What is the most effective way to ensure that your school always gets Best Value when making purchases?

Despite its great promises of savings and improved quality, “Best Value” has turned out to be one of the most complicated and troublesome concepts in school purchasing.

The reason for this is largely because Best Value turns out to be very hard to define, including as it does issues such as price, quality, reliability, contracts, guarantees and alternative approaches.

However, Best Value remains an essential element of many schools’ armoury in terms of managing their budgets. Indeed for many schools it is the mechanism that is allowing them to balance the budget and move forward with financial confidence year on year.

Indeed, when one comes across schools that are actually saving £50,000 a year or more through having implemented a comprehensive Best Value programme, it is clear that there is something in Best Value that goes beyond a tick box on an order form asserting that this purchase is a “Best Value” purchase.

The School of Educational Administration and Management has spent the past three years working with schools that have participated in our national School Efficiency programme in order to resolve how it is that some schools are using Best Value to save significant sums, while in other schools the concept is having little or no impact.

We have now produced our guide to implementing a Best Value policy in schools, examining what it means, and what schools that are saving significant sums through implementing Best Value programmes, are actually doing.

The paper “How to ensure that your school always gets best value for money” is now available from the School of Educational Administration and Management as a download for just £6.95.

Should you wish to place a school order for the report instead of ordering it on line there is an additional charge of £2.50.

You can order:

Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

Win 30 new chairs for your school

Win 30 new school chairs and an inspirational assembly led by GB’s Olympic and World Champion,
Lizzy Yarnold MBE.

Don’t Lean Back (dlb) are offering schools the opportunity to win 30 Max II chairs (value of £1000) and an inspirational assembly by GB’s Olympic and World Champion Skeleton Racer, Lizzy Yarnold MBE.

To enter into the competition, all you need to do is subscribe to dlb’s Newsletter in any of the following ways:

  • Send an email to lucy@hamilton-house.com containing your email address, full name and school name – I’ll pass this information on.
  • Or sign up to receive the Newsletter on dlb’s Facebook page

dlb design and develop school chairs that are comfortable, supportive and prevent students from leaning backwards. The Max II chair has health and safety at the forefront of its design, encouraging good posture and preventing injury.

Furthermore, dlb’s research into students’ posture and physical well-being revealed that 84% of Year 10 students found their school’s chairs to be “very uncomfortable” and 64% of secondary school students have suffered from back or neck pain in the past year.

There is more information about dlb’s research, chair products and collaboration with Lizzy Yarnold MBE at http://www.dlb.co.uk.

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The School Procurement Site (www.top5.org.uk) is a free listing of hundreds of UK school products and suppliers, with details of numerous free resources, divided up by subject area. There are also links to their websites in each case.

Lucy Mister
Hamilton House Mailings Ltd

Is your school paying too much?

What is the most effective way to ensure that your school always gets Best Value when making purchases?

Despite its great promises of savings and improved quality, “Best Value” has turned out to be one of the most complicated and troublesome concepts in school purchasing.

The reason for this is largely because Best Value turns out to be very hard to define, including as it does issues such as price, quality, reliability, contracts, guarantees and alternative approaches.

However, Best Value remains an essential element of many schools’ armoury in terms of managing their budgets. Indeed for many schools it is the mechanism that is allowing them to balance the budget and move forward with financial confidence year on year.

Indeed, when one comes across schools that are actually saving £50,000 a year or more through having implemented a comprehensive Best Value programme, it is clear that there is something in Best Value that goes beyond a tick box on an order form asserting that this purchase is a “Best Value” purchase.

The School of Educational Administration and Management has spent the past three years working with schools that have participated in our national School Efficiency programme in order to resolve how it is that some schools are using Best Value to save significant sums, while in other schools the concept is having little or no impact.

We have now produced our guide to implementing a Best Value policy in schools, examining what it means, and what schools that are saving significant sums through implementing Best Value programmes, are actually doing.

The paper “How to ensure that your school always gets best value for money” is now available from the School of Educational Administration and Management as a download for just £6.95.

Should you wish to place a school order for the report instead of ordering it on line there is an additional charge of £2.50.

You can order:

Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

What is the difference between one school office and the next?

How can it be that in some school offices no one does any overtime, whereas in others there is always a struggle to keep up?

One of the most fascinating things about school offices is that there is no set or standard model for running a school administration. Each one in each school is run in its own unique way.

And yet there is a tendency to believe that the way each office is run is the obvious way to do things.

This notion is perhaps best summed up by the thought that “interruptions are inevitable”. In some offices this vision determines the focus of the administrative process, in others the office is organised in such a way as to reduce interruptions to a very low level – an approach which those who follow it find very helpful.

But of course the way we handle interruptions is not the only issue. One can look at the level of backup there is to cover a sudden illness, the level of communication between senior management and the office, the involvement in decisions which affect the office, an awareness of the amount of work coming into the office from various quarters…

And there are other factors too which affect the contribution the office can make to the school’s progress, such as the way “best value” is handled, whether there are ever any checks over the following of agreed systems by members of the team, and so on.

Overall our research found 13 separate issues that can profoundly affect the efficiency or otherwise of the school office, issues which then go on to have a major impact on the effectiveness of the way the school works as a whole.

Indeed it is not at all uncommon for schools to report that making changes in just one or two of these areas can radically improve the effectiveness of the school’s administration.

These are exactly the issues that we consider on the on-line courses run by the School of Educational Administration and Management. You can read about our courses here

The SEAM was set up with funding from the Dept of Trade and Industry and in co-operation with the Faculty of Education in the University of Northampton to bring an awareness of how administrative systems can profoundly affect the success of schools.

If you would like to know more please do call 01536 399 007 or email enquiries@admin.org.uk
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration


The end of marking duties?

Could this be the end of marking duties?

Last week the BBC reported that a leading researcher had suggested that the task of marking should be delegated overseas at a cost of only £2 to £3 per hour in order to cut teachers’ workloads.

Director of Education Datalab, Rebecca Allen, says research has found the quality of overseas marking to be reliable.

She also mentioned that the use of technology should be considered to relieve teachers from some of their marking duties.

Rebecca Allen commented: “I think we need to be realistic and think in radical ways about things like marking,”

But many head teachers have their doubts, including the leader of the head teachers’ union, Brian Lightman, who said: “Marking of pupils’ work is an integral part of the professional duties of a teacher.

“Whilst we would agree that technology can, in appropriate cases be used to process some assessments, I would have serious concerns about outsourcing routine marking.

“Teachers need to see pupils’ work themselves so that they can fully understand the degree to which their pupils have understood what has been taught.

“Schools must be resourced adequately to provide them with the time to do this.

“The unnecessary workload surrounding marking has been caused by a high stakes accountability system which places teachers under intense pressure to provide ‘evidence’ to justify their assessment decisions.”

Further to this, Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, commented: “Teachers don’t just look at the rightness or wrongness of the student’s answer – they want to understand and support the student’s learning process. Outsourcing doesn’t help at all with assessment for learning.”

So I would suggest that you don’t pack away your marking tools quite yet!

Link to article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32513932

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All today’s educational news stories appear on www.ukeducationnews.co.uk – the free news service for UK schools.

Lucy Mister
Hamilton House Mailings Ltd

How can it be that in some school offices no one does any overtime, whereas in others there is always a struggle to keep up?

One of the most fascinating things about school offices is that there is no set or standard model for running a school administration. Each one in each school is run in its own unique way.

And yet there is a tendency to believe that the way each office is run is the obvious way to do things.

This notion is perhaps best summed up by the thought that “interruptions are inevitable”. In some offices this vision determines the focus of the administrative process, in others the office is organised in such a way as to reduce interruptions to a very low level – an approach which those who follow it find very helpful.

But of course the way we handle interruptions is not the only issue. One can look at the level of backup there is to cover a sudden illness, the level of communication between senior management and the office, the involvement in decisions which affect the office, an awareness of the amount of work coming into the office from various quarters…

And there are other factors too which affect the contribution the office can make to the school’s progress, such as the way “best value” is handled, whether there are ever any checks over the following of agreed systems by members of the team, and so on.

Overall our research found 13 separate issues that can profoundly affect the efficiency or otherwise of the school office, issues which then go on to have a major impact on the effectiveness of the way the school works as a whole.

Indeed it is not at all uncommon for schools to report that making changes in just one or two of these areas can radically improve the effectiveness of the school’s administration.

These are exactly the issues that we consider on the on-line courses run by the School of Educational Administration and Management. You can read about our courses here

The SEAM was set up with funding from the Dept of Trade and Industry and in co-operation with the Faculty of Education in the University of Northampton to bring an awareness of how administrative systems can profoundly affect the success of schools.

If you would like to know more please do call 01536 399 007 or email enquiries@admin.org.uk
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration


When there’s a problem with non-teaching staff

What is the most effective way of resolving personnel issues that arise within the non-teaching part of the school?

Sometimes costs mean that the school needs to re-arrange its provision of non-teaching staff. Sometimes complaints can arise from other staff members about the competency or level of co-operation of a member of the non-teaching staff.

In both situations the issue can be difficult to resolve – and a survey by the School of Educational Administration and Management has revealed that many schools that wish to deal with just such a situation involving a member of the non-teaching staff can find it difficult to do so.

With staff who are in a permanent post it is generally simply not possible to change their terms and conditions without their agreement. Unfortunately some schools do attempt to do this each year and this can lead to costs for the school and a delay in the changes that might otherwise have been agreed through negotiation.

On the other hand complaints about the competence and co-operation of members of the non-teaching staff, by their colleagues, are never made flippantly. Where they are made, the school does need to investigate and where appropriate take action.

But again, research by the SEAM has revealed that there is a tendency in some schools to let the matter rest – often because there is an uncertainty as to how best to handle the situation. However leaving such a matter can cause great difficulty within the non-teaching parts of the school and reduce the school’s effectiveness and efficiency in these areas.

Following the SEAM investigation into these matters we have produced the report, “When there’s something amiss among the non-teaching staff”. The report looks at the nature of the problems that can arise and the best ways of resolving such issues.

The report is not intended as a legal guide to handling employee issues, but rather it offers guidance and advice on how such matters can best be resolved internally, from the point of view of the well-being of the school as a whole.

When there’s something amiss among the non-teaching staff is available as a download for just £4.95 plus VAT and can be obtained directly with payment made by credit card at http://shop.firstandbest.co.uk/product_info.php?cPath=78&products_id=809

If you wish to be invoiced for the report then this can be arranged through any of the methods below. However there is an additional charge of £2.50 made to cover the administrative cost of processing the invoice where the report is not paid for on-line at the time of purchase.

Please provide an email address if ordering in this way so that we can email the report to you.

  • By post to First and Best, Hamilton House, Earlstrees Ct, Earlstrees Way, Corby, NN17 4HH
  • By fax to 01536 399 012
  • By phone on 01536 399 011 with a credit card or school purchase order number
  • By email to Sales@firstandbest.co.uk with a school purchase order number.

The School of Education Administration and Management was set up in 2006 with funding from the Department of Trade and Industry, and with the support of the University of Northampton Faculty of Education, through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme, with the aim of supporting schools in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in the non-teaching areas of their work.
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration


Beware what you say on your website

A school recently reported to the Advertising Standards Authority has been told to change its website

It may come as a bit of a surprise to you to find that something said on the school’s own website about itself is could be of interest to the Advertising Standards Authority. But it can.

In fact, the ASA can take an interest in anything that can be considered a form of promotion – if someone refers the matter to them for investigation.

Now of course the ASA spends most of its time worrying about the latest offer from rival TV service suppliers, downmarket newspapers and time share companies. But there’s nothing in the rule book to say that a complaint can’t be made about a school website.

And one just has. I don’t know if it is the first ever such complaint, or who made it, but I can say that a significant number of complaints about advertising that reach the ASA are made by rival organisations. This complaint might have come from parents or it might have come from another school – one doesn’t know – but the fact is that once the complaint has been made it ought to be answered.

In this case, a school advertised itself as offering “World Class” education, and the challenge was that the school should justify such a claim. The school in response to the ASA pointed out that the phrase was not an official one used by Ofsted, and no one would be confused.

In response the ASA said that,

“The ASA considered parents of school-age children would be aware of the rating system Ofsted used and would be likely to realise that “World Class” was not a rating awarded by them.

“Nevertheless, we still considered “World Class,” used alongside references to high academic qualifications and a teaching team with a proven record in high performance in the context of an ad for a school, suggested an objective rating rather than an aspirational term, particularly when presented with capital letters and in speech marks or inverted commas.”

So the school got its knuckles rapped.

The full set of rulings for this week, including the one about the school are shown here. If you want to know what the ASA does and how it works, the details are at http://www.asa.org.uk/About-ASA.aspx

In essence not much happens if you are found to be in breach of the regulations of the ASA – there are no fines or anything. They just say, “don’t do it again”. At most it is a bit embarrassing. But it is, as a general rule, worth asking oneself, “Can I really prove the claim that I am making?”

That is where the difficulty with a phrase like “world class” comes. It is hard to prove unless you have an award or can show that there is widespread agreement that the phrase is applicable here.

Tony Attwood

Reducing the workload in the school office

The simplest way to make your school work more efficiently

Every organisation is inefficient. 100% efficiency is an impossibility. In this regard the school is no different from any other type of organisation.

But every organisation can become more efficient. With our school, just as with every other organisation, we can make some minor changes which remove some of the inefficiencies and as a result make the school more effective in meeting its aims.

Indeed the results of a simple efficiency change can on occasion go far beyond this.

Take the school office, for example. Most school offices are overloaded with work, and most school offices run on the goodwill of those who work within them, with staff regularly undertaking unpaid overtime in order to ensure everything is done.

But supposing it were possible to implement a few minor changes – changes that would be welcomed by everyone working in the school office. Changes which reduced the pressure on the office. Changes that reduced the workload, reduced the need for unpaid overtime, and in fact ensured that work requested by school managers was completed more rapidly.

That surely would be a good thing and would ensure that loyal long serving staff stayed in the school.

But that’s not all. Because, as repeated surveys by the School of Educational Administration and Management have shown, the level of demand placed upon school offices is increasing year on year, and some school offices are reaching breaking point.

Fortunately there is a way of making the school office much more efficient. A way that is welcomed by every school administrator who sees it and experiences it. A way that makes the whole school run more effectively, without the school having to spend a penny on changing the office or bringing in extra staff.

It is an approach which deals with the way in which the school office processes the work it has to undertake – and which relates to the way interruptions within the office are dealt with.

Now it has to be said that at this point some school managers stop considering the issue when they hear that it is about interruptions, on the grounds that “interruptions are inevitable” in the school office.

And to some degree this is true. But only to some degree. Our work shows 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. In fact the quality of their service goes up.

How this can be done is described in the paper “The simplest way to make your school work more efficiently” which available as an online download for just £4.95 plus VAT and can be obtained directly with payment made by credit card at http://shop.firstandbest.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=807

If you wish to be invoiced for the report then this can be arranged through any of the methods below. However there is an additional charge of £2.50 made to cover the administrative cost of processing the invoice where the report is not paid for on-line at the time of purchase.

Please provide an email address if ordering in this way so that we can email the report to you.

  • By post to First and Best, Hamilton House, Earlstrees Ct, Earlstrees Way, Corby, NN17 4HH
  • By fax to 01536 399 012
  • By phone on 01536 399 011 with a credit card or school purchase order number
  • By email to Sales@firstandbest.co.uk with a school purchase order number.

Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

The results: what is taking up your time?

A couple of weeks ago I asked you the question, “what is taking up your time?” and was particularly interested in tasks that you are required to do but which seem, as far as you can see, to be of little benefit to you, your students, or the school.

First of all, thank you to everyone who took the time to reply. Given the tone of frustration in some replies, clearly we have tapped into a feeling that a lot of precious teaching time is wasted on unnecessary tasks.

As promised, a summary of your replies is set out below together with some quotes which are not only from readers of The School Efficiency Newsgroup, but also from the following:

  • The Secondary Educational Management Newsgroup
  • The Primary Educational Management Newsgroup
  • The Schools English Literacy and Drama Newsgroup
  • The Schools Computer Science and ICT Newsgroup
  • The Schools PSHE and Citizenship Newsgroup
  • The Schools SENCo Newsgroup
  • The Schools Behaviour and Motivation Newsgroup

If you would like to sign up to a newsletter in addition to the one you are currently signed up to, you can do this at: http://schools-news.co.uk/lists/?p=subscribe&id=22

The results

22% of respondents reported that checking and dealing with emails is taking up their time.

“One thing that does cause extra work on a daily basis is colleagues not reading the whole email. I frequently receive questions that have arisen from reading the first line of a message and not reading the rest.”

“Emails, not just unwanted ones, but others that contain reams of paperwork to do. Some days it is either read the emails or do some other paperwork!”

18% reported that the amount of administration and paperwork is unnecessarily time consuming.

“I took early retirement from the state sector in 2000 because, even then, the ridiculous amount of paper work was killing me”

17% said that the increasing number of marking requirements are taking up their time

“Quality Marking! Giving children in year one written feedback that they cannot read independently which then needs to be read to them in order for them to respond.”

“My main concern regarding the new qualifications in relation to workload is the increased amount of time that has been put on us by the SQA for internal marking of unit assessments for N3-Higher.”

12% reported that dealing with parents and their demands is taking up a significant amount of time.

“Completing a behaviour book for an individual child (just because the parent has requested one) even though I see her every night and have said I can pass on any issues verbally.”

“Dealing with the behaviour of parents!”

11% reported that dealing with pupils’ behaviour was time consuming.

Although no-one responded with this as their “one” time consuming activity, it did feature as a side note in a number of responses, so for this reason I decided to add it into the overall results.

6% reported that teaching under certain circumstances is decreasing their teaching efficiency.

“I am expected to teach pupils with varying abilities and a selection of diagnosed learning difficulties, with no two pupils the same. I have just been informed that the SFL support that I had for 3 out of 4 periods has been taken away!”

5% said that getting to grips with the new technologies are taking up their time at school and at home.

“The biggest thing for me is new technology – I waste so much time sorting technology out when I really don’t know what I am doing.”

5% reported that sorting out the chaos accompanying changes in legislation is highly time consuming.

“The one thing that has taken over my job in recent weeks has been caused by the change in legislation that enables one school to ‘take’ pupils.”

4% reported that it was the overall quantity of the tasks in their workload that took up too much time.

“There is an expectation that the teacher will or should just do it. Tasks are added but not one task has ever been removed.”
Lucy Mister
School of Educational Management and Administration


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