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School of the Physical Sciences


School of the Physical Sciences: Staff Survey Update

The School of the Physical Sciences conducted a survey for all staff during Michaelmas Term 2014. During Lent Term 2015 the School set up a Staff Survey Working Group (SSWG) to look at the School level results in detail; identify appropriate areas for action within agreed themes; and develop ideas for action, consulting with the School’s departments and other bodies where appropriate.

 The membership of the Working Group was designed to give sufficient voice to all categories of staff across the School and enable clear lines of communication between the group and the departments. It compromised the following individuals:

  • Professor Bill Adams, Head of the Department of Geography (Chair);
  • Dr Andy Buckley, Departmental Administrator, Earth Sciences;
  • Ms Eva Roberts, Departmental Administrator, DPMMS;
  • Dr Stephen Eglen, Reader in Computational Neuroscience, DAMTP and representative of the School Equality & Diversity Forum;
  • Dr Rachael Padman, University Lecturer, Physics;
  • Mr David Savidge, Deputy Departmental Administrator (Finance), Astronomy;
  • Dr Daniel Baxter, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Materials Science and Metallurgy;
  • Ms Charlotte King, Group Administrator, Physics;
  • Dr Richard Turner, Senior Chief Research Laboratory Technician, Chemistry;
  • Ms Kusam Leal, Deputy Secretary of the School;
  • Ms Andrea Hudson, HR Business Manager for the School.

The Working Group reported to the Head of the School and provided updates on activity and progress to the Council of the School, which is the School’s main strategic and decision making body. The Council was also consulted on proposed recommendations for action.

The SSWG first looked at the results to ensure that any significant themes emerging were covered by the action planning processes.  The three reports used by the SSWG are available via the following links:

1. Flash Report for the School of the Physical Sciences

This report details the total number of responses to each question and a percentage breakdown of how each question was answered.

2. Benchmarking Report for the School of the Physical Sciences

This report contains data that enables benchmarking of the School’s results compared with those of other organisations that have conducted similar surveys with the survey provider.

3. Summary Report for the School of the Physical Sciences

This report summarises the results for each question into three categories: positive, neutral and negative.  It also provides the three highest and lowest scoring questions and how they compare with the benchmark data.

In order to preserve confidentiality, the SSWG did not have access to the raw data only the analytical reports provided by the survey provider, ORC International.

For department level reports please click here.


The SSWG reviewed the outcomes for each question by applying a ‘traffic light' categorisation by consensus. Those areas identified as Red were included in the action plan.  In parallel with this work, Departments were asked to provide feedback on their consideration of the departmental results, the key issues identified and actions planned.  They were asked to identify areas of action they felt would be more appropriately addressed at either the School or University level. This feedback was incorporated into a School plan for action.

The actions in the plan have been grouped into themes. The order for taking action forward has been considered and a phased approach will be taken to ensure resources are not spread too thinly, or on several fronts, but allow us to give each action sufficient attention. This will be kept under review to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise. We will be taking into account that the timing for some activities can be progressed in conjunction with existing plans being progressed by the School or University. For example there are already plans to review the University Probation Policy so action identified in the School action plan will be timed to feed into this work to gain the maximum impact for the School’s staff. The plan is as follows:

1.       Staff review & development/feedback/recognition

  • The School Office and HR Team will gather information on how the Staff Review and Development (SRD) process is managed in the School. Consideration will be given to: how well it is understood; the role of feedback, recognition and objective setting; and what improvements might be made as well as ways to spread good practice and awareness of the benefits of SRD. It is hoped that this review will help identify more specific action.
  • The HR team will consider ways in which promotion could be addressed at University level as part of the development of a University HR strategy.
  • In the meantime the School Office and HR Team will raise awareness about the existing opportunities available to staff and line managers such as: SRD, secondment and the career pathways.
  • Action to improve induction includes a proposal for the introduction of a School induction programme for new staff with staff management responsibilities that will be used to ensure line managers are made aware of the need to actively support, undertake and promote staff development, recognition and feedback.

 2.       Induction and Probation

  •  The School will develop a template for the induction of new staff, which will be made available from a link on the School website, to cover areas recommended centrally but tailored to be more specific and relevant to the School. This will be designed to be adaptable with departmental-specific additions.
  • The School will feedback the details of the survey outcomes for this question to those who will be working on the review of the Probation Policy and help raise awareness about the policy.
  • Consideration will be given to the introduction of a School induction programme for new staff with staff management responsibilities to actively promote induction, SRD and performance management and other key activities for line managers to ensure the wellbeing of staff and good working relationships

 3.       Flexible working, support for families and work-life balance and well being

  •  The SSWG was cognisant of the diverse ways in which these matters are experienced by staff, as evidenced in the feedback from departments on their discussions with staff and the way in which responses to a number of questions clustered around this theme. The need to identify realistic and practical actions to address these themes, to manage expectations and consider any resource implications led the SSWG to refer this to the School HR Forum for suggestions.
  • The Forum proposed that focus groups for the different staff groups be held to identify more detail on this area, by talking to staff direct about the reasons behind lower levels of satisfaction among particular groups. This will help to inform more specific action to be identified.

 4.       Dignity at work

  •  It is proposed that workshops be held with staff at the Departmental level, or organised at School level (to bring staff together from smaller departments), linked to Dignity at Work Policy awareness, and explore how this is experienced by staff before deciding on action. Any good practices identified could also then be shared across the School.

 5.       Communication and improved working practices

  •  The SSWG recommends that the School communicate the process described in this report and the action plan openly to all staff.
  • The need for good communication and collaborative working should also feature in plans for a School induction programme, as well the proposed induction programme for new staff with staff management responsibilities.

The Council of the School will be kept up to date on progress with the plan and at the same time further communication updates will be provided on this webpage.

 October 2015