HEADTEACHERS have spoken of their struggle to recruit cleaners and kitchen staff, citing Brexit and the impact of the pandemic as key factors.

Cheney School in Headington has been struggling to hire cleaners and kitchen staff in recent weeks.

Headteacher Rob Pavey said although the school is coping at the moment, it could be struggling within a few weeks.

See also: Education group to get new CEO after 18 years with merger possible

He said: “We have a number of vacancies that we’re finding very difficult to fill.

“Our cleaning, kitchen and estates team are not up to full strength which is making things very tough.

“We’re certainly not at crisis point yet, but if things don’t change within a few weeks then we could be really, really struggling.

“Our staff are fantastic and are taking on extra shifts, but this isn’t a sustainable option in the long-term, we simply need more people.

“This isn’t about being able to get a table in the local pub, this is education.”

Mr Pavey added: “There isn’t much that the local authority can do, but I do wonder whether the end of the furlough scheme will make the job market more buoyant – I certainly hope so.”

Herald Series: Cheney School headteacher Rob Pavey at A level results day this summer. Picture: Ed NixCheney School headteacher Rob Pavey at A level results day this summer. Picture: Ed Nix

Mr Pavey also said ‘seasonal sickness’ was making staffing very difficult across the school.

He said: “We are now in the fifth full week of having between 10 and 20 per cent staff absence every day.”

Until a recent recruitment drive, Radley College had also experienced problems recruiting cleaners and kitchen staff.

Sarah Ballard, head of human resources at Radley, said: “Our head of catering has worked in the industry for 40 years and she’d never seen anything like it.

“With Brexit and the pandemic, it felt like a perfect storm.”

Despite taking on a number of staff in recent weeks, Radley’s website still lists various jobs, including for a sports centre cleaner, chef de partie, food service assistant and kitchen porter.

Tineke van der Ploeg, headteacher at Mill Lane Community Primary School in Chinnor, said: “It is always difficult to fill roles such as caretaker and that’s not just down to Brexit, although that has not made it easier.

“All roles in teaching are difficult to fill, especially teaching assistants too as the pay is so low and with little rise over the years.”

The Oxford Mail revealed last month that Cheney would be joining one of the area’s largest education trusts.

Cheney, along with Barton Park and Bayards Hill primary schools, is due to become part of the River Learning Trust in February.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on news@nqo.com or 01865 425 445.