I recently had a fantastic meeting with a newly appointed headteacher who wanted some advice about how he could make sure that all functions of his school were at optimal performance. Justine, he said, whilst I have well embedded systems to track and monitor pupil and teacher performance, when it comes to all the other functions of the school such as human resources, facilities, IT, finance, administration and marketing, how do I monitor these? It was refreshing for a headteacher to ask this question and I was delighted that so quickly he had realised that well led and managed back office functions were essential to a school performing to the highest level. Sadly, I still see many support functions that limp along, with staff who are no longer skilled to deliver what is required and systems and processes that have not been modified and improved for years. This combined with the challenge of some headteachers and CEOs who have never seen the significant impact that fully modernised and professional support services can have is an issue.
The answer to his question is simple, you don’t treat support functions any differently to teaching and learning. Firstly, you define exactly what you need from each of the functions and ask yourself what optimum performance looks like. This is then documented into a development plan with actions and measurable targets that can be easily reported on. You then need to ensure you have the right organisational structure with clear lines of responsibility and staff with the right skills to deliver along with efficient and modern systems.
This headteacher and I worked together over the next few weeks and identified exactly what information he would need from each function to monitor and track performance. Examples included staff absence statistics, turnover rates, exit interview results from the HR function and number of incidents logged and time taken for the premises staff to close them for the facilities function. A reporting system was designed with one page of data for each function, which was then circulated monthly to the senior management team and trustees for review. Trends around performance soon became apparent and corrective measures put in place. The back-office functions improved in delivery and the support staff had direction and felt the work they did was really valued.
I really enjoyed this piece of work. Like the ISBL, I am passionate in professionalising the support functions of schools and this was a headteacher who really understood what needs to happen and was happy to invest time and resource to do this. Every school leader should have systems to monitor how good the support functions are, but sadly not many do not.
You can find a free copy of the support services performance measures template at www.sbmtoolkit.co.uk
By Justine Berkeley - May 2018