Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Like Nam - the food, the choppers

More a case of not a Goodnight Saigon last night. After a first - and very favourable - experience of Vietnamese food at Pho at Trinity Centre in Leeds yesterday evening (Ok, but I've only got myself to blame for the bird's eye chili overload - they give you a whole bunch of herbs and fruit to add to the noodle soup...), returned home and went to bed, only to be wakened in the wee smalls by the West Yorkshire law enforcement community's helicopter hovering near my house. In the cold and wet light of today, work, thought, even breathing, seem to involve wading through treacle. Two lessons this afternoon; hope there aren't any flashbacks.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Superfast broadband in Bucharest

Had to call Microsoft for help earlier today. The month-long Word trial on my new laptop had ended and the download of the paid for version wouldn't work. Not even our resident 15-year-old IT wizz could get it to load, so I called the 0800 number and found myself talking to Adrian, who, by the wonders of 'remote-working' sorted the problem and waited with me while my UK-based service provider's broadband took an age to download the correct version. While we waited, I correctly guessed that Adrian's accent was Balkan, then narrowed it down to Romania. This seemed to impress him and he then commented on our respective broadband speeds - 'theirs' is much faster and more reliable than 'ours', apparently. So, taken with emergent xenophobia and UKIP-inspired hostility, efficient and fast broadband provides another reason for 'them' to stay 'there'. 'They' can do 'our' IT jobs from the comfort of home.

School governor shortage - now how could that have happened?

According to the charity Governors for Schools up to one in 10 governor posts remain unfilled, a figure that rises to one in four for schools in rural or deprived areas. As a governor of over 12 years' experience, I can think of a number of reasons for this. The business of governance is time-consuming. Hours spent in committees and sub-committees, talking to teachers and administrative staff, attending courses and conferences, getting ready for Ofsted (and the box ticking and form filling that entails) calls for a high level of dedication. And that's before we consider the plethora of - often contradictory and ill-thought through 'initiatives', policy documents and guidance notes that issue forth from the DfE. Mr Gove's fiefdom has also added to the burden by now choosing to scapegoat governors in underperforming schools; academization (which I'm not sure is even a proper word) beckons for those deemed to have failed. But, then again, he's also on record as stating that many governors are only in it for the kudos. Twelve years in and I've yet to find any, but then again, I'm probably too busy being responsible for child protection and safeguarding and sitting on the finance committee to be that concerned about the honour of being there. Then again, I might just be looking for glory in the wrong place. Making sure my school provides the best possible education for its 420 pupils and makes the most of its 50-odd dedicated teachers, teaching assistants, administrative, catering and caretaking staff - and provides them with a caring and committed place of work that can continue the tradition of education that started in 1869 and has continued unbroken, with a surprising short list of head teachers ever since. That's success - and what makes governorship worthwhile.

Handelsbanken - a boutique, not a casino

The Beeb's love-in with Handelsbanken, a Swedish bank famous for bucking the rip-offs and PR disasters so prevalent in other commercial banking operations. While highlighting Handelsbanken's disdain for casino banking, the article doesn't mention its cherry-picking tendencies. In the wake of the Co-operative Bank scandal, I was looking for an ethical banking alternative that didn't look like it would sell out on its core principles anytime soon and called what I thought was my local Handelsbanken branch. But when asked for my post code, I was then told they couldn't help me because my house wasn't visible from the top of their - imaginary - 'church steeple', and was instead referred to another branch, situated on a rather soulless trading estate, that was within view of my house to an imaginary steeple-climbing bank manager. Just one problem, I wanted free banking, but that only comes at a price with Handelsbanken. Each manager sets their own rules, and, no doubt fresh from his pretend steeplejacking activities, the manager of the local branch had decided 'free banking' only applied to those keeping £85K in their current account. Should such mythical creatures exist, they know which steeple to climb.