Imagine a School Bus

school bus crash

I find when describing complex scenarios, that metaphors assist in punching home important points. I urge you to indulge me and follow along. It WILL give you context.

Imagine if you will, a school bus with a driver at the wheel. On first view, the bus is shiny and clean, with a seemingly friendly and accommodating driver offering to drive your students to their destination each day.

At face value, no significant issue is obvious. So you take the offer and load your students on board every day.

The ride seems fine so you use that bus service over and over for years.

Eventually there’s a crash and a student is hurt. Questions are asked, and you discover that the driver not only had no license, but is in fact an alcoholic and convicted violent criminal, the bus had always been unregistered and uninsured, had bald tyres and faulty brakes. That bus and that driver should never have been on the road and weren’t permitted to be offering that service, but they sold it anyway – and you bought it, mainly because you didn’t know how to check.

The first thing you’d do is pledge never to use that service again. The other thing you’d do is wonder how you ever got scammed into using that bus in the first place. The final thing you’d do is structure a procedure for checking the next bus service provider you intended to engage.

The LAST thing you’d do is say “Oh we’ve done it this way for years and we’ve never had a problem”, then continue using the same service. You just wouldn’t do that. It’s not reasonable thinking.

Remember that scenario!

As a consultant, I’ve assessed the school formal plans of many Principals and Deputies over the years. Many of them have used venues that had no license to conduct such events. Those venues had provided unqualified staff, none of whom had been through WWCC and under-qualified security personnel with no equipment. They’d sent teachers to maintain control of the event without any specific knowledge or training and had never done any kind of compliance checking on any of the inclusions involved in the package they’d sent students in to consume. They didn’t realise that any of these fundamental breaches of compliance rendered the whole event illegal and uninsured with all liability exposure falling directly at the feet of the school and its leadership.

When pointing out these shortfalls, the most common response I’ve heard is simply “Oh we’ve done it this way for years and we’ve never had a problem”.

I know I’ve sometimes stared at people with mouth open.

In context, there’s no difference between a school bus and a school formal. Both pack a group of teenagers in and take them on a journey through potentially dangerous terrain. You’d want whoever is at the wheel to be the most competent, qualified and capable for that task. You’d want to know that every possible aspect of it is checked and double checked, that it’s safe, that it’s secure and that it’s legally compliant. You’d do this because parents place the lives and happiness of their children in your hands. They trust you to deliver.

Not unlike a school bus, if a formal is unsafe and in the hands of the wrong people, two things will happen – 1/ It will crash and 2/ You will be responsible.

Am I being melodramatic? Read this whole blog series and decide for yourself.

Note: If you have never been involved with formals, and think that this scenario therefore doesn’t apply to you, then YOU more than anyone, should continue to read the other blog posts in this series. There are some surprises coming up for you.

elliot-web-logo1Continuing our focus on the series…

School Formals, Myths, Facts and the “Ostrich Mentality” – Elliot D I Kleiner