As we approach a new academic year I am raring to go and chomping at the bit to get started. I’m really looking forward to starting the year with a sense of purpose and direction – something which is a first for me. Previously I had feelings best described as anxious anticipation and nervousness.
This time last year I was approaching the start of what would be my first full academic year as an SBM in one school. I’d joined my school from my first SBM role halfway through the previous school year and prior to that I was in a different job altogether.
The first full year went by at a rate of knots but it was a real eye-opening experience. My biggest fear in all of it was the “unknown unknowns”. It sounds ridiculous but I spent so much time previously worrying about all that I didn’t know there was to know that I didn’t take the time to step back and appreciate the strengths I did have.
The first change for that first full year included being a full and present member of SLT. My role has always been part of the leadership team however when I first joined my school I was all too willing to accept “you don’t need to come to this SLT meeting – it’s just teaching and learning”. Last year I changed that. I attended every meeting, whatever the agenda. I asked questions. No, I may not be an expert on pedagogy but I have a valuable contribution to make nonetheless. How can I confidently cost the school development plan if I don’t understand the priorities?
Outside of SLT I worried about my weaknesses and lack of knowledge. Last year I changed that. I went back to my job description and went through each section in turn. I started with what I felt to be my weakest area and addressed it head on – Health & Safety. I started by organising an external Health & Safety audit. It was invaluable. We went through all the relevant policies – reviewing what was already in place and identifying gaps. We did a walk around the school. We looked at training needs. We looked at the required schedule of checks. At the end of the process I had a comprehensive report and a RAG rated action plan.
I felt like someone had switched a light on for me. I attended a one day intensive course and got an IOSH certificate for Managing H&S in Education. Suddenly all seemed clear and I developed confidence in what I thought was my weakest area but actually I just needed to acquire the knowledge. It’s a work in progress but it means I’m in a far better position than I was and can manage my Premises team much more effectively.
Back to the job description once more and I selected ICT next. Up to this point I had really just been relying on my natural IT aptitude to carry out troubleshooting when necessary (and it was on quite a regular basis, let me tell you!). I grabbed the bull by the horns and reviewed the ICT support we were buying into. With a bit of shopping around I managed to upgrade to a support service that included better on-site technician support as well as a free whole school survey of the ICT infrastructure. The best bit of all this is that it costs the same as the old support contract but we’re getting far more for our money! Just like that we now have an ICT strategy in place and RAG rated action plan (can you see a pattern forming here? 😉)
Fast forward to present day and after some much needed down time over the summer holidays I’m ready to jump back in to the thick of things and get back to working on one thing at time. Yes, there are many plates to keep spinning but I’ve established my modus operandi and it works for me.
I’m going into to Term 1 with a focus on Leading Support Services (yes, I’ve been cross referencing my job description with ISBL’s Professional Standards – interesting exercise to undertake). I intend to look at operational effectiveness and to kickstart things we’ll be having some INSET day sessions centred around the theme of “efficiency”. I can’t wait to gather the ideas and feedback from my teams and incorporate them into an action plan. You guessed it – there will be lots of red, amber and green involved!
Watch this space, I’ll no doubt be back to update you soon ☺️
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