Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

A model workforce?

In view of the vast number of initiatives and new requirements that have emerged during the five years since the signing of the workforce agreement it would be easy to forget that the remodelling agenda is far from complete, says Brian Lightman.

The workforce agreement undoubtedly set in motion one of the most far reaching sets of changes the British education service has known. However, while many of the structural and procedural changes have been made, the deeper cultural changes will take many more years and much more work to see through.

The uncomfortable truth for governments seeking to demonstrate immediate results from their policies is that deep change takes years, not months, to embed.

There is no doubt that the role of the teacher has changed significantly, with a far greater focus on tasks that make appropriate use of our professional qualifications and experience. This development has been greatly supported by the numerous new roles and working practices - which have also brought many new challenges.

We have to ensure that we equip our teachers with the skills they need to lead and work within these multidisciplinary teams. Skills such as delegation, mentoring, induction and the establishment of appropriate lines and methods of communication may be new for many.

Effectively using the time that has been released by those tasks now being completed by others is another shift that does not come about easily. Similarly the roles of middle leaders are still evolving to encompass the spirit and purpose of TLRs. In some schools the 31 December deadline for completion of the restructuring exercise still presents significant challenges.

For leadership teams the task of managing our workforce has grown almost beyond recognition. Leading CPD for the entire workforce is a new challenge, particularly when the arrangements for the non-teaching workforce are far less well developed than for others.

Staff coming into schools and colleges from other backgrounds need a particular type of induction and mentoring which enables them to adapt quickly to the unique culture of educational establishments.

Roles which have developed from something a teacher did in a couple of free periods into a much greater time commitment have to be controlled so that they do not grow out of all proportion and make unmanageable demands on staffing requirements.

Those of us who have been used to a particular way of working for many years have had to step back and review the way we lead and manage such a disparate workforce in order that everyone feels empowered to play a part in the development and success of the organisation.

Perhaps, five years on, it is time to sit down with staff and take stock of where we are now. What does new professionalism mean for us? What is the culture and what are the expectations of our remodelled workforce? And above all have we used this opportunity to have a real impact on our learners?

At the same time those of us in leadership teams must ensure that our roles have adapted appropriately. Although the composition of most teams has changed since the signing of the agreement, the workload has grown with the range of responsibilities.

To create capacity, senior support staff have been appointed to the majority of leadership teams. With their expertise and experience, they play a hugely important part in leadership.

Nevertheless, whilst the workload of teachers has rightly been reduced, that of leadership teams has not. ASCL members have more than delivered on their part. We will continue to campaign vigorously for this urgent issue to be addressed.

Brian Lightman

© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders