The classroom can be the most amazing place to be and one of the most satisfying places to work. Discussions raging, students enjoying learning, a real buzz and everyone enjoying the lesson. However, there are also the lessons that seem to last an eternity, confrontations, disruption and the worry of the “learning walk” or worse!
The classroom, therefore can be a lonely place and link this to workload, parental and internal expectations as well as extra-curricular provision and just ordinary life and it is no wonder that the teacher’s lot at times can be an onerous one.
The legendary staff room, a place of great mystery for all students, used to be an area where a trouble shared could alleviate a lot of stress and I doubt that any school now has the outlet of the great lyric from Madness” All the teachers in the pub, passing ‘round the ready -rub trying not to think again of when the lunchtime bell will ring again.” And if they did Ofsted would want to know! Many staff now are unable to “let go” of their angst or more positively share the good times, except through e mail and as we all know this can be a curse as well as a blessing.
Therefore, Leadership in Schools face an increasing dilemma. The cost of recruitment of staff is punitive and retention remains an issue when faced by the problems highlighted above and the flight from the profession in the crucial early years post PGCE. The hierarchical structure of Schools can make it difficult for SMT to reach out and be aware and empathetic to the issues faced everyday by the teaching and non-teaching staff. This has the knock-on effect of a feeling of disconnection from the grassroots and a lack of connection with the aims and ethos of the organisation. Once this sets in it is very hard to correct as the individuals in the School become increasingly atomised and detached from the key strategies of the leadership.
The answer to this has always been the “Holy Grail” of HR in commerce but is now increasingly recognised in education as important in fostering a much more holistic vision of what is a “Good School”. This can no longer be just what a report says every few years, Schools are organic entities and don’t work like that. Constant, meaningful and transparent engagement is the route to a healthy, robust and happier workplace and staff. But how to achieve it?
Organisations with the best rates of engagement and therefore productivity and well-being are those who engage actively and regularly without making the process obtrusive or onerous. The process should not be limited to one department, for example HR but should be a whole leadership initiative and be backed as such. Once engagement is embedded in a group culture the relationship with leadership which is at the heart of any businesses success will adapt and evolve. To gain traction the engagement process needs to have tangible results. There must be regular feedback, encouraging collaboration and building a positive culture. There must also be actions and results on feasible recommendations which establishes credibility and trust and leads to employees feeling more liberated to become involved.
Every Voice Counts works on the premise that every School wants to improve and hone its engagement between Leadership and Employees. Many School leaders look back to the day when they too were front line teachers but having risen up the ranks find it difficult to understand the day to day lives of their staff and their stress points and anxieties and vice versa. The Net Promoter Score system and the bank of education-based questions plus the links to sites, blogs and platforms which really matter to teachers make EVC a powerful tool for helping all sections of the school community to pull together, share ideas and concerns. The anonymity of the feedback means that staff feel happier to voice opinions and that the feedback is likely to be more realistic. We believe that engagement is the most powerful tool an organisation can have to build a successful future. Every Voice Counts is not just a slogan but a reality if you want to build a healthy, vibrant and positive School.