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Empowering Professionals

Diana Stovell: Prevention is Better than Cure

Occupational Health encourages you to make good lifestyle choices to improve your health profile and to help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

  • Move More, Sit Less– Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. That could mean 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week.
  • Eat Health Foods– Try healthy food choices like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products

Tip: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

  • Choose Your Drinks Wisely– Substitute water for sugary or alcoholic drinks to reduce calories and stay safe

Prevention is Better than Cure

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Selina McClure: How to diversify your school governing board

“We need more governors who look like me”

Those are the words of Rochelle Clarke – a young governor at a church school in east London. She spoke in a recent BBC news article about her experience of being a governor and her work to make boards more inclusive.  

At Smart School Services, our Children’s Services Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group have pledged to increase the representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic governors, and those with disabilities, on school boards in the London Borough of Wandsworth.  We need our governing boards to be representative of the communities that they are in. 

A board that begins to think about real diversity is one that is prepared to ask itself difficult questions and to challenge itself—and therefore come up with more thoughtful and original answers—and one that opens itself up to better decision making. It is critical to ensure that you have a diverse group of people around the table to have the most effective governing board. When recruiting a new governor, don’t just think about the skill set that you need, but also the representation of your school communities on your board.

Diversity is a reality that can be created by pulling together individuals from a broad spectrum of differences

Sharon Warmington, Director of the National Black Governors Network, spoke recently to over 50 Wandsworth governors and Heads on “How to diversify your governing board”.  She inspired the governors with practical tips on how to increase diversity.  Some of her tips (and more) are listed below. 

  • Complete a Succession Plan and consider diversity
  • Train your board on the importance of diversity
  • Add a link governor role to champion diversity on the board
  • Make the selection criteria transparent 
  • If your local community does not have the diversity that you need – look more widely
  • Don’t rely on personal contacts – this can often lead to more of the same
  • Actively seek out diverse networks within the professions or skill set you require – look on LinkedIn for Black, disabled, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds, younger groups within relevant sectors. 
  • Look at your student alumni to recruit younger governors to your board
  • Contact Faith and Community Leaders
  • Give value to background and experiences as well as skill sets

If you need any support increasing diversity on your board, please book a Head to Head meeting to discuss how we can help.

 

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Empowering Professionals

Diana Stovell: Healthy Lifestyle Choices

As part of supporting an individual during periods of ill-health Occupational Health will often advise about healthy lifestyle choices including becoming more active. Adults are advised to do some type of physical activity every day. 

Benefits of regular exercise:

  • Exercise controls weight. Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. …
  • Exercise combats health conditions and diseases. …
  • Exercise improves mood. …
  • Exercise boosts energy. …
  • Exercise promotes better sleep. …
  • Exercise can be fun … and social!

Individuals should talk to their GP first if they haven’t exercised for some time and have a chronic medical condition. It’s important to start gently, setting small achievable goals to build up.

Adults should aim to:

  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week
  • spread exercise evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, or every day
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity

So how about encouraging your staff to be more active? Could you introduce an after-school activity for staff to join in like yoga or a walking group? 

How about promoting the NHS Fitness Studio Exercise Videos

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Brilliant Learning Empowering Professionals Intelligent Operations

Michael Hallick: Lessons for the Future

Without warning, the Covid pandemic upended school life across the UK. Overnight, headteachers had to establish remote learning, absorb and implement an avalanche of guidelines and advice, while supporting students, parents and staff academically and emotionally. The scope of the crisis and the subsequent reopening have created distinct challenges, but also highlighted potential opportunities for whole school positive change.

The Future is Now

There is little doubt that the pandemic has stretched resources, accelerated trends and highlighted inequalities across the education sector. But while significant challenges remain, this is also a time of exciting opportunity as we learn the lessons from the largest disruption to education in living memory. 

As we step into the ‘new normal’, it is imperative that we allow room for analysis and reflection. To think about the bigger picture. Where joined-up collaborative ideas help to connect a wide range of tailored services to benefit all aspects of a school’s ecosystem.

That takes time.

And we understand that time is a precious resource. Schedules are unforgiving and workloads unrelenting. 

It is the main reason behind publishing Lessons for the Future – to start a discourse – to show that if we all collaborate to create and implement best practice, we can alleviate pressure on teaching professionals while realising the best future for schools.

A future, for example, where technology not only supports learning, but helps to realistically reduce workload, increases operational efficiencies, engages students and communities, and provides tools to support excellent teaching, monitors attendance and raises student attainment. In short, creating a smart school.

We hope you find value in Lessons for the Future. We hope it inspires ideas and sparks debate. That it opens a discussion on what is positive and achievable as we pivot to realise the opportunities of post-pandemic education. And we would like to be part of that discussion. 

Michael Hallick
Assistant Director – Business and Resources
Wandsworth Council

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Empowering Professionals

Attracting and Retaining Talent

Education across the UK is facing a uniquely difficult moment, facing the twin challenges of ensuring student and staff health amid a pandemic, while also ensuring continuity of learning. 

In the immediate future, the imperative is to successfully operate through the pandemic.

While challenges remain, there are also opportunities to seize the moment and reimagine how we can empower professionals to deliver the best post-pandemic education possible.

Attracting and Retaining Talent

One of the few benefits to be gained from economic uncertainty is its positive effect on new entrant numbers and teacher retention levels. From the start of the first lockdown to July 2020, 21,410 graduates applied to teacher training programmes – a massive increase of 65 per cent on the five-year average. 

But as the challenges of teaching in the ‘new normal’ become apparent, retention rates may not remain as rosy. Government guidelines, Ofsted pressure and increased workloads have all negatively impacted staff, teachers and leaders. So, are we running the risk of reversing the rates once the economic conditions improve? 

How can we create a future where the teaching profession can feel secure in the fresh talent it attracts and the motivated talent that it retains? Of course, salaries and funding are crucial, but we believe it goes way beyond that. The key is the right support. Training routes, peer mentoring and changes to student assessments are just a few of the solutions that need to be baked into a framework for the future. Without it, we risk excellent teachers at all levels walking out of the door. 



Accessible HR Advice

“The Smart School’s HR team have a way of getting the best from you, by coaching you through the different HR issues and asking what you want to do? What do you think would be best? What do you think the consequences might be of a certain action? The team have also supported the College by attending full governing body meetings, late into the evenings, offering an expert perspective as well as being able to answer more in-depth questions.” Tracy Dohel, Principal at Ernest Bevin College 

 


ICT Continuous Professional Development

From desktops to iPads, white boards to mobiles, ICT skills are essential for both the effective running of schools and the quality of the educational experience. To ensure all staff across a school are competent and confident using technology, Wandsworth City Learning Centre offers UK-wide CPD and workforce development training. 

 


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Empowering Professionals

Diversity in Schools

Education across the UK is facing a uniquely difficult moment, facing the twin challenges of ensuring student and staff health amid a pandemic, while also ensuring continuity of learning. 

In the immediate future, the imperative is to successfully operate through the pandemic.

While challenges remain, there are also opportunities to seize the moment and reimagine how we can empower professionals to deliver the best post-pandemic education possible.

Diversity in Schools

How diverse is education today? Pearson’s Diversity and Inclusion in Schools report reveals that four in five (80%) UK teachers believe more can be done to celebrate diverse cultures, people and experiences in UK education. 

Although critically important, championing greater diversity in education extends beyond an inclusive curriculum. Yes, pupils need to feel more reflected in what they see and learn, but they also need inspiring role models from all walks of life to learn from. The proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds continues to increase. But that is not being reflected at a governor or senior leader level. For example, just 5% of governors in state schools in England are from minority ethnic backgrounds – a figure unchanged for the last 20 years.

Creating an intentionally inclusive future school is hard. However, it is near impossible if we do not apply a ‘whole body’ approach that recognises the importance of holistic representation. From supporting Governors and Senior Staff by building confidence and understanding; to ensuring all children – of all backgrounds and abilities – feel that they belong in education; it is imperative that we listen, learn and take action to ensure happy and healthy schools. 



Equality Survey

To gain better baseline insight for schools in Wandsworth, Smart School’s Governor Services and the Research & Evaluation Unit are undertaking a borough-wide Equality Survey. The results will be available to all Governor Services subscribers, offering benchmarking insight to influence service development.

 


Training to Diversify Governors Boards

In Spring 2022, Sharon Warmington, founder of the National Black Governors Network (NBGN), will be running training in Wandsworth. Giving senior school leaders and school chairs the opportunity to discuss and develop strategies for diversifying boards.

 


Diversity Media Campaign

Acting on behalf of subscribers to Governor Services, Smart School Services creates traction through media campaigns. Families London South West magazine has been carrying positive imagery to encourage engagement in school governorship.

 


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Empowering Professionals

Long Term Impact of Covid-19

Education across the UK is facing a uniquely difficult moment, facing the twin challenges of ensuring student and staff health amid a pandemic, while also ensuring continuity of learning. 

In the immediate future, the imperative is to successfully operate through the pandemic.

While challenges remain, there are also opportunities to seize the moment and reimagine how we can empower professionals to deliver the best post-pandemic education possible.

Long Term Impact of Covid-19

The pandemic has left its mark on education. While the response to the crisis was met with remarkable agility and professionalism, Covid-19 and the impacts on working have had a detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of education professionals. 

The upheaval has been swift and far-reaching. From school closures, home working and cancelled examinations, to social distancing, the fear of infection and for some, coming to terms with the deaths of colleagues, students and family members. Looking to the future, there are many important lessons to be learned from this experience. 

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals. Sharing and collaboration are key – to unlock successful behaviours and strategies and promote their adoption. School leaders need more adequate support to ensure that they can discharge their responsibilities effectively. The needs of trainee and early career teachers must be identified and met. As we strive to adapt to the ‘new normal’, we need a culture based on openness and trust; where staff feel supported, appreciated and autonomous in order to thrive.



Employee Assistance Programme

Smart School’s Occupational Health Service offers schools an Employee Assistance Programme. Delivered by trained counsellors, the service creates a safe space for school staff to share their problems and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. Employees referred via the programme are offered a first appointment within 30 days of a referral. 

 


Returning to Work Strategy

Developing a well-balanced and appropriate strategy for staff returning to work after sickness, bereavement or other external complications is vital for both their performance and the wider performance of the school. The Occupational Health Service works with staff, managers, and HR advisers to develop policies and procedures that are effective and meets legislative requirements. 

 


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Empowering Professionals

Keith Revell: The importance of your governing board minutes

Every meeting of the school governing body and statutory committees must be clerked and minutes taken. Keith Revell, Smart School’s Governor Services Manager, shares some key information and good practice in how to ensure that your governing board meetings are recorded accurately and objectively.

WHAT ARE THE GOVERNING BOARD MINUTES FOR?

Minutes must demonstrate how well a Governing Body discharges its functions, in particular their challenge and strategic support for the school.  They are part of the primary evidence to show that the school is led and managed in a competent, legal and transparent manner.  

Minutes must show that governors are achieving the three core aims: to set a vision, ethos and strategic direction, to hold the head teacher to account for educational and staff performance and to ensure financial resources are well spent.  Above all, minutes should show that governors challenge all they are being told and all they are seeing to ensure those three core principles are being achieved. Accurate minute taking by the clerk is vitally important for a governing body to function effectively.

Minutes provide an historical record of the business of the governing body. The minutes must record all discussions that have taken place, the decisions made by the governing body and the action needed by when and by whom. How often do you find that the review of actions under “Matters Arising” are skipped through with unactioned actions being glossed over or simply left to the next meeting?  If they were important enough to be allocated, they must be important enough to be completed in the expected timeframe.

WHO READS THESE MINUTES?

Minutes can be read by anyone, but will almost certainly be considered by Ofsted inspectors.  They may use them for judging leadership and management. So, you may want to consider the extent to which your minutes show evidence of that as outlined in the Education Inspection Framework. 

Have you ever looked at your minutes to see how many strategic Qs and As have been included?  It is a quick and easy way to see how much challenge you are making.

WHY IS THE ROLE OF CLERK IMPORTANT?

The clerk plays an important role in governing body effectiveness, not least by ensuring the governors have efficient administration support and are offered procedural advice and guidance. They need to work in partnership with the chair of governors, the other governors and the headteacher, making sure the governing body’s work is well organised.

Smart School’s clerks are all fully trained in how to write minutes and they know exactly what to record during a meeting, but also what not to record.  The minutes are not a verbatim record of all the discussion, especially if it’s not strategic or relevant to an agenda item.  Above all, they look out for challenge and evidence of leadership.  Next time you read your minutes, perhaps bear this in mind to see how you are faring.

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Tracy Dohel, Ernest Bevin College: Talks HR

Ernest Bevin College welcomed Ms Tracy Dohel as their newly appointed Principal at the beginning of January 2021. However, it was far from a normal start for this highly experienced headteacher, as the majority of EBC staff and students were working from home due to the lockdown. 

Tracy was impressed by the way staff and students had adapted to the new challenges of online learning, whilst still maintaining the momentum of school improvement. This success was a credit to the commitment and dedication of all the EBC staff in making the transition to remote learning possible.

Becoming the new Principal of a large college is a challenge at the best of times, but doing this during a global pandemic is highly commendable! It was vital then that Tracy was able to access the professional HR support she needed, to work with her and the senior leadership team.

Thankfully, the Wandsworth Schools HR Service were already established HR partners with EBC, so were able to provide the experienced professional HR support and continuity needed to help manage the wide variety of HR issues that arise within schools. 

With regards accessing HR support, what would you say were the key adjustments, if any, when you became Principal at EBC?

In terms of HR support, one of the trickier aspects when I joined EBC, apart from the fact that we were still in lockdown, with a skeleton staff and few students in the College, was the fact that I was so used to having HR services provided as part of an academy, with specialist issues outsourced to Babcock 4S, now Strictly Education, when required. A MAT I worked for had their own central in-house HR team, the same as most of the bigger academy trusts, so there were always ‘go to people’ for advice. When I joined EBC, it took me about a month to familiarise and adjust to the Wandsworth HR provision. 

Was the support available from Wandsworth HR when you arrived at EBC?

Yes, once I realised that was where I was supposed to go to for HR support. I had already spoken to Brendan Ryan by phone whilst I was in my previous headship. Brendan was able to help me with a HR issue I had when joining the College, which was immediately dealt with. In fact, that is one thing I will say, the swiftness in terms of the response received from Wandsworth HR has been quite incredible.

The other noticeable thing for me, because I do have a lot of experience working with HR, is the level of consistency in terms of their messaging. Although you can be mistaken for thinking that all aspects of HR is law, there can be some opinions about how you would approach a particular matter. Although Brendan, Lesley and Harwinder might have nuanced opinions about certain issues, the level of consistency between them is really impressive!

So, when you need advice about an HR issue, who are your main contact/s?

It can depend on which time of the day. Brendan will usually get calls early morning, sometimes at 7.00am, because I know he is up and about and will answer. I have never actually met Brendan, although I have invited him to come along to the College. I have met Lesley and Harwinder. I have contacted Lesley at the other end of the day, even at 8.00pm on a Friday night and she has answered. Both Brendan and Lesley have been a constant source of valuable support, which has inspired me with a lot of confidence in what I have to do. The breadth of experience within the Wandsworth HR team really does shine through, especially when you feel you encounter an issue, they are able to help to get things back on track for you. They basically know Wandsworth inside out and the schools, so you are reaping the benefits of their wealth of experience, which is always readily available. Given my experience of working with other HR teams who are able to turn things around, Wandsworth HR team do it really quickly!

Wandsworth HR also have a way of getting the best from you, by coaching you through the different HR issues and asking what you want to do? What do you think would be best? What do you think the consequences might be of a certain action? How might the staff react to that? If there is any doubt, they are always able to provide answers! In addition, the team have also supported the College by attending full governing body meetings, late into the evenings, offering an expert perspective as well as being able to answer more in-depth questions. The Wandsworth HR documentation is also available online and is an extremely useful source of advice and guidance. 

Are there any areas of support that you think Wandsworth HR could improve on?

Whilst I can give constructive criticism, I would be hard pressed to offer anything regarding them. I have been in touch with the interim head who was here at EBC before me and when I told her how much support I had received she was overwhelmed and extremely impressed, so no I can’t think of any areas for improvement at this point.

How would you summarise the support received from the Wandsworth HR Team?

In spite of all the current pressures facing heads and schools in Wandsworth, with all the different HR issues, time pressures and staffing shortages, Brendan and his team are always on hand to provide the support you need at the time you need it.

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Empowering Professionals

Selina McClure: Governance & Clerking in a Virtual World

The past year has been a steep learning curve with so much change.The Covid crisis has brought many challenges but there has been an upside. Virtual meetings are often better attended, timely and more focused; just more productive.  Boards and clerks adjusted quickly to virtual meetings last year, which was reflected in our annual governance survey.  We asked how boards adapted to the pandemic and how effective governors thought they had been. Here are some of the comments:

PROS

  • Timelier in terms of meetings that are more succinct when done virtually.
  • Much better attendance at meetings.
  • We were able to adapt well to online meetings and maintained very rapid responses to policy updates and any issues which needed prompt attention.

CONS

  • It is much harder to have a quick chat face-to-face about the more minor things.
  • Many people were hesitant to speak and as a result some issues are not widely enough explored… Business still gets covered, but with less input from some.
  • Some meetings especially with staff or with parents during discipline committees are better conducted face to face.

One of the main messages from the survey is that strong chairing & professional clerking are vital to the success of virtual (and any) meetings.

The Chair
Even the most experienced Chair needs additional skills in a virtual meeting. You need good questioning and summarising skills; techniques to make sure that there is good participation from all; you need to keep the meeting on track and manage over talkative participants. Hopefully, there will be no meetings as rowdy as the Hanworth Parish Council debacle, but you will need to manage dissent and set up the scene for heated debates. We are offering training in May on this subject – Check out our new Advanced Chairing Skills – ensuring effective governance in a virtual world session which is taking place on 18th May 2021.

The Professional Clerk
Successful governance, virtual or otherwise, depends on a good, professional clerk. We have a plethora of talent in our clerking team who offer a wealth of experience and knowledge to Governing Boards. Research shows that an effective clerk can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency of a governing board, enabling them to fulfil their roles more comprehensively and effectively.
Before the pandemic, clerks had to be within reasonable travelling distance of the schools they worked with. Now with the advantage of technology there is the potential for a highly professional stand-in clerk to always be available.

The Future – are virtual meetings here to stay?
In our annual governance survey, 80% of boards said that they would use a mixture of virtual meetings and face-to-face in the future.  As restrictions lift, it’s likely that boards will adopt a hybrid approach to meetings with some physical and some virtual.  Virtual meetings are accessible and also remove some of the barriers, such as time and travel, for people joining boards. So, if you have a vacancy then your pool of governors is also now much wider!

Smart School Services
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