Tuesday, September 26, 2006

School in crisis - day 2

Tuesday was being held at the Woodlands, a smart hotel on the outskirts of Morley. First, however, I needed to drop David off at his before & after school club (today of which was going to be a during school club as well!)

I went via the school, where we found a small posse of staff outside breaking the bad news to arriving parents. It transpired that when the Head and Deputy arrived late the previous evening (after the meal) the building lights were randomly turning themselves on and off and there were unpleasant sizzling & humming noises coming from the main intake which was in a small building near the boiler house. They called the electricity board who confirmed on inspection that it was a serious fault and they would have to disconnect the school building. Now the school had no power, the phones were off, the batteries for the emergency lights were flat and the only thing that still worked was the fire alarm which fortunately had a 72 hour battery backup. Electricians were expected and hopefully power would be restored later in the day.

At the hotel, we had four candidates to interview. I hadn't been party to the late interview prep the previous week (as I was between Governorships) but it had been decided that the five panel members would each ask two open questions, the candidate would give a brief presentation of the way forward (based on seeing a PANDA analysis the previous day, a document that gives key metrics for school makeup and performance in various ways) and they would be given the opportunity to ask any further questions of provide further info.

As the morning passed, the weather came and went- torrential rain followed by sunny periods. A pink open-topped Volkswagen also arrived with a number of pretty girls in it posing for photos, related to the pretty in pink breast cancer awareness campaign. I had seen the Herby before- the Hotel apparently used it for wedding cars, as did the two Rolls Royces in a car-port outside. Someone also recognised one of the girls- she was the non-fat girl in "Fat friends" who had also been on Corry a while back.

We deliberated the candidates over lunch and gradually came to a concensus- the best man for the job was a woman. We eventually broke up at about 3pm and would be taking our recommendation to the Governors that evenining. When i say we- that excluded myself, as Karen had an event on so I was babysitting. The school confirmed that the power was now back on and that the school would be open again on the Wednesday.

The job being a good 'un, I had a pleasant evening post- David's bedtime unwinding and watching some telly. I was vaguely tempted to ring up a fellow Governor to confirm that our recommendation had been accepted but decided that it could wait...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Kyboard prblems

My ompuer is layng up- as you cn se.

More school i crisi once fixed


Friday, September 22, 2006

School in crisis- day 1

The above term is apparently the defcon 5 of the educational world- the next one up (or down) from special measures, where Ofsted decide you are in deep do-do. It is also an appropriate term for the results of a disaster due to scope creep, something David's school found itself in this week.

I was in David's school on Monday, in order to assess various people for position of head teacher. Our first day was straight-forward- we watched four assemblies, mingled with the candidates and the staff during a buffet, observed them talking to the school council, assessed a written test and in the evening shared a table with the prospective heads and rhe senior management team.

During the first assembly, the hall lights seemed to be flickering somewhat- it transpired that the school had been the victim of some sort of power surge and several things had packed in, including the photocopier, the burglar alarm and the IT Suite Server. During the course of the day, the burglar alarm bell box went off based on its battery going flat and the main control panel no longer charging it. In the evening, after the meal, it transpired that the boilers were also U/S and that the school had no hot water. I queried the consequences of this, as it struck me that it it would of course mean no heating but also the inability to wash up after lunch, but hardly a showstopper. (Lack of hot water in the toilets wouldn't bother the boy pupils of course). Some members of staff were of the view that the school should close as there was a worry that the surges might re-occur and threaten the safety of the pupils. I argued rather strongly with that- surges were generally either down to lightning or neutral faults and as the school was from the 90s and had regular electrical checks the risk of fire was negligible, that is what safety protection systems were there for. This didn't entirely convince the non-technical in the face of several systems that had failed and my explanation that fuses and circuit breakers were damage limitation rather than total protection went straight over their heads. the decision was made- the school would close to pupils until further notice. Needless to say, this went down like a lead balloon with Mrs. Grey who argued that the staff rarely consider the consequential grief that working parents have to face.

Of course, it also potentially caused two of the interview panel Governors issues with childcare but we both pragmatically pointed out that it shouldn't a major factor in making the decision. So we went to bed having wined and dined looking forward to interviewing the four candidates on the Tuesday, off-site so not influenced by school problems...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Up in the Gods...

We went to see Fiddler on the Roof last night at Wakefield Theatre Royal & Opera House. It is a rather splendid little Matcham Theatre but I have always felt it is not one of his best, mainly for the comparatively coarse fibrous plasterwork.

The show was performed by Wakefield Youth Musical Theatre, an organisation I knew nothing about but would now highly recommend, the performance was absolutely cracking. I also noticed that some of the ensemble hailed from our local Woodkirk High School which has a big reputation for performance art.

Two things detracted from the performance slightly- the noise of the fans in the followspots in the Gallery and the stifling heat up there in the second half. Let us hope their refurbishment includes adequate ventilation.

It is quite comfy up there, the benches having been replaced by fixed seats on every other row, although they are a smidge too upright on the backs. Whilst it is the second circle, it is no higher than many dress circles in later Victorian Houses and other than seeing a bit too much floor, is still a worthwhile seating area in the house.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cheap CDs

I was muttering the other day about an ASDA CD that was a complete set of cover versions without admitting to the fact at all. Having listened to all five CDs in the car, I've now decided that it is mostly Cak and so I took it back for an exchange. I swapped it for a 100 song 4 CD compilation that definitely is originals. Whilst they said no-one had complained, I noticed that there weren't any of the original series on display. Withdrawn from sale, perhaps?

I mentioned they were ASCAP and wondered why. It turns out that it wasn't ASCAP, it was MCPS, the mechanical copywright protection society that looks after library-style music. I was puzzled as to why i would have mixed them up, then I remembered that I had been involved in an ASCAP awards ceremony many years ago. It took place at the Banqueting House in whitehall, with famous Rubens paintings on the ceiling, which annoyed the Celebs as they had to smoke out in the hallway. I was stationed out there with Dinner Jacket, talkback headphones and access to the House Light Controls so I got to chat with a couple of familiar faces during the evening.

I also got to fix the PA system as well, the techies were all tied up with doing the sound, lighting and audio visual so I sorted out a dodgy speaker cable that had come adrift behind the set. I also noticed that they had cocked up the awards certificates and were just giving people anything with a quick aside that they'd sort it out afterwards. (I remember this was standard stage management for Kenton School prizegiving as well!) The evening finished with an "impromptu" singalong from the famous Lieber & Stoller duo, joined onstage by the likes of Billy Ocean and Phil Collins.

Its a fair cop, Guv'nor

I stood as a Primary School Governor nearly four years ago.

Being a Governor is not quite what anyone expects once the novelty has worn off. We get to make decisions, certainly, but they are ridiculously constrained within the boundaries of Government Policy, conflicting initiatives and rampant political correctness. (Schools don't have Chairmen or Headmasters/Headmistresses any more, they have Chairs and Heads. Sooner or later they will also have a "senior personagement team" as well, consisting of various bits of the body and furniture).

I have put up with it with increased levels of bitter reality & disillusionment tablets but when I'm told we need embrace diversity through inclusivity, respect and vision for the umpteenth time I just want to play buzzword bingo or crawl off and throw up somewhere. I was expecting my term of office to finish gracefully in November but a couple of things derailed that.

Firstly, we adopted a new statement of Governance last year and as part of that, most people had to get re-appointed through the usual channels. Surprisingly enough, it didn't apply to me because I pre-dated the legislation so I automatically carried on my term of office on the new body, or so I thought.

As I work full time, I have never been able to devote too much time to Governorship, the important committees generally meeting during the school day. Also, rather a lot of Governor meetings have tended to clash with my Town Council meetings, particularly due to me being on the planning committeee that meets much more frequently than the others.

Anyway, I wasn't in a position to take part in our Deputy Head appointment last year and didn't expect to take part in the interviews for our new Head. (Our Mr. Summers is moving on to Churwell Primary, a school 50% bigger than David's school with three forms per year.)

However, at the last Governor's meeting in July, it became apparent that one of the Community Governors was at the end of her term of office and as she was a political appointee it was by no means certain that she would be re-appointed, especially as the balance of power in Morley South changed last City Council election day. On this basis, the Chair turned to me and asked me to be on the selection panel as I was the only other Governor that could possibly participate. I agreed, slightly reluctantly as it would require me to use two days of holiday, but nethertheless went along to the first panel meeting just before school broke up.

I then found that the business of continuing my governorship the previous year had a caveat- it was to the end of the term of office, or September 1st 2006, whichever came first. No-one from the Governor unit had actually told anyone this at the time and they had indeed confirmed my office as ending in November at the last meeting.

On this basis, I wouldn't be a Governor on September 1st and would be ineligible to go on the panel, unless I restood unopposed. (If there was another candidate, there would need to be a Parent election which couldn't be completed in time.).

This put me in a bit of a quandry, as I had intended to not restand and persuade Karen to stand instead. Anyway, I agreed to restand and the deadline for nominations was today.

The school rang me up earlier to confirm that I was the only candidate and that I would be taking part in the appointment panel after all, so on Monday and Tuesday, I will be taking part in selecting a new Head Teacher from the five short-listed hopefuls.

As an aside, I was stunned to be told by David earlier in the week that he was not allowed to use any form of shampoo, soap or bodywash in the shower after swimming via school due to "Health & Safety".

Is it healthy or safe to have 30 rinsed but unwashed children in Morley Leisure Centre, I wonder?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years since the devastation...

I don't remember where I was when Kennedy was shot but I'll never forget the day the Twin Towers came down.

Time dulls the senses but these are wounds that will not easily heal.

Take some quiet time, (re-)watch the videos and be introspective for a while.

Who needs this kind of twisted religion?

Never forget...

Too much pressure...

Heritage weekend has just been and gone. As usual, the Town Hall was open for guided tours, this time with performances in the Borough Court by students from Joseph Priestley College.

One change this year- one of the police station cells has traditionally been visited as part of the tour. However, it seems that some IT racks have taken prime position in the untouched cell, so we had to look into the others which have generally been shelved out but retain their toilets.

We also had a trip to the "people's Museum" in manchester, a sort of Socialist Museum housed in a former pumphouse for the Manchester Hydraulic Company. I knew there had been a London one but Manchester having its own 1000psi network with 35 miles of piping in the City Centre was news to me. It continued to run until 1972 and provided power in its time to wind the Town Hall Clock and lift the Opera House Safety Curtain.

How was I aware of the London one? They had a ready-made set of ducts in the Capital for Telecommunications services and Mercury purchased their assets at some stage. Something similar happened in manchester and Cable & Wireless now use the ducting.

1000 pounds per square inch sounds a scary amount of pressure- you could wash away walls with a leak and apparently a burst main squirted higher than the Manchester Exchange. There isn't too much to see of the legacy in the pumphouse now but worth a visit if you are into banners and communist propaganda. One of the six original pumps was saved by the Science Museum and you can see a picture of it here.

The Museum of Transportwas running heritage buses to & from the two venues which is how we latched onto the Pumphouse tour. If you are interested in buses, the transport museum is a must- if you are a normal sort with a slight passing interest it is worth 45 minutes...

I've decided that bus spotters are a bit like train spotters, us men can get obsessive about anything mechanical! (I'm an entertainment technology spotter & proud of it...

Monday, September 04, 2006

The great Rock & Roll swindle

More than a year ago, I commented on being caught out by "Top of the Poppers" albums at ASDA.

This weekend, I noticed some £6 5 volume sets, two for a Tenner. One, celebrating the last 40 years appeared to be genuine original tracks. However, on playing, I discovered they aren't, or at least some of them aren't. I realised by song three, it took the Boss another couple of songs to agree with me.

At first, I thought I'd been suckered by some weasel words that I had missed, but there aren't any on the box or sleeves.

What to do? The happy to help people are keen to satisfy but this is really a problem with their buyers back in Leeds. They might not even realise that the mighty Wal*Mart empire has been suckered.

Getting my money back wouldn't really hit the spot, it is a passable collection but it is also passing off and a lot of these artists wouldn't like the impersonations that frequently sound like them on an off day, with not quite as good instruments and playing.

They say don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but it wasn't a gift so I have a right to be slightly disgruntled.

I wonder if trading standards would be interested, or perhaps ASCAP, whose logo appears on the box as confirming duly licensed?

Come to think of it, why has a European Distributor licensed the music via ASCAP? Is there not a ESCAP?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Him indoors...

Gizmo, our Abyssinian Guinea Pig, now lives inside the house after concerns as to his quality of life in an outside hutch over winter escalated after rather a lot of rain & no chance to put him in his run.

In order to accommodate a decent sized indoor cage (1m x 0.5m x0.47m) we had to make some room and we decided to move a small bookcase and replace with shelves. A look in the Ikea catalogue came up with something that would suit the bill (particularly wide and reasonably deep shelves) but when we went on our Pilgrimage to the nearbyTemple of Swedish Furniture, we were disappointed to find that the particular product was not on show and had disappeared from the catalogue. After looking at most of the displays in the showroom/maze, we eventually found a shelving system in the bedroom area that was passable, if somewhat over the top.

Armed with Ikea pencil, tape measure and store guide/picking list, we duly noted where the components were in the enormous warehouse (it is on the price tickets) and continued around the maze towards the checkouts. The four components we required were located in three seperate aisles and on loading up out trolley, Karen happened to notice that some component parts for the actual system we wanted were on some of the shelves. I had noticed a "where is it" screen near the warehouse entrance so we went back to it and typed in "Journalist". Rather than give us locations, it advised us it was all in the Full serve Warehouse next door. We noted down the parts we wanted and went to the information point. As the one person helping appeared to be dealing with the query from hell, I went and found someone else near the tills at a helpdesk who explained that the info point couldn't actually initiate full serve orders and neither could he. However, he could check stock levels and all of the Journalist range was available apart from one shelf size which wasn't the one we were after. We then had to trudge back into the main showroom area in order to find someone in the correct area to initiate an order. (Fortunately, there is a short-cut from the warehouse to the entrance otherwise it is a mile of contraflow). We then discovered that the one item out of stock was actually the uprights, the helpdesk man had read the screen wrong!

By this time, David was getting a bit fed up and we decided to knock it on the head, pausing only to get one of their legendary last chance Cafe hot dogs that David always asks nicely for when we go to Ikea (The Exit Bistro, they call it). They are very cheap- £1 gets you a large one and a soft drink, free refills and you get to put on your own Ketchup or Mustard.

Interestingly, the main Cafe is now absolutely enormous, easily the size of Morley Town Hall Alexandra Hall. The trouble is, you wouldn't really want to go there just to eat; the Junction 27 area is gridlock city at weekends and just getting parked and though the massive store is stressful at any time of day or evening.

Anyway, we got some traditional wall adjustable shelving from B & Q and after a bit of DIY Gizmo now has a new home, as does the clutter that preceded him.