Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Reversal of Fortunes

Any regular readers, or my followers on Twitter, or Facebook, may well have noticed that I’ve not been entirely active of late.

Hardly published anything – or tweeted- or anything else for that matter.

You may be wondering why.

Well here goes …

The school which I’m Head of – a special school for children with severe learning difficulties – was alerted that we were about to receive an OFSTED inspection. Not unexpected – a little earlier than we would have liked – but nothing we shouldn’t have been able to handle.

Except we didn’t – we fell foul of what in OFSTED speak is called a limiting judgement – certain areas of the inspection don’t just impact on that particular section – but on lots of other areas too – and to cut a long story short we ended up being served with “A notice to improve” – basically this means that you have 8 months in which to sort things out in.

Trouble is, this is not a good thing for a school, or for a Headteacher. It’s not good either for a local authority – and my particular local authority have quite a tough stance – if a school enters a “category” – then they generally expect a change of leadership. A bit like a football team missing out on a trophy really.

So a few weeks on, and here I sit, having resigned my position, and having had my life turned upside down.

Devastated ? It doesn’t even come close.

Now I could wax lyrical about the unfairness of the OFSTED system, about how I’ve been mistreated by my authority. I won’t though – I was sure that I wouldn’t make mileage out of my position in school before this happened – and I’m not going to start now. Suffice to say I feel at a very low ebb, and more than a little embarrassed at having to tell people what’s happened.

It’s been a year of incredible ups down for me – a year in which I met the Prime Minister, in which I had cabinet ministers reading my blog, a year in which only a few weeks ago I chatted with Education Secretary Ed Balls at a reception for successful Headteachers on the House of  Commons terrace. Now he’s not Education secretary – and I’m not, for the moment, a successful Headteacher.

So what for the future ?

Well I start again – I look for another job. I have no  millions to fall back on like David Laws, nor have I reached any substantial pay off agreement like Rafa Benitez.

I do have optimism though, and I’m not downhearted about the future. I know that I’ve delivered some excellence to my schools, and my pupils in the past, and I know that I’ll achieve good things in the future.

Perhaps this might be the opportunity for me to make that change of career that I never would have made – maybe I’ll get into politics after all – who knows ?

In the mean time if anyone knows of any jobs that need doing – I’m your man !

June 17, 2010 Posted by | education, Family | | 20 Comments

Safe & Secure

Headteachers are always REALLY busy right ?

So how am I getting time to blog in the middle of the day ?

Well I shouldn’t have. Today I’ve been catching up with stuff that’s been building up for a while (no change there), and decided that it would be a good idea to visit the OFSTED website to do some updating on our School Self Evaluation Form – or SEF as it’s known to those of us in the trade. For the uninitiated, the SEF is the single most important form that schools ever complete – the quality of the information put in this form to a large extent determines the outcome of the school’s OFSTED inspection.

I have a problem though – we’ve had a new server installed, and my browser’s forgotten my password. No problem it’s on a sticker my wall (digest that snippet – I’ll come back to it).

Yes problem – my wall’s been redecorated. Foiled again. So I ring the enquiries number at OFSTED, and am connected almost instantly with a polite young man who asks me my school’s OFSTED number. I’m prepared and quickly trot out – my school’s DCSF number – wrong !  It’s not that, but he can probably find it from the school name and that number, and taps industriously at a keyboard in the background.

“Oh, I say – is that the number that is our user name ?” (We’re not allowed real “names” as user names – we have nice easy to remember six figure numbers. Which actually I can remember, and relate to the polite young man.

After a few seconds more industrious tapping, the polite young man informs me that I’m correct. That is my username, and my OFSTED Unit reference number.

A brief uneasy silence.

“Well can you email me my password  ?”

“Well you’ll need to email the ‘enquiries’ team  to request it”

“Why ? Can’t you send it to me ?”    “No – I don’t have access to confidential passwords”

“Can you connect me with someone who does ?”   “No – passwords can only be sent out in response to an email”

This does make me wonder why he bothered checking my Unit Reference number on the computer, but I say nothing.

He continues “It’s a security process to make sure no one has access to the sensitive data on your SEF”

Data which is so sensitive that every member of staff has a copy, and the Governing Body, and other key stakeholders in the local authority. That is – it’s not that sensitive really.

Bear in mind also that I’m not asking for him to tell me the password. I’m asking him to email it to the headteacher of the school (me) at the registered address (which is in the standard  format that most UK schools adopt).

Nothing doing, so I go off to send my email, and await my password, which will be a random selection of upper and lower case letters, deliberately made difficult to remember. This is to make it secure – so that no one else can log in on my account. So secure that the only way I can remember it is to write it down, and put it on a Post It somewhere where I’ll remember to look. So no one else could possibly discover it.

Unless they looked on my office wall.

Somewhat frustrated I send my mail, then pop in to our general office. I find our Admin Officer on the phone to the Doctors Surgery. We have a problem. One of our pupils, a patient at the surgery has been taken to hospital and we can’t contact his parents. The hospital need to know medication details. Our Admin officer explains the case, and that we are aware of confidentiality issues – but would there be any way in which the young person’s GP could contact the hospital to discuss his medication.

“Oh no he’s too busy – tell you what I’ll just fax the details across !”  And so she does. Doesn’t ask which school we are. Doesn’t ask for any ID or perform any kind of ring back or authentication procedure. Certainly doesn’t ask for a Unit Reference number or a password. Just faxes the confidential medical data of one of our pupils to the school.

I return to my office, and check my email. There’s no reply from OFSTED. I’m not going to be able to do anything on our SEF today.

I decide to have a lunch break instead. And do a blog.

Is it just me ?

September 25, 2009 Posted by | education, idle banter | , , | Leave a comment


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