Inclusive recruitment and development: using data to improve your practice

Get tips on how to collect and use data to help you determine where your HR practices could be more inclusive. Find out what steps to take to improve equality for your staff.

Last reviewed on 3 April 2023
School types: All · School phases: All
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  1. Start small: collect data in a particular area
  2. Data can’t give you all the answers
  3. What to record and what the data might mean
  4. What to report to your governors
  5. BAME – a note on terminology

Start small: collect data in a particular area

Make an immediate difference to your HR practices by starting small and focusing on 1 area, such as recruitment or retention, before expanding your attention. How small you start will depend on your school's capacity.

For example, if you're struggling to attract Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) job applicants, start by looking at data on your pool of applicants ('attraction data', see more about this in the section on recruitment below). Then you can look at data from the rest of your recruitment process.

If you haven't been recording data in an area you want to look at (such as the drop-off in applicants in your recruitment process), now is the time to start. You might be able to look back and find other data, too (such as how far BAME staff have progressed in their careers in the past 5 years, compared to white staff).

For more support on inclusive recruitment, take a look at our article on how to reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process.

Data can’t give you all the answers

But it can help diagnose where the problems might be in your HR practices and processes. Supplement that with your own reading and by speaking to members of staff to get a more complete picture.

Get insights from staff

Speak to existing staff about their perspectives on your HR practices, and what they think the problems might be. This will give you an idea as to what to start collecting data on first, but will also offer additional insights beyond what your data tells you.

Conduct a staff survey, ask for anonymous suggestions, or speak to staff who are already working on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Your inclusion lead or staff involved in anti-racism, for example, may have valuable insights. 

Remember, inclusion is everyone's responsibility, not just the job of underrepresented groups to lead the way.

Read up on inclusion

Your own reading will help you decide on the best way to solve the problems in your HR practices. If you're not sure where to start, take a look at our reading lists for

Consider whether you have enough data

Base any judgements about problems in your recruitment process on as much data as possible. For example, use data from multiple recruitment rounds to determine whether or not unconscious bias is at play. 

Some schools won't have employed enough underrepresented staff to get a useful idea of the problems in all of their HR practices. If this applies to your school, it's still worth getting into the habit of recording data, in case there's a big shift in applicant demographics.

What to record and what the data might mean


You might already be doing this, but if not, start recording data about your applicants on issues you want to dive into. Note that information on race and ethnicity, religion, sexuality and health is special category data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so you'll have to protect this information as part of your data protection responsibilities.
Reassure applicants that you're only using this information to improve your practices and it won't be part of your decision-making process.
Someone who isn't part of the recruitment process should keep track of the characteristics you're interested in and monitor the percentage of applicants progressing through each stage of the process.
You can then measure where the 'drop-off' is in the recruitment process - e.g. 50% of applicants at the CV stage might be women, but only 20% might be women at the first interview stage. If this pattern repeats itself, amend your recruitment practices:
  • Anonymise CVs - if there's a drop-off at the CV stage, anonymise CVs. Someone who isn't on the interview panel can remove names, addresses and anything else which might hint at applicants' gender, age or ethnicity
    • That person could replace each applicant's name with a number, so you can keep track of how far applicants progress beyond the CV stage
    • If you use an online application system, you might be able to redact name, gender, ethnicity and other personal information automatically
  • Diversify your interview panel - a drop-off at the interview stage might point to unconscious or conscious bias in the interview panel. Look at who's on your interview panel and whether you can make the panel more diverse. You might also want to consider unconscious bias or inclusivity training for staff who are part of the recruitment process
    • Avoid judging candidates on 'team/culture fit' - this is subjective and can lead to unconscious bias
Compare your school's data to that of your local area
Compare the demographics in the local area to your school, as well as among job applicants. For example, download census data on ethnicity to view demographics by LA (under "8. Download the data").
If the proportion of your job applicants is significantly lower than the BAME population in your area (e.g. 5% of applicants were from BAME groups in the last recruitment round, but 30% of people in your LA are BAME), this might mean you have difficulties attracting applicants who are BAME.
If this is the case, consider where you post vacancies:
  • Are they all on 1 website?
  • Are there other places in your area where you could also advertise roles (such as places of worship)?
Record data from multiple recruitment rounds to build up a picture of the issue. For example, just because there's a significant drop-off at the CV stage in 1 round, doesn't necessarily mean you have a problem with unconscious bias.

Career development, pay and progression

Start by measuring how far your staff with a characteristic you're monitoring progress at your school in a given timeframe (such as 5 years) compared to your whole staff body.
If a particular group (e.g. able bodied staff) tend to progress further in the same amount of time, examine who the decision-makers are in staff members' progression. Ask if there might be unconscious bias at play, and if so, consider unconscious bias training.
You can also do this to measure progression to your senior leadership team (SLT) and performance ratings.

Staff retention

Compare your annual turnover of staff. If turnover is much higher for a particular group, it may suggest they're less satisfied with their opportunities for progression.
You can also compare how many staff leave within a year of starting their role.
Remember: data might be misleading
Such data might give you a rough idea of a problem, but it won't give you the full picture. For example, turnover for white staff might be higher because they've found new jobs more easily than BAME staff.
Exit interviews can provide insight
If your school isn't currently doing exit interviews or surveys, consider introducing these.
It could help you get a better idea about why specific groups of staff leave. However, there's no guarantee that staff will want to talk about their negative experiences. You shouldn't ask staff to share these experiences in an exit interview, but make a note of these if they come up naturally.

Prioritise the changes you want to make based on what your data tells you

Anonymising CVs and conducting exit interviews are good practice. If you've got the capacity, implement them regardless of what your data tells you.

If this isn't feasible straight away, approach the areas which have the biggest gaps, based on what your data tells you.

What to report to your governors

Focus your reports to governors on:

  1. What your data suggests about your recruitment, development and retention practices (e.g. low numbers of BAME applicants for roles compared to the number of BAME people in your area suggests a problem with attraction)
  2. What you're doing to improve your practices (e.g. advertise your roles in more places)
  3. Your targets by the end of the term or year (e.g. double the number of female applicants for senior roles by the end of the year)

Your governing board can decide on the scope and format of your reports, so they might ask for more data than you give them (see page 22 of the Governance Handbook).

BAME – a note on terminology

We use BAME (Black, Asian or minority ethnic) throughout this article as a succinct way to refer to the many ethnic minority groups in England. However, we recognise that some people are not comfortable with the term.

When talking about this topic in your school, we'd encourage you to think about what terms will work best in your own context (other widely used terms include "ethnic minorities" and "people of colour") – and note that individuals should always be referred to according to their own ethnicity, rather than grouped in this way.


Amundeep Dhanoa, director of people and culture at The Key.

Sufian Sadiq, director of teaching school at Chiltern Learning Trust, who spoke to us about anonymising CVs, and that some online recruitment systems will do this automatically.

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