Blimage! FlORRed! – Educational patience, self-control and perseverance…..

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What does this blimage conjour up?

During the first two weeks so far of my holidays I’ve been dealing with this image. It isn’t the typical blimage posted by someone else for me to comment upon. It’s my own, taken in school in one of several classrooms presenting with this issue.

I’m two years in post now and have faced many different and exciting challenges from lots of new children, parents staff, new governors, OFSOD and buildings. For me the blimage does very well to sum up some of these challenges.

Having been built in the late 60s, our split site school was constructed using Cleveland shale which was quite common in that particular area. Shale is fine as long as it doesn’t get wet. Once we it will oxidise and expand. Yes, we have several classroom floors that presented with cracks. Electrical cables housed within conduits are embedded in the top 125mm of screed. Every crack in the floor matches the path of each of these conduits. The blimage shows one classroom where the top layer of screed has been removed to reveal a spaghetti junction of conduits in the floor. The dust has been unbelievable.

My patience, self-control and perseverance has been well and truly tested over the last three weeks.

The cracks in the floor could be seen to represent issues that have previously been ignored and not addressed, but now they have been raised by myself we cannot put them on the back burner any longer. Cracks appear when change happens and this is inevitable when you have a change of leadership in any establishment.

During the first year in post you often spend time getting to know how a school ticks; how staff work; how things happen and how things have always happened. How things have always happened is generally the crunch moment when presenting ideas for change.

It’s as though change falls into three categories:-
1. Change beyond your control – statutory implementations etc…
2. Change within your control
3. Change that new leadership infuses into a school

The cracks in the floors have appeared as change has taken place. Some of that change has been necessary and some of it because it has almost been forced upon us with curriculum and assessment changes being top of most school’s lists.
The third change comes when you’ve got to know how a school ticks and feel it does need to move on and move forward for lots of reasons. A main reason that can often arise is a school staying in a time warp and everything else around it moves on a rate of knots.

Several ways of working did appear to be very archaic to me – I thought QCA units of work disappeared from most schools over a decade ago. I had travelled back in time and needed to get back to the future.

Changes over the past year have taken place. Those to improve leadership including governance; changes to improve achievement, to improve teaching and learning as well as ensuring behaviour and safety are the best they can possibly be.

It encouraging and reassuring following an OFSOD inspection to read the following opening line.

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Equally an eye opener to see the previous inspection judgement which was 7 years prior to the current one. There isn’t any way the two judgements can be compared to each other.

The conduits in the floor causing the cracks could be seen to represent the barriers to change. These conduits in the blimage carry the electricity. People, systems, routines etc… can be the electricity of a school to keep is buzzing and energised. We are having these cables removed, rerouted in a different direction in order to keep the school energised. As a staff population changes through career changes and retirement, we too change the direction in which a school is travelling.

I mentioned my patience and self-control being tested at the start. Surveys and tests have been carried out in the structural side of the school. These have consumed my time, especially during the last part of the term. It has been a challenge to remain patient and maintain my self-control.

Somethings have been beyond my control and the OCD in me finds that hard. Building contractors have changed and reports have been circulated stating what may happen if results come back saying one thing etc… It all seemed very up in the air.

It’s not easy when you have so many unanswered questions telling staff what is happening.

However, the staff team have known as much as I have which has helped in preventing speculation and people twittering in the background. Staff and kids have been brilliant. 50% of the school classrooms have seen massive change. Staff have uprooted their classrooms in order for workmen to pull up carpets, assess what needs to be done as well packing everything into teacrates. They have also done this in the knowledge that school is a designated building site and they won’t have access until our INSET day first day back. This is a tall order to ask of anyone and I am privileged to work with such a team of staff who have ‘got on with things’ because it will be worth it.

It has taken the first two weeks of my holidays to arrive at an agreed plan of action for the floors which should have been determined prior to school breaking up. It is a relief to know the foundations of the school stand firm and the concrete isn’t cracked. It’s only the screed where stresses have been placed through the conduits.

A school’s team has solid foundations showing strong leadership. Leadership that removes the ‘cables’ from the ‘conduits’ and redirects them so that the school moves forward.
Have the conduits restrained the cables which perhaps accounts for the desire to break away and cause cracking?

New ‘cables’ join the staff team next month and will add great value to the school. They will not be contained in conduit!

As for the floors – they will be repaired, new carpets laid, deep clean throughout both sites so that when we return we can get on with the core purpose of our job. Teaching.

We take time during the holidays to recover, recoup and recharge. It’s a quality job and not simply plastering over the cracks or covering things up.

The staff and school will both have been given quality time to recover, recoup and recharge.

Strong foundations cannot be damaged. The strength in the materials that secures the foundations supports the conduits and enables them to do their work for the benefit of the school.

A situation like this in a school could well and truly have certain staff flORRed – yes, pun intended.

Without the ORRsome backing and support from governors, premises staff team as well as the rest of the staff working in school, I could have been exactly that – flORRed by what to do.

I’ve been patient and we now have strong plans for moving forward as well as an incredibly strong team of staff.
I’ve maintained my self-control by ensuring everyone has been in the know.
I have persevered to ensure our children deserve the best we can possibly give them.

There is still more to come. I’m a great believer that shy bairns get nowt.

I can now relax, knowing the premises team of staff remaining in school for the next four weeks have everything under control.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better, best!

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