Introduction

Southfield School is a girls’ secondary school and coeducational sixth form with academy status, located in Kettering in Northamptonshire. As the school Headteacher states the school is “committed to providing a world class education that focuses on every student achieving their potential through a challenging and balanced curriculum, set within a calm, safe and stimulating learning environment. This is underpinned by a commitment to develop lifelong learning habits and personal characteristics through shared values of optimism, resilience, balance, individuality and synergy.”

In March 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools across the country were closed to the majority of students. Other than a small number of staff providing care to the children of key workers, the majority of school staff worked from home. When it was announced that schools would reopen to students in September, Headteachers and their Senior Leadership Teams faced the challenge of ensuring, to the best of their ability, the safety of staff and students. It is recognised that teaching is a vocation rather than an occupation. However, it is not difficult to imagine the anxiety and concern felt by those going from only being able to mix with a limited number of people to suddenly being in an environment with hundreds.

Engagement with Gateway HR

In addition to following all government guidance, the Headteacher of Southfield School took a very proactive approach to ensuring staff felt positive about returning to school following the initial Covid-19 lockdown. As the school’s outsourced HR partner, the Headteacher approached Gateway to support the school in helping ensure staff wellbeing.

Working in partnership, we developed a wellbeing project that included the following:

• A workshop, designed and delivered by Gateway, for staff prior to the school opening to students, focusing on re-establishing relationships and giving consideration to:

– How people are likely to be feeling and how we can support them
– An introduction to Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how we can use this to manage our own emotions and influence others
– Commitments to action; with the support of peers

• A wellbeing audit and employee engagement survey – identifying how staff wellbeing was currently managed, together with the existing and likely stress trigger points for school staff.

Outcomes

Following the analysis of the survey, staff were offered additional appropriate support and individual wellbeing sessions.

Gateway provided 1:1 wellbeing sessions with the Senior Leadership Team, acknowledging the ongoing pressure and workload associated with their roles as senior leaders within the school.

Southfield School’s recognition of the importance of staff wellbeing, together with their proactive response to putting support measures in place before and ‘in case’ they were needed, put them in a strong position to continue to ensure their students achieve their full potential.

Endorsement: written by Steph Roberts, Headteacher

“As a Headteacher of a secondary school, managing human resources is a key activity as it consumes the majority of my resources; both in terms of time and budget (typically nearly 80% of school budgets are spent on staffing). As such, outsourcing the HR function to a specialist is a ‘no-brainer’!

Although HR is but one key functional area, the plethora of activities contained within it are vast and varied. Specifically, Gateway HR have provided me with support in the following:

• Recruitment.
• Staff re-structures.
• Staff well-being.
• Attendance management.
• Disciplinary issues, providing guidance and support throughout the whole process.
• Writing and implementing HR policies and providing subsequent updates as required.
• Writing and reviewing HR related communications.
• Delivering whole school staff HR training, targeted HR and employment law training and our bespoke leadership development course.

Gateway HR are fully conversant with the ‘Burgundy book’ – conditions of service for school teachers and the ‘Green book’ – the national agreement on pay and conditions of service for white-collar and manual local government employees. As such Gateway HR are well versed in HR issues as they relate to the educational sector and have access to a team of HR barristers to support any processes. Perhaps their greatest strength is their ability to proactively resolve any potential issues before they arise. This is enabled by their close working relationship with the school and their attentiveness to our needs. Unsurprisingly, I would wholeheartedly recommend Gateway HR to any organisation with similar HR needs.”

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