The hall was packed. Two hundred teachers waited expectantly for the training to begin. And waited. And then waited some more. An hour later, a flustered trainer announced that the resources she’d asked for had finally arrived and the day could start. Unfortunately, that time wasting had put everyone in a negative frame of mind.
In another school, the diversity training day it had organised turned out to be well-named. Teachers who, up until then, had rubbed along nicely with each other soon found themselves acutely aware of all the things they didn’t like about their colleagues.
A third example. The day started with breakfast, which consisted of sweet danish pastries, tea and coffee. Nothing to eat if you were diabetic or vegetarian.
Each one a real incident that could and should have been avoided.
If you’re considering putting on a team-building day away from school, there are several things you should take into account.
First, everyone needs to know the event’s purpose. From a teacher’s point of view, time taken up with ‘team building’ could be better spent preparing lessons and getting classrooms ready. Why is your ‘away day’ better than that? A team-building day can be an excellent way of thrashing out new ways of working, getting to know people quickly or tackling major changes, such as a new curriculum, new Ofsted or SEND requirements or a new MIS – but staff need to understand why they’re there.
Directions to the venue must be crystal clear. At one event arranged by an acquaintance, the organiser failed to send out directions resulting in him being called at 7am by frantic teachers asking for the postcode. Also, be sure to liaise with the training provider about catering. When your teachers arrive, what refreshments will be available?
Moreover, who is that training provider? Look for companies that come recommended by similar settings to your own. Can they ensure that the event’s intended outcomes will be achieved?
Agree on the type of activities that will be organised. Avoid so-called ‘fun’ activities that might offend, demean or upset people. Google ‘horrific team building exercises’ to learn what these might be – though you might pick up some good ideas, too.
Ideally, the venue should be far enough away to make it difficult for staff to ‘pop in’ to school at lunchtime, but not so far away as to add an extra hour to their usual journey time.
All matters relating to the day should be agreed beforehand with the provider or venue in writing. If you can tie them closely to payment, so much the better. If boxes of materials aren’t ready in time, for example, a 10% ‘fine’ could be taken off the fee. A small school may not have the clout to insist on this, but a MAT certainly should.
If left to chance, away days can be grim affairs – but if planned well, they can offer staff the opportunity to achieve a great deal.
Terry Freedman publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website.