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...

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