The Pressure is On to Address Teachers’ Workload

Why do your teachers work long hours?
Do you know how many hours your teachers work on average per week?

A survey commissioned by the DfE [1] indicates that teachers are working an average of nearly 54 hours a week and senior leaders working around 62 hours a week.  Some must work much longer hours to give such an average.  The report on the survey indicates that there are three main causes: marking, planning and data management.

Head Teachers and Governors Can Address Those Issues

The issue of long working hours is not a recent one but it is accentuated by the shortage of teachers.   The first question above starts with a ‘why?’  because Head Teachers and Governors are in a position to address such explained in earlier articles on this blog, for example, ‘Pressure on the School v Pressure on the Teacher’. 

The evidence for taking action is growing as are the examples of and ideas for effective action.  The Sources section below cites some articles and further reading.

Governors have a responsibility to support the Head Teacher in tackling the issue rather than content themselves with the view that the problem is beyond them.   New Heads and those parachuted in to a troubled school often place themselves under great pressure to improve results in a few months – that pressure is passed on knowingly or unknowingly to the teaching staff who often face a raft of new initiatives with the result that individuals become tired and anxious and do not think as clearly as they would without such pressures.

Governors have a valuable role in helping the Head and SLT to challenge themselves to weed out any unnecessary demands and administrative tasks that detract from teaching.

Planning for Whose Benefit?

One would think that it was for the benefit of pupils/students but it can be the opposite.  Heads sometimes use it as a means of monitoring their staff but that can lead to time consuming paper plans that do not necessarily translate into improvements in learning outcomes.   A key article in the Guardian [2] gives some different perspectives on planning and a lighter touch approach.

Instances will occur in which teachers need to improve their skills but focusing on paper evidence is more likely to aggravate the problem especially if the individuals are feeling undue pressure.  Cut through the paper plans and help them to see how they can deliver more effective learning in their class situations.  That produces multiple benefits; a more confident teacher; improved learning outcomes; a less stressed individual and a Head/SLT who will benefit from a teacher’s performance which has been turned around.

Peculiar Motivation for School Governors and Heads

Can Governors afford to delay tacking this type of issue?   For many, their motivation would be to produce better learning outcomes. If that is not sufficient then maybe the following will be encouragement to act:

  • Governing Bodies have a legal duty to monitor working hours and to take action if those are unreasonable – see more at Teachers’ Working Hours – Duties of Governors and Head Teachers, 
  • If undue stress is caused to a teacher, that could lead to an expensive unfair dismissal case for the school.  Recently, the compensation rates for injury to feelings, have been increased.  Those are additional to the dismissal award and could add up to £42,000 or more to a claim.  More detail can be seen in the Key HR Facts section of our Personnel Advice website.

Governors and Head Teachers can minimise the chances of finding themselves a party to an expensive personal injury claim for stress or an unfair dismissal claim for undue pressure on a teacher.  How?  Take the positive outcomes road as noted above.

The DfE is also partly serious about the workload and amount of working hours.  It has added advice in the latest Governors’ Handbook and Ofsted has also updated its guidance in order to minimise additional work caused to schools.

[1]  Teacher Workload Survey 2016, Research brief, DfE, February 2017.
[2]  Tips to help schools reduce teacher workload by Ruth Stokes, 19 July 2017, The Guardian, Teachers Network.

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Holidays – How Clear Are Your School’s Rules about Absence for Holidays?

During the last few weeks of term, there is the risk that parents may be tempted to take a family holiday because it is affordable compared to the peak Summer holidays period.  Although the Supreme Court has ruled on this, Head Teachers and Governors need to understand the reasoning of the Court and check that their school’s policy is clear.

Uncertainty Created by the Decisions of Lower Courts

When deciding whether a school/local authority had the right to  seek a fine on ra parent for taking their child out of school in term time, the Supreme Court noted, that using the test of ‘sufficiently frequently’ was too uncertain for parents to know whether they were in the right or wrong.  Instead, the Court held that the key was whether the parents had complied with the school policy.

Review the Clarity of Your School’s Absence/Holiday Policy

In the light of the above, you should check that your policy is clear and will be interpreted by parents that absence for holidays duing term time is a breach of the school’s rules and expectations of parents regarding the child’s or student’s attendance.

A reminder each year in January to parents/guaridans may be advisable as that is often when parents start to think about their main holiday.

Some schools may be in communities in which there are a high number of, for example, parents who are hospital doctors.  They are often obliged to take their holidays at the end of their contract and before their next role.  In such cases, the Head and Governors may wish to have some flexibility regarding holidays but that will need careful thought. 

The Court’s Core Reasoning re Attendance at School

The Supreme Court noted that education statutes had regard to the importance of a child’s regular attendance for the sake of his/her education.   A fine and possibly a conviction could arise but a conviction can be avoided if the penalty is paid on time. That may have influenced the decision of the Court to take this firm stance.  

The Balancing Skills of the Head Teacher and Governors

As noted above, the Head Teacher should ensure that:

  • the school’s policy is clear on the issue of taking holidays in school term times;
  • the consistency of any exceptions permitted.

In addition, the school will need to consider its policy on:

  • issuing penalty notices for breaches of its rules/policy.  Currently, the law permits a penalty notice of £60 to be issued.  If that is not paid within 21 days, the penalty increases to £120;
  • requesting prosecution of a parent who breaches the school rules/policy.

The reality is that some parents will feel that the benefit of a family holiday in term time with the cost of a fine is worthwhile compared to the cost of a holiday in the Summer holidays.

Are There Other Solutions?

i)  Should local authorities and academies etc. be given greater freedom to set staggered holiday times across the country to encourage holiday firms to lower their prices?

ii)  In June and July, many schools arrange school trips/holidays for educational purposes.  Should those periods be approved instead as flexiible school holiday weeks in which families can take a holiday  Schools could help to ensure that such holidays with parents are educational by providing ideas to help children/students observe and discover during their holiday experiences – that does not necessarily mean having to visit expensive ‘tourist attractions’.

iii)  Should tourist boards become more pro-active in advertising affordable holiday packages, during school holidays, as it is alleged that guest houses etc. struggle due to the competitive holiday market.

The above will raise logistical issues for schools but those could be reduced if relaxations were made on a county wide basis.  On the other hand, perhaps the taking of holidays in  term time is not a big issue for schools. Do you have a view on this issue – if so leave a polite comment below.


Isle of Wight Council v Platt [2017] UKSC 28

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Pressure on the School v Pressure on the Teacher


Editor’s Note – Further content added 08/04/2017

There is no doubt that many teachers feel under pressure due to the hours spent on planning, marking, meetings at school, assessments and reviews.  As a consequence, teachers have to carry out work tasks in their ‘leisure time’. For some that leads to long working hours and a detrimental effect on performance.

Are the Head and/or Governors the Cause of Undue Pressure?

Photo of people feeling pressure

Head Teachers are not immune from similar pressures but are some Heads the source of the pressure on their teachers?  “What!” I hear being yelled at the screen as you read that.  Stop for a moment and consider – how many new policies or ideas have you or the School Governors initiated, which were not the result of a Government policy, but perhaps the result of a visit to another school or an idea from a conference?  Continous improvement is an aim that many organisations pursue.  That is not the same as continuous organisational change which some adopt as their organisation’s mantra – such change unless overtly beneficial leads to a weary, less responsive organisation.

There are different views for the increased pressure and numbers leaving the profession.  An example of such is given in the sources section (reference 3) at the end of this article.  The alternative view given in this article, which you are readiing, is based on the author’s work with school heads and governors and his own observations of situations.  The need to deal with the issues is not going to disappear in the short term and will require different approaches and active participation by the Governing Body of a school.

The incidence of head teachers being off sick for a lengthy period or even not returning due to a mix of illness and faltering leadershp seems to be more prevalent in the last few years.  We know that individuals react differently to pressure.  Some seem to thrive on it and others wilt. The danger arises when the pressure turns to stress and the individual becomes broken in spirit and/or health.

Headless Organisation

When the head becomes ill and/or stressed, the school may have a capable Deputy and SLT to step up to leadng the school.  However, that is not always so and the Deputy acts up but leadeship decisions become questionable due to the personal pressure perceived by him/her to prove themselves.  If the Governors are not actively supportive, the Deputy will begin to pass on the pressure to the staff.  A downward spiral develops.

The Governors need to intervene in several ways:

  • Secure an ex head or existing head to coach the Deputy in leading the school and use this time to develop the SLT as well;
  • Raise the self awareness of the Deputy and SLT so that they can address pressure points amongst themselves and receive appropriate support and coaching;
  • Review key priorities with the Deputy/SLT to avoid unneccessary changes that will lead to undue pressure;
  • If the Head is still in post, help the Head to realise that change for change’s sake or just to be seen to be ‘progressive’ is not necessarily in the best interests of the organisation and may be counterproductive;
  • The Governors need to accept their duty to ensure that working hours are reasonable.and the staff remain positive.

Governors’ Duty to Minimise Unreasonable Working Hours

In many organisations, professionals and managers have to work longer hours at critical periods.  The Teachers’ Terms and Conditions set out the working hours requirements but the Governing Body should be reviewing the hours regularly and seek to ensure that instances of long hours are examined and help given by a member of the SLT or a teacher colleague to the individual(s) to change the way they work and help the individual to be effectivel.  (See this earlier article for more details) [2]

When Individual Capability is a Key Factor

Working long hour may be a symptom or the cause of declining effectiveness.  The capability process can help to win an nidividual back in some instances.  However, many Governing Bodies have approved processes that are long winded.  In practice, such procedures fail frequently to provide a core supportive and balanced approach.

Heads and Governors need to be mindlful that because capability is often a drawn out process, patience can be lost and termination becomes the objective.  In some cases, that is appropriate.  If ill-heath is a contributory factor, a balanced approach is required if an unfair dismissal is not to result. This is an aspect of which Governors need to be aware.  When health has been affected by stress or similar illnesses, the doctors and therapists may not be able to provide an assessment on when an individual should be fit to return to work until after the treatment or sessions have been completed.

Balancing Act by the Governors as Employer

Such treatment may take, say 3 months more, and the Governors should balance whether waiting a further three months would be more damaging to the school (e.g. the pupils/students, teaching colleagues, costs etc.).

The Court of Appeal [1] has stated the importance of the balancing exercise.   The school had failed to provide any persuasive evidence of the further damage that would occur if the Governors waited for another three months before deciding whether or not to dismiss.

[Author’s note – tThis case was a majority decision.  The facts of a particular case will influence the outcome.  As the Court of Appeal noted this has been a hallmark for many years in ill-health cases per the case of Spencer v Paragon Wallpapers Ltd [1977]

“Every case depends on its own circumstances. The basic question which has to be determined in every case is whether, in all the circumstances, the employer can be expected to wait any longer and, if so, how much longer? Every case will be different, depending upon the circumstances.”}

As this is a decision by the Court of Appeal, it carries weight so Governing Bodies need to ensure that their internal hearings do carry out that balancing exercise and note the harm/damage either way if a decision on dismissal is not to be deferred in an ill-health type case.


Both the Head and Governors have an obligation to keep working hours under review and the Governors need to check that practical action is being taken to address instances of excessive hours and/or illness with performance/capability issues.

Further Action

Do you believe that a school has the opportunity to reduce the pressure on its teachers?  If so please leave a comment on this article as you can then help to draw more attention to the reality of such pressure and the need for action locally by the school.  


[1]  O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s Academy [2017] EWCA Civ 145
[2]  Earlier blog article – Teachers’ Working Hours – Duties of Governors and Head Teacher
[3]  Recruitment, Budgets and Accountability by Ros McMullen, published March 31, 2017 by Headteachers’ Roundtable.

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Distracting but Necessary Issues to Address Shortly

In common with many organisations, Head Teachers and Governors have to grapple with peripheral issues that do not further the educational aims of the school but have to be dealt with as they are statutory requirements and could lead to adverse publicity for the school.

Peripheral Issues Arising

The following matters will need to be considered in the coming months as the implementation date for some issues is April 2017.

  1. Gender Pay Reporting **
  2. Data protection  – new European standard and regulations
  3. Employment of apprentices and the Apprenticeship Levy **
  4. Changes to Immigration rules and increased costs for employers
  5. Increases in the National Minimum Wage rates
  6. Mental health issues at work
  7. School policies that have been overtaken by recent cases and regulations.

The items with ** will apply to organisations with 250 or more staff but do not heave a sigh or relief just yet.   Because many schools are now within a larger employer such as a Multi-Academy Trust, the reporting needs will affect you although your employer will have to carry out the compliance work.

Tips About Complying and Gaining Extra Value

To help head teachers and school governors, I shall be publishing during the next two months:

  • Articles and tips on the above;
  • References to previous articles that provide insight into the pitfalls in some issues;
  • Simple checks you can make to ensure that you have not breached the requirements inadvertently.

Receive Notification of New Articles and Tips

To ensure you do not miss the articles, you can be notified when they are published.  Just click on the link for ‘receive notifications’ in the left hand column of this page.

© 2017 HR Management Dimensions

The Headsup HR blog is published by HR Management Dimensions Ltd.under the editorial lead of Jim Harrington.

How Valid is an Inspection by OFSTED?

Head Teachers are sometimes surprised by the cursory observations and way in which an inspection is conducted.  One may accept that professionals in all disciplines, including OFSTED inspectors, may have an occasional  ‘off day’ but the outcome of a flawed inspection is likely to have a serious impact on the reputation of both the school and the staff.

While the inspection process allows for comments on the inspection to be fed back, that may not be sufficient to overcome the loss of confidence in the process and the resulting damage.

Earlier in 2016, the Courts demonstrated that they will not allow OFSTED or other government related bodies to exceed or abuse their powers.   Although the case involved early years provision by a nursery school and the safety of children, the case is of interest because it sets out some key principles and comments on the inspection process and the duty of an inspector.

The Evaluation Process During an OFSTED Inspection

Some of the Judge’s comments are given below regarding the process.  At the core of the case was a grievance that an OFSTED Inspector had exceeded her powers by investigating a complaint made by a member of the public about the safety of a child – a child had been pushed accidentally into a road while children were being escorted between the nursery and the primary school.

“… the evaluation must be evidence-based, with “the main evidence” coming from the inspector’s direct observations and interviews with the relevant staff.”

“…I consider this aspect of the defendant’s guidance (i.e. OFSTED – editor) to be of fundamental importance. Inspections of schools (and the subsequent reports) are a vital tool in the defendant’s armoury so as to ensure that all schools strive to and maintain a proper standard. But it is of critical importance to ensure that such inspections are not random, one-off events in which absolutely everything turns on what happens on the day of the inspection. Instead, inspections must be carried out on a consistent basis, ensuring that each one is part of a continuum, building towards improvement or the maintaining of excellence.”

“…A system of inspection which ignores previous inspections runs the risk of turning the whole process into a lottery. It would give the individual inspector on the particular day of the inspection an arbitrary power and influence. It would prevent systematic monitoring and consistency of approach. It is most definitely not to be encouraged.”

Those are piercing words about the inspection process as may be expected when the Courts have to intervene to determine the respective legal rights of the parties but even more so when the facts are examined.  The Inspector decided to investigate a complaint but did not have a duty to nor the legal authority to do so in this instance.  It seemed that OFSTED received a complaint about the incident involving the child which, within a week or so, resulted in an inspection and also led the Inspector to take a critical view of the organisation’s performance as the incident overshadowed the objectivity of the inspection.  The Judge examining the evidence did not find that approach justifiable and felt that there was an element of ex post facto justification on issues such as the number of adults escorting the children.  In particular, the Judge noted there was no balance as the Inspector, in her report, did not refer to the previous history of the provision nor the  achievements to date nor a previous, fairly recent OFSTED report.

Remedy for a Flawed Inspection

The publication of the OFSTED report was deemed to be unlawful as was the investigation of the complaint by an Inspector. The question arose as to whether the school was entitled to damages regarding its reputation.  The answer in this case was that reputational damages did not arise because:

  • “Section 151 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides that reports of this kind are privileged unless malice is present”;
  • No malice was present in the publication of the report;
  • No damage to the school’s reputation had arisen in practice.

Starting a court case to secure a reasonable outcome is an expensive process but in some instances may be necessary if an inspection report is flawed significantly on the evidence especially if the inspection feed back and complaint process is not taken seriously as warranted by the facts.

Unfortunately, it is not just OFSTED that have occasional flawed inspections and outcome summaries of a school.  Local Authorities can also at times create issues for the Head Teacher and Governing Bodies.

Local Authority Stances Towards Schools

For much of the time, Local Authorities are supportive of their schools but in recent times both financial pressures and performance vetting has led some authorities to become embroiled in disputes and/or interference with the leadership of a school.   The reasons are not always clear for this but seem to be driven by the LA wishing to force the school to accept a course of action that would be detrimental to the school’s future provision and attainments.  This also seems to be influenced by the LA losing ground in its attempts to retain schools under the LA banner.

Such disputes are damaging to the trust between the school’s governing body, senior leadership team and the LA and are also draining as energy and focus is sapped away from raising students’/pupils’ achievements.

As such times, the Governing Body and Head Teacher can find it helpful to seek independent advice not tainted by the politics of the LA.  Such advice can help Governors and the Head to explore options to move forward with or without the support of the LA.

If you believe as a Head Teacher or as a senior School Governor that such as confidential discussion would be helpful to take on objective view of the ways forward,
contact Jim Harrington for an exploratory discussion.
His contact details can be seen in the footer of this post.

© 2016 HR Management Dimensions

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Protecting Data and Confidentiality

As Head Teacher or Chair of Governors are you confident that your data protection is managed effectively at your school? If not, these are the likely consequences:

  • Damage to the reputation of the school if a breach occurs;
  • A significant fine;
  • A mistake in the way data is handled and/or confidentiality could have adverse consequences for a child or a member of staff or a parent/guardian.

Who on your SLT team has been allocated the role of Data Protection Coordinator? The SLT needs to take leadership responsibility for this important area as it is coming under increasing scrutiny. One or more members of the SLT need to be developed to take on the role. (See our earlier article about developing members of the SLT). The creation of such a role does not transfer liability to the individual as the school still bears the responsibility as an overall data controller. The creation of the role should help to ensure you have appropriate arrangements in place.

To help you to develop a member of the SLT appropriately, some pointers are given below and:

  • Use the references section to read further advice on the requirements;
  • Carry out an audit and lead discussions at the SLT to build ownership and confidence in the school’s arrangements.

What Data Should be Protected?

In essence any data which identifies a particular individual and which has the following characteristics:

  • The data is sensitive as it contains personal information about an individual,who is still alive, and refers to, for example, health, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, alleged or actual criminal offences and even trade union membership;
  • The data is private and if shared inappropriately would have an adverse impact on the individual;
  • Such data concerns an individual, for example, a child, parent/guardian, member of staff, governor, volunteer, job applicant, work experience person or a former employee or child/student;
  • Such data that is held on paper, on a computer or tablet or mobile phone or lap top, camera or stored on a disc or memory stick, kept on a server whether at the school or elsewhere or stored in a cloud storage arrangement.

As you will gather the scope and care of such data is wide in its nature and also its potential accessibility. Later, I shall refer to a data protection audit with the chance for you to obtain a blank template for your school. Before that we need to understand the dimensions of data protection in a school setting.

In What Way Must Such Data be Protected?

Are you confident that the data your school stores and uses meets the following criteria? When ‘individual’ is used below it applies to any person e.g. employee, pupil, parent who is the subject of the data.

i) Data is Processed Fairly and Lawfully

  • Has personal data been acquired in a fair and transparent way?
  • Where appropriate, has the individual provided the information and consented to its use in the way intended? The use to which data is put may not be obvioius to individuals so less obvious purposes should be explained especially in unusual circumstances e.g. during a transfer of staff under TUPE where information about employees has to be provided to another employer.
  • Is the collection and processing of the data required by law, irrespective of the individual’s wishes? Examples of this need will be encountered but again is the collection and use of such data in line with ii) below?
  • Has the school notified the Information Commissioner of the data that it collects etc and the use to which that is put?
  • Is the individual able to see the information that has been or will be collected about him/her? What rights does the school have to decline to provide data if the effort is disproportionate to the purpose?
  • Do you have an effective policy in place for individuals to obtain copies of the data held about them? What exceptions can you include in the policy?

ii) The Data Collected must be Relevant and Sufficient but Not Excessive

  • The data should be relevant to the purpose and not go beyond that. Collecting personal information regardless of its relevance would be unlawful;
  • Data should not be retained longer than necessary. You need to become familiar with the periods required by law, the DfE etc. for data which you may hold at the school or elsewhere. It is useful to publish a retention policy so that all staff are aware of what records may be kept, by whom and for how long;
  • Data must also be accurate and up to date. Errors must be corrected promptly when they are discovered or when made known to the school;
  • The use of CCTV and other media should not be overlooked. The prevention of crime is a recognised use of CCTV but should not be used for other purposes unless individuals affected are aware of this. Covert surveillance is subject to special requirements which can be seen on the Information Commissioner’s web site.

iii) Data is Kept Secure

  • Only authorised persons should have access to personal data and only for the approved purposes – that requires practical measures to ensure that others can not see or access the data in question. A walk around the school after most staff have gone home can be revealing as to now much personal data can be seen or accessed by anyone walking about.
  • How secure is stored data? Is paper data kept locked and access limited to particular individuals who understand the need for confidentiality at all times?
  • Is access to programmes or folders containing personal data restricted to authorised persons? Are strong passwords used and kept secure?
  • Do you have policies about the way in which personal data may or may not be kept on memory sticks, portable hard drives etc?**
  • What instructions have been given about the holding of personal data on lap tops and the security of that data and the lap tops?**
    The two asterisked points above are those in which there have been significant breaches of data protection and on which the Information Commissioner has taken strong enforcement action.
  • Who holds your data externally and where is it actually stored? For example do you use a cloud service such as Dropbox or similar. Personal data should not be transferred to a country outside of the EEA except if the data is kept secure. Beware that there are misgivings about the Safe Harbor Scheme in the USA. You should consider the use of agreed contract clauses to ensue that all parties will keep data secure. There are EC Model Clauses available to use – refer to the Information Commissioner’s website for details.
  • You need to inquire where your data will actually be kept as even UK storage companies may be ‘holding’ your data in overseas storage facilities.
  • When data is no longer required, are your disposal arrangements secure? If a contractor is used, you should walk yourself mentally through (or physically if practicable) the processes that the contractor’s staff will apply to your data.

Embedding Your Data Protection Arrangements and Policy in the School

Having a policy is a requirement but how will that be applied in practice?

  • What actions are necessary to ensure that your staff, volunteers and Governors are aware of the actions to be taken re the above points?
  • What aspects of the use of personal information do students/children need to be made aware of?
  • What procedure should be followed if a breach of protection is discovered?
  • How will you ensure that the breach is remedied promptly and that preventative action is taken and monitored?
  • How are you developing a culture of respect for confidentiality within the school?

Audit of Data Protection Arrangements

A data protection audit is a useful way to identify what data is actually being collected or stored and the used to which it is put. An audit helps to ensure that certain types of data or current practices are not overlooked and also begins the process of making managers and staff familiar with what needs to change and practices must be kept under review.

Further Reading – Schools and Data Protection Duties

Summary_report_dp_guidance_for_schools, September 2012, Information Commissioner.
Pointers for Schools by the Information Commissioner’s Office

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Developing Your Senior Leadership Team Members and the Governing Body

Occasionally, we shall publish special articles, as part of a series, on developing your senior leadership team to be more confident and skilled in carrying out the many duties of an employer besides the learning and attainment of the children/students. This is to help:

  • Head Teachers and Governors to ensure that certain aspects of school life are being managed appropriately;
  • Those members of the SLT who aspire to become head teachers;
  • Parents and staff know that the school is under sound management.

Often the temptation is to delegate those aspects to the administrator or business manager but the SLT and Governors need to be confident that these responsibilities are implemented effectively.

The articles will summarise the key points to check.  Ensure that you receive an alert to its publication and new articles on this blog by clicking on the link in the left hand column to receive notifications by e-mail.

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Do Schools Have a Role in Improving Productivity?

For many years, the UK has experienced low productivity.  Whilst some causes are beyond the control of senior managers in an organisation, research and other trends indicate that managers can prepare to address the new pressures and increase productivity.

Schools have a role in helping UK managers
to raise productivity.

The Challenge for Schools and the Education Sector

This is an extract from the second of our articles on the issues facing organisations as the pressure on salary costs will grow in the coming months.  This extract focuses on the potential role of schools in the productivity jigsaw.

“There still remains the issue of low skills or perhaps more accurately the lack of opportunities for young people to explore how their interests and gifts can find fulfillment in different types of work.   We need to go further than a work experience week.  Is there not a place for enabling youngsters to explore their skills before the end of the school year so that they can see how their interests and natural abilities can be put to use at work and thus widen their horizons of what they could do?   The weeks after SATs etc. could be put to use by giving them an exposure to various practical skills and learning opportunities about different disciplines and so whet their appetite to explore job/career options in which they develop an interest.

We need to value practical skills in manufacturing and engineering but also provide real taster experiences for young people to identify what leanings they have and what direction they should take in work.  However that is not just a challenge for schools and colleges –  companies also have to be prepared to invest time in making such practical lessons and experiences of interest and realistic.”

You can read more in our two articles on the issues of Productivity in the UK in our HR Management Dimensions blog

KEEP UP TO DATE – If you wish to receive alerts about new articles on this blog, click on the link in the left hand column to receive e-mail alerting you to new articles.

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Developing Current and Future Head Teachers – Role of Governors and Head Teachers

There is a shortage of head teachers so should Governors take a greater interest in developing potential head teachers and if so are there more effective ways? This is the first of a series of articles which will explore:

  • developing potential heads;
  • developing and supporting new head teachers.

New Heads Feel Under Prepared in Key Aspects of the Role

A recent report [1] indicates that new head teachers felt less prepared for these aspects:of a Head’s role:

  • The breadth of the responsibilities of the role;
  • Managing their time and the priorities;
  • Budgeting and financial management;
  • Managing their external accountablity e.g. Ofsted inspections, exam results, relationships with stakeholders;
  • Working with Governors;
  • Their own work/life balance.

Let us unpack the implications of the above. Many Governors believe that when appointing a new head, the focus should be on:

  • raising and maintaining the school’s performance;
  • the attainment of students;
  • injecting new ideas into the school.

That focus is not surpisiing given the scrutiny that Governors find themselves under from: their stakeholders such as the LA or Trustees of an Academy; external monitors such as Ofsted; the school’s reputation amongst parents/guardians. Governors will often persuade themselves that the right candidate will have a track record at a similar school and that a head teacher should have many years teaching experience in various roles and the ability to lead others.

Exposure to Issues not Just Length of Experience

Governors need to reconsider the above beliefs. The accelerated development of potential head teachers has led to a new generation of heads who have gained the necessary skills in 9/10 years compared to an average of 18 to 20 years of previous head teachers. The key is not to be fixated on a set length of teaching experience but what an individual has been exposed to in his/her roles that has led to development of his skills, leadership abilities and adaptability [2]. What counts is the issues that an individual has had to deal with and what he/she has learnt and been able to apply to other situations. Hence, some individuals can gain both deep and wide experience of issues in a relatively short career span while others may spend years without having been exposed to a similar range and depth of issues.

Leadership requires a head to be able to re-invigorate the contributions of staff. That may be because of a period of change or because an individual has lost their spark, so to speak, and needs to find the interest and drive and/or confidence again. Such leadership skills are often developed in the thick of dealing with issues and gaining intuitive approaches to win back individuals. Teasing out whether a potential head has been exposed to such issues and has addressed them effectively is important.

Managing and Leading the School Entity

The role of a Head extends beyond classroom teaching. When I ask Heads about their first appointment, a common concern emerges – they understand what needs to be done about the attainment of the children but have little knowledge about managing the rest of the organisation e.g the premises, financial trends, culture shifts, marketing and PR and compliance issues such as data protection, health and safety, security. Some Governors believe those skills can be provided by the employment of a seasoned business manager or contracting out more specialist skills. Even so, the Head needs to be able to see the bigger picture as:

  • the school is competing for children/students hence the need to have some grounding in marketing;
  • the Head needs to determine the priorities, such as being familiar with key financial trends so that issues can be dealt with at an early stage rather than walk into a major problem e.g. a redundancy situation.

Relating to School Governors and Stakeholders

The Head must be able to provide the Governors with an appropriate level of management information on the finances and attainment levels. The Head should be able to identify trends, anticipate significant questions and be able to accept and address challenges to the conclusions about such information. That will require investment of time by key Governors and the Head in understanding each others’ information needs and concerns.

A Head will need to develop relationships with other stakeholders such as the LA or Trustees according to the nature of the school. Nurturing such relationships is a skill that has to be acquired.

The question is how many potential head teachers will have been exposed to such situations in their careers to develop a wider and deeper range of skills?

The Head – Enabler, Modeller and Intervenor?

Since 2001, Head Teachers have not been required to Hold QTS. In the last few years, the idea of executives leading schools has been mooted. Many Governors would feel such an appointment is too much of a risk as it raises the issue of who would be responsible for modelling teaching practice and driving up attainment levels. Effective leaders are often portrayed as enablers – individuals who can gather a team around them with complementary skills to ensure that the goals of the organisation will be achieved. At times, a leader has to intervene to correct the direction of the organisation or draw the attention of managers to performance and other issues.

Are Governors willing to explore different leadership arrangements? Even so, we should not under estimate the challenge to professional teachers of developing the children/students in the care of the school.. A solemn question to consider is “What should the Governors expect legitimately of a Head Teacher?”

The following qualities of a potential Head are offered as a starter:

  • An enabler who understands the bigger picture of what has to be achieved across the school and can break that down into manageable chunks of actions for others to implement;
  • A questioner – thinking ahead of what are the next steps, challenging the priorities and timing;
  • Managing his and the SLT’s time to ensure that appropriate attention is given to attainment of students as that is critical to the school’s reputation, the lives of the students but also that adequate attention is given to the wider demands of managing any organisation;
  • Exposure to managing complex situations or projects which necessitated construing data correctly, selecting the best team to implement plans and keep both progress and performance under review to ensure effective outcomes;
  • Willingness to take risks in developing others e.g. allowing individuals to have exposure to the wider responsibilities of managing a school.

Our next article will examine ways in which Governors and Head Teachers can develop the breadth and depth of skills of members of their SLT or others with the potential and willingness to become a Head Teacher.

Comments are welcome on this series of articles.

[1] New pathways into headship? June 2015 National College for Teaching and Leadership © Institute of Education, University of London & Sheffield Hallam University [2015]

[2] Exposure v Experience – the better way to identify capable, adaptable staff – an earlier article on our HR Management Dimensions blog.

Note: some typing errors were corrected on 12/08/2015.

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Loophole Closed on Gaining Access to Criminal Records of Employees

Some employers try to circumvent the Disclosure and Barring route to assess whether an employee is suitable for a job by requiring the employee or volunteer to submit a subject access request and give the results about his/her criminal record to the employer. Some employers view this method as more advantageous as it is both cheaper (£10 maximum) and fuller details are revealed compared to a Disclosure and Barring return.

Illegal Pressure

From 10th March 2015, using that route is likely to result in a conviction and fine as it will be in breach of section 56 of the Data Protection Act. It will be illegal to require an individual or a third party to supply you with a relevant record or to produce a relevant record to you if that is in connection with the following:

  • the recruitment of another person as an employee;
  • the continued employment of another person:
  • any contract for the provision of services to him by
    another person.

The regulation is cast wide in that if you encourage or incentivize an individual to use his subject access right to obtain such information that will be an offence. For example, making a tentative offer of a job but first requiring to see the results of a subject access request will be illegal. The exception will be if another regulation permits the use of subject access information for such purposes.

Beware False Assumptions

While reading the above, you may have been thinking, “We don’t do that in any case”. Are you sure that none of your managers resort to such measures during recruitment? Do not assume but make it explicit to all your managers that such action is not acceptable. Explain what the acceptable way is to obtain such information.

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© 2014 HR Management Dimensions

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