Our customer-base is 590 schools. We sell to the majority of our home-schools, including the former grant-maintained schools. We also deal with schools in the new unitary authorities, Thurrock, Southend and some London boroughs who buy in our services.
Headteachers and school managers are expected to be expert in so many different fields nowadays. We offer the chance to tap into a specialism. We can help them and see them through the problems.
The things that seem to stretch heads and governors most are misconduct issues, particularly child-protection problems. Then there are cases of performance and capability (staff discipline), staff restructuring and redundancies, long-term ill-health, employment contracts and employment tribunals.
A good personnel manager knows when to deal with things informally and when to move towards a formal approach. It's a balancing act.
One problem we have in schools is that we have employment law and education law. Department for Education and Employment requirements on disciplinary procedure have overriding effects on the way we manage cases. Any tribunal is going to look at the doumentation.
I've seen a shift - schools and governors seem much more willing to grasp nettles and deal with capability. We've had 150 cases over the past two years - 35 of those have ended in a capability process (disciplinary). If people decide, voluntarily, to move toward a change in career then that is an equally good outcome. If there are personal circumstances we do all we can to help and counsel people.
Day-to-day help for schools is via one of seven link personnel officers. They build a good rapport with schools. We can help with job descriptions and person specifications - essential personnel tools.
The more challenging areas of personnel advice are dealt with by eight officers in my team.
We are very involved in helping heads manage absence. We produced a model procedure so that schools can offer a fair and consistent approach. Good management is about the line manager having that meeting with the individual teacher: are they ready to return?
We're also involved in individual cases - we have a stress counselling service and access to an occupational physician.
Interview: Phil Revell