St Pius X Catholic Primary School: Managing Complex HR Challenges
Sharon Derbyshire, Headteacher of the school for over six years, explains her recent experiences with Juniper Education's HR services and specifically the relationship and support she receives from her named Senior HR Consultant, Julie Ann.
St Pius X Catholic Primary School is a small and caring school based in Chelmsford and is a partner school to The Rosary Trust.
Sharon Derbyshire, Headteacher of the school for over six years, explains her recent experiences with Juniper Education’s HR services and specifically the relationship and support she receives from her named Senior HR Consultant, Julie Ann.
Before starting her first headship at St Pius, Sharon’s experience of handling HR tasks was in her role as Deputy Headteacher in another catholic primary school in Havering, where she supported the Headteacher at the time with various staffing issues.
In this case study, we look at the HR challenges Headteachers such as Sharon face and how external support with HR consultancy can help with significant issues such as employee relations and HR investigations and mediation.
“Regarding HR, the biggest challenge I have faced was going from Deputy to my new headship, just not having the experience of those big HR staffing issues. I have a lot more experience now, but even so, six years in, it’s crucial I have professional HR backup onsite and working alongside me.”
Being empowered with expert HR consultancy
Even small primary schools such as St Pius, from time to time, have to deal with sensitive and complex HR issues. Sharon explains how the HR consultancy service from Juniper empowers her to make the right decisions.
“I’ve recently had to manage two very different cases, and the one-to-one support I have received from Juniper’s senior HR consultant Julie Ann has been invaluable.”
“I feel now, as a head, so much more empowered to run the school efficiently because when I’m faced with these HR challenges, I’ve got the right level of support.”
“Going through these processes can be really stressful but having an experienced HR consultant who quickly responds to emails, who is available on the phone or even able to meet with me, removes much of that stress. She never tells me what to do but clearly outlines my options and links them to professional processes and procedures, so I’m always protected.”
“No case is left unresolved. Julie Ann will efficiently follow up every discussion with an email; she’ll push me on things, seeing if I have made a decision and checking if we need to get a meeting in the diary.”
The importance of a strong and trusted HR relationship
Juniper’s HR consultant acts as an extension of Sharon’s team, with a level of trust and immediacy she would expect from a colleague. Sharon explains the benefits to her role and, more broadly to the school of building a relationship with an HR consultant.
“Having a named consultant working with you is important because you need trust. You must have a strong relationship with your HR representative because when you get these really tricky and stressful cases, you need someone to hold your hand throughout the process. You don’t feel alone, and it can be quite a lonely job as a headteacher. Julie Ann is my go-to person; she goes above and beyond to support and respond to my queries.”
Proving direct support in sensitive meetings
Dealing with HR cases typically involves holding face-to-face meetings with employees. Sharon explains how the onsite support she receives helps her navigate complex situations and manage emotions.
“When I needed support in a sensitive employee meeting, where emotions can run high, her manner was empathetic and professional. That made the employee feel at ease; I think that also takes a certain skill. I really appreciate having that extra backup and the benefit of her years of experience.”
Following her positive experience receiving HR consultancy from Juniper, Sharon believes it is an indispensable service for being an effective headteacher.
“If I were to leave and go elsewhere, I’d expect a similar level of HR support. I’ve had such a positive experience with Julie Ann; I wouldn’t want anything less. It’s so crucial to being an effective head.”