Internal Research Project

The requirement

Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) identified a challenge it was facing around teacher recruitment. Teacher recruitment depends on a number of factors – one of which is reputation. Hard factors such as pay, location, responsibilities and CPD are part of the mix, of course, but just as important (if not more so) is the question: “In what ways are you a good place to work for potential and current staff?”

The staffing challenge facing CMAT (and schools as a whole) does not only depend on attracting new teachers. It is also dependent on retaining and developing existing teachers, so that positions are ultimately filled effectively.

In the teaching profession – peer-to-peer communications, and ‘word of mouth’, is increasingly important – with professional and social relationships, inside and outside of school, being close-knit. Given this dynamic, Athene Communications advised CMAT that it was important for staff to feel engaged and empowered to recommend the Trust to other teachers and those who may be considering a career in teaching.

Athene was commissioned to undertake a research project with CMAT teachers to help identify what staff currently think, feel and know about CMAT – and especially what they (as individuals) want from the Trust.

 

The response

Our research in March-May 2016 was primarily qualitative (comprising of in-depth, face-to-face or telephone, discussions and exploration) with a supporting quantitative element. Consultation scripts were devised and agreed with CMAT’s HR Director, Sue Turnbull, in line with the overall brief and purpose of the research.

We undertook in-depth focus groups with a representative sample of teaching staff – drawn from new starters, middle and senior management (not Headteachers) and long-serving colleagues – at Nene Park Academy, North Cambridge Academy, Sawtry Village Academy, Stamford Welland Academy, Swavesey Village College and West Town Primary Academy.

Teachers for these focus groups were identified and approached through the schools and the sessions were structured to elicit responses to particular themes around the Trust’s role, benefits and impact, and communications.

We encouraged staff to give their views openly and honestly through a promise of individual confidentiality, and that only general themes and observations would be included in our final report (as opposed to attributable staff comments). In total, we consulted with 27 individual members of teaching staff.

We presented our findings, with supporting (anonymous) comments from CMAT staff, with recommendations on themes and statements to support differentiation together with suggestions on improved communications.

 

The result

The outputs of this work gave CMAT:

  • Insight on teachers’ existing views, thoughts and feelings about the ‘value’ of CMAT (as a Trust and as an employer).
  • Intelligence on what teachers want to know about the Trust (and what matters to them), the ‘added value’ benefits they are gaining or would like to gain from CMAT, and how they want to receive communications going forward.
  • A measure on whether teachers’ would recommend CMAT as an employer to others – and if not, what would help them to do so.
  • Clearer understanding of CMAT’s employee proposition – and potential differentiators to support recruitment and retention.
  • Increased internal awareness of, and engagement among, teachers in the ‘value’ of CMAT (through the process of this consultation).

The findings of this research have informed the development of CMAT’s recruitment and retention strategy at Trust level. Athene Communications has subsequently been commissioned to deliver an internal communications programme for the Trust, which includes a new Trust-wide staff magazine from Spring 2017.