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In addition to publishing stories from the BBC, various newspapers, specialist magazines and the government education departments, we like to publish other stories too.

Stories from schools, colleges and universities, and information from suppliers about products and services in the UK that will be of interest to teachers.

If you have a positive and interesting story about your school, that you feel might interest some of the teachers who read our site each week, (we’re currently getting over 300,000 visits a month) we’d love you to send it in.

Likewise if you have a product or service that could be of interest to teachers, please send information about that in too.

We do ask for a small (and it is small) contribution to our running costs from companies that are selling education products but information from educational institutions and information about free products and services is normally published without charge.

To submit a piece for inclusion on UK Education News just email Chris@hamilton-house.com and attach the story as a word file.  Please write, at the top of the file, the headline that you want to appear on the site.  Unfortunately we can’t include any pictures on this service, but you can include a link to your website in your text, and of course that can lead to a website containing as many illustrations as you like.

If we feel that a fee would be appropriate, we’ll email you back with details – we won’t publish it without your agreement.

If you would like to talk to us about any aspect of UK Education News please call 01536 399 000 and ask of the UK Education News team.

Tony Attwood

Imagine that you could organise matters at work so that you had more time than ever before to get everything done.

For most school administrators, managing the demands of work coming in from a vast array of sources is a fundamental part of daily life.

For most administrators not working in schools, time management and stress management are issues that are taught as part of virtually every management or administration course they might take.

And yet only a tiny percentage of school administrators are ever offered a course in time or stress management.

And so it is to bring the benefits of time management and related subjects to more and more school administrators that the School of Educational Administration and Management introduced the Certificate in Management Practice course.

The course focuses on time management and two related topics – stress management and dealing with school visitors – all within the context of the work of a school administrator.

School administrators who have completed this short course tell us they found it incredibly helpful, as it enables them to look at their work and consider different ways of managing it so as to reduce stress and yet get more done in the available time.

The course lasts approximately 2 months and is taught by distance learning. We recommend that students allow themselves 4 hours a week study time.

We are accepting applications for the next intake on this course, start date 13/06/2016 (closing date for applications 06/06/2016).  There is more information on our website

You can also call us on 01536 399007 or email Sam@admin.org.uk

Tony Attwood

Chair, School of Educational Administration and Management

I asked what innovations had been made in school administration recently. You might be surprised by the range of replies!

Recently I asked if any readers of this newsgroup would care to let me know of any recent innovation that they have made in their school.

There was no prize offered, no grading of results… I was just interested to see what might be said, and I must say that I have been stunned by the results.

I’ve selected five innovations that came my way – but for colleagues who sent me an entry which isn’t here, that’s no reflection on what you wrote.  I really did get a bumper collection through and I’ve tried to select a small group which reflects the diversity of the replies.

I have slightly edited some of the replies, but hopefully have not lost any of the sense.

INNOVATION 1

Around 5 years ago we introduced the ‘RED POST BOX’ which is in reception. Above the box are little envelopes & pens. We take nothing at the hatch, we tell all parents to put whatever it is in ‘the red box please’. This works really well for us and we empty the box around 10am, when the registers have been checked and all children are accounted for. We then have time to sort out & deal with the many reply slips, residential payments, day trips, football slips etc. etc.

It’s not perfect but it works for us.

INNOVATION 2

When I joined the school several years ago as the Head’s PA, I struggled with the filing system.  All files were manila and often with overseas students it was difficult to know gender so I adopted a system of Pink folders for girls and Blue for boys.  A simple change but has made such a difference, particularly when trying to locate a file.  It definitely saves a lot of time.  This has now been adopted all over the school.

INNOVATION 3

We introduced school money in January 2016 and it has been fantastic, because we run before and after school and also nursery wraparound we were taking £3k-£4k per week this has saved time and more importantly the usual from parents which was “I have paid” when we know they had not.

Definitely worth looking at for schools that take large amounts of money every week.

Everything is now paid on line including trips, clubs, residentials.

INNOVATION 4

Have gone cashless as a result. Saving time with dinner money, collating trip money / consent forms. Just about over the initial extra work in supporting parents (who needed it) activating their accounts and familiarisation with new system.

INNOVATION 5

I have helped in rolling out a new In App service for the school – we are pushing hard to get parents to sign up to the app by pushing its benefits hard to parents… i.e.

They can view their children’s attendance and behaviour

Messaging to the school is instant and free (as long as it’s covered in their data plan!)

Messaging FROM school is free – we save 6p per message sent via the App (1200 families can mount up pretty quickly!)

School puts loads of useful information for parents on the app which links into oher applicatons.

We’re constantly pushing the service to parents right now and have almost 500 users to date (the most of any school signed up for their service) – our aim is for 800 (or 2/3) minimum in the school.  Our reception staff ask parents if they have the app, Heads of Year do the same when meeting with parents and I attend Parent’s Evenings handing out cards and preaching the virtues of the system.

The parents that have signed up for it think it’s great, and it also has improved our accountability as particularly attendance information has improved.  Also it has made a (small) impact on behaviour as student realise that their parents can see when they’ve received consequences.

I have had to maintain a driving force behind this, as you say these things drop off after a few weeks as the old habits come back in, but it is having a good effect and numbers are rising slowly as word gets around.  The perfect world would be all families on the app thereby saving the school thousands a year in communications costs – but we live in the real world and feel that 2/3 of parents would be a pretty good result.

—————–

The last point here is, I think, a very important one. Innovating always has three parts – introducing the new approach, persuading people to do it, and then persuading people to keep doing it.

People will change – but only when they are encouraged to do so, in a way that they feel is acceptable.

Many thanks to everyone who joined in this little experiment. I hope everyone found it interesting.

Tony Attwood

www.admin.org.uk

What makes one school office more efficient than another? And how can you tell if your office really is efficient?

Efficiency is one of those very strange things that are hard to see and harder still to judge.  How do you know if something that you are doing is as efficient as it could be?

And anyway, why should one bother with efficiency?  You are, of course, not deliberately wasting time, and the school doesn’t have any money to make changes.  What are you going to save if you make some small change to your office routine?

However, those administrators who do investigate efficiency invariably do find the difference it can make is huge.   Some who find that they are becoming increasingly overburdened with work find themselves suddenly with an extra hour a day.  Others just find the entire working day is more pleasant because there is less hassle.

It might be because they change the way parental requests are handled, the way that photocopying is done, or simply the way in which incoming emails are handled.

It could be that there are one or two teachers in the school who are not perfect at getting their register completed and who cause you to spend time resolving such issues.

Whatever the problem, these matters can be solved – but they have to be approached in the right way.

A lot of the administrators who take the Certificate in School Efficiency distance learning course find that even though they have focussed on one or two areas of efficiency before, and perhaps have been rebuffed in their attempts to change procedures, they are now able to resolve the whole situation.

In short two months part-time study changes their entire approach to the way things can be run in schools.

You can find a lot more information about the course, how it works, and how it will benefit you, on the School of Educational Administration website.

If you have any particular questions please do call us on 01536 399 007 or email me: Sam@admin.org.uk

Samantha Bates

Director, School of Educational Administration and Management

The fact that change can be time-consuming and difficult doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep pressing forward.

One of the great problems with making any changes to a school’s administration system is that it can be a bit like going to the dentist.

You know that going to the dentist will alleviate pain in the end, but the event itself can appear so horrible that it gets put off and put off.  (Unless of course you have one of those magic dentists whose injections don’t hurt and who seem to have it all over and done almost before you’ve opened your mouth.)

In any office the making of the changes designed to save time and make the whole system run more smoothly can also seem to make the current situation worse before it gets better.

Take, for example, the introduction of a system of removing paper files and replacing them with digital copies of all important documents.

Once this is done a significant number of filing cabinets can be removed, thus giving the entire admin team more space. And no document will ever go missing again through being removed and not returned or being removed but then re-filed in the wrong place.

Every document can be found very quickly simply by doing a search of your database on any key word you can remember, even if there is a doubt about the reference number on the document or the names of the people involved or even the date of the event that it relates to.

Subsequently, work during the holidays can be undertaken by authorised personnel at home who can put suitable security on their home broadband, thus alleviating the problems that arise with one person being in the school on her own.

So the ultimate benefits are huge, but initially there are two big drawbacks.

First there are the objections which can come from those people who love to find reasons for never changing anything. The system might break down, security would be compromised, and so on.

Such objections really are fairly trivial – data of this type is normally backed up on three different servers each day if not with automatic backups every few seconds, so that if one system fails, there are still two working.

And as for security, locked filing cabinets can be as insecure as things get.  A fire could do untold damage, break-ins are not unknown, and there are those initial problems of “borrowed” files simply being misfiled on their replacement or being lost totally.

The issue of how much work there could be involved in scanning past files is, however, is a larger problem and might look daunting.   But there are still ways around this.

Non-sensitive files can be scanned by a temporary member of staff, and then if a process is implemented in which all new documents are scanned rather than filed physically, the new system starts to work.

It might take several years to move over to the new system, but it can be done – and the same can be done with all sorts of other changes.

For example, as most people who have experienced it will attest, setting up an on-line system of paying for school meals can take a while, not just with the software, but also in terms of persuading parents to change their procedures.  But eventually the change is made, and once that happens the amount of time you have available for other matters will be greatly enhanced.

If you have implemented any changes in recent years which have successfully cut the amount of time you have to spend on certain aspects of the job, I’d really like to hear about it.

Do write to me at Tony@hamilton-house.com

Understanding all there is to know about school procurement

School Procurement is significant in terms of expenditure and time.  The Certificate of School Procurement provides Business Manager/Executive Officers with the tools to ensure that procurement is carried out in a transparent way.

If you wish to::

  1. Gain control over procurement
  2. Have confidence in procurement
  3. Protect the school from high risk procurement
  4. Reduce reliance on supplier focused contracts

then this online training is for you.

The benefits are:

  1. Increased confidence in procurement
  2. Better understanding of leasing versus purchasing issues.
  3. Focus on school contract for suppliers.
  4. Managing contract performance

The 14 week online modular procurement course can be undertaken at your own pace and can be completed within six months. The training will give you a benchmark as to how school procurement is currently operating and provide a guide for improving.

More information can be found at http://www.admin.org.uk/CCMintro.html

A survey by the School of Educational Administration reveals the problems that those in the school office face each day.

The biggest issue that currently concerns school administrators, according to a survey undertaken by the School of Educational Administration and Management, is the lack of understanding by parents as to what the school office does and the pressure the school office is under.

In the survey conducted among 3500 subscribers to the SEAM’s weekly newsletter, administrators were presented with a range of problems that school administrators face, with those completing the survey being asked to rate them from “5” (a major issue of concern) down to “1” (not an issue at all).

Just over half (55%) of the administrators responding to the survey indicated that the understanding of parents was either a matter of specific concern or a major issue, and really needs to be addressed in the near future.

The second most common of concerns was the level of interruptions, with both interruptions caused by people coming into the office to work, hand in work, chat or to use the phone, and interruptions from emails and telephone sales calls.

What is particularly interesting is that in both these areas it is very possible to change matters very easily so that the problems administrators face can be overcome, with little cost to the school.

Indeed the saving that the school makes in terms of stress reduction and more efficient working practices pays for any small cost involved in resolving these problems.

On the other hand, the way in which the school deals with personnel issues was seen as a major issue only by 26% of administrators responding while it was seen as no problem at all by 43% of those replying.

My own view is that there is an interesting conclusion to be drawn here.   Resolving the issue of interruptions is actually very easy, and indeed we have previously produced a report on how to do this, and I’ll give details below.

But when you are faced by interruptions all day long (be they from teaching colleagues, managers, or irrelevant phone calls and emails) I do very much appreciate (because it has happened to me) that it can be hard to imagine there is a simple solution.

However, those administrators who reported that these issues were not a problem at all have clearly found a way around the issue both of people coming into the office, and of emails and the phone.

Now I also know that sometimes when I say, “there is a solution” the answer comes back, “we’ve asked people not to interrupt but it doesn’t work,” and again I can understand that.

The problem is, however, that just asking people not to do something, doesn’t normally have much effect.  It might work for a week, but then old habits return.  It is this that we have tackled in our reports.

And there is one other point I would raise.  In my experience a small amount of time spent considering the way in which systems operate in the school office could reduce the workload and stress on thousands of administrators in the nation’s schools.

As a result of the survey the SEAM has resolved to produce a report on how the understanding by parents of what the school office does and how they can help its smooth running can be very readily enhanced.   The report should be available in April 2016.

Meanwhile two of the SEAM’s reports that are currently available do deal with issues that are still of concern to many administrators…

How to cut the number of emails the school gets each day by 80%, while still ensuring that colleagues get the information they need.

Increasing the productivity of the school office – showing that 80% of school office interruptions can be avoided, without any reduction in the service given by the office to governors, managers, parents, teachers and pupils.

You can order a copy of these reports by clicking on the link.  A full list of our recent reports is given on http://www.admin.org.uk/ along with details of our courses and other support services.

Tony Attwood

What is your school doing to accommodate the teacher shortage?

The BBC has reported on the results of a snapshot survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (conducted in response to the government’s failure to meet its teacher recruitment targets in England) which has revealed the true extent of the teacher shortage.

Out of the 900 heads surveyed, 810 (90%) said they were struggling to recruit new teachers, with 75% reporting that it is proving more challenging to recruit now than it was a year ago.

90% of heads also reported that the current situation was causing increasing stress for their staff due to the extra work that is involved.

Subject shortages were reported to be worst in maths, science and English although some schools were also finding it difficult to recruit geography, history and language teachers.

So what are schools doing to accommodate this teacher shortage?

It was revealed that a fifth of headteachers in England are sharing teaching staff with other schools to fill vacancies, whilst 70% admitted to using more support staff and 41% have had no option but to arrange for more lessons to be taught by themselves or by the deputy head.

In response the government cites plans to invest £1.3bn up to 2020 to attract people to the teaching profession and a spokesman for the DfE says that:

“The government is investing hundreds of millions in teacher recruitment, offering generous bursaries and scholarships in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects, plus backing schemes like Teach First and the National Teaching Service to get great teachers where they’re most needed – and… we’ve given schools unprecedented freedom over staff pay, allowing them to attract the brightest and the best.

“We are committed to raising the status of teaching and want to work with ASCL and the profession to make it an attractive career choice.”

However, ASCL general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, urges the government to do more to make the teaching profession more attractive, commenting: “Teacher shortages leave schools with no option other than to use stop-gap solutions.

“If they cannot recruit the staff they need, this means using supply staff and non-specialists to cover the gaps.

“While these staff often do a very good job in difficult circumstances, it is no substitute for having permanent teachers who are experts in their subjects.

“Without this supply of teachers, there is a danger that some of the progress which has been made will be lost.

“It will certainly be extremely difficult if not impossible to raise standards further.”

Link to article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35686021
Lucy Mister
School of Educational Management and Administration

 


Just how good is life in the school office? Your chance to let us know.

As you may have noticed if you are a regular reader of my rambles about school admin, I tend to pick up on a different theme each week in this newsletter.  And for the most part these themes come from comments made to me by administrators who are kind enough to drop me the occasional email.

But I thought this week we really ought to widen the net a little by asking all readers of the newsletter to identify their central concerns about school administration.

Below I have listed the issues that regularly come up in correspondence and what I’d like you to do is indicate what you feel about each one.

In each case, please you use this numbering as a guide

1: No concern at all

2: A small amount of concern, but it’s not a big issue

3: An issue of some importance, which I might mention if asked.

4: This is a matter of specific concern to me

5: This is a major issue and really needs to be addressed in the near future.

And please be assured that, as always, we shall not be tracking who replied – we shall only be recording the overall level of answers. But if you have a particular concern about your answers being seen, please do reply from your home email or via hotmail or gmail.

The link to our short questionnaire is here.  http://hamiltonhouse.polldaddy.com/s/just-how-good-is-life-in-school-office

Tony Attwood

We can all see inefficiencies in the world around us. So why can’t we see them closer to home?

At the start of the Certificate in School Efficiency course the school administrators taking part are asked to consider inefficiencies in the world around them.  Not in their school, but in other areas of their life that they experience from time to time.

It’s a part of the course that I really enjoy marking, because some of the events reported are absolutely outrageous.

There are stories of roads that are dug up, resurfaced, and then dug up again (by a different organisation) just a few weeks later. There are doctors’ surgeries that have a system which requires the ill and the sick to queue up at the surgery door in the freezing cold from 7.30am onwards in order to get a chance to see a doctor.

Then there are the coffee shops which haven’t sorted out a system of clearing the tables after customers have left, so there is never anywhere to sit.  And the supermarkets that insist on replenishing shelves during peak trading hours, thus making it hard for customers to pick up the products they want.

And, of course, I can add my own favourites (although “favourite”  isn’t really the word I want to use), such as British Gas who wrote to me telling me I hadn’t paid a bill, and who gave me a number to call.  I called it, held on for half an hour, and eventually had to give up. What, one wonders, is the point of telling me to phone a number that had too many people phoning in, and not enough people answering the phone?

My point in reciting these examples of inefficiency is that they are all easy to see. And yet they are allowed to continue, often for months or even years. Why on earth don’t the organisations in question see what is going on, and then sort themselves out?

The answer is that in every organisation the people working therein get used to the systems they are running, and don’t see them from the outside.  In each case the people working for the surgery, the supermarket, the council, etc, do their job, and quite often don’t actually see there is a problem.

Or, as a person in the highways department of my local council said in relation to the road digging issue, “It’s Anglian Water’s fault – they just don’t ever bother to check”.

Now if I suggested that your school office might be seen in the same way as some people see their local supermarket, surgery, coffee shop, or council, you would undoubtedly be horrified.

But unless you are trained to see your world of work from the point of view of those who use your offices, you are probably not going to see the problems they see. Or else you might see them as inevitable – something you can’t do anything about.

Thus one of the great problems with work is that we get used to the environment we are in, and tend not to think about changing it. As a result we all of us find change hard to imagine – or perhaps, better said, we find change unlikely to make much difference.

And yet it is extremely unlikely that ours is the one organisation that is efficient while all around us councils, doctors surgeries, supermarkets, coffee shops, and gas supply companies can on occasion seem to be the height of inefficiency.

This is why the notion of debating the efficiency of our own working environment is such a challenge. And yet, as a result of the School of Educational Administration’s course in efficiency, increasing numbers of schools are facing the challenge year by year – and getting enormous benefits as a result.

The Certificate in School Efficiency course for school administrators is a one term distance learning course with the subject matter firmly related to your life in your school. I do hope you might consider joining it.

There are more details on the SEAM’s website.

Tony Attwood

The blog for bursars and administrators