I would like to preface this column by saying that never have I had more respect for the academic profession in secondary schools across the land. What a year it has been, with TAGs to top it off. Every teacher deserves a medal and more. I think parents realise after getting involved in teaching through forced home schooling that it’s not easy.
However, even with all of this, we cannot forget that it’s that time of year again when we all break up for eight weeks of school holiday. Reports are sent out at the end of the term and lo and behold all the teachers have left. Surely, Covid will have reminded schools of the fragility of our schools which are, in essence, businesses. Many schools have closed, merged, or formed creative clever partnerships to offer something new to choosier parents to aid them through what has been a tough year and longer for the sector.
There was the recession in 2010 and then the decline of UK boarding 10 years before that as fees started to rise faster than wages. It seems to happen in tens so I wonder what will happen in 2030?
Schools need to start getting savvy and not wait for these blips in the road. As I have said in previous articles, schools are businesses. 17 weeks school holiday is not something that a fragile business can get away with anymore. Where I currently work – new to the role – I have been impressed that there is a rota in place for all members of SLT academic and non-academic – to be on call during the school holiday. This means that someone is in place to help staff at all times.
“If there is a rota at leadership level shouldn’t there be rota to help staff answer queries from parents during the holidays?”
If there is a rota at leadership level should not there be rota to help staff answer queries from parents during the holidays? You could have department staff on a rota in the areas such as science, languages, humanities and the arts for instance.
It is important for staff (all staff including the leadership) to have a break away from school and emails. I had one former head who expected SLT to look at their emails whilst on holiday every few days, which we all know is not conducive to proper rest and I know that rest and a complete break is never more important than now. At the same time however we must remember our schools are businesses. They are not closed as some staff like to see it during the holidays. I know if I was paying £25,000 for a day place and up to £40,000 for a boarding place I would expect my emails to be answered by someone.
“Schools that are open and available for tours and meetings will win the day.”
Schools should consider this carefully. The ones who are open and available for tours and meetings will win the day. Those not, will lose out on business and custom. That’s just basic common sense. Schools are open 50 weeks a year. Some departments know this as they work throughout the holidays having the basic commercial levels of holiday of four or five weeks plus bank holidays. Admissions departments have customers touring and enquiring about places. Development departments are continually stewarding donors and alumnae.
Complacency is not an option. A tendency to prefer an academic focus over a business-like focus is favoured by some heads who did not come into the profession to teach…who then become heads. Heads are leaders of a business and they need to adopt best practice for their school. Covid won’t be the last thing to force more schools to close and those who do not become agile will lose out.