b'H&SHEALTH FIRSTPost-pandemic (if that is a fair description), what are the other key health and safety concerns that should be addressed? And what should schools do next? Scott Crichton reportsFor the last 18 months, school leaders have, rightlyhasnt been done. During the recovery phase, its possible so, devoted the majority of their time to navigatingthat school leaders will consider cutting costs or shedding a constantly evolving situation. They have remainedanything deemed unnecessary for the education of resilient, faced new challenges and done an incrediblechildren. Now, more than ever, school leaders will want job of juggling COVID compliance with studentsto distinguish between nice-to-haves and non-negotiable educational needseven receiving praise from the HSElegal requirementsbut you must ensure the latter are for their efforts. actually being fulfilled.However, with a new academic year fast approaching, theFor instance, undertaking portable appliance testing time has come for schools to refocus their attention onisnt a legal requirement, however protecting people other governance-critical areas, namely regular healthfrom an electric shock is, and PAT testing forms part of that and safety (H&S) management.general duty. Blinkered thinking COVID has had a massive knock-on effect on school With new government guidance emerging frequentlybudgets. From an H&S perspective, this requires a carefuloften at very short noticeits understandable thatbalancing act between maintaining and enhancing schools may have developed tunnel vision, becomingcompliance while at the same time ensuring finite funds hyper-focused on COVID. are spent wisely. All elements of H&S management are important, andCasualty of COVIDschool leaders cannot afford to drop any balls. As JohnThis is another phrase often used to explain why the Armstrong once said, You dont ask a juggler which ball isnecessary documentation isnt in place. highest in priority. Success is to do it all. While its understandable that some checks, and the In the 2021-22 academic year, school leaders must payrecording of such checks, may have slipped during COVID attention not just to COVID but to all areas of school(and I have experienced this first hand), its now time for governance to ensure the required standards arethese to be revived. In my experience, a common area of maintained. During the pandemic, many leaders haveweakness in schools compliance is record-keeping, and this understandably struggled to see the wood for the trees;can be a critical failing. Documentation needs to be filed in however, with the vaccine roll-out, theres cautiousa place thats easily accessible, where more than one person optimism that normality is returning.knows the location, and where it can be readily produced when requested.So, what areas do school leaders need to focus on this year?Another area of weakness, particularly during the recovery phase, is inviting contractors into your school to carry out Changing the mindset the necessary maintenance/inspections/works. By the start Supporting schools on a daily basis, my experience is that,of the new academic year, one would hope that schools will where theres direct application to childrens learning,have completed all contractor revisits; however, its also staff do it; if theres no direct correlation (as is the caseessential that you can prove, through paperwork, that the with certain areas of H&S), these areas sometimes dontnecessary checks have been carried out. get actioned. Where contractors havent yet visited, provided school School staff must stop seeing H&S as an unnecessaryleaders can demonstrate that they have taken all burden, or an adjunct to their role; it must becomereasonably practicable efforts to arrange this, that should ingrained within the learning environment. After all,satisfy the HSE until a suitable contractor is available.a safe and healthy environmentfor both staff and studentsis fundamental to educating children. Staying compliantWe know that the HSE, insurers and the ISI are likely to be Because of COVID visiting schools. In reality, theres only so long schools can We often hear this phrase as a reason why somethingremain regulator ready. While schools want to show their 10 www.independentinsight.netIwww.iexcellence.co.ukIwww.i25awards.co.uk'