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Are you ready for appraisal season?

 “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

 A mandate for all school leaders!

I wish I’d said this, but I didn’t. Peter Drucker did. And he was an Austrian-born educationalist, author and management consultant who inspired many around him, especially those in leadership roles and education (he passed away in 2005 at the ripe old age of 96).

Since 2010, when the government announced a long-term (typically two full parliamentary terms) commitment to cap public sector pay, we’ve known that continuously managing school funding cuts and a restricted pay budget were going to be enormous, personal and professional challenges for school leaders – a Disney parade of ‘elephants in the room’!   

In spite of our consistent warnings to government that teachers have seen an 11.5 per cent pay cut in real terms since then, NAHT is naturally disappointed in the government’s acceptance of the STRB’s principle pay recommendation of an overall one per cent pay increase and up to two per cent for ‘main pay scale’ teachers.

Given the government’s public pay cap stance, the STRB had little choice but to recommend what it did.  However, in its report, the STRB warned that if the current public pay cap persists, it could lead to a “real risk that schools will not be able to recruit and retain a workforce of high-quality teachers to support pupils’ achievement and that difficult choices may be inescapable” – a strong and unequivocal message to government that NAHT supports.

So, what does this all mean for you, our members?  While NAHT will outline the action it’s now proposing to take in our next edition of Leadership Focus, it’s likely that you’ll also need to ‘make ends meet’ in your school in the meantime.

As you review your pay and appraisal policies and arrangements for the 2017/2018 academic year (check out our latest pay policy guidance here as well as our model pay and appraisal policies), you and your governing bodies are advised to devote a little time to create a pay narrative, for all staff, to help them understand the arrangements you’re putting in place.  Staff are more likely to accept what you’re telling them and support you if they understand the context of the pay arrangements and the constraints under which you’re working.  Many of them will already know the narrative, but what you’re looking to do here is as follows:

  • ensure all staff receive the same message at the same time
  • provide support to those who are not so enlightened with government policy and the STRB’s recommendations
  • win the continuing support of those who engage by providing them with further detail and clarification if it’s needed.

The (broken) pay system you have to work with is a product of government; it is not of your making!

So, how can you achieve more with less?  One thing is clear: there’s no ‘silver bullet’!  In the circumstances (i.e. another three years of belt-tightening, Brexit, etc.) and if you haven’t already got one, we think it would be prudent for you and your school to have a three-year financial plan. You can then review your overall income, expenditure, staffing costs, building costs and capital projects, as well as the ‘business as usual’ items that we often overlook.

However, good financial stewardship is only part of the solution.  Whether it’s on your radar or not, you’ll need to take a fresh look at your ‘people’ policies and practices, especially those relating to attracting prospective employees to your school, recruiting them, retaining and engaging them, and maximising their value and expertise.  What do we mean?

Let’s be honest; people don’t join the teaching profession for the money.  They join because they want to make a difference and fulfil a sense of public duty; they’re ambitious for the next generation, their community and themselves.  Many are motivated by opportunity, career development and CPD.  So, you may want to consider developing your school-specific staff recruitment and retention policy with the support of your staff, your governors and HR.

Do you have a school succession plan?  If people around you can see you planning for the future - and that they are a part of it – they are simply more likely to stay.  Do you have a maturing workforce?  If people can work and/or opt for phased retirement, again, they are more likely to stay, especially if they can work flexibly and juggle caring responsibilities. You could use core and experienced staff more effectively, for example, by them coaching, inducting or mentoring junior staff.  Flexible working, when applied sensibly, can be a powerful recruitment and retention strategy.

In the absence of a ‘silver bullet,’ a blended approach is likely to provide a concise, clear and credible strategy to which all interested parties should be able to commit and against which overall progress can be tracked and reported. 

Remember, you’re not alone!  BUT, now is the time to call on the support of your staff, your governing body, your employing body, its HR and other support teams, neighbouring schools and, of course, your trade union. And find some time to take a look at the September edition of NAHT’s Leadership Focus, our model pay policy and its accompanying advice, where you’ll find more guidance to help you control costs as well as outlined options to maximise income for your school.

It may even be helpful to create a task force of all the relevant staff, governors and other stakeholders to lead the activities referred to in this blog. Don’t forget that while you’re accountable for the school’s overall performance, the quality of its education provision and its overall financial stewardship, you can delegate a great deal of the work that’ll be needed. Staff, governors, the children, their parents and carers, and the community all depend on you, but they don’t expect you to achieve what you do on your own (despite what they say and what you might hear!).

Useful resources

Guy Dudley

Now into my fifth year with NAHT, I head up and manage NAHT’s advice team made up of first line support staff and specialist advisers who offer expert advice and guidance on school-specific, general management and human resources areas of activity, including pay and conditions of employment. 

Before joining NAHT, I spent eight years in senior human resources roles in the international development sector, working across numerous developing countries for two high-profile international charities and six years working for the department of education as an HR business partner for the south-east region.

I have studied at the Universities of Brighton, Bristol and Glasgow, and I am a qualified HR practitioner and paralegal.

When I’m not working, I spend time away from a computer screen, with my family, friends and walking other people’s dogs.  

First published 25 October 2017