Policy and Process
Now that your year has begun – schools have been lined up, plans have been written, evaluations have been taken into account, prayers have been prayed, children and young people are being supported, entertained, captivated by the work you and your team are doing. This may well be as good a time as any to think about the paperwork that underpins all that you do.
I’m talking about policies and processes, not the most popular or visible part of schools work but essential nonetheless, get these right and everything else will run more smoothly and more efficiently. Policies can feel like a really dry and unpopular area of work – especially if you have a team of creative and energetic people! But in the current political and social climate, not having or following the appropriate policy for different areas of practice can make things very tricky, especially if things go wrong. What happens if a member of your team is accused of proselytising in school? Or a school refuses to have you back in because of something that has been alleged by a pupil or parent? How do you show that your working practices are all above aboard, or that you have a process for dealing with complaints? This is where your policies come in. If you work for a denomination or a para-church organisation like Scripture Union or YFC then they will be able to support you and probably have model policies you can adopt; it may be that your trustees have taken this job on themselves and have put everything in place – this is most likely to happen if any of your trustees have been in management roles themselves – in which case you’ll be charged simply with following the process outlined in the policy. However, if neither of these is the case then you’ll need to keep on top of this as an organisation. There is so much information about this online, however as a starting point I would suggest you need to look into:
Safeguarding – this is likely to be tied in with the different schools you work in, but the least you need is a process outlined for dealing with disclosure of abuse from young people or children you work with and this is likely to differ based on whether you are in school at the time or at another event organised by your own organisation.
Health & Safety – risk assessments tend not to be a source of great joy but they are important and don’t need to be too onerous.
You probably also have a staff handbook of sorts, and if you don’t it would be a good idea as this can cover issues like lone working – in your offices or in schools; working with challenging behaviour in school; performance management of staff and a complaints process, among other things.
The other consideration for us schools workers is what policies and practices the school has in place that we need to know about. Probably the Safeguarding process is outlined each time you enter the school, this is likely to be on the ID badge you are given: “If you have any concerns about anything at all at St Cuthbert’s School please inform one of our Designated Safeguarding Leads: Mrs A Smith, or Mr J Bloggs” The other policy which is most useful for you to know is the Behaviour Policy: what system do they use for classroom control and sanctions? Golden Time and traffic lights? Red Card/Pink Slips? It might be unlikely that you will be left alone with a class, and that is something you might want to find out about, but this doesn’t mean you won’t be and having some knowledge of the school’s own system will help your confidence in keeping a class engaged.
One policy I’ve had to write recently is a Contingency or Disaster Policy, this has asked questions like: If key people in your team were taken ill suddenly, what would you do? Would there be enough of the process written down for someone to pick it all up mid-year if necessary? What about if your IT failed catastrophically? How would that impact your work? What could you put in place that would work around this possibility? What if a key member of staff left suddenly? Is there anyone in your team whose sudden absence would mean a loss of key information such as who all the contacts are in schools or how to work the printer when it breaks or how a certain piece of essential equipment sets up and sets down again?
Having a working document which sets out some of this key information means your organisation will be able to overcome some of the challenges that sudden change can bring; additionally, asking all your team members to write out key information about how they do their jobs might also show you something else interesting – job descriptions. Who is doing what, and how is something I always find fascinating.
So how do we go about this? Well, there are many different ways to capture our work processes and practices, however, as a basic starter I’d suggest using these headlines or categories:
Name & Job title
Daily tasks: e.g. collect materials needed; check email for any last minute changes; check which room I’ll be in; which students I’ll have in my one-to-one mentoring sessions
Weekly tasks: e.g. bring resources back to the office/store-room; make sure all reports/evaluations are written up
Anything else: e.g. fixing the printer when it isn’t working; setting up the projector/staging/giant connect 4
School name & address
Contact name & email
Programmes run there – by whom, when and which year group
Summary of feedback
Which Behaviour system is used
Other key information about this school
Hopefully all this will help you begin to consider the essentials that support the work you are doing and ultimately ensure that the work outlasts you and your team!