I was around when Ofsted was invented. As part of the training, we had a presentation from a head who had undergone a trial Ofsted. ‘Trial’ was an accurate description of his experience. It sounded terrible. ‘Do I really want to be part of this?’ I asked myself. In the end, I decided perhaps I might manage it with some humanity and compassion – which seemed to be missing from the account we heard. In those days schools got months of notice, which led to considerable energy being expended to get all their paperwork in order – and led to a wonderful comment by a headteacher prepared to take control of the situation: ‘We will put on our best coat for Ofsted; we are not buying a new one’. It may sound like a cliche, but it really was a huge privilege to be allowed into schools and celebrate the good work that was going on – and highlight where it wasn’t. I worked with some dedicated colleagues who were determined to do their best for the school.
‘Bother’, I thought; ‘I can’t see how to open this to check the fuse.’ The 4-way adapter had died. The on-light was not illuminated, so I wanted to open it and check the internal fuse. No time at the moment. I left it 2 days. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t mend itself. ‘ A trip to Argos’, then, I thought, mildly irritated. Then, ‘Hang on’, I said to myself; ‘what about changing the fuse in the plug?’ Hey presto! It worked and I have to confess I felt rather smug at having saved myself time and money by replacing the fuse in the plug (time 2 seconds; money: approx. 10p) rather than walking (happily, I can) to Argos (time 15 minutes; money about £15.00).
That got me thinking. How often do we as leaders miss the obvious cost-effective solution? This week I’ve been looking again at my research on emotional resilience for school leadership. Why emotional resilience? Because managing our emotions is ultimately what allows us to continue without being overwhelmed.
Have you heard about the Spanish athlete who gave up his chance to win a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre? He was running second as the athletes entered the finishing straight, when he saw the Kenyan runner Abel Mutai (3,000 meter gold medallist at the London Olympics) mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line. Not being a Spanish speaker, he didn’t understand the shouts from spectators to keep going.
It’s almost impossible not to be aware of the questions being asked by the media at the moment concerning the behaviour of Jimmy Savile. We wonder why those in a position to do so didn’t challenge him. I am reminded again of the issue of the interaction of power and responsibility. There are many manifestations of power: it may come from celebrity status; physical strength; force of personality; authority associated with leadership. Power is a gift from those who accord it to us; we should use it wisely and judiciously for their benefit.
It just goes to show
‘Don’t talk to strangers’
Like many of us, this is something that was drummed into me as a child. As my own children were growing up, there was a book which went the rounds, entitled Just Say No, which came out of the book case regularly to reinforce the message.
My mother also used to say that adversity brings people together.