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Advice hub


LESSONS IN firefighting


During the pandemic, many school business professionals felt like they were fighting wildfires, as


they went into emergency mode to deal with crises on multiple fronts. How can this experience usefully shape future working practices, asks Helen Burge CPD CORNER


T


he idea of lead-in time went up in smoke when Covid-19 struck. As SBPs, we were bombarded by constantly


changing – and challenging – circumstances. We had to respond instantly to the announcements, planning (and changes of plan), communication, setbacks, relentless guidance, risk assessments and more. It was an uncomfortable place, but we responded in true SBP firefighter style and we aced it, whether we were making sure that meals reached our FSM children, providing online learning, supporting shielding staff or working remotely. Many people have commented on


the desire to get back to the ‘normal’ day job, dealing with the usual issues within a school. You know, the nice things, such as introducing or embedding improvements which will make a positive difference to students, staff and the school estate. I am completely up for the


re-setting of school life. But having had this heightened firefighting role


for so long, how do we ensure we’re applying the right measured response and not dampening down the flicker of an idea too much, or taking our eye off a potential fire cracker of an issue? How do we revert back to ensuring collaboration with a wider group of stakeholders, engaging with them and encouraging dialogue and creativity to flow in a measured way. And how do we avoid exchanging one set of firefighting experiences for another – which would be exhausting and only increase the burnout? Our role has always had a


significant firefighting element to it, due to the scope of responsibilities and being seen as the ‘go to’ person. But – to continue the analogy – fighting fires is only one part of the modern firefighter’s role. They also work with a planned approach, spending time in the community to raise awareness about fire prevention and conduct safety checks.


FundEd AUTUMN 2021 25


Early detection and warning systems Are all your usual alarm triggers back up and running? Do you need to remind staff to alert you about any hazards around the school? Some schools temporarily parked


their audits, but it may be time to book them in so you are clear about any potential flare-ups within your finance, estates, payroll, data protection, cyber security and governance. An audit action plan can help you plan strategically, as you can delegate some tasks to others.


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