In the news

Two recent headlines stirred the sinews and provided an unwelcome boost to blood pressure:

‘Education leaders demand inclusion of business professionals in senior leadership meetings’

and

Newly qualified teachers report higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfactionthan other graduates, but are more likely to say their hard work is unrewarded, research has found. The academic behind the research urged the Government to make teachers feel valued to stem a recruitment crisis in the profession

At first glance they could seem to be entirely unconnected, but I sense a commonality of DNA in that they are both speak to a weakness in management and leadership skills within the education sectors.

Now, this is not to allocate blame except to those who are responsible for educating and training teachers in the first place. There is absolutely no reason why an excellent, highly motivated and personable teacher should find his or her way (should it be ‘their’ way?) into a school’s senior management team and automatically know how to manage the complex individuals who make up their teaching staff. 

 There is no reason why a Head should be able to understand all the complexities of employment law, health and safety, contract law, marketing, people management and motivation, financial ratios, cash flow and all the other complexities that make up the modern independent school.  Many do, of course, but only because they have done the job for many years and have devoted much of their lives to finding it all out.  Sometimes the lessons have been hard learned and as anyone who has faced an even half -justified employment grievance will know, this can be expensive experience.

Governors can play an important role when they bring a wide and wise background from a range of industries but they are usually busy and not always as engaged as the Head might like. He might also feel that he should be able to cope without bothering them.

The first of the quotes should be a reminder that Heads should be groomed for the role and receive structured training to enable them to cope without having to involve expensive ‘business professionals’. The second seeks to involve government (and what do they know?) in the motivation and management of newcomers to the industry. These folk will usually be young, idealistic and highly motivated – that’s what you get when you work with young people. Please don’t waste all that by allowing them to be gradually disillusioned by senior management staff who have no idea about leading people because they have never had the chance to learn.  That’s a job for schools not government and as we have said before, money won’t fix the problem on its own.   

We can help of course.

It’s not all about money

Reports of salary demands for teaching staff are in the air again. Just at a time when school finance committees, heads and bursars are already buried in spreadsheets and working through ‘what -if’ scenarios to balance higher pension contributions with parents’ ability to stump up for more fees.          

No one does a good job if they are pre-occupied with making their money last as long as the month, but it would be a mistake to rely on salary increases to maintain staff morale and retention.  Volumes have been written to demonstrate that motivation is not driven by money (given that the money : month ratio is reasonably balanced) and that other factors are more lastingly important for all of us.

A good start is to take a look at your internal communication. If staff are consulted and informed then they will feel that their contribution is valued and become more committed to the collective aims of the school. That will include a recognition that pricing oneself out the market is not good for long term job security. Fixing this on its own is no silver bullet but, as we have shown clients, it is remarkably straightforward and inexpensive to get it right or much better.

In our work with some really well- run and successful schools we have been told of timetables that were changed without consultation with the teacher – the person most affected – and of support staff who arrived at a meeting with no clue why they were there nor how long it would take.

In both circumstances the colleagues involved might be thinking that they are not paid enough to put up with this sort of thing.

There is always a reason, of course and usually that is that everyone is too busy to do things correctly – ‘we just needed to get on with it’. It could be that one reason for being so busy is that they were up to their necks in fixing problems caused by less than thoughtful communication. 

It’s a possibility.

BLOG

READY FOR EVs?

I plead guilty to an interest in the automotive sector, but the news today regarding the phasing out of diesel, petrol and even hybrid engines means that there will be an acceleration in EV usage sooner rather than later and schools should plan to have a charging station(s) on site for visitors, if not staff.

Best in class customer care means that all businesses should be anticipating their customer’s needs – being able to offer ( and to publicise that offer) that prospective customers can charge their EV whilst choosing their child’s next school will put you at the front of the crowd. Parents will remember this and your thoughtfulness when other memories have merged with those from the other schools that they have visited.

Paul Evans