It’s all me, me me

I’ve decided that 2011 will be the year of me.

 I was brought up to always put others first and I’ve dutifully followed this credo all my life. As a teacher you’re always at the beck and call of others- the students, the parents, the local authority, the head teacher- and I’ve managed to carry this attitude over into my consultancy work. Of course I can come to your school/ meeting at ridiculous o’clock! And of course I’ll cancel my social life to run a last minute training session for cabinet members who don’t bother turning up! I think this is a particular problem for us gals, we want to please people and make them happy.

 I was once on leave out shopping in the summer when a school phoned me in a panic. They were printing their stationery for the year ahead and needed me to send them a logo that was only at my work computer and could I do it before 3 o’clock please? Did I put back the things I was going to buy at the shop, drive all the way to the office (which was luckily open), fire up my computer, find the logo, send it to the school, shut down my computer and drive home again having ruined my shopping trip? Hell, yeah.

 But no more, I cry. I’m putting myself first and my friends and family are up there too. I started today by not volunteering to train governors tomorrow evening. I shall be slumped in front of the telly in my slanket catching up rubbish programmes from Sky+ instead.

 So here are my new goals.

1)     Network, network, network.

In the public sector we’re a bit lazy at this but I’m learning how to do it. I’m actually pretty shy so this is way out of my comfort zone but I’m doing well so far. I’m not afraid to ask for help or contacts and people so far have been delighted to help.

2)     Just say no, kids.

No to extra work, no to evening work, no to too many meetings, no, non, nein. Unless you’re a school. In which case it’s yes.

3)     Take time to learn new stuff.

The other day I found myself buying lots of helpful tomes on the interwebulator. Not self-help books you understand, just books that can help with my new portfolio career. They arrived yesterday and I’ve already found out lots of useful information.

4)     Make more effort to widen my friendship circle.

That stupid shyness really restricts me but I’m making more of an effort. I’ve already contacted some friends I haven’t seen for a while to make dates to meet. I’m not going to be too tired from work to go out and have fun. Or to network.

5)     Take time to plan.

I need to spend time planning my new career and planning properly. It won’t happen unless I do.

6)     Stop whingeing.

Whingeing has been my default setting since the redundancy notice. I will try hard not to whinge about things I can’t change. But I reserve the right to still whinge about the government.

 So wish me luck on my journey and thank you supporting me via this blog, it’s very much appreciated.

What are your work resolutions for 2011?


The new free market economy

On Friday I went to the London meeting of a professional network group. Several of us were there for the first time, having been invited by the stalwarts in the hope of getting us to join. The main purpose of the group is to support freelance consultants and to provide networking opportunities for those not affiliated with a particular local authority.

 Until now, I and my colleagues in other boroughs have had networking and training events provided by Government office for London (GOL). Sadly GOL is now dim and distant memory so we need to make more effort ourselves to stay in the loop.

 It struck me though that the market in my particular area of expertise is going to be changing pretty rapidly. Currently there is a small group of freelance consultants who are well known in London. They are the people that are called when extra help is needed and we all know them very well. But soon more of us will be swelling the ranks of that small group and schools and local authorities will have more choice. Will they choose the old guard or the new young (ish) things?

 These freelancers rely very much on word of mouth, their good reputations and the existing networks of contacts in LAs. They don’t need to do much in the way of marketing and very few of them have a website. We politely respect each other’s geographical boundaries and areas of expertise and wouldn’t dream of treading on each other’s toes.

 Until now.

 Soon there will be no boundaries and every piece of work going will be up for grabs. There won’t be that reliable network of support. I’ll be able to stray beyond the boundaries of my three local authorities. Perhaps I’ll seek work beyond London. I know I’ll definitely be setting up a spiffy-looking website and will be using social media to attract work. The old guard had better pull up their socks.

 But it still feels a little Machiavellian. I’ll have to grow another layer of skin before March but then the world will be mine, all mine. Mwah ha ha.


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.

The enchanted headteachers

I went to a conference today about commissioning services for schools. The audience was mostly head teachers. I was really there to find out what their attitudes to commissioning were and what sort of things they’d be commissioning now that LA services are being slashed with gay abandon.

 As it turns out, heads are mostly worried about things like business managers, HR, legal and admissions. We hardly even mentioned teaching.

 But the chap who was leading the seminar mentioned some research called Enchanted Headteachers by Ronnie Woods (no, not that one) of the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). I had visions of head teachers skipping through the forest waving their sparkly wands around but it’s about the characteristics of the most successful heads. Stuff like pride in your school, being close to the children and understanding their needs and – perhaps crucially- an optimistic view of change as a challenge. You can read the rest of the report here. It’s not new but it was new to me.

 Luckily, most of our heads are a funny and feisty bunch and I think the pupils are in safe hands. Challenging times are ahead and we’ll need a lot of Shreks.

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