The 8 Essential Functions of HR in Schools

Delve into the pivotal role of HR in schools with our blog on the eight essential functions. It explores how HR forms the backbone of a positive educational environment, from recruitment strategies to compliance. Elevate your school's HR strategy with insights from our expert team. 


As per the 2022 school workforce census from GOV.UK, there were nearly 25,000 schools of various types in England, employing around 750,000 full-time teachers and teaching assistants. This substantial workforce, not even accounting for administrative staff and management positions, underscores the significant HR management challenges within the education sector. Clearly, HR in schools is not just crucial; it is a vital function for the success and effectiveness of any school, academy, or trust. 

As well as being a vital function, it is diverse, handling various aspects such as recruitment, employee relations, performance management, legal compliance, and staff development; HR is a comprehensive role essential to running a school. Beyond traditional administrative tasks, HR is also the cornerstone for creating a positive and effective environment for pupils, staff and even parents.   

Our latest blog, written by one of our education HR experts, David West, delves into the eight essential functions of HR in schools, shedding light on their significance for the seamless operation of educational institutions and the well-being of staff and pupils.  

Recruitment and retention  

Recruitment and retention in schools are important for building a successful educational community. This involves creating tailored job descriptions for various roles, including key leadership positions such as recruiting headteachers. The process goes beyond recruitment, including fair interview processes to identify the best candidates and staff inductions to ensure a smooth transition for new members. 

Key to this function is adhering to safe recruitment processes, emphasising thorough pre-employment checks, including background verifications and safeguarding protocols. In essence, recruitment and retention are about strategically building a team that contributes to the success and efficiency of the school.  

Employee relations 

School employee relations focus on creating a positive relationship between school management and staff. It involves addressing issues like grievances and conflicts, managing conduct, and promoting a harmonious work environment. This function supports professional growth among staff, creating an atmosphere conducive to productive learning. It plays an important role in shaping the overall well-being and effectiveness of the educational community by emphasising open communication and mutual respect. 

Performance management 

Focusing on the continuous improvement of educators and staff is vital for sustaining educational standards. This multifaceted function of staff performance management begins by establishing clear objectives tailored to individual roles within the school. Regular assessments are conducted to evaluate performance, providing a comprehensive understanding of strengths and areas for development. Constructive feedback is then provided to guide professional growth. 

Identifying specific professional development needs is a key aspect of this function, ensuring that staff members receive targeted training opportunities aligned with their roles and the school's objectives. This proactive approach lays the groundwork for a structured and ongoing training initiative, creating a learning and skill-enhancement culture among the school's workforce. 

Compliance with employment law 

The critical function of ensuring compliance with employment laws in schools entails navigating a complex legal mind field, covering various aspects such as working hours, leave entitlements, employment contracts, and employee rights. Adherence to these regulations is essential to the seamless operation of the school. Staying vigilant and informed about evolving legal changes is vital to meet this demand. This proactive approach mitigates potential liabilities and ensures the school's alignment with the ever-changing employment regulatory framework. 

Pay and benefits 

The function of managing school payroll and pensions, including employee benefits, is an essential aspect that directly influences the financial well-being of staff. This involves negotiating salaries, implementing fair pay scales in line with the school's financial structure, and overseeing entitlements such as sick leave and holidays. This function serves as the backbone of school financial management, ensuring a balanced and supportive work environment where staff members are compensated fairly and provided with essential benefits that contribute to their overall well-being and job satisfaction. 

Continuous Professional Development (CPD)  

The role of identifying and addressing staff training needs is essential for sustaining educational excellence. This function involves a systematic approach to recognising skill and knowledge gaps, leading to the creation of targeted growth opportunities. It goes beyond routine training, incorporating specific initiatives for leadership development to enhance staff capabilities. This strategic approach not only promotes staff retention but also contributes to producing a high-quality workforce critical for the long-term success and effectiveness of the school. 

Change management 

Practical change management is essential in the ever-evolving education sector. It involves careful planning for staffing structures, recognising key personnel, and implementing succession strategies. Handling restructuring or potential redundancies requires a considerate approach for a smooth transition while keeping the institution stable. This function is key for guiding schools through changes, promoting adaptability, and ensuring lasting success. 

Health and safety 

Establishing a safe environment for staff and pupils involves comprehensive implementation of health and safety policies and occupational health procedures. This encompasses the careful conduct of thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards and ensure the well-being of everyone on the premises. Moreover, stringent adherence to legislative requirements is paramount to guarantee a secure educational setting. To further enhance the overall welfare, the initiation of well-being initiatives for staff becomes integral, creating a supportive atmosphere that prioritises their health and work-life balance within the educational ecosystem. 


In conclusion, the effective functioning of HR is paramount for schools’ overall success and well-being. As highlighted in our exploration of the seven essential HR functions in schools, from recruitment and retention to compliance, HR forms the backbone of a positive and efficient educational environment.  

Ready to elevate your school's HR functions?  

With over 200 years of combined HR experience, our team of dedicated consultants are equipped to deal with any HR function, not just the ones mentioned in this blog. 

Need to recruit a headteacher for your Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), update your school’s HR policies and procedures, or need help with HR compliance legislation? We are the education HR partner you can trust!  

Book a free consultation with our expert team today, and let us elevate your school’s HR management strategy.