December 2018

The know zone

  • A shared approach
    Ofsted's promise of a new inspection framework for September 2019 seems to have got everyone talking about the curriculum. Here, ASCL specialists Stephen Rollett and Suzanne O'Farrell share their tips on how leaders can embed curriculum thinking throughout their schools. More
  • Fair play for all
    Teachers teaching the same subjects to sixth formers in schools and colleges get paid different salaries. Kevin Gilmartin examines why and asks, "Is this really fair?" More
  • Avoid the trap
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard says that there are steps you can take now to avoid getting caught in paying a hefty inheritance tax bill. More
  • Close encounters of the student kind
    Where's the most surprising place that you've bumped into a former student? Here, ASCL members share their stories... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Let it snow!
    As you spend time over-indulging with your loved ones, spare a thought at this festive time of year for those still hard at work... like the finance and maintenance teams keeping our schools ticking over during the holiday period. More
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As you spend time over-indulging with your loved ones, spare a thought at this festive time of year for those still hard at work like the finance and maintenance teams keeping our schools ticking over during the holiday period.

Let it snow!

So, the season of peace and goodwill is almost upon us. As one of the finance team in an academy that breaks up as late as possible before Christmas, I refer, of course, to the first week of January. Only the site and finance teams are present and we relish the opportunity to reflect on and organise our work; it stands us in good stead and keeps us, if not ahead of, at least on top of, the game for a few months. 

The final day of term always coincides with the payroll sign-off deadline. While everyone else winds down, preparing to enjoy their mulled wine and mince pies, a few people ensure that at the end of the month, our colleagues have the wherewithal to reduce their overdrafts/pay off their credit cards/enjoy (?) the sales. 

Teaching colleagues have been experiencing this Im the only one who has to work feeling for a couple of weeks as students assume the Christmas spirit the minute they open the first door of the chocolate Advent calendar. 

One colleague posits that the start of Im a Celebrity . . . is a significant contributory factor to their excitement. We probably dont help ourselves by providing a Christmas tree at the start of December (bah humbug?), although we do refrain from playing Christmas music until the last week of term (apart from some renegades in the admin office). 

We need to be kind to ourselves. September to December is well over a third of the working year, some of it carried out in cold and darkness, and is actually very tiring, particularly for colleagues who are new to teaching and/or to our school and expectations. 

If truth be told, by the second week of December, many of us would welcome the day or sos respite afforded by the seasonal and festive hazard of snowfall. Instead, this usually happens inconveniently during one of the shorter halves of a term around February, not in December when it would provide a welcome break. 

Demonstrate resilience 

Several years ago during a snow closure, our site team worked tirelessly to clear pathways and grit slippery areas so that we could demonstrate resilience by reopening the next day. 

We are not on a bus route, so the local authority decided that it was unnecessary to clear or grit the sloping road outside, which grew increasingly like an ice rink as the days went on. As a result, we had an immaculately safe site that no one was able to enter safely, and we remained closed for four days. 

On another occasion, when snow was threatened, the principal gathered all the staff together and suggested that as Ofsted were known to be in the area, it would be prudent to take some marking home as a useful work activity if we closed. 

The snow fell, the academy closed, the staff heeded the advice and our subsequent Ofsted was Good. 

May we all enjoy an outstanding and well-deserved Christmas break to prepare us for the year ahead.

The author is a Regional Finance Director in England.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If youd like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at ASCL offers a modest honorarium.