Why I set up Teachers Together
My name is Oliver Gosden and for over the past 20 years I have been working in recruitment; the last 15 of them within the education sector. I have never been a teacher - I do not think being a trampoline coach counts (or so I have been told) - but I have been listening to teachers for over a decade-and-a-half and there are so many horror stories that only people within the sector would believe.
There is a common trait shared between the thousands of teachers I have engaged with and that is the passion they have for educating children. Anyone can teach but it takes a special kind of person to inspire the next generation to want to learn. When you see this quality in someone, it’s infectious and it inspires me to use my skills and experience to ensure their qualities are put to good use in the classroom. This is the main reason why I chose to start Teachers Together; to try to invoke some positive change within my community and, hopefully, within the education recruitment sector more broadly.
For 15 years I had worked within a small but growing recruitment company and in this time, I made my way up to a senior level. It was financially comfortable and secure in the sense that I had been with the company for a long period of time and knew the organisation well. I slowly moved off the front line but I was unable to influence the fundamentals of the company which was a source of frustration for me. When the first national lockdown arrived, that blanket of financial security was quickly removed and it gave me time to think about the future.
My role meant I worked from 7am to 6pm with on call duties and responsibilities that did not stop at the weekend. In all honesty, I was not happy. I had lost my way and this was having a negative impact on my young daughter and wife. I wanted to set an example that I could be proud of, so I left the world of being employed and started on my own. And boy, did I underestimate how hard that was going to be.
Setting up a company is difficult at the best of times but there is nothing like the challenge of setting one up during a national lockdown. “What business are you opening?” Teacher recruitment, during a time when all the schools are closed... Yep, this was going to be tough!
I took some time to decide what I wanted Teachers Together to stand for and identify what I needed to do in order to build a different kind of recruitment agency. Firstly, I wanted to provide more help to the teachers and support staff that deserved to be in a classroom. So I looked at everything from the information shared with them to the training they receive. This is where I saw an opportunity to do things differently and challenge the accepted norms and practices within the education recruitment sector.
Recruitment agencies offer a valuable service in times of need for schools and education professionals but how they are treated and regarded does not, in my view, reflect this. Part of that is down to how recruitment agencies have conducted themselves or because schools have had bad experiences using their services. If I wanted to change how recruitment companies are viewed, I needed to ensure I addressed some of these issues through an ethos of “True Transparency”.
What do I mean by this? To start with, the teachers and support staff registered with us are not “temps” but members; people with valuable skills that should be respected and treated as individuals, not products. The schools we work with are not “clients” but partners, as we are all in this together with a shared purpose of providing the next generation the best chance at receiving a good education. Likewise we want to give our members the best chance of developing their skills too through access to training, something usually reserved for those working in permanent positions. Not just some “off-the-shelf” training package which ticks a box but a training programme put together in collaboration with members and partners to ensure it really benefits everyone involved. Pricing, often regarded as something of a taboo or trade secret, should be completely transparent with no hidden fees or surprises for either our members or our partners. If our charges are realistic and justified and clearly understood, why should we hide them?
The stress is still here and I am working more hours now than I have for years. The difference is that I have a goal, a purpose I truly believe in and my family are seeing a happy side of me that has been hidden for a long time. Whether Teachers Together succeeds or fails, I am proud to have tried to do something positive for my industry and my community - and what better example to set for my young daughter?
There is still a long way to go and that includes potential partners believing in this approach. Can I blame them for being cautious? Not at all - just look at what they have had to deal with this past year - but 2021 could be a great year for Hertfordshire to embrace a company that is striving to be different.