Is your school shipshape? September is sink or swim

7th September 2018 at 00:00
Start planning now to ensure all your boxes have been ticked – and to avert any potential disaster

From a school business perspective, September is like pulling the dust covers off a ship to see if it still floats after weeks spent having its innards repaired and barnacles removed. You may be met with changes to the school building following any summer works and office moves, and there may be snagging and overruns to deal with.

It’s also a time to consider if your building is ready for winter, particularly if funding cuts have limited your premises development plans. Will this be the winter your heating system fails or the roof leaks become too big to ignore? What will you do if this happens? Get prepared.

Staffing and rooming changes may also require your fire-evacuation and disaster-recovery plans to be updated.

Are all of your new staff aware of their responsibilities? Do you have enough fire marshals? Are they still based in the correct locations? Do you have the correct contact details for your key emergency responders in the event of an out-of-hours incident? A little time taken now to put this in place would be invaluable should a disaster happen.

You will be either starting a new financial year or halfway through an existing one. Details of the funding for the teachers’ pay award were unclear at the time of writing, but you will need to consider how your budget will be affected in a worst-case scenario.

There may also be payroll changes in September due to leavers and new starters, which could also affect projected outturn, so be sure to review those numbers once your new staffing profile has been through its first payroll run at the end of September.

Have your projections changed? If so, what might you need to do? Start planning now.

Get your ducks in a row

New staff mean new potential risks so ensure that your single central record is spotless; that all Disclosure and Barring Service checks are back and logged correctly; and that all safeguarding training has taken place. Check that any risk assessments that needed to be reviewed in light of new legislation, new curriculum delivery, new students or new staff are being updated correctly.

Ensure your programme is being rolled out; that probationary reviews are scheduled; and that training for any new managers or leaders is underway.

Finally, take some time to get to know your new staff. Everyone will want to make a good first impression in a new job, but it’s equally important that their first impression of you is of someone who not only can manage a successful school, but also cares about their staff, their wellbeing, their development and their profession.

Got all that sorted? Easy. Then have a good – and hopefully buoyant – term.

Hilary Goldsmith is director of finance and operations at a large secondary school. She tweets @sbl365

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