Tiernan Kelly- is an autistic, animation student who has just been recruited as a trainer on the ASK ( Autism and Social Communication ) Project. During the Interview he said 'School was a daunting place until I was able to explain my autism to my peers. Once there was some understanding, things really started to improve'.
Catrina Lowri is a neurodivergent (ND) teacher, trainer, and coach. As well as having 22 years’ experience of working in education, she also speaks as a dyslexic and bipolar woman, who had her own unique journey through the education system.
I recently represented the Global Equality Collective (GEC https://thegec.org/ ) at a conference for the Institute of School Business Leaders in Birmingham. The speaker before me was Michelle Storer, Hayes Recruitment, England’s biggest educational recruiter. She said that there is currently a 25 % short fall in applicants for SEND teaching jobs, with a similar shortfall in the numbers applying as teaching assistants. These figures didn’t entirely shock me, but they did intrigue me. Especially as, throughout her talk, Michelle spoke in detail about ways to make recruitment more flexible and adaptable, which lead me to think about how this gap could be filled.
I have long wondered about what can be done about underemployment amongst ND people. The National Autistic Society have long campaigned to improve employment amongst autistic people. Currently however, the recruitment process, particularly in schools is quite traditional and fixed, making it stressful for any candidate, especially if they have underlying ND.
Shortly after the conference, I was presented with an opportunity to find out more about how positions in education could be recruited, interviewed, and employed differently.
I am neurodivergent. I’m dyslexic and bipolar and I have spent my whole career working as a teacher, but I have never tried to actively recruit Neurodivergent (In this case, specifically autistic people) to work with me, until now.
As I spoke about in my recent blog about being an ND teacher, (https://www.neuroteachers.com/post/my-experiences-as-a-neurodivergent-teacher), the majority of us mask, to adapt to the neurotypical world. I have only recently decided to put the mask down and be honest and authentic about what I need. For example, asking for phone numbers and email addresses to be read out slowly, and for instructions such as itinerary for conferences and parking instructions to be emailed in bullet point form.
When I got the opportunity to apply for a grant which would give me the chance to actively recruit autistic trainers, I was very excited. Here was my chance to finally give opportunities to other ND people! There was only one problem; I had absolutely no idea how to go about this.
Step 1- Recruitment
I started off by asking autistic and other ND colleagues and friends how and where they would look for part time work. The jobs I was offering were for up to 4 autistic trainers to do up to 30 hours of training spread over a year. This wasn’t the sort of work you advertise in a paper or online recruitment agency. I decided to opt for using social media. These jobs were linked to a particular area ( North Somerset) so I posted on local Facebook groups, tweeted local charities and advocacy organisations and contacted local schools and colleges through LinkedIn. This worked pretty well, and I got a lot of interest.
Step 2- Applications
To be as inclusive as possible I gave the applicants to option to either, fill in the form by hand and scan it, complete it online, video/ audio record their answers or suggest how they could supply the information needed.
Step 3- Short Listing
My plan had been to choose the candidates based upon their ideas given in the application about how educator training might improve outcomes for autistic learners. I wanted the candidates to understand the importance of conveying their lived experience to the training delegates. I was looking at the applications to see if this came across.
I founds 4 excellent candidates, then I moved to the next step
Step 4- The Interviews
In the interests of inclusion, I gave candidates a variety of different dates and times so we could have a rolling program of interviews and allow flexibility.
I also asked the candidates whether they would like their interviews via video link, phone, or chat. I had two interviews via video, one via phone and one via chat.
I also asked candidates if they wanted the questions in advance or to answers spontaneously. This helped the candidates to feel more in control of the question-and-answer process.
Step 5-Job Offer
I made the decision to tell the candidates on the day that I’d like to make a formal job offer to them. I also explained pay and conditions and what the next step would be.
My PA, Paula Jones introduced herself via email and we will be arranging training shortly.
This is going to be an ongoing series of blogs. I have just started a Facebook group for Neurodivergent Teachers with Lynn McCann and Rebecca Garside, who are both also ND teachers(https://www.facebook.com/groups/762451187641854/).
Our aim is to help ND educators and employers work together to create inclusive workplaces.
If you’d like to know more, please contact me through the website