This is often the first point of contact from a member to one of our six Area Support Officers who cover all of the 32 Local Authority Areas of Scotland. They are all retired former HT’s with a wealth of experience across a wide range of subjects and continue to develop professionally through active CPD engagement as well as through regular training from our lawyers to enable them to confidently support members.
However, we have recently noticed that more of our members are leaving it to the last minute before getting in touch to get support from their Area Support Officer. Often this can be too late to intervene effectively to support the member with the issue as it has gone beyond the intervention stage to a more serious situation.
It is essential that members seek support at the earliest point – even if it is just to have a professional off the record conversation about something that has gone wrong and they are unsure of how to progress or move things on. It might be just to hear “Yes, we agree and the next step would be…”
As school leaders we interact with tens or hundreds of children and adults daily depending on our environment and community. The staff member seeking a word in the corridor, the parent on the phone or at reception, the child who has had some issues and been “sent to your office”. In a busy day, week, month they take a toll on our capacity to make quick realistic decisions, “thinking on your feet” and always get it right. Sometimes there is just so much going on we do get it wrong. However the first step to dealing with that event is to admit we got it wrong. To take time, close the office door, sit down and write a brief chronology of what happened, when it happened, who was involved and how did it go wrong. Don’t look for the why just the how. Sharing this summary with your Area Officer gives them a clear steer on trying to help you find the most effective way forward.
Don’t blame others for things that go wrong, unless you can demonstrate clearly that you have given over authority to them to complete a task, which you have supported, mentored, coached them with and that they have a clear capacity at the outset to be able to fulfil your expectations.
You must read and refer frequently to Local Authority policies and guidance as well as LNCT and SNCT agreements. It is part of your responsibility to keep your own professional learning updated through these mediums as well as of course the guidance through General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).
If there is an issue brewing, then your first port of call must be to read and digest the relevant policies. If you approach your Area Officer, they will most likely ask you for the most up to date version from your local authority in any event.
When you are in the middle of a situation it can feel like the ground is slipping away from beneath you. In addition, there may not be anyone in school you can talk to about the situation and those at home might not understand. Area Officers are here to help.
Often, reflection with someone who understands your world (but is a step removed from the actual situation) is all that it takes to help you move forward. Area Officers would far rather take the time to do this with issues that you might think are not serious enough to take to them than get a call late in a process when the help we can offer is much more limited.