First came Ciara, and then Dennis: violent and intemperate behaviour from both. But is it any wonder they behave like this when their backgrounds have been so unstable? Outbursts, like Ciara’s are only supposed to hit once a decade, but we get two in a month.
We need to deal with the underlying causes, not just the symptoms, if we are to see less of this. On 11th Feb I gave a talk on Energy management: the low hanging fruit, to 55 estate managers from independent schools at their annual conference at the very lovely BMA House in Tavistock Square, London. Having relayed some lowlights from the dire state we are in globally with regard to the climate crisis, and bigged up the UK as a nation that has done more than most to start making change, I talked about three practical steps that schools could take to reduce carbon emissions:
ONE: change your lighting. Get it redesigned so that it’s (jargon alert) fit for purpose. Old fashioned lighting has a really negative effect not just on children’s wellbeing, but on their attitudes to learning. It’s amazing how much poor quality lighting still exists. 70% of the schools estate in the UK has still not been upgraded to the most effective and efficient lighting. Go to the right company (I advise a market leader, eLight.com) and they should conduct an audit of the school within weeks of your initial meeting, design the updated solution, install this at the next appropriate junction point in the school year (usually half term or main holidays) provide Light as a Service (very like the way you pay for software, or music these days), so that you pay a monthly figure, have no upfront capital cost, don’t lease anything, and are guaranteed you’ll see a saving in costs from Month 1 (they’ll be keen to prove this to you). I know what you’re thinking: why are you working with a lighting company, when you’ve spent your whole career in schools or in businesses that support schools? Well, I asked myself that, too. I think I’ve a knack for spotting opportunity (or, as others might say, risky behaviour). I once sat next to someone at a conference and was so impressed with her that I asked if she would like to become a governor of my school. Another time, I had lunch with someone and was so taken with what she had done in her company that I asked her if she might become a non-executive director of The Key. Both appointments, once I had secured the agreement of the chair of the boards, worked out brilliantly,. So, I took a similar opportunity when I met eLight CEO Harvey Sinclair and realised that we could help schools deal with three critical issues: reduce spending, reduce carbon, and increase learning.
TWO: redesign your transport solution; renegotiate the contract with your coach/bus company (use a management company such as CoachHire.com to do this for you) so that they are giving you the right size bus and using the most efficient routes; install geo-fencing on your vehicles so that you always know where they are, get children to swipe on and swipe off using a personal card, provide parents and carers with an app that tells them exactly where a bus is, where their child is and whether they are on or off the bus. Persuade, or force, parents to use buses rather than their own cars. One 49-seater is the equivalent of 36 cars, when you’ve averaged out the typical number of children in each car. That’s a lot of cars that could be taken out of the rush hour traffic. Take them off the road, before they’re forced off anyway by government (or local government) dictat.
THREE: install solar panels. I know the government subsidies no longer exist, but it has got to be the right thing to do, especially when you can store excess energy in a decent battery (Tesla make the best, if most expensive). You can put a display in the hall for children to study and track over time. You very much want them to be engaged in your approach to renewables. Ashley Road primary school in Walton-on-Thames is well on the way to being carbon neutral as a result of the action it has taken.
And the next day I spoke to headteachers on the NPQEL (surely you know? National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership) course, those thinking about stepping up to become executive heads or CEOs of academy trusts. My subject? Working with a board of directors. I hope I convinced them that being a CEO is usually a very different proposition from being a headteacher, and requires a different mix of ingredients in terms of skills that need to be developed. Scanning one’s environment and managing stakeholders is all gobbledegook to many people, but it’s pretty core to leading a more complex organisation. Having been a headteacher for a good number of years, been CEO of The Key and now having been chair of an academy trust for several years, I was able to share quite a few stories. So I started by swearing everyone to secrecy. It turned out to be an enjoyable session, where people were sharing a lot about their challenges.
And now, time for half term, when life might calm for a while. Enjoy.