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One of our favourite lines when delivering a training session on managing critical incidents for a school’s senior leadership team is to ask who the most important person is in a critical incident management team. “The Head” they all say. However, we suspect that if we asked you the same question, you would say the same, and that, unfortunately, causes a problem right from the off.

The issue here is, what we call, the “rush to the top”; where anything really difficult is passed up the chain of command without really analysing the issue. The reason for this is that no one wants to do anything unless the Head approves, and that means the crisis response is already starting to fall apart!

In reality, the most important person in phase 1 and 2 of a critical incident pathway is likely to be the receptionist or the Heads’ PA. They are the ones that will have to decide if the reported issue is serious, and if it is, to initiate an emergency response (without recourse to the SLT), before mobilising the SLT.

At the Independent Schools Association course, which was delivered by AI Schools’ CEO, Robin Hamilton, earlier this month, PA’s from schools around the country were exposed to all sorts of issues and asked if they were serious or not. A lot of debate and discussion ensued with lots of conflicting views and opinions. As events unfolded, often with dramatic consequences, the participants were asked to consider who was best-placed to make decisions that could directly impact these fast-moving events. The unanimous view was it was them rather than the Head or the SLT.

What did the participants get out of the course? Well, in the debrief, everyone agreed that their current critical incident plan, which they had brought along with them, was of little use or relevance. They all wanted a simple-to-understand flow chart of what to do – which they got. But most importantly, they realised that they need to take the lead in the first and second phases of a critical incident pathway and that, over the day, they had all got very adept at doing dynamic risk assessments.

A PA that is comfortable doing these and initiating an emergency response ensures their Head and the SLT won’t get sucked into the “quicksand phase”. That is, in our view, why they are so important.

If you missed our training course but would be interested in exploring this topic further, speak to our team on 01983 564 917. Alternatively, take a look at our upcoming training courses.


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