Business Continuity: is your school prepared?

What exactly is a School Business Continuity Plan (SBCP)?

A BCP is a set of documents that lays out the information required to return a school back to ‘business as usual’ following a period of disruption. 

A ‘period of disruption’ describes any incident either natural or man –made (both intentional and accidental) which disrupts the normal daily activities of a school to such an extent that its essential services, such as teaching, will be unable to function without intervention.  An example would be the inability to access the school site either due to extreme weather conditions, vandalism or a fire caused by an electrical problem.  This would cause a number of essential services to cease to operate, such as teaching, catering, administration etc.

Let’s look at this example in a little more detail.

You could lose access to the site for any number of reasons, but regardless of why you are unable to access the site, you will need a plan to deal with this.  The below are just a few of the questions that you would need to consider in this scenario.

Where will you go if you are unable to access your school site?

What could you do as a ‘stop-gap’ solution if you were unable to access the site for a few days?

What will you do if your school site requires long term renovation?

What will you do if you lose access to the school site during an exam period?

If you are using a temporary off-site location who needs to be notified?

 

A BCP contains essential information required to return to normal operations such as:

  • Stakeholder information and contact details
  • Business continuity response team and their responsibilities.
  • Business impact analysis of essential services, the resources upon which they depend and the impact of disruption.
  • Contingency plans and strategies for possible risk scenarios such as a loss of site or loss of staff. 

Whist it might seem a trivial point to keep a log of all stakeholder information, collating and centralising contact details for incumbent and alternative contractors, as well as the usual SIMS and staff data will help to streamline and expedite the road to recovery following BCP activation.

A business continuity response team is formed of key individuals who will each be given specific responsibilities both during a period of disruption as well as during ‘business as usual’.  Each team member will drive business continuity management and build schools resilience to risk whilst school operations are normal; and should the BCP be activated the team will work together, using their skill and experience to return the school back to normal operations.

A BCP business impact analysis can help you to identify your school’s essential functions and services, the activities and resources upon which they depend and the effects of disruption.  It is important to understand the various ways in which your critical activities might be disrupted.  This can help to determine which areas you should focus on building resilience and contingency planning.  Should there be disruption to multiple functions and services a business impact analysis can help you to prioritise, plan and focus your plan having already have established which activities yield the greatest impact to the schools core operations.

Although it is impossible to prevent or plan for every possible risk scenario, you can prepare yourself by putting contingency measures in place to protect your most essential services and assets.  For example it would be prevalent to plan for the possibility of a loss of the school site, a loss of staff and a loss ICT as a minimum.

Getting a BCP in your school now can provide you with peace of mind and the assurance that your school is equipped to deal with the ever present threat of risk.

Do you have to have one? 

The School Financial Values Standard which all maintained schools must comply with dictates that “All schools should ensure they have an appropriate plan”.

Section 2.3.7 of the Academies Financial Handbook 2014, which all trusts must comply with states “The trust must make a contingency and business continuity plan setting out what it would do to ensure its continued operation.”

Business continuity plans (BCP) are an essential document that all schools should own.  Not only is there a mandatory requirement on both maintained schools and academies to have in place a BCP, it should be considered an integral part of risk management within your school