I now turn my thoughts to helping our staff to be more professional in their approach to the important role of looking after the boarders. Boarding schools generally appear to struggle with the idea of effective Appraisal for all levels of boarding staff. As those of you who have attended a Duty of Care workshop in recent years have heard, we believe this is quite likely due to the historical understanding that teachers didn’t like anyone watching them teach - and this has translated to the boarding house.
However, how are we going to raise the bar when it comes to boarding staff?
The first step in this area is to prioritise developing an effective appraisal system - which includes all levels of staff in the boarding house. As Tim Hawkes in Book 1 of Duty of Care - A Certificate Course in Student Residential Care states:
“Staff appraisal needs to be a feature of a boarding institution and should encompass all staff. The appraisal should focus more on professional development than on accountability. In other words, the process should not just be a ‘policing initiative’ but a constructive and continuous process of feedback, review and reflection.”
“An appraisal system is generally more effective when:
• it is undertaken regularly; for example, every year or on a biannual basis.
• the process is understood and accepted by staff.
• it is not too cumbersome or time consuming.
• it is positive and empowering.
• it employs feedback from a variety of sources including supervisors and colleagues.
• it is based on the staff member’s job description.”
My question is this - if the above is part of the basic training for all boarding staff, why haven’t more schools and specifically more Heads of Boarding made this a priority? I suggest the answer usually offered to me is that they are too busy and don’t have time to put together an effective appraisal system. My thought is quite the opposite - if you are a boarding leader you don’t have time not to!
The impacts of an effective and trustworthy appraisal system are nothing short of amazing - staff working toward a common goal, staff understanding their Position Description at a completely new level and above all, much better care for our boarders. Is this not the main reason we are in this industry - to provide outstanding care for our boarders?
So, let’s all band together - Principals can expect to see an effective appraisal system in place, Heads of Boarding share thoughts across their network, ask questions of ABSA and put together a great system, and boarding staff expect to develop in their role because they are provided with an appraisal which supports them in their work.