Four reasons you should engage a retainer this year!


Retainers can be a fantastic way to get support and advice from professional experts – without the cost of their salaries. Here are four reasons you should consider a retainer this coming school year.

The best (and sometimes not so best!) thing about working in education is that no two days are the same. There is always a new project to oversee or a new regulation to implement. Although this means that things never get boring, it does mean that sometimes even the best-laid plans can get thrown by the wayside. A retainer could help you to keep on track, despite the disruptions, while supporting you every step of the way.

1. True flexibility

There are two main types of retainers. The first can provide a scheduled service (e.g. one day a week) where a consultant will work alongside you as a member of the team to help on either a specific issue or as a general aide. The second type of retainer works as a 'stand-by' service where companies can access an expert on-demand. This could be through emails, phone calls or in person. There is no set retainer model and the hours & services available depend on the consultancy and what your organisation needs.

A good consultancy will work with you at the start of your contract to determine how much time your school or trust will need to achieve your goals. This can always be scaled quickly to increase either the number of days per week or the amount of advice that they can give you, whenever you need it. Although there is almost always an end date, if you do decide to continue past that date, that's always an option.

2. Easy to budget

It can be hard as a single academy or as a small trust to justify additional members of staff – especially if it's creating a new department. Retainers can be used to fill in any gaps, both in knowledge and personnel. Retainers offer phenomenal value for money by giving you access to expert advice without the salary. Your consultant can bring experience from working with other schools and should have their finger on the pulse on legislation and compliance.

The consultancy will set a monthly cost, allowing you to budget accurately. You won't be met with any nasty surprise charges, whichever retainer type you choose (scheduled or on-call).

3. More time for you

The education sector is always evolving. The last two years have been extremely turbulent for schools and their staff. Covid, exams, funding, the cost-of-living crisis, staff shortages – do we need to say more?

Whether you'd like your consultant to ensure that all of your policies are compliant with the DfE or you would like to ensure that your staff are all working to the best of their ability, your consultant can take over to give you more time to fulfil your regular duties. This can be particularly useful for School Business Managers who already have so much on their plate!

4. Trusted advisors

Consultants can offer services on a consultancy or project basis for larger projects, but when the problems are ongoing or small niggles, retainers are a fantastic alternative. As retainer consultants work with you on a longer-term basis, they only have to learn how your organisation works once. Every organisation is different and has its own quirks that make it unique. Your consultant is used to coming into schools and hitting the ground running. They'll slot straight into your business to become a trusted member of the team.

Your expert is friendly, approachable, and non-judgemental. They will build a relationship with everyone on the team to become your trusted advisor but also be able to obtain an objective view Having an in-depth knowledge will also allow them to be proactive about raising issues that could affect you. Whether it's recruitment, staff illness or culture for HR, your expert can help you look to the future and plan ahead.

Keystone offer two levels of retainer services that could take your team to the next stage.

Our "HR Advice Service" will provide you with unlimited support services via telephone and email, plus six visits to your school or trust every year. Your qualified HR advisor will provide guidance and support on recruitment, consultations, disciplinary action, restructures and other workforce-related matters, ensuring you are acting in line with employment legislation and HR best practice.

Our "HR helpline" will support you if you have a quick query to check that your work is compliant with the latest employment legislation and HR best practice. As well as unlimited phone and email support for quick queries, we can also provide advice on teachers' pay and conditions, HR procedure support and formal communications compliance checking.

For more information, visit or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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