Andrew Lifford is a former secondary school teacher, teacher trainer and education researcher. He has worked at Portland School, Google, The Key, Researchers in Schools and Teach First. The views in this post do not represent the views of Edapt.

staff briefing - Staff meetings: how effective are they?

We’ve all been in staff briefings on a Monday morning where we have received updates on bake sales, Zumba classes, charity raffles to the member of staff who has cycled to John O’ Groats. Having worked in different schools it’s interesting to see how staff meetings vary in purpose, content, delivery and length.

I’ve been in staff briefings where the headteacher has been rooted at the front with a clipboard, systematically running through a bullet point list in a monotone delivery. Brewing in the background are murmurings of discontent and conversations erupting among the older members of staff.

Other staff briefings have been more a whole-school effort, with updates from faculty leads and SLT reflecting on successes, pupil outcomes and developments in the education sector.

“There doesn’t seem to be any specific research available which looks at the amount of time teachers attend meetings or look at their impact on school outcomes.”

Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be any specific research available which looks at the amount of time teachers attend meetings or look at their impact on school outcomes. According to a survey quoted in The Independent the average employee spends a total of 187 hours in meetings, with polling claiming that 56% of those meetings are generally “unproductive.”

Surprisingly, when becoming a teacher no-one tells you about the amount of time in meetings. These include:

  • Morning staff meetings/briefings, depending on the lexicon of your school. ‘Briefing’ has seemed to replaced ‘meeting’ in most large secondary schools
  • Departmental meetings
  • Year group meetings
  • CPD and INSETs
  • School governors meetings
  • Parents evenings

I actually think that the majority of meetings in schools are run effectively and are a good way for staff to regroup, stay informed and reconnect after being with pupils all day long.

“Staff meetings are a good way for staff to regroup, stay informed and reconnect after being with pupils all day long.”

When teaching in a large school with over one hundred members of staff it can be really useful to put names to faces and for all staff to hear the same message, rather than over email where the meaning might be misconstrued.

If you have ever worked outside of teaching, there are things which I think the business world can learn from. Time is of the essence for all teachers, so generally time is not wasted and meetings will end as soon as possible rather than lingering towards the end of the hour.

conference call 1600x640 - Staff meetings: how effective are they?

Staff are physically present and time is not spent waiting for people to dial in, there are no lengthy agenda discussions and the decision makers tend to be in the same room. Also, I’ve found there are more cyclical ruminations and pontifications in business meetings where discussion points will go round in circles and not a lot actually gets done.

The differences are quite stark and there are elements which schools are the business sector can learn from.

The purpose and focus of meetings should be sharp, and with an ever increasing demand on teacher’s time it is the least they can expect.

Will we get to a stage where some members of staff decide to walk out of meetings if they are not productive? This is on the back of Elon Musk who has reportedly told Tesla employees that they should just leave meetings or hang up the phone if it’s not productive. Maybe not, if they would face a disciplinary charge but schools ought to be mindful of the purpose and content of meetings.

At the end of our careers when looking at where we made the most impact do we think that the 8am staff briefing in December will be up there with our career highlights? They are functional and are a necessary element of the job, but could we do our jobs better with less meetings?

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