Performance and Culture – Can business learn from a state school?

The last two weeks has seen triumph and tears for our national Rugby League and Rugby Union teams. But for me and my former school it has been a week of joy and jubilation. What has been achieved in the sporting arena you would expect a public school may accomplish once in its lifetime? The Last two weekends saw six former students from the state school step out onto the pitch to represent their country three in each code.

But it’s not just in the sporting arena that St John Fisher RC High School excels, it constantly exceeds local and national targets for hard subjects such as Maths and English.  As it does for “added value” which means helping students exceed their predicated grades. The school also excels in its role as a Leading Edge School and Performing Arts College.

So how does it do this? Well to understand that I need to take you on a short historical tour. St John Fisher is in Wigan which many have said is the world centre for Rugby League and the school along with several others in the town have fed professional rugby league teams for 70 odd years and in later years Rugby Union teams.

I left the School in 1974 and there was a very supportive ethos no matter what your ability or what the subject. My children attended the school in the 90’s and early 00’s and I joined the PTA and then became a governor in 2005. The same ethos was still there and it is there today.

When I joined the PTA in 2002 there were still teaching staff who had taught me passing the school ethos on to a new generation of teaching staff. The school attracts high performing teachers who want to support students to fulfil their potential. They stay because they have a commitment to the school its students and the ethos in return the school supports them and their development.

The school has an expectation that teachers, support staff, parents, students, governors the PTA and wider community all share. Along with the performance expectations there are high levels of respect and communication. The desire to succeed has been honed within the schools culture over generations.

In business good cultures built up over years are often lost as organisations downsize quickly. In the case of the public sector several years of job losses and cuts to services and pay have also taken their toll on employee motivation.  Many organisations are facing an uphill struggle to motivate staff and increase performance whilst trying to re-establish a new culture.

Is there a lesson to be learnt here that whilst cutting quickly in several areas simultaneously may save on the bottom line now. Do organisations pay for that in following years with low levels of performance, high turnover and sickness rates and lack of direction? Which in turn can lead to poor customer service, loss of customers a decrease in profitability and loss of reputation. Food for thought indeed.

Finally congratulations to England in their win over France in which our former pupils played a pivotal role. This coming Thursday 21st November I am looking forward to attending St John Fisher’s annual awards ceremony which will be a wonderful celebration of what our students have achieved. They all have the “Fisher Factor” thanks to the positive culture and ethos maintained by dedicated staff,



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