It’s that time of year when the consequences of trying to deliver our service within the available budget require difficult decisions to be made.
Maybe I’m just kidding myself but I still believe passionately in the value of education, that teaching and learning is at the core of what we do, and that caring for kids comes first, last and always. Yet the responsibilities of the job mean that people see me as the person who applies formulae and budget limits without reference to the needs of their particular school. “Surely he can’t care about kids if he’s not going to give us x”.
I received a letter from a teacher this week which kind of encapsulated this when the teacher described how they were going to withdraw from all authority work because of the efficiency savings we are implementing. The argument basically ran along the lines that my integrity must be called into question if I was prepared to implement the required savings. This is a great shame because this particular teacher has a huge amount to offer their colleagues throughout the authority.
Criticism like this hurts. We all like to be popular. Nobody likes to be charicatured as the unbending bureaucrat who will implement policy without reference to people’s feelings or needs.
I try – not always successfully – to rationalise this by telling myself that my key role in such circumstances is to treat people and schools with equity and respect. We have a duty to the public to deliver a high quality service within the resources available. No one in East Lothian would pat me on the back a year from now if we had an overspend of £3 million. I’ve seen the consequences of such overspends at first hand and believe me – I’d rather suffer the slings and arrows over the managed savings we are implementing this year, than see all the gains we have made in East Lothian education over the last decade decimated by a budget crisis a year from now.