School business managers can use their influence and expertise to ensure effective CPD and professionalisation of support staff. Nina Siddle describes the role she recently played in reviewing her school’s policies

Effective CPD is a fundamental part of a successful school. All too often, it can be approached in an inconsistent and ad hoc manner, which is why a good CPD framework is crucial. And with the increasing professionalisation of support staff, such a framework must take note of their needs as well as those of teachers. In this article I describe my contribution as SBM in the reframing of our school’s policy and how I have been able to advance the position of support staff in relation to training.

CPD framework
Work on our CPD framework began with a self-audit where we identified gaps and areas for improvement in our existing procedures and policies. Guidance on CPD frameworks and the development of relevant policies can be easily found via the web, your local authority, the Training Development Agency for Schools or advisory services such as your local Business Link officer or Train to Gain.

Train to Gain encourages organisations to make a skills pledge, an indication that they have an agreed intention to ensure all their staff are qualified up to a minimum of Level 2. This was something we already fulfilled, but we thought that the skills pledge was a good way of demonstrating our commitment.We needed to submit our CPD plan/school improvement plan to evidence this commitment.

The Business Link advisers offered us additional help with our framework and also other training grant opportunities, some with full, others with partial grants. It is worth exploring this avenue of funding as you will also gain access to other development opportunities for business, which are also applicable to our setting.

For example, I have been offered places at local conferences discussing wider issues like sustainability and health and safety. Not only is this great developmentally, but you can sometimes find new funding and support mechanisms available, which are not isolated to education.

The audit we used reviewed six areas:

  • CPD leadership and management
  • CPD policy and implementation
  • CPD and performance management
  • CPD and induction
  • CPD opportunities
  • CPD planning and evaluation.

We followed this up with a staff audit to confirm our assumptions and identify weaknesses and/or strengths.

CPD policy
Once an audit of our CPD competencies was completed we used the outcomes to develop our policy. The gaps in the audit identified gaps in our policy. We began by creating a simple flow chart, making it easy for staff to follow procedures and ensure the school’s records were kept updated. The policy itself began with a school philosophy statement which outlined our commitment to CPD, what the framework aimed to fulfil and its purpose (see box).

The school’s philosophy statement for CPD

Aims

  • Enable all staff and governors to take responsibility for their own professional development and to become self-reflective practitioners.
  • Ensure that all staff have equal opportunities to access relevant professional development.
  • Provide varied opportunities to enable staff to pursue their personal goals and in relation to the collective good of the whole school.
  • Enable staff to develop the skills, knowledge and attributes required to contribute effectively to high standards in pupil performance and sustain school improvement.
  • Support performance management processes.
  • Provide a structure that will support, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of professional development.
  • Encourage all members of the school community to become lifelong learners.

Purpose

  • Ensure that all staff feel valued as the school’s most important asset.
  • Ensure that staff experience a sense of achievement and job satisfaction.
  • Enable staff to access development relevant to their current experience and future aspirations.
  • Support the accreditation of professional development.
  • Encourage the development of confident professional judgement and sense of ownership and control over work.
  • To develop a positive environment in which staff feel confident to work collaboratively and to share expertise and ideas.
  • To encourage staff to be innovative and creative in pursuing high standards of pupils’ performance.
  • Value the many forms of professional development as appropriate to individual learning styles and the purpose of the development.
  • Enable the school to respond to national, local and whole school priorities as well as to team and individual targets.
  • Disseminate learning and good practice.
  • Promote a healthy work/life balance.

Following this we listed the key leadership responsibilities, staff responsibilities, made reference to the induction policy, mentioned evaluation and dissemination of training activities, resources available and gave mention to staff training days.

Performance management policy
Our school has had performance management in place for all staff since 2003, but has needed a good support staff performance management policy for some time. All staff were initially added into the teachers’ performance management policy, renaming it as a whole-school policy. I felt this was inappropriate and decided to source a good policy, pertinent only to support staff. Why would we not have our own policy? Teachers’ pay is performance linked, ours, as yet, is not. Teachers have completely different pay and conditions to us and have incremental pay. Many authorities do not provide for progression with support staff. Pay points can be fixed unless a role is re-evaluated. The policy needed to reflect these types of issues.

Once a national pay scale for school support staff comes into being, policies will need to be revisited. I have found a simple and comprehensive policy to fill this extremely important gap until then. It begins with a rationale, demonstrating our commitment to performance management of support staff and discusses how we have tailored the process to meet their needs and the needs of the school and its improvement plan.

The policy has been designed to meet the following objectives:

1. To assist staff in performing their roles to the best of their ability and maximising their contribution to the school’s overall objectives and targets.
2. To identify individual training needs.
3. To highlight the potential that each individual has to develop within his/her current position or another role.
4. To provide a framework where managers can support their teams.

It also outlines responsibilities, roles involved in the process and individual responsibilities, practices and procedures, which include planning, interviews and monitoring, confidentiality and appeals procedures.

Attached to the policy is a sample of the performance management proforma and observation record sheet. These are currently also under review in line with a new employee development scheme for school support staff which has currently been developed by our local authority. This has had very a positive response across the authority, which I will be exploring in the near future for our school.

Induction policies
Although induction is well in place in our school, a formal policy only existed for teachers. I decided to explore what other schools did and ultimately created a whole-school community induction policy and also a governors’ induction policy. The whole-school policy is far more inclusive, with its main purpose being to build a culture of continuous improvement across the school. It will try to do the following:

  • Contribute to improving and developing the overall effectiveness of the school, raising pupil achievement, and meeting the needs of pupils, parents and the wider community.
  • Contribute to job satisfaction, personal achievement, individual and team effort, thus providing for effective work at the school.
  • Ensure teachers new to the profession have the best start in their careers and are supported in effective practice.
  • Ensure all staff new to the school understand what is expected of them at the school and gain support to achieve those expectations.
  • Build cooperation between staff of all sections of the school.
  • Ensure that all staff are valued and recognised as the school’s most important asset.

Included in the policy are guidelines on the management and organisation of induction covering all staff, NQTs, experienced teaching staff and support staff new to a role and the school, new pupils and admission procedures. It also includes an induction checklist as an appendix. This is run through during induction to ensure that all relevant whole-school policies and procedures are understood by the employee and signed off by them. The governors’ induction policy is similar, but has an adapted induction checklist and is written pertinent to that role.

Moving forward
The school business manager (SBM) can not only influence these policies and procedures, but also ensure they are followed through to the benefit of all support staff. Teachers are well supported already through stringent statutory procedures and until the time comes that these are in place for support staff, the role of the SBM is pivotal to their professional development and performance management. With more and more career opportunities becoming available for support staff, we must take every opportunity to skill up our workforce to its maximum potential. It has become abundantly clear that the DCSF, TDA and NCSL are committed to the development of school support staff. We are now beginning to see increasing professionalisation of support staff roles, right up to the new director of business level. We have already seen teaching assistants moving through to higher level TAs and in some cases through foundation degrees into teaching. Taking that into account and the fact that in the majority of cases, support staff out number teaching staff in schools, there are surely no better reasons to provide your support staff with as effective CPD and performance management as your teaching staff.

Nina Siddle is school business manager at Withernsea Junior School

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