Sunday, 26 July 2015

Do You Have a Change Agenda?


At a large hospital in the centre of London, during the Second World War, the powers that be decided that they would seek ways of reducing the cost of fuel associated with bringing staff to and from work.  As well, bombing raids during the war made public transport both hazardous and unreliable.  It was decided that the staff would be encouraged to ride bicycles to work.  To monitor the effectiveness of this plan, a Bicycle Book was established in the Porter’s Lodge at the entrance to the hospital.  The number of bicycles and who was riding the machine were recorded.

In 1975, during a routine efficiency audit, the specialists conducting the assessment chanced upon the Porter’s Lodge and began an inventory of all that went on there.  The Bicycle Book emerged in the look see and the auditor asked about the book and its contents.  It was explained that the book contained details of anyone who rode a bicycle through the hospital gates.  When asked what happened to the information, the Porter proudly announced, “Nothing, Sir.  It’s just always been done that way.  My father’s father was Porter here during the war, and we have carefully kept up the tradition.  Every bicycle ridden through these gates since 1942 has been faithfully recorded.”

Like any good Talmudic parable, it’s best not to comment on the story.

I can’t imagine working in a boarding program where I didn’t have a change agenda and a couple on the back burner.

(The story came from Edward de Bono in the 80s.)

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Flight Zone - from Lights Out

Queensland graziers have been advocating that stockmen should understand and respect the ‘flight zone’ of cattle when close to the herd or moving a mob of cattle.  They suggest that there is  valuable saving to both cattleman and beast if cattle are moved from place to place slowly and quietly without stress.  Whip cracking and shouting to move cattle from one place to another should be replaced by a quieter and more relaxed form of management.  The Queensland graziers believe the results have been noticeable that animals seem less anxious and cattle go forward in better condition!

The Queensland graziers explain that at times you have to get close or inside the ‘flight zone’ to shift cattle however the majority of contact with the animals can be made from a distance, respecting the animal’s private space.

The team responsible for the management and care of school boarders can gain knowledge from this practical example of controlling live stock.  If the supervision of boarders by staff is erratic and without the appreciation that boarders need a good deal of  ‘space’  it will create a negative response by the students and an unsettled atmosphere in boarding houses.  Boarders will feel much more secure and comfortable  if they know boarding staff are taking care of them and maintaining a  keen interest in their development from a sensitive distance.  Boarders do not need staff who are absent from their watch for  long periods of time and then suddenly penetrate their ‘flight zone’ when things become unsettled. 

A consistent living environment and they thrive and routine provides the opportunity for a boarder to thrive.  Residentail students will feel comfortable if they are constantly supported by well trained, friendly  boarding staff who can be relied upon twenty - four hours a day.  Boarders who are left without stable supervision will develop less consistent standards of behaviour (especially over weekends) and will react poorly to supervisors who are not reliable.  I have noticed cattle reacting in the same way.   Cattle that are isolated for months on end without human contact that suddenly have horses, bikes and dogs racing around them will take fright and behave badly.

Boarders benefit from a boarding program that is carefully designed and well organised.  Organisation and discipline should be clearly understood by the boarders and administered by competent staff.  Decades ago boarders suffered largely under the control of inexperienced senior students who had permission to discipline younger boarders.  Boarding staff were also quick to revert to corporal punishment for incidents viewed today as minor matters! The atmosphere and environment in boarding houses often lacked trust and security between boarders and staff.

Today  the well-being of all boarders can be achieved in a quieter more relaxed and caring environment.  Certainly there are times when staff have to make urgent corrections to an adolescent’s behaviour and intervene their ‘flight zone’,  however most boarders will grow and develop in a caring and supportive environment where there is no sign of panic, raised voices or severe punishment!

Boarders today live in a relationship of friendship with peers of their own age and fellow boarders older and younger.  Respect for senior students is earned by the leader by their performance as a fair and supportive role model, not gained through fear.   Boarders will thrive in a secure, well organised and compassionate environment. 

If the correct atmosphere prevails in boarding houses  boarders will respect the boarding staff and also display respect for fellow boarder’s privacy and space.   The allegiance of staff and boarders will be based upon  co-operation and trust. If boarders living in the boarding community feel comfortable they will treat their fellow boarders with admiration and help each other to cope with the many physical and emotional demands of teenage years. They will also have confidence in the boarding house management team.

I have no idea how cattle think but if cattle are approached with respect and have more time to understand what a stockman is trying to do with them they may do what the stockman wants then to do!  Good communication and timing by House supervisors are also paramount in giving boarders the chance of  comprehending and understanding daily routine. Early and regular information from House staff regarding boarding house rules, personal expectations of behaviour and performance will  provide boarders with greater opportunity to do the right thing.  Boarding House staff must give the boarders plenty of notice regarding their responsibilities by meeting with them daily and displaying news of coming events on notice boards and internet portals well in advance of deadlines.  If boarding supervisors do detect problems with an individual they should discuss the matter with the boarder and seek as much specialist help as is available. If everyone has a clear understanding of what is happening on campus the boarding community will be more relaxed, comfortable and it will result in a more successful place.

The administration and organisation of a boarding house is not rocket science. It can be compared to the needs of a family unit.  All groups need a sympathetic understanding by their managers and an understanding every child have their own God given talents. It is the responsibility of carers to discover those talents and allow the individual to shine in the community by being able to demonstrate those talents providing the individual with self esteem and confidence. 

Boarding house supervisors must be attentive at all times yet not be too obtrusive. There are no short cuts when caring for boarders especially in regard to the time and interest that must be devoted to their care. The flight zone must be kept on the radar at all times but not always penetrated!

David L Anderson
Shore School

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

How Many Staff are Needed?

Andrew Knott Special Counsel Tresscox Lawyers 

We have been requested to make some comments in relation to the issue, understandably of concern to both decision-making staff and implementing staff, of how many staff need to be on duty in different situations. Unfortunately, this question, as with the meaning in particular circumstances of ‘what is reasonable’, cannot be answered with great precision, but there are a number of things we can say which may be of assistance. 
First, in applying the general duty of care it is important to remember that it is about taking the steps that are reasonable to minimise the risk of foreseeable injury. In determining what is appropriate, one looks at a vast range of issues such as the details of the situation, risk factors, the age, maturity, and behaviour patterns of the students in question, the resources that are available, and balancing the two considerations of risk minimisation and giving students, particularly as they become older, the opportunity to accept responsibility for themselves (in a manner consistent with the duty of care being implemented). From the supervisor’s perspective, there is a need to consider what resources should be made available. This can be a difficult decision to make in the context of the operation of a boarding house, but if the supervising decision- maker feels that the resources are in- adequate, there will clearly be a duty to alert the management to whom the supervisor reports so that the matter can be reviewed. Similarly, staff at the ‘pointy end’ who are implementing the relevant supervision should raise with their supervisor or with management concerns that they have. The provi- sion of information, when there may be unacceptable risks, is an obvious duty which can be discharged with minimum time and effort but may have significant impact. 
Secondly, consultation and collegiate decision-making can produce (and demonstrate) careful, informed out- comes. 
Thirdly, there are a number of contexts in which there may be specific provisions. For example, there may be provisions in relation to transport regarding maximum number of persons who can be in a vehicle (which goes to staff/student ratio as, if a second vehicle is needed, for that reason then obviously a second staff member is needed to be in the second vehicle). Workplace health and safety legislation, particularly codes of practice, may have some specific requirements which are imposed by law. That is a matter which will vary across jurisdictions. Fire and emergency laws may be relevant. Sporting association protocols may assist. 
In many States and Territories, there already exist mandated standards. These should be examined, not only to ascertain whether numbers are included, but as to whether the mandated standards are relevant to assessing what staff ratio is appropriate. Simi- 
larly, the draft boarding standard (accessible on the ABSA website) has relevant principles, such as 3.4(e) relating to the need for ‘an accredited and capable person available at all times who can administer and manage’ certain medical issues. 
Finally, (and somewhat sadly), numbers are sometimes recommended by Coroners in inquests resulting out of tragic situations, such as drownings in pools or on excursions. 

It is important in such situations to err on the side of caution and to be part of ‘the mainstream’. Conversations with peers in other boarding schools or at conferences of boarding school staff and discussion within the school boarding house are all of assistance in developing approaches which will be supportable in the event of criticism in that the person who has made a decision about numbers can show that they have considered the issues, and consulted appropriately, and that their general approach is consistent with that of the boarding school community generally.