Knowing your metrics
For the last year, I have been working as the Chief Operating Officer of Langley Park Learning Trust. We are a cross-phase, 5-school multi academy trust with something in the region of 500 employees. In my previous post in a single academy trust, I was responsible for 9 direct reports and about 60 indirect reports; our whole support staff team. In a MAT set up, the role of managing staff is very different. I have a small central team, but our headteachers are responsible and accountable for the staffing in their schools.
That’s not to say that there is not a lot that can be done at trust-level regarding the effective and efficient deployment of staff. There are some key areas that are important to know and when I joined my current trust, this information was hard to find because all the information was held at school level.
Our trust employs about 500 people with approximately 300 teachers. When I joined the Trust, it became clear early on that it was difficult at Trust level to know who was employed and in what roles. We have been implementing new technology in the form of finance, budgeting, payroll and HR systems to give us central oversight. We are now beginning to get a sense of all our employees including what stage they are in their careers.
Most school business professionals will be familiar with a range of benchmarking tools. The DfE financial benchmarking site now allows comparison between maintained schools and academies and it is also possible to look at multi-academy trusts or local authorities. Whilst the information refers to the prior year, it does provide a range of ways to compare staffing within a local area or by defining characteristics of the school. The DfE believes that benchmarking helps schools and trusts to consider how to use their resources to support high-quality teaching and the best education outcomes for pupils. More recently the DfE are urging Trustees and Governors to look more closely at the metrics of their curriculum and staffing and have produced a lot of resources for schools and trusts to self-assess their financial metrics, including overall cost of the workforce, average teacher cost, pupil teacher and pupil adult ratios and average class size, benchmarked against a range of different school characteristics.
Within our trust, as the new systems come on line, we have been better able to benchmark our own workforce between our schools and then to benchmark with national figures. We have seen some key differences in staff deployment in similar schools – both teaching and support staff – and this has enabled us to drill a bit deeper into the reasons for this.
Sometimes our employees move between our trust schools and at school level it will feel like a leaver who needs replacing. With teacher recruitment as difficult as it is, our headteachers are not always happy with this situation. However, when you look at it from the Trust point of view, we are happy that good employees are retained within the trust.
I think that this is an area where we could and should do more and it forms part of our trust development plan for both teaching and support staff. Looking across our whole workforce, we want to start identifying talent and creating pathways for leadership at every level – whether as traditional senior leadership, subject/curriculum leadership or leading support services.
Alongside this we want to start doing much more around training and developing our own staff. We recently appointed an apprentice provider and are looking at ways that our support staff can access formal training. I think that there is an increasing need in multi-academy trusts for professionally qualified support staff. Currently we have employees undertaking professional training with CIPD and AAT and we are keen for support staff to access the Level 4 qualification in school business management. We have a very large school estate and I second time from our secondary school facilities managers to support trust level health, safety and compliance, contract management and capital works. They are also able to support headteachers with managing site teams. This approach means that we are building capacity from within to meet the needs of our trust as it develops, and we are also showing the value of non-teaching leaders in the school system.
Similarly, we want to start taking a trust-wide view of teacher training and early career development for teachers. If we are encouraging opportunities for promotion within the trust, we need to make sure that difficulty with teacher supply does not leave any of our schools vulnerable.
Our trust is in the early stages of developing an overarching approach to the effective deployment and management of staff. We aim to be an employer of choice in our local area and to do that we need to make sure that there is a consistent offer for training, development and pay and benefits. I think that multi-academy trusts can really add value here – to their own schools and to the wider system.
About the author
Micon Metcalfe is the Chief Operating Officer of Langley Park Learning Trust in Bromley. She is a Fellow of the Institute of School Business Leadership and has significant experience in the school and academy sector, across all phases.
Micon is particularly interested in MAT leadership, governance and financial sustainability and was recently awarded the Level 7 Professional Certificate in School Financial and Operational Leadership. Micon is currently a member of the DfE Teachers' Professional Development Expert Group.
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