I’ve heard many a school business manager grumble when asked about their site manager.
The reason for that is often that there are still many ‘old-school’ site managers out there, who are renowned for their lack of positivity when it comes to change. Yet many of these site managers are now retiring from the profession, giving schools the opportunity to appoint people with a more positive and flexible approach to the demands of the job.
When our site manager informed me that he was retiring, I knew exactly the kind of person I wanted to succeed him. This person would be willing to go that extra mile, not be afraid to do a little bit of handiwork and be prepared to work with me for the good of the school. The school needed somebody with a ‘can-do’ attitude that wouldn’t immediately call on an expert every time a small job needed doing, in the process wasting school money that could be used in more productive ways. We needed somebody willing, able and keen to do the work and help the school.
The job spec
Our starting point was a re-written job description and person spec. Site managers who have been in post for a long time will typically still be working to an old job description that simply doesn’t match the needs of the school in the current climate. Changes were therefore made to the job spec, the role itself was re-evaluated and we identified the essential and desirable characteristics needed for the new post-holder. We then advertised.
When interviewing, it’s very to ask questions that one might consider to ‘politically correct’, but I’m a firm believer in describing things as they are and getting the information needed quickly and easily. With that in mind, we made sure that the questions we asked were relevant. We wanted to know if our prospective site managers could perform painting tasks, and what their response would be if they suspected an intruder was on the premises. We also wanted to gauge their ideas for the future, and for any other ways in which a site manager might be able help the school they work at.
In the end, we were lucky in being able to appoint a site manager who exhibited the most positive attitude from those we saw, who was very willing to help the school and suggested plenty of ideas for future activities around lettings and gardening clubs. He possessed experience of working with children over a number of years, and shared with us his thoughts on how the children could be included in some aspects of the site manager’s role. It was a real pleasure to subsequently see him during summer school, showing the children how to roast marshmallows on an open fire and involving them in improving the school by helping to paint fences, among other activities.
Wants and needs
Making sure you choose the right person isn’t easy, but focusing on what you want and what you need as a school certainly helps. Since our new site manager’s appointment we’ve managed to bring in over £5,000 in revenue from letting out our premises, as he’s willing to open and lock up during weekends and unsociable hours. And he never claims overtime.
My advice to anybody looking for a site manager now would be to tighten up your person spec, make sure you get the job description right and ask appropriate questions at interview. After that, work with them closely, and let them know you’ll always be there to offer them support when needed.
Caroline Collins is head of school business strategy and resources at Miles Coverdale Primary School