Lots of people can teach, but that doesn’t make them teachers. Teachers can count, but it doesn’t make them accountants…
The world we woke up to on 1st January 2020, when the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia, has gone forever. In the period since, we have seen our lives changed beyond recognition – not least the way in which our public services and schools operate.
Our teachers have done an amazing job, ensuring children’s learning continues remotely, as well as caring for and teaching the children of other key workers. Yet, with much less profile, we have also seen others step up to the challenge. Operational leaders, including IT, HR and site managers have been working flat out bringing their wider professional expertise to the fore – without them the task would have been so much harder.
For the first time we have truly seen the difference that high quality operational leadership and delivery makes. Headteachers in those trusts and schools with this expertise have spoken about the enormous support (and relief) that access to high quality operational staff has brought. As we move into a new world of heightened public safety consciousness, greater reliance on technology for learning and staff collaboration, and a need to adapt to changing workforce expectations, the time has come for trusts and schools to invest further in these roles. Our heads and teachers depend on them for their own wellbeing and effectiveness, and the impact on pupils is increasingly more tangible.
In my blog published on 17th June 2020, I talked about the opportunities currently available to us as a sector, in terms of recruitment. For all the wrong reasons, we suddenly have access to a pool of talent the likes of which we haven’t experienced since the global economic crisis in 2008. The number of vacancies in the economy has gone from a positon of record highs earlier this year, to one where we are now at record lows. Whilst this is good news for teacher recruitment, I believe it’s also good news for recruitment to key operational posts that are going to make such a difference as we head into the ‘new normal’.
Regardless of your school’s legal status: LA maintained, academy, VA, VC, independent etc. I’ve no doubt you understand, that in challenging times, the effective use of resources is a key element in ensuring the highest quality curriculum delivery.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I qualified as a teacher, accountancy and Human Resources didn’t feature too highly in my training. Why should they? And despite being covered to some extent during my NPQH, I still wouldn’t fancy my chances against a qualified accountant in preparing a set of management accounts, nor would I want to prepare papers for submission to an Employment Tribunal.
Increasingly, when working with partner schools and trusts on support service appointments, we are receiving applications from candidates whose experience comes from other sectors. What these candidates may lack in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the education sector, they more than make up for in their skills and expertise in their service area. It is not usual to receive applications from chartered accountancy or HR professionals, currently in the private sector, looking to put their extensive expertise into practice in a sector which they believe makes more of a contribution to society.
We always urge our partner schools and trusts to ‘take the risk’ and look beyond the sector experience, at the broader knowledge and expertise. An understanding of the education sector can be quickly developed, high quality professional qualifications and technical skills take much longer to achieve. The key ingredient – as always – for those with wider professional backgrounds is their passion for education.
As Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” What an honour and privilege it is to have the ability to change the direction of that weapon, at a time when life, as we know it, has been sent off course. Be an agent for change: let those who want to change sector join us in this amazing sector, let our children and young people benefit from the absolute best in all areas of school life.
Director – Satis Education
Helen Stevenson was previously the Director of Development & Governance of a large MAT. She has been responsible for the successful conversion of over 40 academies and has led on the development of numerous successful Free School applications. She is a former teacher and senior leader with NPQH, and has worked extensively on the Academies and Free Schools programmes since 2008, working directly for DfE, local authorities and a number of multi academy trusts, including diocesan MATs.