True grit required in Blair's Britain

16th January 2004 at 00:00
The minute I stepped off the plane I clashed with the United States. A nightmarish journey culminated in an emergency landing in Goose Bay and subsequently missing our connecting flight. To be held at passport control by form filling was just too much. I let fly at the airport staff as they once more pointed out an incorrectly completed section.

Everywhere we went on our holiday we seemed to meet unforgiving rules and regulations. No more so than at the Florida theme parks where my "borderline" son's height was measured to the millimetre. Rules, regulations and rigmarole which disarm the use of judgment.

So I was looking forward to getting home to a little disorder and latitude.

That was until I received guidance on gritting our playground. Now it seems quite simple to me. You see some ice, you put down some grit. Sorted. But not quite. According to new guidance on my desk, there is just a little more skill to gritting a playground than that. To begin with, there is the risk assessment, done, of course, before the onset of ice. With my site supervisor I should have assessed the risk, presumably on my return in September some time in between target-setting, open evenings and governors'

meetings. Following this, I should have notified parents of the gritted routes to take and might even consider placing signs to indicate the exact position of the gritted pathway.

And as to the car park? The area where staff skate between their car doors and the school's entrance with piles of books, carrier bags, plants and fish tanks? Apparently this area should be left for skaters as it is simply too large to ensure adequate gritting. Very popular I'll be too with local supply staff as we find winter absence escalating not only through viral infections and exhaustion but broken bones and bruised buttocks. I have picked on gritting, but it could have been any of a growing number of areas of school life that seem to suddenly require the most lengthy of processes for any change or decision to be made.

If only the Department for Education and Skills had found it necessary to construct sufficient obstacles for the implementation of some of their innovations - many of which have arrived at break-neck speed with little to no consultation, and all packed in mini-briefcase presentation packs. Then I might have had time to do a few of these risk assessments. Failing that, I suppose I'll just have to grit my teeth and Blair it.

Suzanne Brown is head of Queens' C of E junior school in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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