Interview With an Education & SEND Recruitment Specialist: Jamie Heath15 Jan, 20241-2 minutes
In this blog, you will learn:
- About the experience of a Managing Consultant in Education and SEND.
- Gain insight into how the Education and SEND job market works and current challenges in the industry.
- How to find and apply for the best Education and SEND jobs.
In our feature blog series, ‘Interview with a Recruiter’ we get up to speed with recruiters at Spencer Clarke Group to uncover expert advice for successful hiring and top tips to building your career across the specialisms we operate in.
Today we’re talking to Managing Consultant, Jamie Heath, to delve deeper into the education and SEND recruitment market. Covering primary, secondary schools and SEND schools, there isn’t much our Education and SEND team can’t help with. However, like every specialism we operate in, there are recruitment challenges, complexities and nuances which we help schools and teaching professionals to overcome
With over a decade of experience of working within SEND recruitment, Jamie was the very first member of the Education and SEND division at Spencer Clarke Group. In just 18 months, Jamie has applied his extensive knowledge of the education sector to help build one of the biggest education agencies in Preston.
Jamie, tell us about yourself
I have been with Spencer Clarke Group since May 2022. I joined from another agency with the opportunity to set up the education division to go alongside our already established SEND team.
I have a fiancé called Carol and two cats called Leo and Flora. I’m an avid Blackburn Rovers fan, and in my spare time, I love to watch football. I’ve also started trying to play golf - with an emphasis on the trying!
How did you get into recruitment?
I initially started my working career as an Electrician and then I did a year in accountancy before securing my first role in recruitment. I haven't looked back since. Having always been a social person, I love the client focus and being able to build candidate relationships.
I have always had a keen interest in education as my mum has always worked in schools. I joined an education agency in 2012 and this is the sector I fell in love with - and stayed in ever since!
What does your role entail at Spencer Clarke Group?
I manage the education division where we provide staffing to schools from any level. For the last 10 years, my specialism has been Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). I help schools with staff, recruiting anyone from a SEN Teaching Assistant all the way up to a Headteacher.
Our education team covers all school types; We currently have three staff in our primary division and two in our secondary division, covering all of Lancashire. My SEN team works across Lancashire and Manchester. I am very much involved with the primary and secondary teams and I’m lucky to have great relationships with schools that have spanned 7 years.
You started and built the education team at Spencer Clarke Group, how did you take on the challenge?
Before joining Spencer Clarke Group, I managed a team specialising in SEND at a different recruitment agency. I’d worked in education recruitment for years but couldn't really progress any further so I decided I was either going to set up an agency myself or go and work for someone else. I ended up doing the latter!
At the time, the whole idea was new to the Managing Director of Spencer Clarke Group, Mike Shorrock, but we both fully believed in the idea.
The team started with just me, we subsequently hired Managing Consultant, Niall Murphy, and we started building on it from there. Less than 2 years later, we are a team of 12 including our compliance team who ensure our contractors are compliant to work in schools.
What is the best thing about being a recruiter?
Recruiting for anyone can be incredibly rewarding, from both the client and candidate side. Working with schools and specifically SEND schools, we are genuinely helping students who require additional support which is something really fulfilling. Working so closely with these schools often feels like we are an extension of the school's team.
What are the current challenges in the education job market?
Finding school staff has always been difficult across primary, secondary and SEND; there’s always a need for Level 3 Teaching Assistants in primary schools and there’s a noticeable lack of Teachers across all sectors.
It’s widely known that there are less and less Teachers coming through these days. Teachers are leaving the profession due to pressures on planning and marking; ultimately, schools are short of Teachers which is where we come in!
Working in SEND also throws up its own challenges; in some cases, children with SEND can be referred to a school over the weekend and they are expected to start school the following Monday. This ultimately means schools cannot possibly recruit for this position quick enough and therefore approach us to help them. Luckily, we have vast pools of teachers and support staff available and we are well versed in working quickly!
How does Spencer Clarke Group help overcome these challenges?
Schools, now more than ever, have a need to work with agencies like Spencer Clarke Group to keep up with the immediate need for staff. We have access to exclusive technology and features in terms of the advertisement boards and CV search.
Because of our reputation and the great relationships we maintain, we are extremely successful in gaining referrals. The schools we work with will refer Teachers and support staff to us which is amazing - you will rarely see that with any other agency!
One of our unique selling points as an agency is that we upskill people to work these jobs which a lot of other agencies can’t do. Since it isn't always essential to have a qualification to work in SEND, we often go down the unqualified route to find the best candidates.
We will look for support workers, care workers or people who have special needs in their family, whose transferable skills are essential to working with kids with SEND. As most of our roles move from temporary to permanent, we ensure it is a good fit for both the school and candidate.
We will also attend career events, find CVs or profiles on university databases and contact newly qualified Teachers coming into the industry. We do as much as we can to really think outside of the box to find great Teachers for our schools.
What makes you stand out from other education recruitment agencies
We’ve managed to recruit great people that regularly visit schools and keep in touch with our staff. Over half of our team are actually qualified Teachers or ex-Teaching Assistants who became consultants. Because our consultants have first-hand experience of working within education, they really know what they’re talking about when advising schools or candidates.
I myself regularly go into schools and sit down with the Headteacher to see what it is they’re looking for and how we can best provide for them. I also volunteer as a Teaching Assistant for a day to help out in the classroom in any way I can. I like to keep up to date with the needs of the school and find that I gain a better understanding of children's needs and what they respond to best.
This helps when I speak to candidates as I can better inform them from my own first hand experience in the classroom. When I’m selling a role or a school to candidates, it is easier for me to experience the culture in the classroom and determine how they might fit in with the staff. By visiting schools and showing that interest, I gain a really good insight into how they work and in the ins and outs of that school day. Plus the schools love it as well!
What action or decision have you taken that you are most proud of?
The best decision I’ve ever made - genuinely - was joining Spencer Clarke Group! It was a big decision when I chose to come here. I’ve worked in recruitment for a while and I’ve set up a couple of offices and divisions during my time. I didn’t know if I was ready to set up a brand new one again, but after meeting Mike, I really couldn't think of a better decision.
When I first started, the plan was to see how I would get on but things developed very quickly! After 3 or 4 months, we took on a consultant alongside me and we both started becoming very busy, very quickly which allowed us to take on more staff.
Fast forward a year and a half, we’ve got a team of 9 consultants as well as 3 Compliance Officers. When I look back now, I’m really proud of what Mike and I have achieved in this division. We’ve had a whirlwind start with rapid growth and we’re now one of the biggest education recruitment agencies in Preston!
What’s your best advice for anyone looking to pursue teaching as a career?
In terms of qualifications, Teachers need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or Qualified Teacher Learning Skills (QTLS). Teaching Assistants in mainstream primary schools generally require a minimum of a level 2 Teaching Assistant qualification.
Over the years of working with candidates, obviously lots of people go down the route of doing an undergraduate degree and then they’ll do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which is a one year teaching course.
What I’ve always advised people to do, especially if they’re unsure about going into teaching, is to do 6 months or a year as a Teaching Assistant. Not only do you get to see what it’s like in a school environment and the daily routine, but you will recognise the pressures and demands of the job.
This experience can teach you about the behaviour of the students in a primary or SEND school, as well as improve your own behaviour and time management. Then when it comes to placements, rather than being surprised or feeling anxious for your first time in a school, you’ve already got experience which instils confidence to pursue their career further.
What does the future hold for you at Spencer Clarke Group?
The next steps would be to move out of Lancashire and set up another Education and SEND office, or another division, in a different area.
We recently expanded our focus to school faculty and office staff recruitment because it’s another way in which we can support schools. We provide everything under one roof - they can come to us for Teaching Assistants, Teachers, but also School Cleaners and School Cooks!
This side of things is still in its infancy but there is massive potential to grow and develop this area. We want to continue bringing in really good consultants to build that division across primary, secondary and SEN. There’s no limit to what we can do!
Recruiting in your school?
If you loved what you just read and need help recruiting in your mainstream or SEND school, look no further! As a leading Education and SEND recruitment agency, we support countless SEND schools with their recruitment needs - as you’ve just read, we cover everything from Teaching Assistants to School Caretakers!
Teaching and SEND jobs
Searching for your dream teaching job? We work with a number of mainstream and SEND schools, predominantly in the North West area, who are seeking exceptional talent to join their school.
Make the first step to a rewarding and fulfilling career now by uploading your CV and we will contact you when relevant positions become available.
Who is Spencer Clarke Group?
Since 2017, we've been transforming and evolving the recruitment industry with our innovation and determination. From our expert employees, to the way we conduct business, to ensuring the best experience for candidates and clients, we're determined to make and create a positive impact on everyone around us.
Recruitment means more to us than just matching candidates and clients. We are driven by our desire to enhance the recruitment experience and we understand the importance of finding a role that prioritises candidates' mental health, work life balance, while giving them the opportunity to boost their salary and standard of living.
Similarly, we love to see clients thrive through the hard work of skilled and experienced candidates we have placed for them. We understand that shaping a better, brighter and more fulfilling future for both candidates and clients is crucial for an individual's career development and an organisation's growth.
We operate in two sectors:
In eleven specialisms: