Policy of policies

6 Jun 2019 | by Kat Miller

One of the most time-consuming aspects of my role is managing the school’s policies. At last count, we had more than 60 in place, each with its own regular review schedule to be kept on top of. 

There are policies that are a non-negotiable, statutory requirement (helpfully listed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-policies-for-schools), a full range of HR and finance policies that may not technically be statutory but are no less critical to safely running an organisation, and then those that pop up according to changing circumstances such as acquiring a minibus requiring some carefully thought through guidance and protocols, or the introduction of GDPR requiring an overhaul of the various policies that relate to data protection, security, retention, etc. Why just have one when you can have several?!

As a local authority school, we are lucky that a large proportion of our policies come from model versions from the Council. But even these can’t simply be adopted as they stand and posted straight on the website. Does our practice match what the policy says? And where it doesn’t, should our practice change or should the policy? Which elements are we ok to change to suit our particular setting and which bits would we be ill-advised to change as they’ve been consulted on with unions or there is a specific legal implication?

The Council don’t provide model policies for every requirement, so other sources including ISBL’s own Good Practice Library (https://isbl.org.uk/GoodPracticeLibrary.aspx) are very helpful. In our borough, we do a lot of sharing policies with colleagues in other schools in an attempt not to reinvent the wheel. 

Sometimes, though, there’s no avoiding having to start from a blank sheet of paper and create a policy that is specific to our own particular context. Our Curriculum Policy, Teaching and Learning Policy and Behaviour Policy are all good examples of this. These are also reasonably rare examples of policies that have been developed without much of my involvement. 

And that’s where my Policy of Policies comes in! I decided, much to the amusement of my Headteacher and SLT colleagues, to create a policy that sets out clearly the steps that need to be taken to create a policy in our house style. It includes timeframes for consultation with staff, SLT and other stakeholders, the approach to getting approval from Governors, and a bespoke template so that our policies have the same look and feel. 

My other invention that amuses my colleagues in its control-freakery is a simple (but beautifully colour-coded!) spreadsheet that lists all our 60+ policies, which member of SLT is responsible for them, by which Governor Committee they need to be approved, and by when they need to be reviewed. It also notes whether or not it is a statutory requirement to have them in place, to publish them on the website or to review them in a specific period of time. Finally, it lists which model policy they are based on (e.g. one from the local authority) and when that was last reviewed. 

 I  have recently started to share the policy review spreadsheet with SBM colleagues in local schools and have been told that it has helped them feel more on top of the Herculean task of ensuring that their many policies are up to date. What are the tips and techniques that you use to keep on top of your school/trust’s own policy mountain? Do you have your own Policy of Policies, policy review schedule, or something similar? I’d love to hear your ideas and how they have helped you.