Nina Siddle explains how one school in East Yorkshire found widespread benefits from engaging with the Investors in People programme
In 2003, Withernsea Junior School took a proactive approach to continuing professional development and performance management. We felt that Investors in People accreditation would provide formal recognition of this and would enhance the school’s image and reputation. The school always looks for ways to improve and build upon its image and saw the Investors in People standards as a way of improving our existing climate and culture, with staff development seen as an essential contribution to raising achievement. Sitting in an area of social deprivation and geographical isolation, the school also looked upon accreditiation as a means of attracting and retaining staff, given past difficulties in doing so, as recruitment had historically been problematic.
Objectives of the accreditation
We identified a number of objectives that would underpin our work towards Investors in People:
- to work as a whole school community, with workforce remodelling in mind
- to attract and retain good staff, therefore improving staff development
- to enhance the school’s image
- to ensure that performance management correlates to the school improvement plan and continuing professional development across the school
- to improve resource management (ie training costs), and make effective use of skills and resources within the school
Preparation for assessment
The key to successful Investors in People accreditation is having the support and enthusiasm of all staff. Although there needs to be key personnel to organise and institute planning, without teamworking across the school community, failure is inevitable. The principles of the standard must likewise be consistently applied and not just for the purpose of accreditation – in this respect the school was very strong. We already had performance management procedures in place for all but ancillary staff and already used continuing professional development to reflect the school improvement plan. From the outset we realised that we just needed to identify areas to expand upon rather than start from new.
To begin with members of the senior management team attended workshops led by an advisor who took us through the commitments expected for Investors in People, as summarised in the below.
After reflecting on the above, we identified that we needed to extend our performance management programme and likewise adjust our performance management policy to reflect the changes. Also, the school had no formal induction process or policy. These two areas would be our first priorities./p>
In order for the school to be successful we needed to ensure that a shared vision was evident and that the leadership and management of the school demonstrated awareness of the needs of all stakeholders. We would need:
- a clarity of purpose
- criteria for success
- planning for development
- continuous review and evaluation throughout the project
The school is committed to supporting the development of its people.
Senior management see staff development as a key priority
Development procedures are in place
Induction for all staff is in place
Performance management for all staff is in place
Continuing professional development is linked to the school development / improvement plan, performance management, threshold assessments and the budget
Staff are encouraged to improve theirs and other people’s performance
All staff are fully involved
Good practice is shared
Progress is constantly reviewed
Resources are used effectively
Staff believe their contribution is recognised
Ownership of policies and procedures
Effective use of monitoring
Evaluation of the impact of continuing professional development
Recognising strengths as well as developmental areas
The school is committed to ensure equal opportunities in developing all its staff
Policies are in place
Policies and procedures are clear and transparent
All staff have access to development
Involving key stakeholders
Having identified policy and procedural changes required, we also wanted see where our staff and governors felt we could develop or make changes to improve effectiveness. To this end we issued an anonymous audit questionnaire. This would help provide validity and enhance the change process. The questionnaires were issued after a whole school community briefing explaining the standard required of Investors in People. This briefing was the first introduction that the school community had to Investors in People. Our senior management and the advisor, already working with us, presented it. We felt that her presence in school, followed by later visits, would give the staff a friendly, familiar face with which to associate the move towards accreditation, thus keeping the impetus going. It is always easy to start something, but often even easier to loose sight of the objective. The advisor would work with us, identifying areas needing further development, including all staff at all levels. Much later in the process, the advisor would interview a cross section of staff in a mock assessment, meant to identify any areas where we might fail accreditation.
Within the first six months our senior managers attended four workshops. These addressed not only the commitments required but also what we should do to move forward, how we could motivate our staff and evaluate our documentation, and the covered assessment process. As these workshops progressed, the school was already being proactive in its approach to the IIP standard; polices and procedures had been evaluated and the introduction of a new induction and performance management policies was completed. The school planned to bring cleaners and midday supervisors onto the performance management programme as soon as possible.
After working on an action plan created after the mock assessment, we put forward a proposal requesting formal assessment in March 2004. By having our assessment before the end of March 2004, we benefited from the Learning and Skills Council contributing to the cost of the process. The school only paid £300 rather than the actual cost of £1,100. The assessor visited the school for an informal introduction and then arranged to come back for the formal assessment.
Interviews were timetabled for staff, selected by the assessor, with different roles within the school and varying levels of responsibility. These took all day, after which we received feedback from the assessor. She had evaluated us and reported that she would recommend us for accreditation. We were found to be actively working to develop the skills of individuals and teams in order to fulfil the school’s objectives, and were evaluating the impact of training and development, particularly relating to the school’s goals and targets. The commitment had been well communicated to all the staff and we had the capacity to bring about the changes required and produce the evidence expected by Investors in People.
Moving forward – reaccreditation
Upon assessment, organisations are provided with an action plan to work towards, making reassessment more challenging and meaningful. Organisations can choose, within a three-year timescale, when they wish to be reassessed for accreditation. We underwent this earlier this year.
During the two years since initial accreditation, I attended various workshops provided by the People’s Innovation Network (PIN). The workshops ranged from preparing for reassessment to studies on leadership and management skills and how they correlate to the revised standard.
The revised standard is made up of the following principles:
1. A strategy for improving the performance of the organisation is clearly defined and understood.
2. Learning and development is planned to achieve the organisation’s objectives.
3. People management strategies are designed to promote equality of opportunity in the development of the organisation’s people.
4. The capabilities that managers need to lead, manage and develop people effectively are clearly defined and understood.
5. Managers are effective in leading, managing and developing people.
6. People’s contribution to the organisation is recognised and valued.
7. People are encouraged to take ownership and responsibility by being involved in decision-making.
8. People learn and develop effectively.
9. Investment in people improves the performance of the organisation.
10. Improvements are continually made to the way people are managed and developed.
Following my attendance at a workshop which explained the revised standard, I developed an action plan to take us up to reassessment. It involved a whole school community feedback session, with a presentation focused on the school development plan, management definitions, performance measures and objectives. I liaised with our client manager prior to this to develop suitable questionnaires, pertinent to different groups of staff, which analysed their perspectives of the school’s leadership and management; conversely the senior management had questionnaires analysing how they themselves measured their performance and aspirations. From the completed questionnaires we identified our development areas in order to make the journey to reassessment as clear and valid as possible.
Successful reassessment took place in March this year. As before, we had a pre-assessment visit, this time to discuss any changes to the school’s organisation since last accreditation. A staff list was provided from which the assessor selected 15 people, covering a range of levels, roles and responsibilities within the school. Following their interviews on the assessment day, we received a feedback session which discussed our developments since the last review, our strengths and identified areas for development. A written report was received from the assessor, which was structured around the principles of the standards, highlighting strengths and areas for development. This will be used as a basis for development towards reassessment in two years’ time.
In conclusion, the school has affirmed at a very human level the contribution people make to its overall success. This is the real benefit of the accreditation process. It regards the people connected with the school its greatest resource and demands a commitment to invest in them. This commitment has to start from the top all the way down through the whole school community. The process provides not only a tool for change, but also a greater degree of control over what we want to do. Our school has benefited from the greater clarity we now bring to all aspects of planning, target-setting, monitoring and evaluating. It has enabled us to focus on appropriate and effective staff development tied into the long-term goals of the school. The process, targets and strategies are made clear to everyone involved.
For further information on Investors in People, please visit their website www.investorsinpeople.co.uk
Nina Siddle is business manager at Withernsea Junior School in East Yorkshire.