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 views of educators and GPs concerning the issue of poor mental health among young people are two of a kind and one of the same.

The results of a survey conducted by stem4, a charity that works to prevent mental ill health in teenagers, has revealed a consensus among GPs and educators in England on the issue of poor mental health among young people aged between 11 and 18.

It was found that 78% of GPs have witnessed an increase in the number of young patients they see suffering from poor mental health compared to five years ago, with 63% reporting that they had seen a patient with an addiction, 89% reporting that they had seen a patient with an eating disorder, and 97% reporting that they had seen a patient with depression in the last five years.

Furthermore, 97% of GPs have also seen a young person who self-harms in the past five years, with 61% reporting that they see more cases of self-harm among young people now, than they did five years ago.

However, the survey also revealed that 36% of GPs who have received specialist training to support young patients dealing with self-harm said that they don’t believe their training to be adequate as they don’t feel confident in their abilities.

Moreover, half of GPs surveyed said that they had received no specialist training.

As for their thoughts on the mental health services available to young people, with the rise in cases of young people suffering from poor mental health 87% expect pressure on services to increase.

As a result 90% of GPs fear that young people suffering from poor mental health may come to harm while waiting for specialist treatment – a waiting list which comes as a result of a lack of funding, specialist training, and access to services.

To elaborate further, 76% of GPs said that the funding for mental health services for young people is already above and beyond the amount that was initially promised to be adequate to improve such services. 54% reported that specialist training on young people’s mental health was necessary. And 56% said that they would like to see a complete overhaul of mental health service provision.

Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Founder of stem4, Dr Nihara Krause, commented:

“Young people’s mental health services are at crisis point. GPs are having to cope with the consequences of our failure to focus on prevention, and a lack of access to specialist services. We may not be able to change the world we have created for our young people, but we need to take action to ensure that help is available when they need it. GPs are at the forefront of addressing this crisis and they need far more support.

“The increase in mental ill health among our young people is exacerbated by our trophy culture. They are under enormous pressure to succeed in every way, not only at school where they are constantly tested and graded, but also by endeavouring to gain social cachet by competing to be ‘followed’ and ‘liked’ on social media.”

In response to the findings, stem4 will be hosting a conference on 22 June to provide GPs with the latest information on dealing with poor mental health among young people.

You can read the full report entitled “A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode” at http://www.stem4.org.uk/images/downloads/a_time_bomb_waiting_to_explode
_stem4_press_release.pdf

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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

Does the notion of best value actually bring anything valuable to the school’s purchasing policy?

It is not difficult to see why having a “Best Value” policy in the school is helpful, but also, it is not difficult to see when it is no help at all.

Consider the situation of two coach companies that can drive a group of children to a venue 30 miles away. Both companies have been used by the school before, both have always been reliable, turning up with modern, clean coaches on time, neither has ever broken down en route, both use courteous helpful drivers, etc., etc., etc.

However, one company charges £50 more than the other. Obviously, given that everything else is of equal value, the one that is cheaper is better value.

At the other extreme, if we have a box on the purchasing form, that everyone in the school has to use when ordering goods or services, which says, “Tick to show that this purchase meets Best Value criteria”, we can be sure that after a few weeks everyone will be ticking the box without thinking.

Thus in this case, Best Value has become a box ticking exercise, and there is no contribution to the school. Indeed as it is a waste of time, it would be better to remove the box from the form and not bother.

These examples however are obvious and extreme. Normally life is more complex than this.

If the two coach companies do not just differ on price but also differ in reliability, with the cheap coach company being the one whose coaches break down much more often, and use drivers who speak a very little amount of English, and who are occasionally spotted chatting on their phone while driving, then Best Value is more complex.

One might say the chatting on the phone issue is an absolute barrier to using that firm, but on the other hand, how do you “value” a breakdown or the ability of the driver to speak clear English? The school saves £300 a term using the firm that has drivers who don’t speak good English – is that good value, or is it too great a risk if something goes wrong?

Likewise, if we come to the form that people have to tick the box on, we can see that just having a box that says “this is Best Value” is fairly pointless. But how much further do we go? If the box says, “I have checked this supplier against three others for price and quality”, will it still be automatically ticked no matter what?

Of course, these are still extreme positions, but sometimes extreme positions are helpful as we try to focus on key issues.

For me “Best Value” is such a complex issue that it is almost pointless, unless one is buying something that costs such a lot of money that it is worth investigating every nuance.

To return to the coach company that has coaches which break down, how do I evaluate the “cost” of the breakdown? It is annoying, but does it actually create such a bad impression on the parents of the children that they consider changing schools? How does one evaluate the “cost” of (quite simply) the annoyance of something like this going wrong if in the end everyone just puts up with it?

Somehow, if we are trying to get the best value for things, we need a system that is more sophisticated than a simple measure of “best value.”

Tony Attwood

tony@hamilton-house.com

We’re going to make a serious attempt to enhance the understanding and regard for school administration

My colleagues and I in the School of Educational Administration and Management have been pondering for some time how we might do our bit to enhance the awareness and appreciation of the administration in our schools.

We had the idea early on of running a School Administration Week, to celebrate the work of school administrators, but after some consultation we decided that just focussing on administration, we would find then it hard to take the message (that administration should be an equal partner with school management) out to others.

So we’ve decided to run a School Week which incorporates the business, management, and administration of the school, and which sees all three as essential parts of the same unit.

Some of our colleagues have already worked on other such projects – (you might like to see the Special Needs Week website for example) and we’re going to use that knowledge to develop a project which I really hope will deliver an enhanced awareness of all that the school administration does.

The actual Week will be 19 to 23 September, but we expect to have our website up in June, and we’ll be promoting the idea of the Week towards the end of this term, before returning to the theme big time at the start of the new school year.

What we hope to do is incorporate a research programme into the ways in which schools are improving their efficiency via their school administration and promote the notion that where schools consult their school administrators then significant improvements in efficiency can be made.

Overall, what we hope to do is help promote the idea that school administration can be greatly improved when issues relating to administration are considered and work is planned, rather than having a manager simply turn up and ask for x y and z to be done.

As you will probably know, a lot of our services (including of course this newsletter) are provided free of charge and of course the website and all the information we gain will be supplied free.  However  the building of the website, and all the work that goes into promoting the idea that administration, management and business should be equal partners in debating reform and progress, will cost money.

Therefore we are currently talking to a range of commercial companies to ask for their help in paying for this venture.

I shall also be going back through some of the topics we have covered in the last year or so and shall pull them together into a series of articles on the site so that you will have these available all in one place.

And, of course, I hope that we shall be coming up with some new thoughts and ideas which will appear on the website for the first time.

Finally, we shall be writing several times to senior management in schools across the country to tell them what we are up to and to try to persuade everyone to see administration as a vital and equal partner in the business of making the school work.

As always if you have any thoughts on this venture, or any ideas about what we could do, what we could write about, or what we could research, please do drop me a line.
Tony Attwood
Director, School of Educational Management and Administration

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

Does your school use an early-warning system to spot poor mental health among your students?

An article in the Telegraph has reported on how 15 schools in the UK aren’t able just to identify poor mental health among students, but can indeed prevent students from developing poor mental health through the use of an early warning system – Affective Social Tracking.

It is a system or tool which can track students’ patterns of thinking that may affect their behaviour through a series of questions, often issued to students on a twice-yearly basis.

Thus, with the data collected from Affective Social Tracking (AS), schools are able to measure students’ tendency for poor self-esteem, for example, and intervene as necessary (perhaps by putting the student in charge of a project to make them feel appreciated).

The cognitive scientist who runs AS, Dr Simon Walker, explains: “This is our mental taxi driver and it configures the steering route children take, which is usually the most familiar path. We can tell with 82% accuracy whether they are going to crash. We can identify risks of self-harm, eating disorders and social competency issues, like dominating other children.

“Normal data asks questions like ‘do you have suicidal thoughts?’ But children are often reluctant to tell teachers how they really feel. Instead, they are evaluated not just on the response but how quickly on different scenarios.”

Headmaster at the Grange School in Cheshire, an early adopter of AS, Chris Jeffery, commented: “This generation is facing the same challenges that all adolescents have faced for generations but in a much more pressurised academic context that has meant more of them are finding it hard to cope.

“The growing number of manifestations of mental ill-health in schools means that we need an early warning system to spot the issues young people are struggling to cope with and the pressures they are under.

“I don’t think that we can easily say that there is a single cause to this. It’s a combination of enormous cultural, technological and policy factors that have formed the atmosphere that our young people have to cope with.

“The pressure of exams is an obvious reason, so is coming to terms with the growth of social media, which has led partly to a discernible rise in perfectionism and the idea that this can be achieved, because we see it around all the time in the profiles of others.”

You can read the full article at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/04/22/teachers-use-early-warning-system-to-spot-mental-health-issues/

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You are reading just one of 12 different news services that we run. The topics covered range from careers to efficiency to discipline and behaviour, from school management to individual subjects.

All the services are free, and there is no restriction on how many services you subscribe to. You (and your colleagues) can subscribe at www.schools.co.uk/subscribe.html

If you find this service helpful, please pass this note on to colleagues at your school so that they may subscribe to our services as well.

Lucy Mister
Hamilton House Mailings Ltd

We’re going to make a serious attempt to enhance the understanding and regard for school administration

My colleagues and I in the School of Educational Administration and Management have been pondering for some time how we might do our bit to enhance the awareness and appreciation of the administration in our schools.

We had the idea early on of running a School Administration Week, to celebrate the work of school administrators, but after some consultation we decided that just focussing on administration, we would find then it hard to take the message (that administration should be an equal partner with school management) out to others.

So we’ve decided to run a School Week which incorporates the business, management, and administration of the school, and which sees all three as essential parts of the same unit.

Some of our colleagues have already worked on other such projects – (you might like to see the Special Needs Week website for example) and we’re going to use that knowledge to develop a project which I really hope will deliver an enhanced awareness of all that the school administration does.

The actual Week will be 19 to 23 September, but we expect to have our website up in June, and we’ll be promoting the idea of the Week towards the end of this term, before returning to the theme big time at the start of the new school year.

What we hope to do is incorporate a research programme into the ways in which schools are improving their efficiency via their school administration and promote the notion that where schools consult their school administrators then significant improvements in efficiency can be made.

Overall, what we hope to do is help promote the idea that school administration can be greatly improved when issues relating to administration are considered and work is planned, rather than having a manager simply turn up and ask for x y and z to be done.

As you will probably know, a lot of our services (including of course this newsletter) are provided free of charge and of course the website and all the information we gain will be supplied free.  However  the building of the website, and all the work that goes into promoting the idea that administration, management and business should be equal partners in debating reform and progress, will cost money.

Therefore we are currently talking to a range of commercial companies to ask for their help in paying for this venture.

I shall also be going back through some of the topics we have covered in the last year or so and shall pull them together into a series of articles on the site so that you will have these available all in one place.

And, of course, I hope that we shall be coming up with some new thoughts and ideas which will appear on the website for the first time.

Finally, we shall be writing several times to senior management in schools across the country to tell them what we are up to and to try to persuade everyone to see administration as a vital and equal partner in the business of making the school work.

As always if you have any thoughts on this venture, or any ideas about what we could do, what we could write about, or what we could research, please do drop me a line.

Tony Attwood

Tony@hamilton-house.com

Imagine that everyone involved in your school’s administration unfortunately went off sick – all at once. What would happen?

We know what happens when one or more teachers are away from work. Most likely a supply teacher steps in.

But what would happen if everyone who handles administration in the school was away sick?

(OK that “everyone” might just be you – but whether you have an admin team of one or ten people, I am inviting you to imagine them all going off sick at once.)

Although there are temp agencies that can send in administrators, this generally isn’t much help in a school, because school systems tend to be unique to the school.

So there is a huge amount of work piling up, and there is no one available to show the temps the ropes. Which leaves the question, what exactly would happen?

There is SIMS to be operated, the post to be deal with, meetings to be minuted, the phone to be answered, the registers and dinner money to be sorted, the emails to be checked, parental enquiries to be handled, records to be filed and retrieved, bills to be paid, photocopying to be done…

Of course, all this work has to be done – but sometimes even small, simple changes to the way administration is organised can make a huge difference which makes the entire school run much more smoothly when everyone is present, and makes it possible to cope more readily if someone is absent.

The hundreds of administrators who have taken the School of Educational Administration and Management one year “Certificate in Educational Administration” distance learning course have found that above everything it is a practical course related to making administration run more smoothly.

During the year of the course, administrators nominate two or three new skills that they will acquire, they consider and apply School Efficiency programmes, and study such issues as managing their own work, time management, stress management, dealing with visitors, and a lot more.

If you would like to know more about the SEAM’s one year distance learning Certificate in Educational Administration course you’ll find all the information you need on our web site.

You can also call us on 01536 399007 or email Sam@admin.org.uk  The next starting date is 23 May 2016 and applications need to be received by 16 May.

Tony Attwood

Chair, School of Educational Administration and Management

This year we had the idea of running Special Needs Week to heighten awareness of what SENCos do. This is what we’ve done so far…

As part of this new venture we sent questionnaires to SENCos in primary and secondary schools across the UK and thought that you might be interested in knowing what we have learned.

So we have included a summary of the results of the survey, as well as our methodology and thinking behind it all, (which you can see in more detail on the Special Needs Week website) in this week’s newsletter.

The aim (ahead of Special Needs Week which runs from 13 to 17 June and which I hope you will get involved with) was to get a snapshot of just a few of the issues that SENCos across the UK are facing.

In one section of the survey we selected ten areas of special needs for particular investigation. These were ADHD, Autism, Diabetes, Down’s syndrome, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, mental health issues and self-harm.

We found significant differences between the reported levels of some of these special needs in secondary schools compared to primary schools, and significant differences between expert estimations of the number of people in the UK who had a specific special need and the numbers reported in schools.

Of course, such disparity can be as much about the resources available to the school as anything else, and we thus went on to ask questions relating to how the school was coping with the complete range of special needs it was now facing.

In relation to this we presented the SENCos with a daunting list of some 67 special needs and asked them to identify those areas where they felt they did not have adequate resources to support the young people whom they taught.

Our research found that over half the SENCos who replied to our survey stated that they were working with students who had attachment disorder (57%), or anxiety disorder (56%) and that they felt they did not have adequate resources to help these students.

Significant numbers of secondary school SENCos also felt they were without adequate resources but were facing students with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (45%), depression (44%) or mental health issues (43%).

In another area of our research we asked about the time demands placed upon special needs staff. Around two thirds of respondents working in secondary schools said that it now seems that every term there are more demands on them and their colleagues in the department, but not nearly enough extra resources or staff provided to cope with these demands.

A smaller but significant number of SENCos agreed that although resources were growing, demand was outstripping the ability to meet the special needs they were faced with.

Full details of the findings of the survey and the way in which it was conducted are now available on the Special Needs Week website: secondary school special needs survey report.

If you have any enquiries about Special Needs Week or our research please email them to hq@specialneedsweek.co.uk and we’ll try to help.

Special Needs Week is kindly sponsored by Aspire GB, Clicker 7, The Dyscalculia Centre, Dysgraphia Help, Fisher Marriott, Multi-Sensory Learning, ptuk, Robinswood Press, Turnabout Programme, and Type and Test. There are details of the work of our sponsors (without whom we wouldn’t have been able to run Special Needs Week) on the web site

If you try to introduce a change to the school’s admin systems there are liable to be objections. But why?

Marking some of the work sent in by administrators taking the course in school efficiency this past week, I found myself thinking about the response that one can get whenever one wants to change something at work.

Over the years I have often had the experience of coming into the office and saying, “I think I’ve found us a better way of doing x” only to be met with frowns and looks of concern, followed by objections.

It is, of course, natural for people to be worried that a new system might not work or might give everyone far more work, but what has often struck me is that the objections that I am given can appear on the surface to be realistic and reasonable, but when investigated for a moment are anything but.

It is a bit like the objections that were raised when the notion of moving to collecting dinner money and other payments from parents on line. “What about the parents who don’t have internet connection?”  “What about when the internet goes down?”  “The system won’t be secure.”

And so on.

Such objections can look sensible at one level – yes, we must take into consideration those parents who don’t have any, or at least a reliable internet connection at home.

But the fact that these objections look sensible hides something else – our widespread fear of change and of the unknown, and it is this that we, as administrators, need to overcome.

In the case of money collection, consider the contrary and fairly obvious point is that if you can have 90% of the money paid into the school online, then you have dramatically reduced the hours spent collecting the money, arguing about whether money was paid in or not, overcoming the problems of lost money etc. That benefit in time is there, even though 10% can’t or won’t go online.

As for the internet not being available, the old system can still be there, the old entry logs can be kept, and they can be picked up, if needed.  The same is true for me – if I wanted to write to you personally I’d email you.  If my entire digital system had gone, I’d send you a letter.

And then there is security.

When we think about security, we should always think about comparative security.  If children bring physical money to school, if you collect physical money, if you store it in the school, if you have to take it to the bank, you have all sorts of danger points in terms of security.

Children lose money, a lack of a handwritten record of receiving money is less trustworthy than a transfer tracked through online banking, a safe door with the money in can be left open through the day and money can be removed, the person taking the money to the bank can be taken ill or assaulted en route and the money lost…

There are, in fact, dangers in all systems.

The same arguments arise with people who object to all messages in the school being sent by email on the grounds that email is not safe.  But they fail to consider that having data about children on paper is not safe; there might be a fire, there could be a break in, the filing cabinets could be broken open…

In effect all these questions, it seems to me, are about comparing the old system with the new.  If a person says, “Don’t send me emails, I don’t have time to read them”, my question back is “does it take you longer to read an email than a piece of paper?”

And then perhaps to point out that an email for 20 people takes far less time to send than a letter to 20 people, with the letter needing copying, and individually being put in each pigeon hole.

Comparison, for me, is always the key.

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The Certificate in School Efficiency is one of a number of online distance learning courses for school administrators that the School of Educational Administration and Management runs.  There are more details on our web site.

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