The wild, weird and wonderful places we answer school leaders’ and governors’ questions

The Key

Nina Siddall-Ward, an associate education expert for The Key, describes some of the more unusual places she’s been called on to answer questions for our members.


quote-startIn many a Key article, the researcher writes: “We asked one of our experts…” Have you ever wondered where that expert was or what they were doing when asked?

Over the years I’ve often chuckled to myself, and occasionally with the researcher, when The Ringtone goes and a polite voice says: “Hello, Nina, this is x from The Key. Do you have a moment to discuss a question from one of our members?”

Nina’s Birman kitten

Sometimes I’m simply alone in my office enjoying beautiful sea views, or designing CPD training packages with a Birman kitten draped across my keyboard and puppies chewing at my toes. I also might be deep in the woodlands dogwalking, or at the cooker trying out creative recipes.

However, the three occasions outlined below were times when I’ve had to put major life events on hold in order to make Key responses my priority. “Stop right there!”, I think to myself on these occasions, as I imagine the call having a two-way mirror or video function that reveals my situation …

1Suitcases packed, front door locked: “Hurray, we’re off on honeymoon!” This was a moment in history: we were so excited, standing on the drive … then came The Ringtone. “Hello, Nina,” said the voice. “Do you have a moment to discuss a question from one of our members?” I do not recall the subject of the commission; I do remember being able to provide an immediate response and then sharing the moment with the researcher, adding: “I won’t invoice this call… have this one on me!”

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2Christmas 2014 food shopping. Our two trolleys arrive at the supermarket check-out; fully laden, we begin to empty their contents onto the conveyor.  The Ringtone! “Hello, Nina. Do you have a moment to discuss a question from one of our members?”  I sidle away to take the commission, which is a written response to be worked on later. Needless to say, I am still teased for my lack of involvement in the payment and packing that year!

3Only last week, on one of the worst driving days of the year, with nose-to-tail traffic jams, I took two calls on my 10-hour journey home from Devon to East Sussex. Ringtone: “Hello, Nina. Do you have a moment to discuss a question from one of our members?” Pulling into a layby, I then stood at the side of the A35, sheltering from the rain under an old oak tree. The researchers making the calls must have wondered about the strange background sloshing noises.

I always say that leadership in schools is a day job with a night shift. Problems aren’t just tackled during working hours from behind office desks, so I imagine that school leaders will have sent in questions from a range of wild, weird and wonderful places themselves. Perhaps that two-way mirror could work both ways.

Nina Siddall-Ward is director of Why Consultancy Ltd, an independent educational and motivational consultancy business that specialises in finding innovative solutions to everyday and complex issues. She is also an associate education expert for The Key. She’ll be speaking at our primary assessment conferences in both London and Leeds this month.


Comments 1

  1. Tony Cook 3rd November 2015

    Yes, it has happened to me. Only last week I was taking a short break on the Isle of Wight, eating a cream tea and the phone went with a question! So with scone, jam and cream in one hand and phone in the other I duly listened to the commission and then emailed through the response later that afternoon from my hotel room.

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