February 2018

The know zone

  • Bold beginnings?
    At last year's ASCL Annual Conference, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI), Amanda Spielman, announced that Ofsted would be undertaking a large-scale review of the curriculum. The review's first report focused on the Reception Year and was published in November. Julie McCulloch looks at what it had to say. More
  • Securing your future
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard, shares tips and information on future proofing your pensions. More
  • You want more?
    Supervising the lunch queue? Shifts as a security guard and car park attendant? It shouldn't happen to a chartered accountant... unless they are a business leader in an academy, of course. 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
  • Careers guidance
    The government wants every school and college in England to have a dedicated careers leader and it has published a careers strategy to highlight this. Here, ASCL members share their views on these plans and on what more can be done to improve careers guidance. More
  • Managing expectations
    Stephen Rollett says preparing for inspection doesn't have to be a difficult process. Here, he shares his top tips to help you through the visit and beyond. More
  • Uncharted waters
    As the government publishes its long-awaited action plan and consultation on T levels, Kevin Gilmartin examines the big issues that the government needs to get right. More
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Supervising the lunch queue? Shifts as a security guard and car park attendant? It shouldn’t happen to a chartered accountant… unless they are a business leader in an academy, of course.

You want more?

Sometimes, I feel like Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee – minus the grace, divinity and wisdom – when he was confronted with the statement, “They have no wine.”

Was it his fault that someone had forgotten to order sufficient quantities of wine in time?

Was it even his responsibility to have thought about the wine in the first place? Yet somehow the monkey landed on his back and the wedding guests – or, in my case, the students – were going to be seriously disadvantaged if he didn’t do something to address the deficiency that was not of his making in the first place.

Welcome to the life of the academy business manager. Other colleagues on the senior or middle leadership teams may amend to ‘life of the principal, vice principal, head of department . . .’

In addition to dealing with the various off-the-wall requests that arise during the day, there are the ‘optional extras’ that make life interesting.

I wonder whether I am the only chartered accountant in the country whose duties include, from time to time, ensuring that students are where they should be or, more accurately, not where they should not be during unstructured time (“Miss, are you a security guard?”).

Or supervising lunch queues to ensure some measure of quality of working life for our hard-pressed catering team (“Miss, is it your job to stop people pushing in?”) and – a new skill I acquired only last week during an exceptionally busy open evening – acting as a car park attendant.

Alleged working week

Maybe there are challenges to be made on whether this work constitutes value for money but, given the hours of unpaid work carried out over and above my alleged working week, it is probably excellent value for money. It also contributes to ‘understanding the business’, which I was taught was crucial in any finance role.

Some businesses keep their executives grounded by insisting that, from time to time, they spend some time in the warehouse, on the shop floor, serving behind the tills, doing the roles that most of their teams carry out, day in day out, to help the business to function.

Do we need to ensure that our senior and/or middle leaders spend the odd day working with the finance, human resources (HR), site, admin and catering teams to understand how their actions and planning affect their non-teaching colleagues?

Equally, should those of us on the non-teaching side of education provision spend some time in the classroom to understand the pressures that our teaching colleagues are under and why they (only in exceptional cases) fail to follow the procedures and systems we have put in place that were intended to be a help?

Would this understanding of one another’s challenges and pressures lead to a reduction in the number of ‘they have no wine’ episodes we have to manage?

Meanwhile, from time to time, I try to furnish the miraculous. My main headache in so doing is whether the budget will stretch to the purchase of the requisite number of stone jars.

The author is a Regional Finance Director in the South West.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.