Give Me A Break: Why A Community and Why Now

Re-Post from our Online Community, PlatformEd

Give Me A Break: Why A Community and Why Now

We want for this community to be as resource and information rich as possible, but a community is first and foremost about people!

So, to celebrate the ‘Powered By People Week’, we want to focus on the present needs of school business professionals.
The past two years have been a tough gig for anyone in schools. The more reactive elements of roles has often superseded the more strategic and proactive parts of what SBPs do day in and day out.

As we learn to live with Covid as an endemic, now is perhaps a better time than any to reset and refocus on ‘we the people’ -  on colleagues, on your networks and importantly on yourself.

We’ve scoured resources from across the sector and dug into some our favourite professional development stories to provide you with the best tips for honing your wellbeing and school support practice. To be honest, we did not have to look far.

During last November's Schools & Academies Show, we hosted several sessions on staff wellbeing, the most engaging of which was the discussion on the ‘Education Staff Wellbeing Charter’.

Take me to the charter!

This cross-sector charter is a great resource which has been co-created by associations, unions, charities and most importantly schools themselves with input from the DfE and Ofsted. A declaration to which any and every school can sign up, the charter is a great resource for the sustainable development of robust policies. To boot, it represents a critical tool in for recruitment and retention.

Moreover, the organisational commitments provide a framework for engagement and discussion among colleagues and leadership, whether that’s about cultures around keeping physically active or procedures for tackling issues of workload.

In the foreword to the charter and in recognition of the daily stressors which schools find themselves up against, the Secretary of State, Nadhim Zahawi championed the timeliness of this resources. We’ve seen truck load of challenges put upon School Business Managers. For many, entirely new skill sets in human resources and premises management have been forged in the wake of overnight policy shifts. And without exception staffing shortages, absences and illnesses have sent levels of overtime and exhaustion skyrocketing during the pandemic.

It was only a year ago that the Schools and Academies Show hosted a discussion between national wellbeing guru, Andy Mellor, and author of "Stop Talking about Wellbeing" Kat Howard. The discussion centred on emerging from this crisis (perhaps prematurely) with a mindset for positive change.

What is most applicable to the predicament of the SBP is Kat’s suggestion that we ask ourselves is, have we paired anything back, out of necessity, that’s faired OK without our attention? For many, it’s been a resounding yes. Meetings are a great example of what we gained by losing them. We are emerging with a renewed understanding of the value we place on our time. If a certain regular meeting was not necessary during the crisis, was it needed in the first place?

This is not to say that regular touch-points between colleagues are unimportant, to the contrary, your collegial relationships are a core part of resilient wellbeing practices and quality of life.

Colleagues are moreover the route to a more evolved wellbeing practice. In a fireside chat titled ‘The Retention Crisis’ between Jenny Rigby and Dan Morrow, we learned quite a bit about both formal and informal initiatives to encourage a more peer-led approach to wellbeing. Initiatives such as the nurturing of staff-led wellbeing committees to maturing your wellbeing surveying process to involve staff in the forensic analysis of the results.

A culture of open communication is key but it also starts with the individual. In Stephen Mitchell’s blog post on World Mental Health Day from the Institute of School Business Leaders, he offers some simple specific guidance to School Business Professionals. Stephen champions the role of self-care with 2 big takeaways: speak upwards and speak outward.

Being upfront with your office manager and HR about your concerns can, in itself, be a self-soothe. So too is the search for mental wellbeing information and support, which are freely available from your GP, from professional associations, from dedicated groups such as Education Support and from unions.

If you’ve started your own organisational wellbeing journey, we’d love to hear from you. You can share your story directly on PlatformED by posting or use the chat function for an opportunity to be interviewed for future articles and videos.

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PlatformED is an open group for anyone who is interested in subjects relating to school business management; from policy changes in funding and estates to best practice in procurement, payroll, budgeting and auditing.

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