Is there an effective approach to reducing staffing costs which also takes account of the educational needs of pupils?
Be Clear About the Skills and Flexibility Required for the Medium Term
Faced with the need to balance their budgets and the fact that staff costs amount to 70% or more of expenditure, Head Teachers and Governors are increasingly having to consider reductions of staff. That may effect teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff. Rather than simply trim 10% or more off certain staffing budgets, a more effective approach is to consider what flexibility is required for the school to meet the likely pupil profile and educational strategies over the next few years. With fewer staff, it becomes important to ensure that the staff to be retained are those with the required skills and flexibility..
Examining the needs of the school is the key to a successful change. Simply making the bulk of reductions in Teaching Assistants is likely to create other issues. For example, the lack of cover for continuing professional development sessions or 1:1 help with pupils that present particular challenges. The lack of CPD may increase the inclination of effective members of the teaching staff to leave. The Head Teacher and senior leadership team need to take an objective view of the school’s needs and determine what are the range of skills and flexibility required.
Retain an Appropriate Mix of Skills
Regrettably, redundancies may not be avoidable but the following points should not be overlooked in your approach to the future organisation:
- What skills and relevant experience will be demanded by the future needs?
- What key attitudes and flexibility will be required going forward?
- Are those evident from tangible, objective sources that can be referred to in any selection criteria?
For example, when considering skills ask yourself whether the relevant staff have collectively or individually:
- Sufficient skills to teach across all the required key stages
- Ability/willingness to support extra curricular activities essential to the school’s attainments and reputation to retain and attract pupils
- Breadth of teaching assistant skills for cover and other tasks
- Flexibility in administrative tasks
Redundancy of Roles
If part of the solution necessitates some redundancies, it can be helpful to think about the above in terms of what and who needs to be retained to secure the future needs of the school. Usually, that requires four key steps:
- General consultation with staff representatives.
- Seeking volunteers for redundancy and deciding whether or not an individual can be released and also if compulsory redundancies are required.
- The selection criteria that will be used.
- Consultation with the affected individuals.
The criteria should reflect the future needs of the school but you will need to think carefully whether there is objective evidence available to support assessments against the criteria. If criteria such as teaching standards are being used, it may not always be practical to find objective evidence to hand. Occasionally, you may have to rely upon the professional judgement of the Head and/or Senior Leadership Team to assess/determine whether an individual has consistently met the standards being assessed and the objective evidence for the conclusions or assessment..
By focusing on the future needs, what skills etc need to be retained and who should be retained, you will be a good way towards an effective approach to reducing staffing costs and balancing the future needs of the school.
Dealing with individuals who are being displaced requires sensitivity and time to ensure that they make informed decisions about volunteering for redundancy, the financial implications including pension issues as well as the implications for those who will be terminated as a result of a selection exercise. At the same time or shortly afterwards, you then have to invest time in focusing and developing the remaining members of staff to focus on the challenges ahead.
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