Redundancy and redeployment

A wise man once said, ‘ask and ye shall receive’ so I asked and lo, answers were granted unto me. A couple of weeks ago I got myself into a panic at the number of unanswered questions I had about the future. While my head said, ‘brilliant opportunity, make the most of it, set up a business, work from home!’ my heart said, ‘doomed! We’re all doomed! It’s the end of the working world.’ Armed with questions I approached my line manager.

 I’m now on the council deployment list. Given that my background is in education and almost the whole of the education department is in the same situation same I don’t hold out much hope. I asked my line manager if I could be redeployed as a street sweeper at the same salary I’m on now. Sadly redeployment has to be at a similar grade. 

And I’m entitled to go on any courses that may help with redeployment or future needs. But apparently that doesn’t include any writing courses or Advanced Italian at my local adult education centre. Well, if you don’t ask…

 So a couple of weeks later what has turned up? Well, I’ve been invited to attend a training day on interview skills for redeployment. Sounds fun.

 The course includes activities about, ‘evidencing transferable skills and competencies through your achievements,’ (eh?) asks participants to, ‘prepare your 30 Second Commercial (capital letters: sic),’ and, ‘bring along a role profile for any job you wish to apply for.’

 So, role profiles for any jobs I wish to apply for…let me check my inbox.

Aha, an offer of redeployment! I’m eligible for the post of ‘Traffic Order Maker.’ My new duties will include, ‘The drafting and processing of all highway, planning, traffic regulation, car parking notices, Special Events Acts and orders, including all necessary advertising and consultations,’ and ‘recommending appropriate signing and carriageway markings to compliment or reflect Traffic Management Orders in accordance with Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.’ I’d even be in charge of, ‘preparing legal documents for the implementation of Controlled Parking Places, Waiting and Loading Restrictions, Bus Clearways, Free Parking Places, Pay and Display.’

 Let me check my CV- teaching degree, master’s degree in education, years of experience teaching in schools, currently working as education adviser.

 Yup, I’m the perfect candidate. Where do I sign up?

In praise of school dinner ladies

Do you want custard with that?

The French are revolting. They’ve been revolting for a while about the pensions review but the good dinner ladies of Marseille are on the war path. They’ve been on the march, protesting about higher pension ages and almost half the schools and nurseries in the port town are without staff. Imagine it – hundreds of dinner ladies in flapping white overalls marching down the streets brandishing ladles and chanting. I’d love this to happen in England but I don’t imagine it will.

I spend some of my time working with our school dinner ladies so I’d like to speak up for these most maligned of creatures, because I doubt if anyone else will. Dinner lady is a good catch-all name for both servery assistants who prepare and serve the food and the midday supervisors who keep an eye on hundreds of small munching mouths and supervise outdoor and indoor play.

Let’s start with the servery assistants. A few years ago they were happily warming up turkey twizzlers and defrosting frozen meals when Saint Jamie Oliver decided that children were worth more than crappy TV dinners. Suddenly servery assistants who were used to opening packets of food had to cook and prepare food from fresh under the watchful eye of a cook/chef. They haul out the tables and benches, set the places and then have to serve the food and make sure that fussy eaters take a balanced plate. After service they are in charge of washing up and cleaning and placing orders. They are employed by the catering company, not by the school or LA (generally speaking) and are usually paid minimum wage, rarely London living wage if working in the city, and their hours fall bang smack in the middle of the day, term time only of course. The French dinner ladies complain that their work is noisy, messy and heavy and it is.

What about the midday supervisors? These ladies are usually employed directly by the school and are therefore school staff members. If the school is good, they’ll be made to feel part of that staff and will be supported in managing behaviour and play leadership but often they are the forgotten ones as the teachers drop off their classes of in the dining hall and flee to the staff room (I know, I often used to do that myself). Meanwhile the middays supervise the hall full of screaming children/ lairy teenagers/ sobbing infants ensuring that everyone eats nicely, leaves the table when asked to, finishes their food before the end of the school day etc. And we complain if they sometimes bellow.

Meanwhile in a feat of careful timetabling, other middays are outside ensuring that everyone plays nicely and no one escapes over the fence. They sort out arguments, mop bleeding knees and lead the skipping before reporting back to the teachers at the end of play. Again, all this during term time only and in the middle of the day. Many schools employ their middays as teaching assistants so they bolt down a meal at either 11.30 or 2pm and are back in the classroom supporting teachers before and after their lunch shifts, again for a lowly wage.

So let’s make this hug a dinner lady month and may we never forget how important they are to our education system.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super council!

We’ve had easy councils and now we’re faced with super councils. Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are considering joining forces in order to weather the huge cuts they’re facing in the next few years and I think it could work. Obviously each council is very different and has different needs but with some careful planning and collaborative working this could be ironed out.

I’m employed by one London council but work across three so in a microcosm, I understand how this could work. The councils each have a very different ethos with very different systems and structures and I’ve had to find a way of working with schools that dovetails with each authority’s needs. To begin with, it was bloody hard work but as we settled down together, it’s become a better and certainly more economical way of working. We share expertise and good practice across all three and that can only be good for our clients.

So here are my top tips for becoming a super council:

· As Harry Hill used to say ‘You gotta have a system.’ You have to be super organised and have systems and ways of working that can be understood by everyone.

· You have to take your stakeholders and clients with you. This is an additional step that is well worth the hassle and arguments. You might think you’ve got it all sussed and you probably have, but you need to bring everyone with you on your journey- they will be your biggest allies.

· You need to have crystal clear channels of communication. Again, a hassle but well worth the extra time and effort. If you’re used to being autonomous, the sudden interest from others can be annoying but again, in the long run, it’s worth it as everyone will be on your side and will be well informed (see above).

· You can’t be precious about your stuff- your stuff is now everybody else’s stuff. This is a criticism often levelled at public services- we are far too precious about our own jobs and our own staff. Play nicely and share with the other kids, ok, and then they are more likely to share back.

· Be flexible. You may need to change your precious and well thought out arrangements in order to fit in with others and their weird IT systems.

· Delegate. Your way is not the only way and sometimes someone will need to lead on something that you’ve previously led on. They might do it differently but this is not necessarily worse than yours. It’s just different.

· Take your time- change happens slowly and you might be in a rush to get started but it’s better to wait and get everything sorted out before rushing in headlong.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out and if you need a consultant to help out, you know who to call…

CSR Redux

The Headmaster looks on as Osborne speaks up in assembly.

I fully intended to blog about the CSR yesterday but was running training for teachers all day and as not everything went according to plan, all I could do was sit in front of the TV last night and eat cakes and dribble.

So here’s my summary of how it went.

Chancellor: Right you lot we’re going to be making lots of cuts and those with broad shoulders will take the burden of the cuts and the cuts will be FAIR.
Crowd: [mutter, mutter.]
Chancellor: We’ll need to lose almost half a million public sector jobs which is not very nice but IT’S NOT OUR FAULT. A big boy called Gordo did it and ran away.
Crowd: [grumble, grumble.]
Chancellor: To make it FAIR there will cuts across each government department because we don’t want to bully anyone in particular. Did I mention it was FAIR and IT’S NOT OUR FAULT?
Crowd: [foment, foment, revolt, revolt.]
Speaker: Right that’s it. It’s not my time you’re wasting. I could sit here all day but if you want to have any playtime left you’d better stop that muttering and listen or you’ll all be in detention.
Chancellor: We’ll be handing over the decisions about redundancies to local authorities. That way it will all be FAIR because the overpaid senior executives will be the ones in charge of the cull and I’m sure they will all take huge pay cuts themselves while ensuring that those on lower salaries are protected because we have to make cuts and IT’S NOT OUR FAULT. You see there was this big boy called Gordo and he’s the one what done it.
Crowd: [mutter, mutter.]
Speaker: What did I tell you about muttering, class?
Chancellor: And we’re overhauling the benefits system to get people back into jobs cos we don’t want any unemployed layabouts.
Crowd: [simmer, simmer]
Chancellor: What’s that, crowd? What jobs? Well I’m sure something will turn up.
Evan Davies: Do you have a plan B, Chancellor?
Chancellor: Oh it’s you Davies. Didn’t I flush your head down the bog in the lower fourth?
Evan Davies: Just answer the question, Chancellor: do you have a plan B?
Chancellor: we don’t need a plan B because it will all be fine and anyway IT’S NOT OUR FAULT because a big boy called Gordo did it and ran away.
Evan Davies: Plan B, Chancellor, Plan B do you have a Plan B? Tell me if you have a Plan B, a Plan B is essential do you have one, do you? [dribble, dribble.]
Chancellor: May we go out to play now please, Speaker?
Speaker: Very well but don’t forget your coats, it’s chilly out there. And play nicely. Davies? See me after class.

Comprehensive Stendhal Review

The closest I’ve come to experiencing Stendhal’s syndrome was on a trip to Egypt. The sheer magnificence of the ancient Egyptian architecture was such that after a while my brain simply couldn’t cope with the sight of another temple and I was desperate for the cooling balm of a grey office block swathed in drizzle. And no more bloody donkeys.

 I’m beginning to feel a little like this with the spending cuts. At first they were awesome and terrifying and I gazed up at them, shaking my head in wonder. But like those temples they’ve come so thick and fast that I’m feeling dizzy. My poor little brain just can’t cope with any more.

Them: We’ll have to let you go. Sorry, I mean your post is being deleted!

Me: Oh my God what will I do, I’m doomed, the world is doomed, save me! I’ve got one of those huge mortgage thingies they used to give out to everyone.

Them: And we’re cutting schools budgets.

Me: Oh bloody hell, that’s just unfair you greedy lot. Whatever next?

Them: Well we’re slashing the Quangos with gay abandon! Take that useless Quangos!

Me:  I’m sure we can live without Quangos.

Them: While we’re at it, we may as well slash all public sector services. And yes that includes you teachers, nurses and police officers.

Me: Yeah, feckless lot! Get a proper job.

Them: But we’ll make sure that bankers’ bonuses are protected because we wouldn’t want the poor bankers to suffer.

Me: Hurrah! Please take the shirt from my back and the shoes from my feet so the bankers don’t have to suffer. 

Them: And X factor is on again.

Me: Phew, I thought we were all going to hell in a handcart.

Oh my days! talking to da yoot

I was talking to a teacher yesterday who is new to the LA and she told me how she drives into London every day from the Home Counties. She was quite shocked, she said, by the levels of deprivation at the secondary school where she works but more shocked by the way the pupils spoke. She admitted that it had taken the first few weeks of term to understand what the pupils were on about and no, we’re not talking about pupils newly arrived in the country. I guess I’m used to the way da yoot speaks round here, it’s just the London patois made up of a little of this and a little of that.

 Following hard on the heels of uber luvvie Emma Thompson’s comments last week about the way young people speak, this made me think. I love the richness of the English language and the muddle of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Latin with a fair sprinkling of dialect. It’s hell for spellers- take -ough for example, which can be pronounced as in though, ought, through, enough, cough- but its depth is its also its strength. It is also a flexible language that allows for change.

 So who am I, with my BBC accent or Emma Thompson with her Cambridge University- educated vowels to say what is proper although it’s probably not a good idea to call your teacher bro’. Because that’s just wrong, wasteman.

 In case you’d like to understand what young people are talking about, here is a handy guide with translation. But please don’t try it yourself if you’re over twenty cos it’s just embarrassing. Innit.

 What endz are you repping, blud? (From which part of London do you hail, my good man?)

 Your wifey is buff, fam. (Your ladyfriend is really rather attractive, my good man.)

 Oh my days, she is such a sket! (Gosh, she seems to have slept her way round town.)

 You think you’re a nangman but you is buttaz, innit. (You’d like to think you’re jolly cool but actually you’re an idiot, innit.)

 Your mum. (I hold you in such low esteem that I can’t even be bothered to insult you so I will imply something nasty about your mother and leave your overactive imagination to do the rest.)

The Independent way to choose a secondary school

The Independent’s correspondent Richard Garner has written a guide to education.  Being the Independent, it was very… independent but I liked the questions so have appropriated some of them for my own not so independent purposes:

There are three secondary schools in my area. One is an academy, the second a local authority secondary school and the third a Catholic Church school. Oh and they say an independent free school is to open next year. Which shall I choose for my daughter?

Blimey aren’t you lucky? If I were you I’d wait until that free school sets up, especially if it’s the one being run by that bald bloke who wrote that book about alienating people. Debating club should be fun.

What is the difference between an academy and a local authority maintained secondary school?

Well the kids at the academy wear purple and yellow blazers and shiny shoes and the kids at the comp wear black hoodies over their very small very wide ties. If that doesn’t help you, you might wish to delve deeper and look at boring stuff like educational attainment, behaviour and ethos.

Ok I’ve checked out the academy now. It seems it was a failing secondary school that has been given a facelift and brand new buildings and is now run by a bunch of hedge-fund managers. How come?

Well mainly because the feckless local authorities simply can’t be relied upon to support the schools in their area so it’s best we hand them over to the bankers. After all, they can be trusted to get things right, can’t they?

I’m unsure about the academy though. So now what do I do to make sure Endellion gets the best education possible?

Take a look at those impenetrable league tables for each school and try to make or tail of the figures. Especially those figures about value added. Don’t whatever you do go and visit the school to get a feel for it, talk to teachers, pupils or parents to get a balanced view or speak to the head teacher. And for goodness sake don’t make a decision based on the unique needs of your child.

Right I’ve done that. The one that comes out best on both schools is the catholic school. Should I go there?

Well him upstairs does keep an eye on faith schools so I expect to see you at mass at the church of Sweet Baby Jesus and the Wee Donkey on Sunday (don’t forget to pack your cheque book). Make sure you arrange for some adequate sex education because we wouldn’t want little Endellion falling for the nasty charms of one of those comprehensive louts and catholic schools don’t teach about contraception.

Everything clear? good, thought so.

Andrew Marr and the case of the bad bloggers

I couldn’t let this one go without commenting. National journo treasure Andrew Marr has spoken out against bloggers. I’m guessing that keyboards across the country are on fire with ire as citizen journalists take online revenge (they are, I’ve just checked. Twitter too!).

Actually I think he’s a very clever man: who else has had so much coverage from the Cheltenham Literary festival, that most genteel of genteel festivals?

And his comments are really quite funny when you pull them apart. His words are below but the comments in brackets are entirely mine:

“A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate (gimme wine) pimpled (occasionally), single (fraid not), slightly seedy (ooh matron), bald (nope), cauliflower-nosed (how very dare you!) young (youngish) men (not one of those either) sitting in their mother’s basements (ooh matron) and ranting (a little. Maybe). They are very angry  (a bit annoyed sometimes) people. OK – the country is full of very angry people (grrrrrr). Many of us are angry people at times (ibid). Some of us are angry and drunk (see ‘socially inadequate’ for reference. Grrrr. Hic.)”

Come to think of it I did wake up today with a pimple on my chin. Maybe it’s the Pinocchio-like curse of blogging? If there are two pimples there tomorrow that’s it for me.

Respect and Responsibility

Not a hitherto undiscovered Jane Austen oeuvre sadly, but a bright new future for us dribbling peasants. Last week Michael Gove promised that head teachers would have greater responsibility for their pupils outside schools. I imagine that some heads will be rubbing their hands together in glee and some will be sighing deeply at the thought of more things to do and of course Cameron’s Big Society is all based on communal responsibility.

 Well I’m looking forward to everyone taking more responsibility and when the time comes I promise to do my bit as we’re very good at blaming each other for our woes.

 There’s an activity I sometimes do with teachers based on a Have I Got News For You round, or perhaps it should be called the Blame Game. I give them some newspaper headlines with missing words and ask them to guess what goes in the gap. The point is to think about what people read over their cornflakes and how this might affect their opinions.

 In the interest of fairness, I try to include headlines from the major daily papers. These ones are all about children’s health and wellbeing. Have a go; I’ll start you off with an easy one. Answers at the bottom of the page.

Third of children are too _______
Express

Child ________ health problems ‘to double’
Telegraph
_________ to be made responsible for curbing teen pregnancy and obesity
Daily Mail

Blinkered _______ fuel childhood obesity, says report
The Guardian

School note for parents who give children _______ _______ ______
Times

_______ classes for every pupil at 15
The Sun

And finally my favourite and no, the answer is not ‘Zac Ephron’ as one wit wrote on a training course. 

____  _______ blamed for teen pregnancy
Daily Mail

answers in order: fat, mental, schools, parents, unhealthy packed lunches, sex, rap music. Did you get all the answers?

What now?

I’ve been weighing up my post-redundancy work options and considering new career options by analysing my skills:

Skill: good at organising stuff.

Solution: become wedding planner.

But: apt to be found gibbering in corner if shouted at by Bridezilla.

Skill: gardening

Solution: whip off bra and become the new Charlie Dimmock.

But: on second thoughts…

 

Skill: mildly amusing.

Solution: become stand up comedian.

But: never quite sure if people are laughing with me or just at me.

 

Skill: singing.                                                                         

Solution: sign up for next year’s x factor.

But: I’m not doing it for my Nan, my kids or my three legged dog.

Skill: huge and age-inappropriate knowledge of pop music and trivia.

Solution: become the person who makes those rather literal song choices on Homes Under The Hammer.

But: that position is already taken.

 

Skill: education adviser

Solution: become private education adviser.

But: hmmmmm.

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