Interview with a SEND Recruitment Specialist: Richard Shorrock17 Oct, 20231-2 minutes
In this blog, you will learn:
- About the experience of a SEND recruitment specialist working with local authorities across the UK.
- Gain insight into how the SEND job market works and current challenges in the industry.
- How to find and apply for the best education and SEND jobs.
In our new feature blog, ‘Interview with a recruiter’ we’re catching up with recruiters from across the Spencer Clarke Group office to discover valuable tips and tricks for successful hiring across the broad spectrum of businesses which we work with.
From hospitals and schools, to local authorities and private sector organisations, there isn’t much we can’t do. However, each sector we operate in is filled with recruitment intricacies and over the next months, we’re going to catch up with our recruiters to uncover them - starting with SEND specialist, Richard Shorrock.
Back in 2019, now Divisional Manager, Richard Shorrock, began operating in the SEND recruitment market and subsequently, a full division within Spencer Clarke Group was launched during 2020 due to his almost overnight success.
By immersing himself into the SEND market and successfully delivering on multiple projects, Richard has established an outstanding reputation with local authorities all over the UK.
Richard won Best Temporary Consultant at the 2023 Global Recruiter Awards for his services to SEND recruitment; the award perfectly demonstrates Ricks vision to revolutionise the SEND employment landscape and attract exceptional talent for meaningful reform to take place.
Richard, tell us about yourself
I’m a self-confessed workaholic and absolutely love what I do in my career. I think if you asked my friend’s, they’d say I don't take life too seriously and I have a good balance! My 2 Sprocker Spaniels take up a lot of my attention outside of work, much to my partner’s dismay! I’m a big golf fan outside the office which is a great de-stresser for me! As a sibling of 4, it can be rather competitive when playing against my brothers!
How did you end up in the world of recruitment?
I came from a hospitality background originally; in my earlier years, I was General Manager for a company which had 2 restaurants and a bar in my home town of Lytham. I was a manager of 70 staff overall, which was high pressure and extremely taxing on the legs. I look back on it fondly as I made some fantastic friends not only with colleagues but with customers, some of whom I still keep in touch with today!
I have always had a deep passion for helping or supporting people, I definitely think my career in hospitality, liaising with a variety of different clientele on a daily basis has helped me and my communication skills.
After my successful career in hospitality, I had a unique opportunity to come and work for Spencer Clarke Group. My brother – who is the Director – had worked in recruitment all his life when he launched Spencer Clarke Group. I was excited to help him achieve his dream of opening his own agency! The rest, as they say, is history!
I quickly found my feet in recruitment and absolutely love the industry, whether it’s helping someone who is out of work find employment or supporting someone on their career path to a promotion. Every placement inspires me and the feel good factor you get from helping someone in their career journey is just the best feeling for me!
From working in a public sector market, predominantly in social care, I quickly built some amazing relationships with local authority clients working on large scale recruitment projects which allowed me to start hiring and building a team across the Midlands & North of England. It was only when I made a significant placement with one particular candidate that catapulted me into the world of SEND.
I fell in love with the world of SEND, the people that work within it and the difference it makes. I’m really proud now looking back at the relationships we have built with candidates, clients and the staff we provide who truly do an amazing job and the impact they have on ensuring the children in our communities have an inclusive education.
What does your role entail at Spencer Clarke Group?
Well - one day is never the same in the world of recruitment! My day to day role within Spencer Clarke Group involves liaising with our local authority clients at their time of need. Our experienced and specialised staff offer much needed support to their local authority SEND services.
Clients can come to us at very short notice with immediate and urgent needs, so keeping my finger on the pulse with all our candidates is of paramount importance. It enables me to provide the very best staff to our local authority clients, a lot of the time within a few hours notice.
Further to this, we have a deep passion to help our candidates on their career journey. A lot of candidates have their own ideas about where they’d like to progress to, so a big part of my job is being a cog in the wheel in this journey.
Who do you work with?
I work with local authority SEND services predominantly. Since 2019, I’ve been very fortunate to work closely with local authorities all across the UK. We are proud to have worked with over 50 local authorities in 2022 alone!
Our clients often approach me with a diverse range of requirements, which can include singular hires, multi hire projects or involvement in service redesigns and restructuring. For instance, local authorities may seek our support when they require a specialised interim to fill a crucial position due to long term sickness or maternity cover.
These range from SEND Officers, Plan Writers, SEND Tribunal Officers right the way up to Directors of Education. Our agency covers the whole spectrum of a SEND service.
In other cases, they may engage our services for larger scale projects, such as assembling a team of Case Officers to address a surge in demand or to implement a new SEND strategy.
Working on service re–designs/structures is another area we have been fortunate enough to make a meaningful impact in. Some clients have come to us in the past with a reduction of 50% due to staff retiring or resigning and deploying a project team to ensure the service can continue to adhere to its statutory responsibilities.
We work on exclusive Annual Review Backlog projects with local authorities to reduce the backlog of EHCP’s that need urgent annual review amendments. This process involves hiring multiple officers to a specific project team. It’s been a really successful tool for local authorities and one we are proud to have in place for several clients of ours at the moment.
I am also really proud to have worked on numerous executive appointments within SEND where we have supported the local authority in providing them with Directors of Education & Head’s of Service.
Can you give us an insight into how the SEND job interim market works?
If you are a candidate who is thinking about contracting, once you’re onboarded and registered, you have access to all our vacancies which we send out on a weekly basis and the application for these roles is straightforward, usually with a 1 or 2 stage interview process.
There's plenty of options out there, some roles are fully remote meaning you can work the role from home, some offer flexible hybrid working if you prefer to attend the office!
It’s an amazing way for candidates to work for multiple local authority SEND services. Not only does it give them valuable experience of how other managers and services operate, but it gives the candidate flexibility and the potential for a great work life balance.
There are always insecurities when thinking about entering the interim market; Will I be out of work? What happens if my contract ends? These are all perfectly normal queries and hesitations to have.
The contract length always tends to be longer term, some of our SEND Officers have been working on their assignment for over 3 years with the same SEND service! The general rule of thumb is that you’d be engaged in a contract from anywhere in a period of 6-12 months. Having the freedom of working as an interim has given our workers a better work/life balance, a chance to spend more time at home with their families, and sometimes a break in between contracts to recharge the batteries!
We’ve worked with our clients through difficult and challenging times and the deployment of our staff has definitely helped to provide better and more positive outcomes for children who have special educational needs & disabilities. It’s something I am always very proud of and grateful to be a part of!
What is the best thing about being a recruiter in SEND? Can you give examples?
I think the best about being a recruiter within SEND is working with the clients and candidates that we have. These people are so passionate and make such a meaningful impact, they all genuinely care so much about the sector and what they do.
My favourite moment in SEND has to be when I worked on my very first placement in the sector back in 2019. The candidate wanted to pursue a career on the local authority side of SEND. She’d predominantly worked within schools as a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator), and after a really deep conversation about her passion and ambition to one day become a Senior Leader within SEND, we managed to place her into an Assistant SEND Officer role.
We both agreed it was below her expertise, but she trusted me and for that I felt like I owed it to her to work with her every step of the way to get her to where she wanted to be - a manager of a local authority service.
Looking back now, I’m proud as she currently works in her dream role and on a permanent basis. She doesn’t work via the agency anymore but we speak near enough every week as close friends! The job as a recruiter within SEND gives you so much, but the friends and relationships you make you can keep for life!
What are the current challenges in the SEND job market?
There are a lot of challenges in the SEND system at the moment and professionals are caught in the crossfire between government regulations and the impact which a failing system is having on children with SEND.
Requests for EHCP’s are increasing year after year. From 2021 to 2022, there was a 23% increase and we expect to see a rise when this year’s stats are released. Due to SEN being in the spotlight in the media, there is definitely a greater awareness on what support children are entitled to.
Finding highly qualified staff who can come into local authority services and hit the ground running, sometimes in high volume, can always be challenging, especially when the hires are critical and time sensitive.
How does Spencer Clarke Group help local authorities to overcome those challenges?
I pride our agency on the deep relationships we have with our candidate pool. Many of our candidates aren’t on job boards, they have trust and loyalty towards our agency to find the best roles for them.
We are quite fortunate and grateful to our candidates for their loyalty. We’ve built this candidate pool up over the past 4 years and they include some of the very best SEND professionals with years of experience.
We offer a comprehensive, one stop shop so to speak for all SEND interim staffing for local authorities. Every single placement we work is important to us and none get more or less attention than the other. We have a great reputation for turning round recruitment enquiries rapidly with excellent results.
What’s your best advice for anyone looking to join the interim job market?
The interim market isn’t for everyone! The best advice I can give is to give the agency a call and let us talk you through both sides of the coin. We like to get a good understanding of what it is you want.
Our honest advice is tailored specifically to you as an individual. We understand, it’s not as easy as handing in your notice and jumping straight into your dream role. There are various factors which a potential contractor needs to take on board but we are really well placed to support you with this.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career? How can they gain valuable experience?
There are plenty of available online courses you can undertake which can increase your knowledge of the SEND sector. Or doing voluntary work within a local authority SEND service is sometimes a great way to gain experience if the service allows you to.
What advice would you give to someone looking to join a local authority?
When recruiting for interim positions at local authorities, clients usually look for direct work in similar roles. There are avenues into the council and sometimes applying for the permanent vacancies can be a great way of getting your foot through the door if you don’t have hands on experience in the role. An employer will invest the time and resources needed to train you up the appropriate level when you work for them on a permanent basis.
What does the future hold for you at Spencer Clarke Group?
I hope to continue the great relationships we have with the clients we work with and to continue to support the existing projects we have in place with further staffing as and when they need.
The success the agency has had in the world of SEND & the wider public sector has enabled us to grow to a team of 9 consultants! We are expanding further as we are looking to take on more consultants as we increase our reach to even more local authority SEND services.
Local authority SEND recruitment services
As a leading SEND recruitment agency in the UK, we support local authorities all over the UK with their recruitment needs. We can supply SEND staff for:
Service redesign - Mid to senior hires across the SEND service to assist in service restructure.
Annual review backlogs - Including multiple hire projects to assist councils in removing Education Health & Care Plans backlogs.
Appointing Executives & Directors e.g Directors of Education / Heads of Service.
SEND/EHC Case workers who can hold annual review meetings, liaise with families, education settings and professionals as appropriate, preparing and following up in line with the SEND Code of Practice processes.
SEND/EHC Case workers can also amend plans where appropriate, working through your governance/approval arrangements.
If you’re searching for your next SEND job, get in touch with our Divisional Manager, Richard Shorrock, to find the best temporary, interim or permanent SEND jobs on the market now. Alternatively, upload your CV to receive notifications when relevant job opportunities become available.
Who is Spencer Clarke Group?
Since 2017, we’ve been reshaping the recruitment industry with our innovation and passion for evoking positive change. We are driven by our commitment to finding candidates the perfect job that has the ability to not only boost their salary, but also improve their mental health, standard of living and better their work life balance.
From individuals seeking career progression to companies aiming for unprecedented growth, we continue to evolve to shape a brighter more fulfilling future for all.
We operate in two sectors:
In eleven specialisms: