Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Health and Safety

For my sins, and recognising my 'previous' in the field, I am nominated H&S Governor for 'my' two schools. I have spend part of the day producing an aide memoire of topics that need to be picked up in my ongoing discussions with school staff in order that I can report to the FGB on how well the school is doing. If you want a copy then please email me.
I'm always cautious of H&S, one of my favourite jobs being that of "Elfin Terrorist" - those H&S people who try to use it as a frightener and want to stop you doing perfectly sensible things. They forget that risk in an implicit part of life and of managing H&S; it's about reducing risk to an acceptable level not eliminating it. (It seems that we are expected to produce a risk assessment for 'tripping over rocks on the beach' when we take our pupils to the seaside. Well, I have better things to do with my time, as do our staff. Next thing, we will have to think about the Hazard and Frequency for a seagull sh***iing on their heads - probably a greater hazard than rocks on the beach and it has certainly happened to me).
Anyway , the point of this rant is to encourage all concerned to get numerate about risk - whenever a hazard is identified you need to ask "How frequently does this hazard materialise?" and "What, specifically, will be the consequences when it does?" No more of this subjective High/Medium/Low, let's get numerate.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

You cannot teach anyone anything!

You might know that I make a living in the field of 'personal development' - that means helping individuals, teams and organisations 'do better' by helping the people find out what really turns them on and then to get on with it! This seems to me to be so much like what we ought to be doing in schools - let's help pupils become intersted in learning, let's help them find what gives them a buzz and then fit the learning opportunities around that.
This may sound like heresy, but I don't believe that anyone can be taught anything; the best we can do is find oppoortunities for them to learn, the 'teacher' role is one of finding and creating suitable learning opportunities for everyone and then facilitating their learning.

Anyway, what prompted this post was a recent reading of The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz). I have these on the wall in my 'office' (well that's what the taxman thinks my garden shed is!):
Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best
- Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

In these changing and challenging times, these seem especially appropriate...

Friday, 18 June 2010

An Inspector calls

Well, we had Ofsted in at one of 'my' schools this week.
Our lead Inspector was a 'fully signed up' HMI with considerable experience of Special Schools and it really made a difference - we didn't have to explain the challenges of running a special school catering for, inter alia, medically dependant PMLD pupils!
We have been advised that 'our self-assessment was accurate' - code for "Good with some Outstanding features" - so BIG congratulations to everyone involved and a relaxing weekend while we wait for the written report.
The current framework is more rigorous in examination of how well Governors understand our statutory responsibilities, especially regarding safeguarding and community cohesion. In our case they were also very interested to explore our approaches to parental engagement, especially for hard-to-reach parents.
We thought the school was Outstanding for Safeguarding, but they downgraded us to Good - then when we asked for specifics on what needed to be in place to achieve Outstanding we didn't really get much help, the Inspector found it hard to articulate the gap! Being told that 'we rarely award Oustanding for safeguarding' was something of a consolation although the cynic in me wonders if this is a rear-orifice covering stance just in case anything goes wrong subsequently (vide Haringey!)

Anyway, a good week and one that has thrown up some positive and welcome suggestions for improvement - the relentless drive for improvment continues.

Friday, 11 June 2010

A positive approach

My friend Chris Edwards is known for his relentless pursuit of brilliance. In a recent blog he says:
I recognise of course that some colleagues feel that they are on the barricades; feeling beleaguered, disillusioned and worn down by the relentless and uncompromising pressure that never goes away. I also know some colleagues are sick of, and turned off by, our optimism, positivity and constant search for the outstanding, the exceptional and the brilliant. But, so much of what we do here in Leeds is world class: so what can't we achieve together if we aspire to excellence in everything we do; and build on, and learn from, what is working really well.
I too recognise all of this - and remember that us governors do it all for free. Not that money actually helps resolve the feelings but those who are very well paid to handle all the change would do well to occasionally remember that there is an army of volounters out here who handle all this change in our spare time with little organisational support.

To those who feel that there is too much optimism around, I ask "What would you rather have - downtrodden pessimism?" It is well kknown in psychological circles that optimism, even in the face of potentially overwhelming odds, is more empowering than pessimism and that the most valuable outlook is one described as 'pessimistic optimism' - fundamental optimism whilst recognising that the world does not always deliver what we want and so we need to do some contingency planning.

I remain optimistic that our schools and children have great futures. Our task is to help release the brilliance - "watch where you walk, for you tread on my dreams"

Thursday, 10 June 2010

So much going on!

Well I guess we should have expected the new government to have a few different ideas; what we may not have expected was the rush of both ideas and implementation.

I find myself wondering how to deal with the various changes that are due to happen soon. Does it matter to us that the GTC is to go, that the primary curriculum is going, that there is to be yet another review of SEN, that there is to be another route to academy status...all this while our school is in the midst of a major relocation of part of our provision.

Ot's all about priorities - we can only do so much at once, and for me 'the move' has priority as it affects our current pupils and is time-critical. Nonetheless our GB does need to be thinking about the various other issues so we will need a discussion fairly soon. Do we discuss actively or do we 'acknowledge and park'?

Personally I just LOVE this sort of environment - uncertainty, change, lots ahppening arre all features of where and when I work best. I need to remember to keep all governors informed/involved...there will be too much for one person to handle so this is a great time to find out what turns people on and let them loose.

Monday, 7 June 2010


Am I the only governor who is slightly peeved by Micheal Gove's decision to write to headteachers about his plans for academies?

Any decision to apply for academy status is VERY strategic and hence the clear responsibiity of the Governors - so it would have been polite to write to Chairs, or at least copy us in on the correspondence. Let's hope this is an oversight and not an early indication of the new government's respect, or lack of it, for governors.

As for the content, it would be good to be able to get an unbiased appraisal of the pros and cons of the latest opportunity- just about everything I read has its' own agenda.