By the Left – Quick March!

Barry has always thought I’d have been an excellent candidate for the military. A love of  organised process and procedure; a willingness to follow orders, as well as being able to (ahem!) give them; an ability to push at boundaries to initiate improvement and an understanding of the responsibility that comes with the role. Oh, and a voice that can carry from one end of a battleship to the other!!

I think that love of discipline and control in is my genes. My Grandfather, a Royal Engineer, rose to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned rank in the British Army, and I can’t help but identify with that in my position as School Business Leader.

As the highest non-teaching role in the school, my responsibilities similarly extend to contributing to the strategy of my ‘regiment’, the wellbeing, safety and training of the ‘men’ (or, as we like to call them, ‘staff’), as well the overall administrative function to ensure operational readiness and effectiveness.

I sometimes wonder whether my Grandfather was frustrated by younger and less experienced officers in the same way that I know some of my SBL colleagues are frustrated by the view that theirs is a ‘support’ role, carrying a suggestion that they are not as suitably qualified or that their role is not that as important as those front line positions.

I disagree with this view.

Front line staff in any service, whether it be the military, the health service or education are, and can only be, half the picture. Like the iceberg that sits majestically on the ocean, the front line is supported by what you can’t see, a massive underwater structure keeping it afloat and stable as it glides into warmer waters.

But it is the front line teams that are acutely visible to the end-user, exposed and at constant risk of weathering and criticism. The nature of their roles mean they are likely to come under heavy fire (either literally or metaphorically) and they will inevitably sustain casualties.

I think we all need to start accepting the team effort that goes into educating our children, as well as our roles within the process. The support functions aren’t a threat to the front line and, deployed correctly within a culture of sharing and mutual protection, they can be a valuable and effective buffer to lessen the impact of working under the microscope of public expectation.

I’m not there to hinder or impose limitations on the role of teaching staff, quite the contrary, but sometimes when we’re tired or annoyed it’s easy to retreat into the safety of our own ‘tribe’, creating that divide that is unproductive and in direct contrast to what we are all trying to achieve.

So, whether you’re Head, SBM, UPS, NQT, Office Manager, TA, Tech, Caretaker or Cleaner, here are my suggestions on how you can help eradicate a divided culture.

  • Exemplify an attitude of a shared vision in everything you do. Communicate with everyone.
  • Value and care for every one of your colleagues, show them that you have their back.
  • Respect all the roles within your organisation, each one contributes to success.
  • Be “them and us” blind. Invite everyone and go to staff meetings, INSET, school events and social gatherings.
  •  Try to understand the point of view of others and remember everyone is working for the same outcome.
  • Don’t assume everyone is as confident of the impact of their role within the organisation as you are. Make the effort to bring them with you.

I like to imagine my Grandfather in the past, standing with his company, projecting his voice to the four corners of the parade ground. He didn’t care about your rank, role, qualifications or background…all he cared was that you marched in step!

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