Intelligent Operations

Andre & Agnieszka: Importance of Contractor Safety 

The Law

All schools have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that all their staff and contractors are not injured whilst working and that members of the public aren’t injured in accidents connected to work. This is a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sections 2 and 3.


  • Company prosecuted by HSE and issued £126,000 fine as worker was left paralysed after falling from height via an unguarded window.
  • Company fined £1.4m following death of contractor when crushed by falling equipment.
  • Responsible Person(s) receives prison sentence following the death of a contractor who fell from height. The defendants had failed to plan the work at height or to employ competent contractors to carry out the work.

There may be compensation to pay and other legal penalties.

What is a contractor?

A contractor is anyone you get in to work for you who is not an employee.

Examples could be:

  • Cleaners
  • Fire Alarm Engineer
  • Painter & Decorator 
  • Plumber
  • Catering Services

What could go wrong?

Accidents happen more easily when the contractor’s job is excluded from your usual methods of safe working.

Accidents with contractors can be caused by poor communication – when staff don’t know there is a contractor working nearby and when contractors don’t know the dangers on site or local emergency procedures.

Contractors are subject to greater hazards and risks than your own employees because they are not familiar with your environment and potentially due to the nature of works, they will be performing for you.

What should you do?

Both you and the contractor you use have responsibilities to implement safety measures. Make sure everyone understands the part they need to play in ensuring health and safety.

Additional duties:

  • Identify all aspects of the required job and consider the health and safety implications. 
  • You need to satisfy yourself that the contractor you choose can do the job safely and without risks to health (competency) – You must check for things such as Risk Assessments/Method Statements (RAMS), appropriate insurance cover, qualifications, and professional accreditations etc.
  • With the contractor ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is in place for intended work.
  • Communicate with contractor throughout to ensure everybody, including your own employees are clear on risks present, control measures and emergency procedures.
  • Cooperate and coordinate with contractor to ensure work can be done without risks to health and safety.
  • Consult with your own employees on proposed works and how they should raise any concerns about contractors and their work.
  • Ensure adequate supervision is in place whilst contractor operates on your site. 

Contractors and ‘Construction’ Works 

If the task involve construction works, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 will apply. (CDM 2015)

Key Points:

  • All construction work under CDM 2015 requires planning, but the plan for smaller jobs should be simple, short and proportionate to the risks.
  • The definition of maintenance work has not changed. If the task in hand looks like construction work, requires construction skills and uses construction materials, it is construction work.
  • CDM 2015 makes the Client accountable for the impact of their decisions and approach to H&S/Welfare


H&S Support?

The Health and Safety Team is available to provide support and guidance on any matters that could impact on your health and safety arrangements. 

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Intelligent Operations

Matthew Lugton: HSE Inspectors to assess the management of Asbestos in Schools

The HSE will be carrying out a programme of inspections in primary and secondary schools from October 2023. The inspections will be assessing how sites are managing the risks from asbestos within their buildings.

During their 2022/23 inspections, the HSE found significant failings in management systems – leading to enforcement action being taken – in 7% of schools.

To assist sites, the HSE have published a revised Asbestos Management Checklist.

All sites that have Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) present must ensure they have:

  • an asbestos register
  • an up to date asbestos management plan
  • records of periodic monitoring of the condition of any ACMs (as suggested by the asbestos survey) records of
  • communicating the presence of ACMs to contractors (where necessary)  

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR) place duties on those with responsibility for the maintenance of work premises to manage the risk from asbestos.
HSE inspectors will contact sites in advance to arrange a suitable date and time for an inspection. They will need to speak to someone with knowledge of how asbestos is managed by the site, and may also ask to see certain documents in advance of the visit e.g. your asbestos register and management plan.
Sites should review their current arrangements and check that they are meeting their duties under CAR:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are ACMs in the premises – and if so, the amount, where it is and what condition it is in, i.e. an asbestos survey has been conducted by an approved contractor
  • make – and keep up to date – a record of the location and condition of any ACMs (or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos), i.e. the asbestos register
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
  • prepare an asbestos management plan (AMP) that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
  • periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements, and act on the findings, so the plan and arrangements remain relevant and up to date
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on, or disturb them – contractors should be shown the asbestos register, and it is good practice to maintain a record of this communication

Should you require guidance in relation to your management of asbestos, this is available at and , or you can get in touch to have access to our school’s health and safety team.

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Intelligent Operations

Grace McLeod: St Joseph’s Marketing Investment

How do you make your school stand out from other good local primary schools? With falling pupil numbers across London, St Joseph’s Primary School realised that having a distinctive ethos wasn’t enough to attract new students, they need their community and neighbours to know them. Not just as one of the nearby competitive Wandsworth primaries, but as ‘St Joseph’s school’.

After hearing a presentation by James from West Creative at Wandsworth Council School Business Networking meeting, bursar Grace McLeod was interested in using marketing to help get more parents choosing St Joseph’s. 

“I’ve only been at the school for about a year and a half. It’s a lovely school and I’d love everyone to portray it that way. Pupils really thrive and the Headteacher and senior leadership team are really lovely. But I don’t think families feel that we stand out as one of the best Catholic schools or as one of the best Wandsworth schools, and word of mouth plays a big role,” says Grace.


The next meetings, which included the Bursar and Head Teacher, were on-line video calls.

“James is very warm and easy to talk to. Sometimes you might not know how to describe what you want, but just by talking to him he understands, verbalizes and puts it down in the way you envisage it to be,” says Grace happily. 

The result is a branding campaign that Grace is confident will help people recognise St Joseph’s. 

“West Creative also helped us redesign our newsletter, and messages for our website. They gave us a template for a poster so we can use that to advertise the school. That campaign brand will be consistent throughout all our communications. The hero messages look so good and just go so well with all our other marketing materials,” she adds.


“I’d recommend working with James and the West Creative team, they’re easy to talk to, made the process really simple, and was definitely value for money. James understands that school funding is really low at the moment. Schools shy away from marketing because they know it can be expensive, but I feel that West Creative was fair and good value for money,” adds Grace.

“I like to strategically plan and think about the ways our school can develop,” she explains. “That’s what business managers will get out of marketing – it can play a big role in thinking about the future and development of a school. That way the school can better plan and budget for resources, trips, education and wrap-around-care.”

Schools Marketing & Design Service 
A collaboration with West Creative Ltd

Your incredible learning experiences deserve to take centre stage, in everything you say about your school. 

At West Creative, we offer much more than flashy websites and punchy prospectuses. We combine our deep knowledge of working across the education sector with straight talking, pragmatic solutions that meet the needs of even the most modest budget. 

We can help you find your story and tell it in a way that brings parents, pupils and community partners closer to your learning environment. 

Everything starts with a conversation. To find out more about how we can help your school, book in a free 30-minute consultation using the date picker.

Intelligent Operations

Lisa Wilson – Emergency Plan Template

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many organisations will have looked to their emergency and business continuity plans to deliver critical services and enable alternative ways of working. In fact, many of the things we learned during the pandemic will help us be more resilient in the future. 

Following a disruptive incident, emergency and business continuity plans should be reviewed and updated with any lessons learned so the plans remain relevant. It’s important to embed the plans in your school’s culture by training your staff in their roles and exercising the plans to test if they work or need to be improved.   

If you haven’t reviewed, updated and exercised your emergency and business continuity plans since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, now is the time. It’s important to consider other emerging issues in your review process such as cyber-attacks, power outage, extreme weather so you can plan how to respond to and maintain your critical services should any of these disrupt your school. 

There is a template emergency plan on the Emergency Planning Team traded services portal that schools can download free of charge.

For any emergency planning or business continuity queries, set up a Head to Head meeting and we’ll connect you to our Emergency Planning Team.

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Intelligent Operations

Smallwood Primary School: A New Approach

Wandsworth’s Smart School Services has created a more accurate workforce planning app that is easy for schools to use and will be rolled out this spring term (2023) to schools signed up to the Schools Financial Advisory Service.

Smallwood Primary (rated Good by Ofsted in 2022) has a unique superpower – access to a really accurate workforce planning tool after signing up to financial planning support with Wandsworth’s Smart School Services. It also speeds up the time that used to be lost reconciling the payroll.

“It’s been a real journey, and the budget mirrored what was happening in other areas,” says headteacher Fiona Loudon who moved to Smallwood in Wandsworth after running a school in Scotland for 11 years. “We had quite a big deficit budget, a lot of work to do (the Ofsted rating required improvement) and we needed to save money. When I started in May 2017, we had 18 teachers leaving, so it was a really difficult time,” says Fiona who explains that alongside mainstream classes, there are 45 students in Smallwood’s Speech and Language Unit with educational health care plans (EHCP).

“A big proportion (75%) of our budget was going on staffing, but the spreadsheets didn’t show what level people were being paid, (eg, .5 or full time),” says Fiona who employs 56 staff. 

Business manager, Dionne Campbell (who joined the school in 2018), adds that with figures out of sync, forecasting and pay felt, “like stabbing in the dark, with nothing that pulled the information together and no clarity.”

Things really changed when Smart Schools Financial Adviser, Charles Roberts, collaborated with a handful of pilot schools (and the payroll service) to devise a more accurate financial planning system for Wandsworth. The aim was to reduce the time and effort it takes heads and business managers to estimate the cost of the workforce and reconcile actual pay with the school’s budget.

Charles Roberts, Smart Schools Financial Adviser

If your forecast is out by even one or two percent of income that’s quite a chunk of cash when school budgets are managed so tightly.

Charles Roberts

“It’s a different approach to a problem,” says Charles, “and that’s important because 80 per cent of a school’s budget is spent on staffing, and if our existing Excel tool was a few per cent out, that’s material. If your forecast is out by even one or two percent of income that’s quite a chunkof cash when school budgets are managed so tightly.”

So how does the magic happen? Charles explains: “The app replicates the reality of all things that happen in the payroll service and payroll departments and is more accurate on national insurance, pensions, spreading a salary across the months in the year, managing pay rises and changes in incremental grades and also manages to model ad hoc payments for extra hours or overtime.”

This enables a school to be able to recast their budget swiftly, if asked to do so.

“Smallwood school had an annual spend of £1.3m on staffing, and the tool was £14 different, which is why it’s called RAPTOR –ridiculously accurate planning tool for organisational resourcing. Ultimately, it’s all about giving the school business manager and head teacher confidence in the numbers,” says Charles.

Dionne Campbell, Business Manager

For business manager Dionne this new way of financial planning speeded up the accuracy of the monthly payroll as well as the six monthly forward planning. “What Charles created pulls up errors in red so we can easily identify and investigate what should be paid and answer, for example, questions about why’s that person got an extra £100 – of yes they’ve done two extra hours.”

Reconciling payroll data is no longer super time- consuming. Charles explains that’s not unusual for schools as, “Some have 40-50 employees – but the tool just highlights those employees that need to be looked at, so is driving action by exception, rather than having to work through everybody. The tool does most of the work for you and will flag those it thinks you need to look at. That creates the feedback loop, so next month it gets more accurate.”

Less discrepancies also meant Smallwood spent less time trying tocontact the payroll team – a particular plus through lockdown when many people were working from home and seemed harder to reach.

We have confidence in the staffing structure of the school, and being able to keep it at the level we need, because very quickly we can see if the percentage of pay for staff is going up, it gives us confidence about managing our budget and staff.

Fiona Loudon
Fiona Loudon, Headteacher

Operating as a pilot, Smallwood has now been using it for a year. “Charlescomes in once a month. He has a report-ready database on his laptop which has got all of our staff data,” says Dionne explaining how the pair go through,“ line by line, so any discrepancies [eg, from sickness, pay increases, reduced hours, jury service, pensions, unpaid leave, unauthorised absence, extra hours and pension opt in and out] are highlighted quickly. It’s easier to use and really helped, as we feel more confident that this is the accurate figure on staffing and can put in any questions that governors have.

“We have confidence in the staffing structure of the school, andbeing able to keep it at the level we need, because very quickly we can see if the percentage

of pay for staff is going up, it gives us confidence about managing our budget and staff. It is now monitored so carefully, we are not going to get any big surprises,” says Fiona delightedthat the budgets are fit for purpose and reconciliation far quicker.

Dionne agrees: “Charles has been instrumental in supporting theschool and getting the budget into the really good position that it is in now. That app works really well.”


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Intelligent Operations

Smart Money, Smart Working: Intelligent Operations

In pursuing leaner operations and more efficient processes, time is an often overlooked factor to consider when looking at cost savings. 

As time invariably equates to money spent, you may look at reducing the school’s administrative burden through outsourcing, or engage with specialist educational expertise that adds value to your offer; or ensures your have the right plan in place to protect your position.

Operational drains on a school’s finances are not always obvious, which is why it is imperative to partner with a resource that can help you objectively view the complete picture.

Magnetic Marketing 

Increasing pupil numbers is a crucial strategy for expanding budget allocation. The more pupils your school attracts, the larger your budget. 

In marketing terms, this revolves around creating more awareness of your school’s unique offer. After pinpointing how your learning experience differs from other schools, you can then align your strengths, values and approach with the criteria parents and pupils are looking for. 

This service is a new partnership between Smart School Services and West Creative – marketing and communication experts, with a proven track record of helping local and national education sector partners.

  • A tailored response based on your school’s unique marketing needs
  • Working alongside schools to create actionable marketing plans with an accompanying suite of deliverables
  • Full suite of integrated creative services available – digital and print expertise

Mitigating Risk / Insurance 

Catering equipment is one of the big ticket items that can burn a whole in your school’s budget, especially if equipment breaks down before a planned upgrade. 

Smart School’s Catering Service offers comprehensive equipment hire insurance to ensure school’s minimise the cost of repairs or replacements – with no limit on how many times a school can make a claim. 

Given the cost of a condemned combi oven is anything up to £10,000 to replace, this service is definitely a smart money investment.

Cut Your Losses

Unfortunately, the true cost of equipment does not always become apparent until after its purchase.

While a paper shredder may seem a relatively inexpensive purchase, the valuable time it takes to operate, unblock and ensure the waste is disposed of safely quickly adds up.

Smart School’s Confidential Shredding Service will not only take over these time-wasting tasks, it also removes the risk of fines from a data breach by providing a certificate of destruction.

On the Money Outsourcing 

Payroll comes with a unique set of complexities and demands that goes much further than reconciling the monthly payment cycle. 

From compliant practice to improved accuracy, outsourcing your end-to-end requirements often makes more fiscal sense. 

Using Smart School’s Payroll Service allows schools to benefit from dedicated, accountable expertise while saving on the cost of employing and retaining staff.

Plan. Respond. Recover. 

Smart School’s Emergency Planning Team offer schools a comprehensive risk assessment that identifies all potential emergency threats and hazards that could potentially impact the school. 

Ultimately, the business continuity plan keeps your school running during and after an incident, reducing costs as well as the duration of any disruption.

Protect Your Provision 

Smart School’s Heath and Safety Service focuses on sharing knowledge to reduce financial liabilities through fines and prosecution. 

The service provides a cost-effective way for schools to ensure they have access to expert Health and Safety advice and support, including health and safety inspections, audits and training. 

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Intelligent Operations

School’s Decarbonisation Framework

In line with Richmond and Wandsworth’s net zero targets, Smart School Services have launched the net zero decarbonisation framework to support schools in achieving their decarbonisation goals.

Please click here to find out more information on the school’s decarbonisation framework. The framework sets out information and guidelines on how schools can reduce their consumption and stay on track with their decarbonisation targets.

Within the decarbonisation framework you can find a list of funding streams that may be available to you, along with contact details for the relevant organisations.

If you require more support or have any queries, please get in touch with the Energy and Sustainability team on:

Intelligent Operations

James West: “Educational Waffle” and why it’s reducing school enrolments 

This article is written by James West, a marketing consultant with a track record of working with education provides across the U.K. 

“Educational Waffle”

Let’s unpack the problem – “Educational Waffle”. It often feels like schools are duty bound to use the same limited pallet of stock phrases and statements with flimsy sentiment. This “waffle” – technical term – might feel like it conveys your values. However, just look at half dozen school prospectuses and you’ll soon understand how dizzying the effect of reading repeated promises of quality, aspiration and attainment makes you feel.

The issue here is at the heart of what causes parents’ problems and reduces the effectiveness of all marketing and communications (for enrolment, retention, and the overall perception of a school). The reason it happens is that it’s easier to write in educational waffle, it’s a familiar shorthand and common place – but none of these reasons should be excused. 

The problem that causes these symptoms is that not enough work has been done to understand the uniqueness of your school’s learning experience – the few specific aspects that separate your school from the others. When we work with education providers, they are often able to rattle off a list of 10+ features that make them ‘unique’ – that is, until we show them that nearly every other provider uses the same set or similar. This revelation of seeing themselves from the perspective of a parent, pupil or partner quite quickly reveals how samey their offer is perceived to be.

Why not have a look at a dozen websites of schools in your area – how many tangible distinctions can you spot in the ‘About’ sections? Try to avoid ‘reading between the lines’ and just go with what is said on the page.

What can be done?

Understanding differentiator/s is the core of what is needed to unlock your communications and make your unique school learning experience stand proud. 


To start, we recommend two things:

  1. Listen to your parents, pupils, partners, and staff 
    (Ask them what they think about the school, what specifics they really value, why they decided to enrol, work or partner with your school).
  2. Write a long list of features and ask yourselves ‘Which are unique to us?’
    (If at first you don’t get any, keep going – push yourself to look for specific aspects that could be unique or closer to unique)

Remember we’re looking for things that make you unique. From our studies of educational websites, the following should cause alarm bells if they are featuring on your features list:

  • Active learning
  • Heart of all we do
  • Success in life
  • Hard-working
  • Successful
  • Realising potential
  • Dedicated staff
  • Inclusive
  • Welcoming
  • Community focused
  • Achievement driven
  • Learning journey


Once you’ve found your differentiator or a set of possible differentiators, we encourage schools to use something like Geoff Moore’s Value Proposition to start articulating the benefits.


FOR parents living in Roehampton

WHO are worried about their child’s transition to school

OUR induction series IS the ideal first step

THAT gives parents and pupils time to make the adjustment.


The final step is still very much the start of the process. As soon as you think you’ve found a differentiator, start using it. At this stage you want to test to see how it is received – By using it in a newsletter is a different action received? Did we get more enquiries from putting it on the front of a marketing flyer? When I say it out loud to parents, is their reaction affirmative?

So much of marketing and communications is like writing a recipe for a cake. You need to tweak the ingredients until you find the right balance – the aim of this work is to get going and start to see if you can find the perfect recipe for marketing the benefits of your learning experience. 

James and his company West Creative are working in partnership with Smart School Services to help support schools with their marketing and communication activity. If you would like to discuss your school and this service, please complete the Head to Head form below and we’ll be in touch.

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Intelligent Operations

Agnieszka Wojcik: Importance of H&S Training in Schools

Employers are legally required to provide information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees and safeguard the pupils. Agnieszka Wojcik 

When is H&S training required? 

H&S training is required upon:

  • Induction – Provided for new employees to help them to settle into the new workplace environment and activities. 
  • Exposure to new or increased risks
  • Existing skills may have become rusty or outdated
  • When current training requires refreshing 

How will your employees and school benefit from H&S Training?

Providing health & safety information and training will help you to:

  • Meet your legal duty to protect the health & safety of your employees.
  • Contribute towards making your employees competent in health & safety;
  • Ensure you or your employees are not injured or made ill by the work they do;
  • Develop a positive health & safety culture, where safe & healthy working becomes second nature to everyone;
  • Find out how you could manage health and safety better;
  • Can help your school avoid the implications that accidents and ill health cause;
  • Can help you avoid the financial costs of accidents & occupational ill health.

H&S training methods available 

  • There are many school health and safety training options available, including:
  • Classroom Offsite
  • On-site at the school (school)
  • Online 
  • Blended Learning 

In school, the following training are examples of H&S training needed (the list is not exhaustive) 

Staff whose work involves a greater element of risk will need extra or specific training.

A record of H&S training should be kept up to date, with details of who in your school has completed which training course, which staff are trained sufficiently and whether their certificates are still current.

Steps to achieving compliance in H&S training 

  • Review staff H&S training needs upon induction
  • Organize necessary training 
  • Keep an up-to-date record of who has completed H&S training and when
  • Carry out regular reviews and monitoring of dates to book training refreshers
  • Ascertain that training expectations are met by carrying out staff supervision and assessing training after delivery with staff

When to renew H&S training 

As a general guide, unless otherwise stated in the training certificate, refresher training should be undertaken every 3 years.

Our Health & Safety Team provides training that can be tailored to the school needs and delivered on site.

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Intelligent Operations

Sarah Dennis: Creating a safe work environment

The UK Health and Safety Legislation outlines basic requirements for creating a safe work environment and actions to be taken to reduce to risks to staff, pupils, contractors and visitors.

What should be in place?

Every workplace should provide welfare facilities and a working environment that’s healthy and safe for everyone in the workplace, including those with disabilities.

The workplace must have:

  • welfare facilities – the right number of toilets and washbasins, drinking water and having somewhere to rest and eat meals
  • a healthy working environment – a clean workplace with a reasonable working temperature, good ventilation, suitable lighting and the right amount of space and seating
  • a safe workplace – well-maintained equipment, with no obstructions in floors and traffic routes, and windows that can be easily opened and cleaned
  • fire safety measures – each building should have suitable fire safety precautions and a clear emergency evacuation procedure for all occupants including those with disabilities

What to do if there is a problem? 

If the right facilities are not provided in your workplace, staff should raise this with their manager or staff representative. If appropriate action is not taken you should contact Smart School Services by booking a Head to Head meeting.

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Head to Head

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