'Having birthdays off is a no-brainer'

Shoe-chain chief says schools should imitate his incentives

Irena Barker

Schools should allow staff the day off on their birthday and give them bonus cheques for good Ofsted performance, one of Britain's leading businessmen has said.

John Timpson, chairman of the Timpson chain of 700 shoe-repair and key-cutting shops, said schools should imitate his own company, which offers workers free breakfasts, holiday lets and a hardship fund if they fall on difficult times.

"Having birthdays off is a no-brainer," Mr Timpson told TES prior to a speech to the Boarding Schools' Association's annual heads' conference next week. But he also advocated "saying goodbye very quickly" to workers who were not up to the job.

Mr Timpson, who is a trustee at the independent Uppingham School and a governor of Delamere Primary Academy in Cheshire, added that managers should reward staff for what they achieve, not the process by which they achieve it.

"I don't believe anything is achieved by having a process, a certain way of doing things," he said. "What we have is a culture where people who work for us have freedom in the way they do things. We are not terribly prescriptive.

"I see no difference in running a business and running a school. You need to trust people to run a school in the way they think it's going to work."

He said he believed the boom in academies would free up heads to do things their own way, rather than following official ways of doing things that might not be effective.

"You get an impression from people working in schools that they are another world, and you can't do certain things," Mr Timpson added. "It seems in schools you have to do something that's been said to be 'best practice', even when that doesn't necessarily work.

"But you shouldn't be nice to everyone," he continued. "If there's someone who's not up to the job, we tend to say goodbye very quickly. If there's someone who doesn't get it, a jobsworth who likes to operate in a set of rules, we say goodbye to them. Schools can learn from this culture."

Other speakers due to address the conference in Bristol include education secretary Michael Gove, broadcaster Libby Purves and US psychologist Dr Christopher Thurber.

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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