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How – and why – to improve health and safety leadership in your Multi-Academy Trust

As the CEO of a multi-academy trust, you rely on your central support team, school leadership teams, and school business managers to handle day-to-day health and safety matters. You likely have one – or more – SLAs in place for annual health and safety audits for your schools.

But are you doing enough to show effective health and safety leadership? 

When it comes to risk management and compliance, are your current processes benefiting your MAT in the most efficient and cost-effective way?  

Do your leadership team and board have complete visibility of your compliance status, as well as the reassurance you’re doing all you should to manage health and safety effectively? 

Viewing health and safety as a compliance burden – rather than an opportunity to bring value to your school community – is costing you time and money.  

From our experience in education, local authority, and international business consultancy, there are vital lessons every Trust must learn and adopt to realise the many benefits of effective health and safety. 

Benefits of effective health and safety in MATs 

First, let’s explore the advantages of achieving better health and safety leadership in your Trust. 

  • Continual improvement – compliance culture can obscure the fact effective health and safety makes us strive to be better 
  • Saving money – re-evaluating existing SLAs and implementing easier-to-follow and colleague-led health and safety procedures and decision-making reduces spend and highlights the value of good health and safety practices  
  • Boost your reputation – successful health and safety management elevates your Trust’s status as an employer of choice  
  • Reduce absenteeism – with effective health and safety measures and procedures in place, your MAT experiences fewer incidents and therefore less staff absence, leading to a healthier and more present workforce 
  • Opportunity to shift mindset – when you embrace proportionate risk awareness, you have the chance to reposition health and safety as a benefit in your Trust rather than a paper exercise. 

So, what steps should you take as a CEO to make visible improvements across your schools through successful health and safety leadership? 

How to achieve effective health and safety leadership in MATs 

The following steps will set you on a clear path towards meaningful health and safety leadership that unlocks tangible benefits for your school communities. 

  1. Conduct a strategic review 

Health and safety is one of the only responsibilities you have that’s driven by both criminal and civil law.

And while individual schools may have SLAs and annual local audits in place, they aren’t usually aligned with the leadership of the Trust and assurance to the board.  

So, assumptions are being made about culture and compliance. 

Therefore, it’s critical to have visibility of how each of your leadership teams manages health and safety. 

To achieve this, commission an independent strategic review of health and safety at Trust level to report back to you and the board.  

This should not be a detailed compliance exercise, as the schools may have those completed already.  

Instead, the purpose of this exercise is to provide top-level assurance to you and the board that proportionate risk management is in place. 

  1. Train senior teams to ‘lead’, not just manage health and safety 

Health and safety training is often seen as a tick-box exercise purely to be compliant. But does it actually do anything?  

The most effective leaders make sure all employees see health and safety as a core value. It’s not just the domain of the site manager or school business manager. Like safeguarding, health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. 

By training leadership teams to view health and safety as a core value, you encourage them to lead by example, thus building capacity across your Trust. 

And the consequences are far-reaching. When your entire team takes a joined-up approach to health and safety, you benefit from: 

  • Lower absence rates 
  • Higher retention rates 
  • The ability to attract top talent  
  • Reduced chance of regulatory actions and claims, saving time, money, and stress 
  • A unified approach to the health, safety, and wellbeing of all your colleagues 
  • Positive impact and enhanced risk awareness in students, both in and outside of school. 
  1. Make sure your SLAs deliver value for money 

Are your service level agreements guiding the Trust to continually improve, or purely focusing on basic compliance at a single point in time? 

Do you renew SLAs year-on-year without giving much thought to value for money or return on investment?  

As part of your strategic review, it’s crucial to review your SLAs to see if you can create efficiencies. 

When reviewing your SLAs, identify ways you could deliver better value through: 

  • Saving time staff currently spend looking for health and safety advice 
  • Reducing hours spent updating Trust policy by having a single agreement across all schools 
  • Creating an annual review presenting the compliance and strategic position to the CEO and Trustees to ensure more confidence, assurance, and awareness of health and safety leadership 
  • Focusing on the health, safety, and wellbeing of your people, as well as the safety of the premises (leading to higher morale and fewer absences) 
  • Ensuring the service informs your Trust risk register. 

Get support improving health and safety leadership in your Multi-Academy Trust 

If your current health and safety leadership approach isn’t delivering cost-efficiencies, there is support out there. 

Manchester health and safety consultants, Vita Safety, will work with you to review your existing agreements, procedures, and policies and formulate a practical approach to protect your people, buildings, and status in the most cost-effective and value-driven way.  

Contact us to see how we’ll help you achieve successful health and safety leadership in your Trust – call 0161 486 5020 or email [email protected]   

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