This Month’s Interview – April

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In this month’s interview Mark Rowland, the Business, Estates and Personnel Manager of St Joseph’s RC High School explains his role, voices his concerns on budgets and offers predictions for the future of schooling.

What is your role in St Joseph’s as Business, Estates and Personnel Manager?

I am responsible for a team of 11 admin support staff, 2 IT staff, 1 Librarian, a team of 3 caretaking staff and 13 cleaners. I manage the school budget and school fund on a daily basis, oversee all HR issues (recruitment, sickness, cover, complaints, and disciplinaries, return to work interviews, performance management for admin staff, training etc.) I also oversee the building and health and safety matters. My role also involves responsibility for authorising all school trips and dealing with all transport matters. I am involved in various whole school initiatives as a member of the Leadership Team e.g. Leadership duties, attendance at meetings, mentoring of pupils etc.

What job satisfaction do you get from what must be a demanding role in a large and busy secondary school?

There are many aspects of school life that I find rewarding. Working with the School Council and improving facilities is one example. I also regularly liaise with pupils to assist with job applications and help with mock interviews.

On the Leadership Team, we all have a year 10 mentoring group. This involves preparing them for their GCSEs and BTEC examinations and written work, supporting them with any issues they have or subjects they are struggling with and advising them on future opportunities; whether further studies or employment opportunities. Encouragement, motivation and support during this important period of their lives is vital – making the smallest of differences can change someone’s life and a “thank you” or a child saying that one of the reasons they have passed an examination is due, in some small way to your input or guidance, is extremely rewarding.

The economic situation for Councils and Schools must be a concern. What challenges does managing a £6m budget, grant funding and other school funding bring with it at this time?

We have to manage our budget very prudently as funding is squeezed. Secondary schools are medium sized businesses in their own rights. At St Joseph’s we employ over 100 staff, have a budget of just under £6m and deal with thousands of pounds of cash per year through the School Private Fund which is used for trips, fund raising, events etc. If you add another quarter of a million pounds worth of grant funding, it is a sizeable responsibility supporting the Head Teacher and Governors in planning, managing and monitoring the budget, school fund and its various grants.

If you look to the future, how do you think the Education system will look in 5-10 years?

The Hill Report clearly champions schools working collaboratively / in federations and I feel it is inevitable that as we look forward 5-10 years, it will involve clusters or groups of schools in Wales working together. This model has worked in England and I do not feel the current status quo in terms of the number of schools is sustainable moving forward, as the level of funding available in Wales decreases.

What makes St Joseph’s a successful school and a special place to work?

There are many factors that contribute to a successful school in my opinion, but for me the key areas would be strong and effective leadership with a clear vision for the school, a supportive and challenging Governing Body, committed staff (teaching and support staff) all working to the same agenda and clear policies which are well communicated and adhered to. I also feel the Catholic ethos is also is a very important factor in terms of the success and culture of our school in terms of harnessing and developing a culture of discipline, care and respect.