1. Where you advertise
I have found this role difficult to recruit, but sometimes you already have a diamond in your midst, or at least someone very local to your school. We advertised in the staff room, local shops, and we featured the role in our parent newsletter. We also posted onto some Facebook and social media pages for the local community and tradespersons. The latter brought us the greatest interest and reached a different demographic.
2. Know your school
It may sound obvious but make sure that you, the headteacher, know your school site before the interview phase. If you are relatively new to the post, you may still be getting to grips with the quirks of your site. Do you have a biomass boiler? What are the issues with the gates? When was the last gym equipment health and safety audit? I made sure I had really refreshed myself on what the job entailed so that I could use this information at the interview.
3. Child friendly
When children cross the threshold into school, we are in loco parentis. Every adult member of staff needs to be committed to this, and to actually like children! I planned a school tour for each candidate with two children and an adult. The pupils were the real guides; the adult was there to support. The site manager doesn’t necessarily need to know their digraphs from their trigraphs, but a natural knack with children is a must.
4. Knowing contractors
Following on nicely from the walk round was a discussion about which types of contractors they thought the school currently used (I had the contract list to hand for reference). This gave an insight into whether they understood the breadth of managing a school site and how the school calendar affects to-do lists - for example, marking out a football pitch or running track. It also led us to talk about things they felt confident about, or qualified to do, such as PAT testing.
5. Mitigating risks
Your site manager cannot compromise on managing safety risks any more than your Year 1 teacher wouldn’t leave the importance of teaching pupils to read to chance. You would want him or her to nag you about any hazards or problems they come across on-site. I asked what they thought the key risks were and what they would do to mitigate these. Fire, water and legionella should definitely feature in their answers.
6. On call
You need someone you can rely on and who can help with situations that come up outside of working hours. The site manager may occasionally need to get in early when there has been snowfall and ice, or manage an alarm that goes off in the night. Hopefully, these instances will be rare, but it is important this is understood. We talked this through carefully at interview. They don’t have to be on call, per se, but willingness and flexibility are essential.
Rebecca Leek is a former headteacher, Senco and MAT CEO, and is currently the executive director of the Suffolk Primary Headteachers’ Association.