I received the following e mail from a teacher in East Lothian:

“As I’ve said before, your blog is helping me make sense of the world of education. As time goes on, though, a thought is niggling me that I’d like to share with you. My guess is you’d prefer that… if I keep it brief!

I see ELC education dept as providing a service to customers. Those customers primarily include the students and their parents or guardians. One step beyond that, we also provide a service to employers, and to colleges and universities, by educating their people.

What's niggling me is that the world of head of education doesn’t seem to involve much interaction with those groups – yet in that role you’re the one responsible for satisfying the customers… something of a paradox. In case I was imagining this, I’ve done a rough trawl through the blog – attached – and highlighted green the “customer” meetings, yellow the “other” meetings. I make it about 117 others, yet only 6 customers.

By way of a sanity check, I’ve looked for a “second opinion”. In Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” he notes, “…the higher the position of the executive, the larger will the outside loom in his contribution. No one else in the organization can as a rule move freely on the outside”. The context of this extract shows he believes this matters.

You’re committed to student evaluation of learning, so I’m sure you’re enthusiastic about meeting customer needs. I know you’re working your socks off, and clearly have enough meetings on your plate already… but I wonder if there might be an opportunity here somewhere to build some new links to give students and parents in particular a voice in the higher level decision-making process? If in doing so we could improve the satisfaction of parents with our services, then we might be able to get improved support. Similarly with students (especially those less engaged) this could extend the idea of SELS into bigger areas such as ethos….”

I found this to be an intersting perspective on my work and has made me reflect upon the purpose of my job and my effectiveness to date. The figures surprised me. My only excuse is that I’m only six weeks into the job but nevertheless, it has challenged me to give more thought as to how I use my time. On the other hand I’m not sure if it should all be down to me – as this only serves to reinforce the idea that control of the organisation is in the hands of the people at the top. Certainly we are ultimately accountable but I’d like to challenge the notion that nothing can happen unless it is being driven from the top. Perhaps we can create a different culture in East Lothian?

Anyway – I’m grateful for the feedback and without the weblog I’d have been blissfully inoocent of the potential imbalance in my work.