Performance objectives for shared financial leadership
In a recent post, ‘A quick SLT guide to financial leadership’ (https://schoolfinancialsuccess.com/a-quick-slt-guide-to-financial-leadership/) we spoke about the importance of shared financial responsibility and leadership in successful schools, especially with the current prospects for school budgets, where creative thinking could make the difference between just surviving and thriving. Whilst SLT should lead the way, we emphasised the benefits of this shared responsibility filtering down to all staff, to embed a strong culture of value for money with everyone travelling in the same direction.
Formal external accountability for financial leadership in schools usually sits with the Headteacher and school business leader (SBL), with involvement of all leaders being essential for success. Internal accountability of the wider staff for their role, contribution and shared responsibility for financial leadership can be more ad-hoc, with some schools demonstrating this better than others.
We recognise there are challenges to building a school culture where every member of the school community is mindful of avoiding waste and making the most of the resources available to support quality education provision. Even if we regularly repeat a message, we cannot guarantee it will be heard and understood by everyone, particularly in large organisations where the message can be diluted the further along the line from the Headteacher it goes.
In this post, we offer a practical solution to kick-starting that journey through the strategic use of performance objectives to develop a culture of respect for each other, the environment we learn in and the resources we use. Our advice is suitable for any school regardless of size, status, phase or specialism and is a foundation for you to adapt and build on to make it work for you in the context of your school.
Our concept is to interweave a strong message for shared financial leadership through performance objectives for teaching and support staff at any level. This doesn’t mean compromising on objectives relating to student outcomes for teachers, and it doesn’t mean applying generic objectives that are meaningless to some support staff due to the many variations of roles in a school. This is an idea that can work for everyone, at every level and pay your school back in abundance if you get it right.
Let’s start by considering teaching staff appraisal. Once referred to as ‘performance management’ but termed ‘appraisal’ since 2014, this is the recurring annual process of holding teaching staff to account for their performance.
Appraisal objectives are set at the beginning of the academic year at a meeting between the appraiser and appraisee. Progress towards the objectives is measured at an interim meeting part way through the year. A final meeting towards the end of the academic year finalises evidence and leads the appraiser to make a recommendation to the Headteacher in relation to the appraisee’s potential for movement up the pay range.
The Headteacher reviews all evidence, takes the appraiser’s recommendation into account and makes their own recommendation to governors regarding pay levels for every teacher, through the annual Pay Review process. The now more stringent policy of performance related pay adds greater importance to this process. Every teacher must evidence their improved performance through this process to secure any movement through the pay range, not just at the threshold level, as was the case before the introduction of performance related pay in 2014.
A lot is riding on this process for the individual and for the school. If the process isn’t right, teachers could be underpaid or overpaid and disagreements over decisions could lead to appeals, hearings and a negative impact on staff morale as well as a demand on leadership time. Support, training and advice should be in place for all staff and particularly directed to those who are not successful in meeting their objectives. It is also clear that objectives must link to learners’ learning and progress, as this is the main measure of a school’s success. But a school’s results are only sustainable if the school is financially viable in the future. Therefore, financial health and financial sustainability are equally important and are growing in profile under the current pressures.
Unions suggest a maximum of three annual appraisal objectives for teaching staff. Most schools apply this concept and whilst there may be some variation, two or three objectives are common. As there is more than one objective set for each teacher, it seems logical that there could be one or two objectives focused on learner outcomes and one focused on shared financial leadership. This still allows scope for learner outcome-related objectives to span more than one area, i.e. a KS4 and KS3 related objective for secondary teachers, or objectives related to the progress and attainment of different student cohorts, i.e. boys, pupil premium, more able and talented. This can be tailored depending on the whole school priorities and team priorities of the individual member of staff.
Securing one objective as a ‘financial leadership’ objective raises the profile of this important agenda in your school with very little effort. You must make sure you get the wording right and that the objective works for the person’s level of responsibility, but beyond that the hard work is already done for you. The teacher will realise the level of importance you are placing on this because the evidence of their contribution to this priority will link to their potential for pay progression. The process for holding to account, providing and recording evidence is already in place through your appraisal set-up.
So, what might a teacher’s ‘financial leadership’ appraisal objective look like? We already know objectives need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). We are now open to the concept that at least one objective could relate to financial leadership and we also understand the importance of the objective wording being relevant to the teacher’s level of responsibility. Use the table below for some ideas which could be offered during the appraisal process to link financial leadership objectives to teacher level.
|Senior leaders||Teach the concept of Value for Money (VfM) to others in your application of it by role modelling behaviour, explaining the reasons for financial decisions and challenging others to make decisions on the same basis.
How can you evidence the financial impact of decisions you have taken or contributed to?
How can you evidence opportunities taken to role model behaviour?
|Middle leaders/TLR budget holders||Consider how efficiently members of your team use their time and resources to support the priorities of your faculty/area.
Does spending relate back to your faculty development plan?
Are team members using their time wisely to focus on team priorities?
How can you evidence Value for Money as the basis of the financial decisions you make?
|Budget holders||Prepare an achievable and realistic spending plan for your budget area which is clearly linked to your development plan, enabling the priorities that have been set to be achieved within the budget limit you have been allocated.
How will you monitor progress against the plan throughout the year?
How can you evidence ‘value for money’ as the basis of the financial decisions you make?
|Consider how efficiently you use resources to support your teaching and learning strategies. How can you improve your approach to reduce waste, potentially save money and most importantly not compromise on impact?|
It is good practice to have an equivalent process for support staff in schools, but this is not statutory because appraisal for these staff is not linked to pay. This is because of the entirely different make-up of support staff pay structures to the teaching staff pay structure in schools.
Teaching is a profession where individuals can build on their fundamental teaching experience and expertise over time and increase their level of leadership responsibility, contributing to potential movement through the pay range and potential additional payments. However, it is fundamentally one profession with teaching and learning at the core. If you take any additional responsibilities out of the picture, performance of this core and shared function can be measured, creating a fair system of salary movement to reflect performance over time.
Support staff roles in schools are many and extremely varied. This one label of ‘support staff’ encompasses a plethora of roles which can be manual, administrative or directly related to teaching and learning support, with many more variations in between. It is a complex set-up which is essential for school success, with support staff being ever more valued and relied upon for their critical contributions. Pay for support staff roles can, in theory, be compared to equivalent roles outside of education. The NJC pay scales provide ranges of points in a grading structure, allowing for automatic movement up the pay scale over time, within a grade relevant to the role in question. The range of the grade is often not more than three incremental points, particularly at the lower end of the pay scale. When the top of a grade is reached, that member of staff would stay at the same point, unless their role changed and additional responsibility was given sufficient to warrant a grade promotion. This is very different to the set-up for teachers.
Whilst we may understand why a support staff appraisal process is not linked to pay, it does make it more difficult for school leaders to motivate staff to buy-in to any equivalent process. Recognising and celebrating success is a motivator which helps to get that buy-in. A letter from the Headteacher at the end of the appraisal process, congratulating individual staff on what they have achieved, can have a positive impact on morale. It is good for school culture if strategies such as these are adopted for all staff. For teachers, a paragraph could be incorporated into the more formal letters which accompany the teacher appraisal process.
Many schools have a process in place and these may be referred to under several banners. For the purposes of this post let’s call it a ‘development review.’
The purpose of a development review for support staff is to encourage improved and sustained high performance and maintain a focus on continuous learning, development and training. It can support those who may be looking to further their role into the future and it can support those who want to get better in or continue to do well in their current role.
The objectives set are critical to the success of any development review. Some level of ownership from the individual is important but there is also an opportunity for school leaders to guide the development of the support staff body. The objectives should be:
- linked to whole school priorities and team priorities
- relevant to the role
- relevant to the responsibility level
- SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely)
Like with teaching staff, an appraiser should be appointed to every individual member of support staff and the process should mirror the arrangements for teaching staff in terms of frequency and focus of meetings throughout the year. The appraiser would report the outcomes of the meetings to a central point, possibly the SBL or HR manager whose responsibility it is to ensure that sufficient support was being offered to enable all support staff to meet their objectives including any training needs being met.
The complexity with support staff is the many different types of role which make up the support staff team. So if you are looking to offer a series of objectives for support staff to use, you would in theory need many permutations to suit everyone. You also need to think about the level staff are working at, to ensure objectives are suitably challenging. This is where we think we can help, with a baseline idea which you can adapt to suit your own circumstances.
Consider drawing an imaginary line at a point on the support staff pay scale you use, that separates those staff you consider to be your manager or leader level. You won’t necessarily end up with an even split on either side of the line but you should be comfortable that those at the higher end, above your line, are roles that you would expect to have more challenging development objectives.
All staff should agree either two or three objectives with their appraiser at their first development review meeting. Staff on the lower grades you have identified should agree a minimum of two objectives, with an optional third objective. Staff on the higher grades, above the line, should agree three objectives.
|Objective 1||A personal professional development objective to be agreed by appraiser and appraisee.||All staff on scheme|
|Objective 2||To be selected from ‘Section A’ below||All staff on scheme|
|Objective 3||To be selected from ‘Section B’ below||e.g. Grades C-F (optional)
e.g. Grades G and above (compulsory)
This is just an example and needs to be applied to your own pay scale.
You now need to develop a series of objectives which fit into two sections. Section A will be at a level you feel is challenging enough for your lower grades (operational level) and section B for your higher grades (leadership level).
In reality, not all of the objectives you set will be directly related to financial management but you can focus some in this area to raise the profile of shared financial leadership. Depending on the circumstances of your school you may want to make it compulsory for staff to select at least one objective which does have a financial focus. Remember also, that saving staff time, improving staff productivity and working more efficiently are all aspects of a value for money culture that can be developed.
Examples of objectives in the operational section:
|Use of resources:
Identify potential for efficiency savings and/or waste reduction in your area of work and suggest strategies to realise these, working with your line manager to support implementation where appropriate?
Discuss the importance of value for money with your appraiser and/or line manager.
How will you evidence your impact?
|Communication and shared working:
Identify way(s) to improve communication in your team to ensure efficient working practices maximise productivity and reduce waste.
For example, this could involve:
· considering how well your area of the network is used to share information and resources
· reducing team printing and photocopying and finding alternative solutions to share information amongst stakeholders
Examples of objectives in the leadership section:
Improve systems and/or working practices, within your area of work, to ensure staff efficiency and/or secure financial savings.
Any proposed change must be discussed and agreed with your appraiser and your line manager in advance.
Will the proposed change impact on school culture? How will you manage this?
Have you thought about appropriate training and support for colleagues?
Are there resource implications to consider? (If so ensure budget holder approval is sought in advance)
How will you measure and evidence the impact of the change?
Support a team member or whole team to ‘get the best out of them’.
Identify a potential development/improvement within your area of work. Lead a team member or whole team to make improvements to working practices. Think about:
How will you measure and evidence your impact?
Can you get feedback from your colleagues to enhance your evidence – for example use ‘What Went Well’ (WWW) and ‘Even Better If’ (EBI) technique.
The key to success is to make use of our suggestions within the context of your own school. Some of our examples may be able to be lifted and used directly. Others may not fit in the context of your priorities or school-set-up but hopefully give you an idea of the background thought process, so that you can develop your own objectives that would suit your staff in your context.
As always, we are here to help. So, if you have hit a barrier that you just can’t find a way through, please contact us with your query and we will try to help you make sense of it. Email us at email@example.com. We would love to hear from you.