Gearing up for a pitching meeting is always a little like standing in the wings just before darting onto the stage with a flourish and announcing yourself with fluid iambic brilliance. You gird your loins, press your shirt and make yourself battle ready. Same as an interview, same as any meeting really. You want to be sharp, make a good impression and understand that any professional interaction carries with it the unspoken understanding that someone is selling something and someone is buying something. An idea, an excuse and often a product or service.
Schools however seem to enjoy an odd and uneasy relationship with that idea – as a governor I see how much work goes on behind the scenes in terms of balancing the books, there is an enormous amount of scrutiny over every penny spent, as there should be, to yield the best possible return for the school and their pupils and I believe our school is that rare thing of being a true collaborator. However despite schools’ collectively shrewish eye for detail many, if not all the schools we’ve pitched to, worked or collaborated with have the professional comportment skills of a partially trained chimpanzee. Not so much with the faeces flinging but rather the absence of any of the professional courtesies that one has come to expect in any other sector. Working in recruitment if I tell a client I will call them at X time or have a certain amount of CVs on their desk by a certain day then I make damn sure I honour that commitment or if absolutely necessary let them know why I won’t or can’t. It is the very minimum that they deserve and the least I can do in order to maintain good faith and a level of credibility.
However the number of deadlines, dates, meetings and phone calls that have gone unanswered, shifted at the last minute and ignored should be of real concern to the parents, the students and the system. I believe in top down learning and management. Time keeping and professional courtesy are the bedrock of, and underlie every professional relationship and without those essential skills finding work will be almost impossible. Given so many schools’ curmudgeonly unwillingness to engage with the private sector and the rankly amateurish behaviour when they do, I find it staggering that they still insist they are the best people to teach their students how to operate within the workplace. If I treated any of my clients or suppliers with the same level of disdain as I’ve encountered within education I would quite rightly expect that bridge to be thoroughly incinerated.
However all that being said when confronted on the matter they respond like sulky teenagers who have been pulled up for wearing too short a skirt at school. Wounded pride, lashing out, defensive and childish they deny any wrongdoing and then compound it by continuing to plough the stroppy furrow. Given the challenges that lie ahead for not just education but also employers and firms, now more than ever a collaborative rather than combative relationship should be embraced. Employers need a workforce fit for the jobs and challenges of the new world order and similarly schools need the help and expertise from outside providers to help skill those students up to meet expectation. So rather than ducking calls and being pouty when called on it, let’s all try to be a little more professional.