4 Tips For Valuing Your Staff

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How can we truly value our staff?

The official hours for teachers are 8.30am – 4.00pm, but I am yet to meet a teacher who sticks to those. Staff come in early to set up the outdoor areas, come rain or shine. They give up lunchtimes to run clubs, they stay late to ensure that pupils get home safely and they sacrifice a lay in on a Saturday to enable pupils to attend special events.

Staff are even prepared to go on residentials which offer pupils a fantastic development opportunity. When they get home they will often still be marking, planning, thinking about school and their pupils. We calculated that the average teacher did a minimum of 380 hours of unpaid overtime per year. Without that commitment, pupils’ experience would be seriously impacted and our school would never have been able to offer all the opportunities that made it such a special place.

So what do you do to recognise this? How do you show that you care for your staff’s wellbeing in a meaningful way, not just a quick PowerPoint in a staff meeting? How can you look after them so they are able to inspire and look after your pupils?

Looking after teachers

The Department for Education (DfE) has released two key strategies around retention and recruitment

There are four key principles to consider:

  1. How are you developing a supportive culture and looking to reduce workload?
  2. What steps are you taking to support teachers at the start of their career and aiding professional development?
  3. Have you defined career development pathways and are you open to flexible working arrangements to both retain and attract staff?
  4. What routes into teaching do you support and promote? Are there local School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) programmes or courses to signpost people to?

The DfE ideas are currently out for consultation, and will be rolled out in specific areas to begin with. However, there are some quick wins your leadership team could be implementing now to ensure that your pupils continue to have access to the best teachers possible.

4 tips to show how much you value your staff

Actions like ‘We provide free tea and coffee’, ‘We are committed to CPD’, ‘We have a supportive Governing Board’ really don’t constitute an effective response to the areas raised above. But showing leadership on this issue isn’t overwhelming! Instead , try out some of the following.

1. Be supportive

Are there members of staff in your school who could act as mentors to those who are new to the profession, or new to your school?

Before rushing to congratulate them on their additional role, take some time to consider:

  • What are the skills and attitudes of an effective mentor?
  • Do you provide training to develop these skills?
  • What impact would you expect the the mentor to have?
  • Is there a ‘contract’ that allows the mentor and the mentee to see what is expected of them?
  • What time do you ring fence to allow the relationship to flourish?
  • Do you check to see if the intended positive impact occurred?
2. Support professional development

Questions to ask when thinking about professional development include:

  • Does you leadership team model the behaviour you would like to see amongst your staff?
  • Could leaders share a professional image, tweet, blog post or article that they have come across and explain how it has helped their practice?
  • Others could then have a go at sharing. Do you provide access to a staff library of key texts that you would like staff to have read?
  • Perhaps start some ‘book clubs’ where several staff get a copy of the same text. They share read it over half a term, with the intention of feeding back to the rest of the team how they think it could help practice in your school)
  • Could the ‘performance management’ conversations be reframed as ‘professional development’ conversations instead?
3. Accommodate flexible working

I had a member of staff who was resigning as she had the chance to travel the world. To avoid losing a great teacher I agreed a sabbatical. She travelled (unpaid), we covered and she returned.  Two full-time staff had children close together. Rather than lose two, we created a shared role 0.6 Full-Time Equivalent each so we retained both. One teacher wanted to try the private sector – big pay rise and company car. I kept in touch and when she found that the city life wasn’t for her, we offered her job back.

A great teacher re-signed and re-energised as they now knew teaching was the career for them. A Teaching Assistant wanted to resign due to family commitments. We restructured her hours to suit so that she could be at home as required, but still able to give our pupils the excellent support she provided.

Consider how open you are to flexible working and whether there is a way you can keep your best staff. What creativity can you show to ensure your pupils have the best adults in front of them?

4. Model the behaviour you wish to see

Work-life balance is key to ensuring that staff are more likely to stay in the profession. It is also key to attracting new teachers. As a school leader, can you make a commitment not to email staff between 5pm Friday until 8am Monday? Could you manage time effectively so that your meetings finish when they are supposed to. There is nothing worse than the staff meeting on a Monday which over runs by half an hour!

We can avoid many traumas if people get reasonable time frames to complete data analysis, writing reports and doing Governor updates. Using a school shared Google Calendar can be ideal for this. Don’t just have the hand in date, have count down dates so that staff are given notice that there is ‘one week to go’.

And finally…

The biggest way to raise staff up is to notice what they are doing and say ‘Thank you’. It doesn’t have to be public. Many don’t want a fan fare. However, taking the time to acknowledge a colleague, tell them how you appreciate what they have done and reminding them of the positive impact it has had goes a very long way.

There is a great book Whale Done by Ken Blanchard. We produced our own Whale Done post-cards to hand out to staff who had gone above and beyond. The delightful deeds we noticed included clearing out the art cupboard, mopping up the sick in the lunch hall, staying late for a child who wasn’t collected on time and helping tidy up the hall after the performance.

Big acts, small acts it doesn’t matter. Just by noticing and saying thank you staff well being will be given a boost.

Malcolm Drakes

Malcolm Drakes is a school and systems leader with over 20 years experience. As a National Leader of Education, he has particular expertise in rapid school turnarounds, securing transformational improvements in a variety of settings and contexts. In areas of acute deprivation he has moved schools from Special Measures to Outstanding. He is passionate about transforming the life chances of disadvantaged pupils and working with a range of local and national leaders to enable meaningful social mobility. He is a firm believer that regular coaching and effective feedback can drive the quality of teaching and school leadership forward.

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