Letters Extra : What a waste of time

6th August 2004 at 01:00
Your correspondent, Head Teacher Mike Kentnbsp;(July 2, 2004) needs to take a hard look at his time management as well as his job description. Not many heads these days can spend a pleasant half-hour setting up the new printer for the library computer. Such tasks are usually more efficiently undertaken by the ICT technician, or if such a person is not in post, by a suitably qualified Office Junior.

Not content with wasting time on such a low level task, because the morning was young, Mike takes it upon himself to phone the manufacturer to ask for a printer driver to be posted to him. Picture the scene: Head Teacher on pound;50K+ per annum, sitting there listening to a recorded voice offering him a variety of options. Needless to say, by the time the last option is played he's lost the plot.

Oblivious to the Primary Strategy agenda or any other pressing DfES issue, Our Hero decides to have another go. This eventually puts him in contact with a Scottish lass with whom he has an altercation about the Eine Kleine recorded musak. With time ticking away before assembly, Mike is asked to provide the serial and model numbers - something your average 'techie' would already have written on the sleeve of her shirt.

Then comes the moment every telephone support officer dreads: can you hang on until I nip down to the Library to find it. Meanwhile, organised callers all over the region are getting an engaged tone as they seek information about a genuine problem.

Surprise, surprise, Mike eventually decides to download the information about the printer driver from the Internet - an obvious solution he should have taken up at the outset.

Twenty years ago, when I was conducting research on 'What head teachers actually do all day' I noted that many heads became conditioned to giving priority to 'live' rather than 'delayed' needs, and that this in turn led to an inclination to respond to 'real time stimuli' in preference to important systematic work concerned with the future. As far as Mike Kent is concerned, not much has changed.
Ciaran Clerkin
Head Teacher
Selwyn Primary School
London

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