June 2018

The know zone

  • Blade runners
    A helicopter landing on the playing field is a prime learning opportunity but is mixing whirring rotors with a swarm of students really a good idea? More
  • Reducing workload
    Workload in the education profession is one of the factors that must be addressed to help retain our staff and ensure we have a happy, and health workforce. So, what are the causes of workload? What can be done to reduce it? Are you taking any steps to help reduce the workload of your staff? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Unfair shares
    Education has some of the worst instances of a gender pay gap - particularly among leaders - but the picture is less clear-cut than the figures suggest. Sara Ford unpicks the reasons. More
  • Setting the standard
    Kevin Gilmartin takes a look at the new apprenticeship standards and the newly formed body responsible for their development. More
  • Be prepared
    2018 is the most significant year of GCSE reform, with 17 new GCSEs being awarded for the first time. Suzanne O'Farrell looks at lessons learned from 2017 and answers key questions about this year's reforms. More
  • Pension myth
    Stephen Casey seeks to clarify a common misunderstanding by members about the teachers' pensions final salary scheme and the career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme. More
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A helicopter landing on the playing field is a prime learning opportunity but is mixing whirring rotors with a swarm of students really a good idea?

Blade runners

The air ambulance landed on our academy playing field 15 minutes before the lunchbreak. Rumour has it that as Health and Safety Officer, I donned my high-vis jacket, marched out to the field and accosted the pilot with the words, “Sorry, mate, you can’t treat a heart attack here if you don’t have an enhanced DBS.”

Meanwhile, in the classrooms overlooking the playing field, it was rapidly established as firm fact that there had been a catastrophic and gory incident on site involving multiple students, entirely attributable to gross staff negligence.

As usual, the truth was more prosaic.

The air ambulance was on standby to deal with a nearby incident unconnected with the academy. Our playing field is the only green space locally large enough for a safe helicopter landing. I suggested to the pilot that, as 800 students with highly curious and enquiring minds would shortly erupt from the building, it might be prudent for him to relocate his vehicle to a distant part of the field, instead of right by the playground.

Providing enrichment

The pilot embraced the opportunity to provide enrichment. “I don’t need to move”, he declared. “They can all come and look at the helicopter and find out about the work we do.”

Maybe I should have taken his card in order to follow up this offer in a planned, meticulous fashion. Short-term, the challenge of preparing a mental risk assessment in five minutes for 800 students to have orderly access to a helicopter, which might, at any moment, need to provide medical services to an injured patient or take off to deal with another emergency, defeated me.

My colleague put it more cogently. “The students will swarm,” she said.

The pilot took due warning and the helicopter flew to the rear of the field while a high-vis-jacketed cordon of senior leaders, administration, pastoral and site staff prepared to deter any over-curious students from approaching. Other SLT, pastoral and duty staff tried to carry on with lunchtime routines as normal.

As always on the (fortunately rare) occasions when an out-ofthe- ordinary emergency arises, our students distinguished themselves by their maturity, ability to follow instructions and exemplary behaviour. No one tried to dodge the cordon or access the helicopter by creeping round the back of the AstroTurf. Some gathered in the playground area to take pictures on their phones, some preferred to eat their lunch, taking advantage of the shorter than usual queues, and others enjoyed their regular game of football.

After about 10 minutes, the helicopter took off to deal with an incident elsewhere and normal service was resumed.

I added ‘helicopter wrangling’ to the list of duties covered in the all-embracing final clause of my job description and returned to my office, grateful for half an hour’s work in the fresh air on a mild, dry day and for the reminder that, in working in schools, we should always expect the unexpected.

The author is a Regional Finance Director in the South West.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.