our challenges.


This for me is the most exciting bit. Once you have invested in making the connections and grown your community, it is the collaborations that spawn out of this space that create the buzz. Through #womened #bameed #teacher5aday, 3 of the communities who I connect and collaborate with, the opportunities to get involved in things have been endless. A great example of this is the #iwd17 virtual toolkit a group of us are working on for 8/3. Dauntless Daughters, Action Aid, WomenEd and 30 educators contributing a resource each which will then be shared far and wide for others to benefit from.


Here are my reflections from the events I have been asked to attend and speak at about the Power of the #PLN.

Leading Women’s Alliance #SeizingOpps:

I attended a year ago as DHT, I returned this year as a new HT. Carol and Kate, 2 of the organisers, asked me to share how networking has opened doors and created opportunities for me, personally and professionally. Through Twitter I have met coaches who have helped me to process who I am as a leader and clarify what my vision is. Through reading blogs and finding events to attend through eventbrite  I went to a lot of educational events last year. I met people I knew Twitter for a coffee at these events. One of these coffees was with Jon, my new CEO, he wasn’t recruiting, I wasn’t hunting for a new job but a conversation led to a new door being opened.

#TFAmbassadors event:

The Local Engagement Officers for Teach First London North, South, East and West asked me to speak to the ambassadors about how I have grown my network. I asked them why there were in Dirty Martinis on a Thursday night – was their motivation the free food and drink, or was it the potential connections they would make in the room. I encouraged them to speak to people they did not know in the room, to network beyond their immediate circle of contacts. I challenged them to put themselves out there, to go beyond their comfort zones and to follow up the connections that they made.


Naomi Ward is one of our #womened Regional Leaders for the SE. She is doing some work with Portsmouth College and the Apprenticeship team – she asked me to speak   about how networking is a skill that needs to be taught and to address why it is easier for some student groups than others. I referenced the fact that if you are a white middle class man, especially if you attend a private school, that you will have an extensive network of family connections to open doors for you. That you will be able to arrange work placements in the City, in law firms, because you will know someone who knows someone in this space. I reinforced that we need to create these networks for our young people, that we need to remove some of the social barriers and create opportunities for them to make meaningful connections for future collaborations. I cited the example of a school in a deprived part of South London who host networking events, bringing business into the school, to make those introductions and to create those opportunities for the student body.

Diverse Leaders Programme #BAMEed #womened:

We have 3 cohorts of existing and aspiring leaders – 75 brilliant individuals – who are navigating their way around being identified as being from under-represented groups  in the schools’ workforce, finding their career pathway and being inspired/ empowered to fulfill their potential and pursue their dreams. I have led a day with each group before half-term and shared my personal/ professional journey of how investing in networking has impacted my career. We talked at length about the pros and cons, the barriers and the challenges, of being transparent, authentic leaders. We reflected on our whys, considered how to support one another in achieving them and articulated what sort of leaders we want to be. I have felt very proud of each of them being 10% braver and taking their next steps towards their goals.

Teach First Conference – Careers Panel:

Yesterday I was asked to contribute as a new Headteacher to a panel about seeking and securing leadership opportunities. Each of the leaders on the panel had had a different career trajectory but each of us referenced how our networks had supported our growth, we also encouraged the audience to create opportunities for themselves, to put themselves out there and connect with people. We each talked about how we had been recruited and how we were recruiting – with budget issues and a recruitment/ retention issues schools need to be more creative with how they ‘get the people on the bus’ then ‘how they get the right  people in the right seats’. We each networked in different ways but agreed that you need to be proactive and use your initiative.


So give it a go, come in to the light, push yourself out of your comfort zone, feel the sunshine on your face. I promise you, you will find your tribe of connections who will inspire and empower you. We were all the newbie once and know what it feels like, I encouraged a friend who I trained with to join Twitter this week and she messaged me to say she felt quite overwhelmed at how friendly, genuine, helpful and supportive everyone is in our extended network.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Connecting and collaborating with like-minded people

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading each of the blogs @staffrm by our Diverse Leaders, delighting in their reflections as they find their voice, use their voice and amplify each others voices – check out the blogs #womened and #bameed

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The amazing connections I have made in the last few years – I am now friends with some brilliant educators who I would not have known had I not invested the time in going to #teachmeets, hosting #leadmeets, tweeting and blogging
  • My memory for names and faces – the more people you meet the harder it is to remember everyone!
  • Carol/ Kate, Naomi, Chris/ Chloe for their invites to speak about my experience of networking
  • Allana/ Paul, Jaz/ Bukky  for their contributions to our networking days

Ethical & Principled Leadership: Vision, Values, Voice & Virtue

I have been thinking, reflecting and discussing leadership a lot over the last few years. I have reflected on the leader I have become, the leader that I thought I would become and the future leaders who I want to develop and shape, staff and students alike. I have never liked labels nor boxes. I have always sat between ideologies and arguments, drawing on the aspects that resonate and disregarding the components that I am not aligned with.

I am not a conformist. I am a collaborator. I am not a game player. I do what is right, even when it makes me unpopular, and when it is challenging.  It has frustrated me over the years that I have worked with those who are territorial and do not appreciate the need for collaborative partnership and system leadership. It has frustrated me that I have worked with those who have focused on the outcomes, competing with each other and playing the system, rather than focusing on the process through which we achieve the outcomes.

We become teachers due to a moral imperative to serve. But, we have all watched teachers become leaders and shed their morals. We have seen the tipping point of leaders who ‘sell their soul to the devil’. We know there are high stakes. We know we are accountable. But, we also know that the system will never change unless we change it from within.

This is why the Headteachers Roundtable brings me hope. This is why Whole Education brings me hope. This is why the Leading Women’s Alliance brings me hope. This is why grassroots movements like #WomenEd and #BAMEed being me hope. Times are changing. Trailblazers are challenging the system. I have been inspired to my core in the last few weeks as I have engaged in the #GreatSchools annual conference for Whole Education, the #HTRTSummit, the #SeizingOpportunities summit and numerous Diversity Matters panels at #BETT17 and #Teach2017.

My core values are my compass point. They are my moral driver. They are also my engine room, as they sustain my energy levels to stay focused, to commit to the big picture, to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

With everything going on in the world right now. With everything going on in the UK right now. With everything going on in the education system right now. We need ethical, principled, values-led school leaders now, more than ever. When we lead with virtue, when values, voice and vision are aligned, then we lead authentically with integrity. This is the leader I am and will continue to be. These are the leaders I want to work with and want to shape.   Through my recruitment process for Aureus School I want to talent-spot the teachers and the leaders who want to work collaboratively, as a team, underpinned by their values. These are the leaders who are resilient and motivated for change as their values strengthen their conviction and their commitment.

I was looking for theory and research to underpin my believe in values-led leadership when Kerry Jordan Daus tweeted about Principled Leadership, a label I was not aware of. I did some research and found the below figure of the ‘4-V model’. Developed by Dr. Bill Grace, the 4-V Model of Ethical Leadership demonstrates the four sides of ethical leadership. The 4-V Model of Ethical Leadership is a framework that aligns the internal factors, i.e. the beliefs and values, with the external factors, i.e. the behaviors and actions, in service of approaching the common good.


The 4 sides of  ethical leadership, include: values, vision, voice and virtue. To develop ethical leadership, we as leaders need to begin with understanding our individual core values. Our vision is our ability as leaders to behave and act within the frame of our values. Our voice is how we articulate our vision and use it to motivate action. Our virtue, is our belief in the common good, it is fostered through ethical, principled leadership. Virtuous behavior is when we live our values, when we strive to do the right thing.

Dr. Grace, the founder of the 4-V model,  identifies three additional key elements to ethical leadership: service, polis and renewal. Our service connects our vision to our values, which means that when our values are tested through our service, that our vision is often revealed. Polis, standing for politics, indicates that our schools are engaged in the art of politics when voice is given to vision in the public context. Renewal is the territory where voice returns to values, illustrates that since voice can be expressed in various ways, us as the leaders should regularly consider whether our actions are consistent with our values and our vision.

(The Center for Ethical Leadership, 2014).

As Andy Hargreaves presented on collaborative leadership and the need for leaders who champion diversities at Whole Education’s #GreatSchools; as Carol Jones contextualised leadership in 2017 at the Leading Women’s Alliance #SeizingOpportunities Summit and advocated the need for values-led decision makers; and as Laura McInerney and Helen Lewis discussed bold leadership and how we articulate and amplify our voices as school leaders at the #HTRTsummit; I felt something inside me shift. My values are strong, but I felt them galvanise for action.  Both events filled me with hope. Hope for the future of our schools, for the future of school leadership.

For me hope is built on: Principled leadership; Ethical leadership; Values-led leadership. Our school system needs these leaders. Our children need these leaders. These are the leaders who will collectively stabilise the chaos that we currently find our world in.

Imagine if all of our schools were led in this way. Imagine if all of our leaders made decisions based on what was right for the children and the community, rather than succumbed to the pressures of the system and the accountabilities. Imagine if the leaders who remained in the system, who were not chewed up and spat out, were the leaders who did not sell their soul to the devil. Just imagine.


Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The impact that the Headteachers’ Roundtable will have on the school system

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Heads Roundtable’s Green Paper
  • The Spirals of Enquiry and communities of collaborative enquiry that Whole Education champion

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Carol Jones for helping to shape my values-led leadership journey
  • Kerry Jordan-Daus for sign posting me to find our more about Principled Leadership
  • The HTRT core group who created a really special event this week and modelled Ethical Leadership
  • The Diverse Leaders panellists – thank you to Allana, Amjad, Bennie, Bukky, Jess, Mahlon and Martin – who contributed to the Diversity Matters panels at #BETT17 and #Teach2017 – continue leading with authenticity and integrity as the tide is changing