Creating space in creative ways

How are schools keeping up with the relentless demand for additional space?

Not so long ago many schools were struggling to find space in their existing building/s to house the increasing pupil population. And indeed, some schools still have a long way to go until they have the space to house the number of pupils predicted to be with them by the next academic year (2015-16).

But it seems that the new FSM policy is also causing some havoc, demanding space in schools for (bigger) kitchens or/and dining areas.

So how is it that schools are keeping up with this demand for space?

Interestingly I received an email recently from a reader of this newsletter who has in fact solved this issue for their school:

“We are looking to move our small library​ and thought about having something like a static bus or other fun vehicle in the school grounds. Has anyone done this or have something similar. Obviously this has to be insulated to house books. Has any school any ideas how to go about this, any companies I can contact?

“Our library is currently in a room next to our hall where we have school dinners, so are looking to increase the size of this due to the increased (UFSM) meals.”

Indeed if your school has done something similar to this and you have some advice on how to carry out such project, you can email me at lucy@hamilton-house.com and I will forward your advice on to them. If you could put BUS ADVICE in the subject line it would be very helpful.

Similarly, I would be interested to know if your school has created extra space in a creative way, and if so, how? Again if you could email me at the address above, but this time with CREATIVE SPACE as the subject.
Lucy Mister
School of Educational Management and Administration

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

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

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


Top Tips for Sustainable Purchasing in Schools: “8. Buy food locally and seasonally”.

In 2012 the government launched a useful little publication entitled Top Tips for Sustainability in Schools.

Its aim was to “suggest practical ways for schools to become more sustainable, should they choose to, whilst at the same time saving money.”

This publication includes Top Tips to reduce carbon in schools, Top Tips to reduce energy and water use in schools, Top Tips for sustainable school travel, Top tips to reduce waste in schools, and so on.

Recently at the SEAM we have been looking into “best value” purchasing for schools and, should you be interested, we have written a report that is for sale on our on-line shop (link below). So I was interested in reading the Top Tips for Sustainable Purchasing in Schools.

As someone who consciously tries to keep my carbon footprint down when doing my own shopping – I love asparagus but only indulge during the short 8 week season for English asparagus – I was pleased to read Top Tip number 8 of the section on Sustainable Purchasing in Schools: “Buy food locally and seasonally”.

And apparently most parents are with me on this one, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the NFU, 76% of parents said that schools should source British food wherever possible and 87% of parents said that at least half of the ingredients in school meals should be procured from British farms.

Minette Batters, NFU Deputy President commented: “It’s pleasing to see from the survey that 78 per cent of parents will take up the offer of free school meals that are now available to all pupils up to the age of seven at schools across England.

“This is a great opportunity for school caterers and all those involved in the supply chain to back British farming, and procure more seasonal local and British food.

“The NFU has been working hard for change and is committed to being part of the independent School Food Plan.

“We will continue to play our part in ensuring schools source more British food and helping to focus ideas to provide a strong platform to build a bright future for our children – not just for lunch but through cooking and food education.”

You can find the results of the poll at: http://www.meatinfo.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/17570/Parents_want_school_food_to_be_British_wherever_possible,_according_to_NFU_poll.html

And the government’s Top Tips for Sustainability in Schools publication at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/187037/DFE-32056-2012.pdf

Link to SEAM report How to ensure that your school always gets best value for money
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration


Are you responsible for saving a life?

Question: What are administrators and management doing about getting a defibrillator installed in their school?

As you may know, I often like to call on the expertise and knowledge of the admin newsgroup to help answer questions, some trivial and others quite complex, which have been put to me by your admin and management counterparts across the country.

If you wouldn’t mind giving me 4 minutes of your time to answer a maximum of 8 questions (for some it may be less than this), then hopefully we can provide some information that can be useful for all schools. The results will be published on the newsgroup in a couple of weeks.

Link to the questionnaire: http://hamiltonhouse.polldaddy.com/s/are-you-responsible-for-saving-a-life
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

When there’s no more space

Many schools are running out of storage space for all sorts of items. But what is the solution?

Last week the School of Education Administration and Management revealed that some schools were starting to remove the filing cabinets in their offices, and are scanning all documents rather than holding any information on paper.

The reason is simple: the school has grown, they need another person in the office, but there’s no more space for another desk. The cabinets have to go.

No one seems to have done any research into this issue, so we’d thought we’d find out how much of a storage problem there is, be it for outdoor clothes or maintenance equipment or anything else.

We’ve produced a survey which shouldn’t take more than two minutes to complete. I’d be really grateful if you could answer the questions so we can see if there really is a country-wide storage problem or not, and if there is, what schools are doing to solve it.

Once we have the answers in, I’ll report back with the findings. And with a bit of luck, a few suggestions on how any difficulties might be overcome.

To take the survey please click here.
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

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

A small change to the running of the school’s administration can save £££s and make the school run far more smoothly

Walk into a dozen schools, look at the school office, and you will find half a dozen different ways of running a school office. At least.

But which one is best? Which one is the most efficient? Which is the most effective? Which has the most dramatic and positive influence on the school? Or do the different approaches have no effect?

The fact is that for many of us these seem almost nonsensical questions because, surely, the office is the office. The way it is run is the way school offices are run.

However, behind the scenes the way the office operates does impact on the school as a whole. It determines just how much value for money the school gets from its purchases, how efficient it is, and how effective the front line handling of parents is on a day by day basis.

Indeed, how effective the school is in these regards can come down to something as simple as the level of interruptions the office receives.

In some schools there will an attitude that says, “Interruptions are inevitable – it is part of the job of the office to respond. They can’t be stopped.” Elsewhere there can be the view that interruptions are the single biggest cause of delays and errors. Reduce interruptions by even 10%, and productivity and accuracy in the office rises and costs start to come down.

Likewise in some schools there is no monitoring or control of the work that is given to the school office. Everyone, from governors and the head through to classroom teachers, can walk in and ask for something to be prepared, copied, printed, distributed, put on the website…

Such an approach can lead to significant overloads of work, without any clear indication of priorities or any thought of the amount of time office staff have available.

Meanwhile in other schools there is a policy in which all parents are encouraged to come in and see the administrator to sort out matters – offering parents an “open door” vision of the school. While this may be good PR it is very bad in terms of managing workload, and at the very least the time spent in this way needs to be monitored and alternative approaches considered.

Issues such as these resonate through hundreds of different policies and procedures that affect the school and the running of its administration, and each has a cost implication for the school.

Each of these different attitudes and approaches – and indeed many more like them – result in different procedures. And it is these procedures that determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the school overall.

The School of Educational Administration and Management, which was set up ten years ago with government funding and the support of the University of Northampton, researches the effectiveness of various models of school administration and explores ways of enhancing school efficiency through three on-line courses which are detailed below.

In each course students have their own tutor with whom they can discuss matters on-line, and there are no classes to attend. Courses start at regular dates throughout the year.

The Certificate in School Efficiency course takes two months and covers not only how efficiencies are made but also details the efficiency programmes that schools have introduced during recent years as a result of doing the course. Starting dates are 10th November 2014, 12th January 2015, 16th February 2015 and 16th March 2015.

The National Certificate in School Administration covers a very wide range of fields including work management, government policy, education and the law, office administration and business management. The course takes one year. Next starting date 26th January 2015.

Finally there is the Certificate in Work Management course. This takes two months and covers time management, stress management and dealing with visitors. Next starting date 10th November and there will be another course starting on the 9th March 2015

To find out more please do visit http://www.admin.org.uk/courses.html If you have any questions you can call us on 01536 399 007 or email enquiries@admin.org.uk

Tony Attwood
School of Educational Administration and Management
Tony Attwood
School of Educational Administration and Management

The simple way to reduce pressure

An efficient school administrative system can greatly reduce pressure on teachers and school managers.

Most school administration systems have simply evolved over time. New issues and problems have arisen, and administrative systems are created to meet these issues.

Each is bolted on to the other systems in place without any thought as to the overall impact. As a result the whole administrative system becomes less and less effective.

This has an impact, not only for those who run the school administration, but for the whole school, because if the administration becomes less efficient, then the whole school becomes less efficient. Classroom lessons continue to be taught in the normal way, of course, but the admin that backs everything up becomes less effective at providing that support.

However, there are ways of overcoming this problem – and in many cases they involve very simple changes that will not only benefit the school as a whole, but will also make life much better for those working in the school office.

Indeed, as research by the School of Educational Administration and Management in 2013 has shown, around two thirds of school administrators undertake regular unpaid overtime in order to get their work done.

A promise to these members of staff (and to most of the rest of their colleagues who said that they do occasional unpaid overtime) that they could have this regular demand for overtime reduced inevitably ensures a great welcome in the school office to suggestions of change.

To help with this process the School of Educational Administration and Management has produced a report, “Reducing the pressure on teachers and school managers”, which looks at ways of reforming school administration to the benefit of everyone in the school.

The report is 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=805

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

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