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“The Curse of the OTAs”

I’ve sat on this blog post for some time but I now feel that it’s time to publish … the message is simple …. please, please, please book direct! Not just for my sake but for any B&B (or hotels, cottages etc) that you’re thinking of visiting. Why? Let me list some really good reasons:

What are OTAs?

OTAs (online travel agents) have been around for a while now. I’ll not give any of them the additional publicity of naming them but they’re the ones that have the flash adverts on the TV, always advertise that they have the best rates and list all different types of accommodation providers on their swanky websites.

I only advertise with one of them so can only base my comments/prices/experiences in this blog from that. Others may be better or worse and my comments only refer to “B&Bs” although hotels, cottages, etc also advertise on their websites.

What do OTAs do?

For the B&B owner: For a fee, you can advertise your B&B business on their website.

For the public: they promise the best prices, everything in one place, free booking, free cancellation, etc. etc. etc. Slick apps allow customers to book on the go and have complete control of their bookings.

That’s great isn’t it?

For the customer, yes (up to a point), for the B&B industry, no!

So what are the problems?

  • Commission: 
    • They charge B&B owners a standard 15% commission … although they will accept up to 50% commission if you want to be at the top of the searches on their website!!
    • That’s good … 85% of a booking is better than 100% of nothing!
    • I don’t mind paying 15% on the bookings that I receive … although for many years, the industry standard commission was 10% from other websites … other websites that no longer exist because the OTAs have basically put them out of business.
    • Don’t forget that it’s 15% of the ENTIRE booking so if you book a room for £75 and wonder if it’s worth £75 don’t forget that the B&B owner actually only receives £63.75 and if you book for four nights at £75 per night, the owner pays commission on all four nights which is £45 of your money and the owner’s profit straight to the OTA!!
    • I, like many, have had to increase my standard rate to compensate for this loss of revenue.
    • End result: you are paying more by booking through an OTA, the B&B owner is receiving less for their hard work, the OTAs are raking it in!
  • Free cancellation:
    • They say that ‘nothing in life is free’ … for the customer, in this case, that’s perhaps not entirely correct, but the cancellations are financially crippling B&B owners.
    • Let’s just say that you book a single night in mid July … three days before you are due to stay, you decide to cancel because your husband gets a puppy (I’m ripping that off from one of the OTAs own TV advertisements!!) If you had a “free cancellation” policy then you’re fine! The B&B owner of the other hand is not. In three days they are unlikely to fill the bed space resulting in a loss of revenue. It may also be that because you’ve had the bed booked, someone else couldn’t book so the owner may have missed out on a more lucrative booking. We accept that is going to happen but when the one-nighter cancels is disheartening. Why should the B&B owner be out of pocked because you decide to cancel at short notice? I was also speaking to a B&B owner just last week who has a week-long booking for July. The booker said she’s only booked a week because she wants to be ‘flexible’ … read into that what you will but I know for a fact that the booker will cancel some/most of the days staying just one or two nights depending upon how her travel plans progress leaving the B&B owner with a room that they’ll struggle to fill at very short notice.
    • I, like many now, have changed my cancellation policy. I’ve just changed it to a strict 14 day policy (although I’m thinking of changing it again to a 30 day policy… the OTA I’m with won’t let me do anything in between or actually even a non-refundable deposit). If people don’t pay 14 days before arrival then I’m thinking of cancelling their reservations. That at least, will give me 14 days to try to fill the vacancy.
    • If you’re not the sort of person who cancels on a whim then you may be wondering why this is an issue: approx. 40% of all OTA bookings that I’ve received this year have cancelled and the situation is getting worse. In all of the years that I’ve been doing B&B only about 1 or sometimes 2 bookings made direct through my website are cancelled per year!!
    • Also consider the fact that processing bookings takes time … and processing cancellations also takes time … doing it so many times is really annoying. What was even more annoying last week was altering an exiting booking from two nights to three nights … then for the booker to cancel the booking entirely two days later!!
    • Result: I haven’t yet come to a conclusion who is most disadvantaged by this situation yet although the customer is fine just now. However, given the general feeling among B&B owner friends that I’ve been chatting to, customers are soon going to find it harder and harder to find accommodation that will not take non-refundable deposits to cut down on cancellations.
  • Booking deposits and cancellation fees:
    • The OTA that I’m with very kindly offer to take deposits for me if I’d like them to but I can’t have the money until the 15th of the following month! So if you book on the 1st July I’ll get my payment on the 15th of August!
    • The OTAs also don’t seem to always check credit cards either … a fellow B&B owner had a cancellation for a week-long booking last summer only a few days before the customer was due to arrive. As it was within the cancellation period, they used the credit card details to claim the money due only to find that the card was declined so got nothing.
    • I’m thankful that my own booking system super checks all cards.
    • When I first joined up with my OTA and a guest cancelled within the cancellation period, they would phone me up asking me if I would allow the guest to cancel free of charge. Now, the customer just clicks a button and I have to deal with it all.
    • Result: again a mixed conclusion although as I never used to take deposits and accepted payment when staying I’d say that the customer is going to be disadvantaged in the long run.
  • Lowest prices:
    • You know those TV adverts that bemoan the fact that there are so many prices out there for the same hotel room? Have you ever wondered why there are so many prices? If everyone booked direct, there would be only one price (I’m stretching the truth here to make a point) however, because different companies charged different commission rates, hotels etc added the commission to the basic room rate so that they weren’t out of pocket. This resulted in different rates for rooms depending upon where they were advertised. On the whole, the B&B/hotel owner therefore received the same amount of money for the room regardless of where it was booked.
    • The OTAs caught on to this and now, when you sign up to advertise on their website, they insist that they always have the lowest (or the same rate) as anywhere else. This means that I can’t advertise lower rates on my own website although I do always ensure that I have “Owner’s Special Deals” which are acceptable.
    • Result: the customer will always find the best price on OTAs because all the prices are the same … but they’re the same higher price because of the commission. Tip: book direct and ask for a discount!
  • Google rankings:
    • Five or six years ago all of my bookings came via my own website or one of a handful of other websites that I chose to advertise on most of which no longer exist. Today, only about 20% of my business is made up of direct bookings and return guests.
    • Today, if you search for “Balkissock Lodge B&B” on Google you’d be hard pushed to find it on the first page. The OTAs use my commission money (that you pay) to grease the metaphorical hand of Google so that they always appear at the top of all of the searches meaning that even if you’re specifically looking for me, you will find that the top listings will all be OTAs!
    • In addition, that annoying review website (the one in green that everyone uses) seems to have done a deal with one of the OTAs so that the review website no longer has a link on their website to my website and they no longer list my price from Freetobook but instead only the OTAs prices automatically show meaning that even when you find me on their site and are interested, you’re still directed, not to me, but to one of the OTAs to check prices and make a booking!!!!!! I can get an account with them and add links to availability/prices from my own booking system but I would either have to ‘pay per click’ which can be costly with little generated revenue or I pay 12-15% commission so I’d be no better off really!

I hate to moan too much as it seems like I’ve nothing positive to say about the situation but I will say that I’m really, really worried about the future of B&Bs. We’re too small to fight the OTAs and because the vast majority of the public use them, we would be out of business if we weren’t advertising with them. They’re so large and the public rely on them so much they can basically dictate the future of our business and from what I’ve so far seen, none of it is good news for B&B owners.

So my plea to you is this … if you’re booking abroad and don’t speak the language then for goodness sakes keep using the OTAs … in those circumstances, I would too. But if you’re thinking of a break in your own country, think of the small business owners up and down the land that would really appreciate it if you give them a call (or email) … like me, they’ll probably offer you an “owner’s special offer’ if you do! Result: win win!!

So please, if you’d like to book, please click on the link and check availability and book direct, thank you!!

Cordelia

PS I’ve deliberately not included photos as I don’t really want to give the OTAs even more publicity!

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… or 

DO NOT book a visit at Balkissock Lodge if you want to leave the door open when you go to the toilet!!

 

Intrigued? Read on…

 

I’ve been asked only once why I don’t display my Visit Scotland rating but the answer intrigued the enquirer to a degree that I thought it worthy of a blog post

 

For those who are not aware, it would cost me £173.28 per year every year (2015 figure) to be part of the Quality Assurance Scheme:

Annual Fee (1 to 3 bedrooms)                        £122.00 + VAT

Additional fee per bedroom                           £11.20 + VAT

Source: http://www.visitscotland.org/pdf/QualityAssurance%202015Fees.pdf

 

To be part of the Scheme, you apply, pay your money and then an inspector visits, inspects, reveals their identity and awards you the grading.

Border Collie in the garden

 

With me so far? OK! This is where is gets interesting…

My business is B&B … BED and BREAKFAST … so you’d expect the majority of the grading criteria to be based upon the quality of the bed and breakfast … yes? OK, so the manner that you greet guests is important, and the information that you provide can make their stay more enjoyable and it’s nice to have a tidy driveway or garden but did you know that of the 42 criteria that a B&B is judged against, only TWO relate to the breakfast. That’s 27 lines of a 9 page document. There is more column space dedicated to the state of my gutters than to what I’m providing for breakfast!

Check it out for yourself: Visit Scotland Grading Criteria for B&Bs

 

How did the inspector rate Balkissock Lodge B&B based on a stay in my popular Arran Room:

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  • Cleanliness: 100% (5*)
  • Hospitality and Friendliness: 100% (5*)
  • Service and Efficiency: 100% (5*)
  • Exterior, Maintenance and Car Park: 60%
  • Bedrooms (Arran room): 62%
  • Bathroom (Arran room): 60%
  • All Public areas Quality and Maintenance: 72% (4*)
  • Dining Room: 60% (Inspector not sure it would hold four guests comfortably …. even though it does)
  • Breakfast Choice and Range: 80% (4*) and awarded a Visit Scotland “Taste our Best” Award

 

Not too shabby don’t you think?

The criteria are grouped into five sections and you have to have at least the same grading in all areas but because the Arran room and its ensuite score only 62% … Balkissock Lodge is only rated:

 

I know … Shock! Horror!

Interesting that guests staying in the Arran room this summer have left seven of the 10 5* reviews on Trip Advisor and four of these couples have commented that I’m not charging enough for the room!

“The [Arran] room was comfortable, spotless with all amenities.” TA review

“…the [Arran] room was spacious and comfortable…” TA review
So what were the inspector’s comments about what I could do to get a further 8 marks in that one section in order to get a 4* grading:

  • Put more pictures on the walls in the lounge and the corridors: there is a huge, expensive, signed print on one wall in the lounge plus two free-standing photos which apparently isn’t enough and I have no pictures (in frames) in the narrow corridor for safety reasons. There are a total of seven pictures in the two bedrooms.
  • Put a light inside the wardrobe because it’s dark in there: hands up everyone who has a light inside their wardrobe? Nope? Didn’t think so!
  • Put the coffee table and tray inside the large wardrobe because the door hits it when you open it: only if you open it over 110º, ie open it further that the other door which only opens to 90º before it hits the wall which apparently is OK though!
  • Buy matching furniture: the other bedroom was fine apparently until I pointed out that the furniture didn’t match in there so what was the difference? A bit of backtracking from the inspector at this point.
  • Provide more sockets as there weren’t enough sockets to plug the hairdryer in: there were three available but the computer, tablet and TV were plugged into them and I have NEVER in five years of B&Bing had anyone pull out the bed to use the socket behind it!!!
  • Change to motion activated lighting: apparently the 11W lamp that I leave on in the corridor all night (the bulb is still cold enough to touch in the morning by the way!) uses more energy than producing these battery operated expensive devices.
  • Put pebbles from the beach and a candle in the fireplace to brighten up the black hole
  • Get rid of the lounge facility (i.e. the sofas, bookcases etc) so that the breakfast room is larger and can comfortably seat four (despite the fact that it already does!)
  • Put a folding garden chair in the room as it takes up less space and there must be a chair in there to get four stars despite it being next door to the lounge!

Table set at Balkissock B&B

… and you’re going to love this one …

Change the door on the bathroom so that it slides into the wall cavity like the 5* new-build holiday cottages in the village so that you don’t have to close the bathroom door to get passed it to get to the toilet!

Oh and apparently there were too many towels and too many mirrors in the room!

Interestingly if you live in the town and only have one hanging basket, the same grading system is used to assess it as was used to assess my almost one acre of not weed-free garden and if you live in the town and have no parking at all then that doesn’t get marked (nor does it lose you marks) but because I have ample free parking it’s marked down because it’s not kept in a pristine condition!!

Also, I provide a huge selection of quality teas and coffee and the inspector even commented that it was the only place that they’d been offered their favourite Chai Tea. It’s all from Taylors of Harrogate, Clipper, Twinings or a similar quality renowned company but the examiner went to their car to bring me a sample of a tea that they thought I should be serving because it’s promoted as “Scottish Breakfast Tea”.  I checked the company’s website.  It’s imported and packaged in Scotland…nothing special!

Twinings, Clipper and Taylors of Harrogate Tea for B&B guests

So to sum up …

Basically, if you’re OK with too many mirrors and towels and a huge range of quality teas and coffees from the UK but not necessarily packaged in Scotland, it you don’t mind looking at facebook/twitter/Pinterest/Instagram and the website for your ‘fix’ of additional photos, aren’t bothered about neon lights in your wardrobe, can sensibly open a door without hitting a table, don’t mind if the bedside table and the table that the tea tray sit on don’t match, don’t mind unplugging one of your chargers when you want to dry your hair and normally close the bathroom door to when you go for a pee then Balkissock Lodge is perfect for you!!

Afternoon tea on the lawn

Alternatively, I could spend all day doing the gardening so that the garden, driveway and car park are pristine and not cook home baked biscuits for the guests and not make evening meals and home made preserves, and not bake any bread …..!

home baked wholemeal bread

To top it all, because I would not let VS add the 3* rating to their website as I believe that it would put people off visiting, they would not display my lovely “Taste our Best” Award … now that’s just spiteful!

Visit Scotland Taste our Best Award for the B&B, Ayrshire

I spoke to 24 accommodation providers, most in Scotland and some in England, and asked them about their respective grading systems. All but five had abandoned the rating systems because they felt that it did not properly reflect the needs of the modern visitor and they did not see that paying a yearly fee was a good investment for their business.  Of the five still with the grading systems, four didn’t like them but thought it brought additional business and only one was happy with their grading!

“A lot of us in England have left the star rating scheme and seem no ill effect but then visit England website never sent us any business so we weren’t relying on that” private conversation with someone who ran a 5* Gold B&B.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that I’ll not be renewing my grading next year … or ever!!

As an aside: I do also wonder about the business acumen of an inspector that refers to the money paid for the night’s B&B as “pure profit” just because it was paid in cash.  I’m guessing that I don’t need to pay for the water purity tests, the business insurance, advertising, maintenance, the food, electricity, laundry etc. etc. etc. out of this money then?

 

Visit Scotland have not yet responded to either my letter of complaint or to the comments that I added to their on-line questionnaire despite asking if I wanted someone to contact me so I’m unable to give you information from there as yet.

Bitter? Yes, actually I am a little. I know that overall Balkissock Lodge B&B scored 172/200 points which put it firmly in the 4* bracket and that there will be businesses out there that have been awarded a 4* grading with far fewer points which seems dreadfully unfair.

I know from guests comments, from online reviews and from kind comments on Trip Advisor that my guests value the warmth and hospitality and great food and I that no one has ever complained that the Arran room is too small.

Now, I do feel better getting that lot off my chest ;0)

Ayrshire B&B

Thank you for reading,

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

 

Well if that hasn’t put you off …

Click here to check availability and to book online

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There’s so much in the news regarding milk prices and I hope that the peaceful protests in Kilmarnock, Ayr and other towns and cities produce positive dialogue between the farmers and the supermarkets.

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Here at Balkissock Lodge, I’m committed to serving local, regional and Scottish produce wherever possible witch is why the vast majority of milk, cream and other dairy produce bought is either Rowan Glen (Newton Stewart) or Graham’s (Stirling).

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Click her to check B&B availability, special offers, promo codes and to book online

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Environmental Policy

We are lucky enough to live in a truly beautiful area, next to Britain’s first Dark Sky Park and in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.

 

This policy was written to balance two crucial aspects of running a B&B:

  • Providing a high standard and quality of service.
  • Lessening the business’s impact upon the environment.

 

Laundry

Sheets and pillow cases:

 

The sheets and pillowcases are washed after every visitor has left or in the event of a long stay, every five days.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The sheets and pillowcases are washed at 40C.

The sheets and pillowcases are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The sheets and pillowcases are all ironed (b).

Quilt covers:

The quilt covers are washed after every visit.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The quilt covers are washed at 40C.

The quilt covers are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The quilt covers are ironed (b).

Pillow and mattress protectors:

 

Pillow and mattress protectors are washed regularly but not necessarily after every visit.

Any stains are pre-treated.

Pillow and mattress protectors are washed at 40C.

Pillow and mattress protectors are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The pillow and mattress protectors are not ironed unless badly creased (b).

 

Table covers (in bedrooms) and cushion covers:

 

Table and cushion covers are washed when necessary.

Any stains are pre-treated.

Table and cushion covers are washed at 40C.

Table and cushion covers are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

Table and cushion covers are ironed (b).

 

Towels:

 

The towels are washed after every visit.

If visitors are staying longer than one night, any dirty or wet towels, or those placed on the floor or on the floor of the shower are removed and replaced with clean towels.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The towels are washed at 40C.

The towels are air dried when possible (a) and placed into the dryer to fluff.

The towels are dried in the dryer in inclement weather.

The towels are not ironed.

 

Table cloths and napkins:

 

The tablecloths and napkins are washed after every use.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The tablecloths and napkins are washed at 60C.

The tablecloths and napkins are dried in the dryer (c).

The table cloths and napkins are ironed (b)

 

Tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons:

 

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are washed after every use.

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are washed at 60C.

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are dried in the dryer (c).

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are not ironed (b).

Kitchen cleaning

 

The kitchen is cleaned to a schedule that meets Food Safety Assurance Systems.

The benches are sprayed with Dettol spray before and after breakfast is prepared.

Paper towels are used for drying where necessary.

Washable cloths are used where possible.

Carex hand wash is used.

Rubbish and re-cycling

 

Bins in the bedroom are emptied daily. Any items found in there that can be re-cycled such as newspapers and plastic bottles are placed into the household re-cycling bin.

 

Kitchen waste:

 

Raw food waste such as strawberry stalks, pomegranate skins and similar items are placed onto the garden compost heap.

Eggshells are placed onto the garden compost heap.

Excess cooking fat is drained into a container and used to light the coal fire.

Breadcrumbs, left over toast and bacon rind are fed to the garden birds.

Waste food that cannot be composted nor fed to the birds are put into the kitchen bin.

All cereal boxes and other similar paper/card items are placed into the household re-cycling bin.

All juice bottles, milk cartons and all similar items are washed and placed into the household re-cycling bin.

All empty tins, from baked beans, prunes etc. are washed and placed into the household re-cycling bin.

Any items that cannot be recycled in any other way such as greaseproof paper used to wrap sausages are used to light the fire rather than go to landfill.

Central heating:

 

The central heating works from an oil fired boiler and is normally on ‘timed’ to ensure that the rooms are warm in the evening and morning.

The central heating is not normally switched on during the day to avoid excess Kerosene usage (d).

The central heating system is set to a medium temperature to optimise Kerosene usage.

I will always check if guests are warm enough and the heating will be turned up to a higher temperature.

Hot water:

 

Please note that the water is heated in a tank (i.e. it is NOT a ‘combi’ system with instant hot water).

The water is heated morning and afternoon to ensure that there is sufficient for all guests.

The water heater is not normally switched on during the day to avoid excess Kerosene usage (d).

I always check if the water is hot enough and the system will be turned up in the event of water being too cold.

Lighting:

 

The bulbs in the overhead lights and bedside lamps are low energy types.

The bulbs in the corridor are standard types due to the dimmer switch.

Shopping:

 

Shopping trips are kept to a minimum as it is a round trip of approximately 50 miles to Stranraer or 80 miles to Ayr to do the shopping which increases the carbon footprint of the business.

Items that can be stored easily such as toilet rolls and tinned beans are normally bought in bulk whether at the supermarket or the cash and carry.

Items with a short shelf life such as milk can be bought locally in Ballantrae.

To reduce mileage, some items, such as smoked salmon, are frozen.

Bread is made on-site and is fresh each day.

I try to source as much of the produce locally to reduce its carbon footprint.

Water supply:

 

All of the water entering Balkissock Lodge comes from a spring located on Balkissock Hill next to the property. The water is potable and has passed all chemical and bacterial tests. To meet necessary stringent water quality tests the water is treated as follows:

The water passes through an ultra violet light to kill bacteria.

This ultra violet light operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

The ultra violet lamp is replaced every year to ensure that it is working at an optimum level.

The water passes through a string filter to remove all dirt particles.

The string filter is changed every month

The water supply is treated with Milton every two months.

Sewerage, surface water and drainage

 

Septic tank:

 

Balkissock Lodge is serviced by a septic tank that requires a fine balance of waste and microbes to keep it functioning correctly.

All toilets and bathroom waste water at the lodge empty into the septic tank.

Environmentally friendly cleaning products are used to clean the toilets.

Flushing unsuitable items into the tank such as condoms, tampons, baby wipes, etc. result in blockages which are not only costly to rectify but an overflowing septic tank is not only unhygienic and odorous but can damage plants and wildlife (e).

 

Soak away:

 

Surface water from the gutters flows into a soak away in the nearby burn.

Waste water or harmful chemicals are not put down the sink nor into the septic tank but are taken to be treated at a local centre.

 

 

NOTES:

 

(a) In the event of a bird related incident, the item is re-washed.

(b) Items are not re-washed if they get water marks on them from the ironing process.

(c) Items are not placed outside for hygiene reasons.

(d) Guests are normally out of the property during the daytime.

(e) Guests are requested not to flush away such items.

 

What can I do to be an environmentally friendly guest?

 

 

 

Laundry:

Excuse occasional peg marks and water marks on the bed linen and towels.

If staying for a visit of more than one night, place towels that you’re happy to re-use on the towel rail and dirty/wet ones onto the floor of the shower for changing.

If you require fluffier towels please do ask … there are likely to be some in the laundry cupboard.

 

Rubbish:

Place all rubbish for re-cycling into the waste bin in your bedroom. I’m happy to sort it out into the correct recycling boxes for collection.

Bag and dispose of other rubbish, such as tampons and condoms, and place into the covered pedal bin in the bathroom.

 

Central Heating and hot water:

If you are cold PLEASE do let me know and I’ll turn up the heating.

If you’re too warm, feel free to turn down the radiator and/or open the windows.

Please close your window before you leave for the day and through the night both to avoid excessive heat loss and for security of yourself and your items.

Please do not leave the shower or taps running if you are not using them.

Please do not leave the entrance door open when you’re not using them.

 

Cold water supply:

Please do not leave the taps running if you are not using them.

 

Toilet and Septic Tank:

Please do not flush anything down the toilet other than toilet roll.

Place items in the bags provided and dispose of them in the covered pedal bin in the bathroom.

 

 

If you have questions regarding the Environmental Policy please do ask. If there are items that you think have been omitted, please do let me know. This is a live document that grows with age!

 

 

.

Cordelia Galley

Balkissock Lodge B&B

April 2015

Click here to check B&B availability, promo codes, special offers and to book online

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Our small village hosted quite a big event today as part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.

My other half, Howard, had been previously asked to take some publicity photos, one of which was used on the front of the leaflets.

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Local firms selling included Petrie Fine Foods, Dunlop Dairies, The Hidden Garden, Galloway Chillies, Dalduff Farm Shop, Marrbury Smokehouse, J Pieroni & Sons, Lottie’s Kitchen, Barwheys Dairy and much, much more….

 

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Local forager, Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, demonstrated the wealth of free food available on the doorstep and sea shore and even took groups of people out foraging.

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Doing cookery demonstrations were:

Munur Kara, Executive Chef at Trump Turnberry Golf Resort.

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Susan Cossthwaite, festival organiser, from Cosses Country House.

 

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Kirsty Wark, TV presenter and finalist of Celebrity Masterchef.

 

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And music was supplied by a great local band called Pulse…a great mixture of blues and jazz for today’s event.

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I was really impressed that their music was stored on iPads!

A great day and one I hope that is repeated over the coming years going from strength to strength.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Click her to check B&B availability, special offers, promo codes and to book online

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Education in Scotland

… a personal perspective

I’ve been teaching a number of years and before moving to Scotland worked as the Head of Design Technology in a busy department in one of the top comprehensive schools in England.  A progressive school, praised by Ofsted as “outstanding” in all areas and mentioned twice in the Houses of Commons as a model of good practice.

So, with excellent references and a good honours degree perhaps you’d share my thinking that it wouldn’t take too long to find suitable teaching employment in Scotland … think again!

DEAR DIARY ….

30th June 2011: It’s the last day of term and everyone is excited and looking forward to the holiday.   I need to take off my teaching head and don my B&B head as I’ve 7 weeks of non-stop breakfasts, cleaning and evening meals ahead.

9th August 2011: Today I met up for lunch with the ladies that I’ve been working with for the past 21 months in Home Economics (HE) … naturally, we talked ‘shop’.

16th August 2011: First day of term… the Local Authority (LA), haven’t phoned … my friend & colleague has however and wonders where I am. She’s sorted all my class lists and done my food orders ready for me starting.  #Bless

18th August 2011: Friend & colleague been on phone to say that she misses me and the children are asking where I am…two were crying because I wasn’t there!

19th August 2011: Phoned LA who tell me that the job is to be advertised and they’re not filling it in the meantime.  I can’t apply because the LA won’t appoint outside of my own subject (Technical) (even though there’s no legal reason preventing them) and (apparently) I’m not qualified to teach the subject I’ve been successfully teaching for 21 months.

PS: Head Teacher (HT) telephoned me to apologise; she didn’t know of the LA’s intentions.

PPS: Telephoned the General Teaching Council in Scotland (GTCS) who suggest reminding the LA that due to a repeal of the Education Act some years ago they could legally appoint me.

PPPS: HT phoned back again and said she also got nowhere with the LA.

24th August 2011: Colleague telephoned and tells me they have a retired teacher doing the job that they’re “not filling in the meantime”.  #Annoyed

26th August 2011: LA have sent my P45 and backdated it to 15th August 2011.  #Hmmm

5th September 2011: Contacted my Union for advice.  Been emailing back and forward all day clarifying points and details.  Head’s spinning! Union contacted LA who told them that they send the P45s out every year “as a matter of course” … odd how I don’t remember one arriving last year!

9th September 2011: The LA have advertised the job today … 0.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Permanent.

12th September 2011: Thought “sod it” and applied for the job anyway!

13th September 2011: Union contacted to say that they think I have a case for asking LA to give me a permanent contract as I had continuous employment with them for 2 years (according to the LA’s own regulations).

14th September 2011: Sent a letter to the LA requesting permanent employment.

19th September 2011: Had an email from the LA saying that the job has been changed from permanent to temporary! Spoke to Union who don’t seem alarmed – they really need to wise up…!

3rd October 2011: Emailed recruitment to ask for an update on the advertised job … advised that the post was “in process of being leeted for” and that they’ll email when they know.

PS: No work since June … worried about paying mortgage.

9th October 2011: Held Craft Fayre today at the Lodge and raised £80 for local charity. Friend and colleague came to support and also told me that the job has vanished – the classes have been given to any teacher who had space on their timetable and they have supply in for lessons that couldn’t be covered.

11th October 2011: Letter arrived from the LA saying that I am not entitled to permanent employment as I had not worked for them for a continuous two years … I’m two weeks short apparently!!

PS: …and because they didn’t give me any work for the first few weeks of term there’s a break in my contract so I’m not entitled to any further employment rights and I’ll have to start accruing entitlement and wait another two FULL years until I’m once again eligible.  #Angry

18th October 2011: Noticed that adjoining LA have advertised a teaching job as “term time only” and adjusted the pay accordingly.  I think that should be filed under #WTF

19th October 2011: Decided that life’s too short to be away from those that you love and that the LA can shove teaching in Scotland where the sun doesn’t shine.  Telephoned the General Teaching Council in England (GTCE) to re-register: one form, 10 mins to fill in (unlike the 42 separate documents I had to photocopy and submit to the GTCS a few years ago (yes I did count them) … unnecessary bureaucracy and NO that doesn’t mean that they have higher standards!).

24th October 2011: LA still haven’t bothered to email me, as promised, to let me know about the job that they advertised as permanent but now no longer exists. Thought that I’d better update the Union … for what that’s worth!

25th October 2011: I was booked to do a day’s supply today at a different school.  The Principal Teacher (HOD) was so pleased to see that it was ME who turned up (having previously interviewed me for the job that the LA refused to employ me for) the school promptly booked me until Christmas … so the LA are now employing me FULL TIME in a HE job that “I’m not qualified to teach”…!! #Madness

30th October 2011: Friend and colleague telephoned … the retired supply teacher doing my old job was not happy that the LA have cut HER job to 5 hrs per week!

11th November 2011: Two possible jobs in the TES today … a maternity cover and a HOD job – guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

12th November 2011: GTCE have sent my full registration certificate this morning #Efficient

P.S. I’ve posted my applications for the two jobs.

28th November 2011: Wow … have an interview on Friday for the Maternity job … told school and they wished me luck but said that they’d be really sorry to lose me.

2nd December 2011: Decided early this morning to withdraw from the interview … very difficult decision … I need to focus on a permanent position.

5th December 2011: Received phone call this afternoon inviting me to interview on Monday for the HOD job.

12th December 2011: Interview day – feeling very nervous – it’s the first one I’ve had in 8 years in England!  36 applicants and 4 interviewed.

PS: Didn’t get the job but I appointed and mentored the teacher who did when she was a new teacher a few years ago! #Ironic

22nd December 2011:  Today is the last day of my current contract … school have put in a request to keep me … no word from the LA. #Typical

6th January 2012:  No phone call or contract so no idea if I’m at same school on Monday or if I have any work at all. Telephoned LA.  Snotty woman on phone said that they had been done on Wednesday and mine will be with me shortly.  I’ll not hold my breath!

1st February 2012:  Emailed my HT to advise him I’ve seen a HOD job that I’m applying for … he replied: “We will certainly miss you from the school” #Bless

6th February 2012:  Received my Post Graduate Diploma Certificate from Newcastle University this morning.

9th February 2010: Phoned LA:

Me: Should I be attending school next Tuesday for the Inservice day?

LA: You have a full-time contract so yes, it’s part of your contract.

Me: I do not have a full-time contract … in fact I have no contract at all since you haven’t bothered to post one to me even though I’ve telephoned to chase it up and since you wouldn’t pay me last year for attending an Inservice day I’ll be damned if I’m coming in next week if you’re not going to pay me.

LA:  Let me check *kept on hold for a while* Yes, you’re definitely full time so you will be paid for the day and I’ll ensure that your contract is in the post straight away.

As usual, I’ll not hold my breath!

10th February 2012:  Received telephone call inviting me for an interview.

21st February 2012: Interview day. 42 applications, 4 interviewed. #Nervous

PS: Didn’t much care for some of the staff but no worries as I didn’t get the job either!

22nd March 2012: Another interview today … worst one yet. The staff were just plain awful – so relieved when I didn’t get offered the job!  Decided that I’ve had enough – it’s a long way to go each time for interview and I’m so tired and demoralised!  Confidence is at an all-time low!!  Telephoned good teaching colleagues who I know can put things into perspective for me.

13th May 2012:   Applied for an Assistant Faculty Leader job today that I really like the sound of.  It’s the highest position I’ve applied for and would be a promotion on the job I used to hold in England.

16th May 2012:  LA have advertised the HE job that I’m currently doing but cannot apply for.

23rd May 2012: Telephone call inviting me for an interview.

29th May 2012:  Interview day.  No nerves … this feels right!! 28 applications, 4 interviewed.

PS: HT phoned me at 2pm to offer me the position. #stunned

30th May 2012:  Went to school with a heavy heart … I should be feeling proud and happy but I’m sad to be leaving.  Lots of hugs from all.

PS: My P60 arrived today.  It’s wrong … again #ffs

12th June 2012: Another school in the LA that advertised for a HE teacher and got no applications phoned my HOD today to see if I was available to book for August.  Nice to be wanted

13th June 2012:  The lady who applied for the job I’m currently doing was interviewed and appointed today.  She’s lovely and I know that she’ll be very happy working with my wonderful colleagues.

26th June 2012:  Last day of teaching in Scotland … end of an era! Lunch with the ladies was sad.  HT gave me a huge hug before I left wishing me every luck and success in my new job and was so sad that I was leaving *crying* (me that is!)

31st August 2012:  Starting my new job on Monday …. beginning to get nervous!!  Had three phone calls from LA desperate for me to teach HE again this year as they’re short staffed. My P45 hasn’t arrived “as a matter of course” this year … apparently they can’t send it until I officially resign in writing!! #colddayinhell

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Selling the house and winding up my husband’s business are the next steps I guess.  We’ll miss the country life but hopefully find time to visit our Scottish friends from time-to-time.

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It’s difficult to put into words the level of contempt that I have for my previous LA.  I’ve spoken to many teachers about my predicament over the past year and been saddened to learn I’m not alone.  One said she was on short-term contracts for 18 years and another doesn’t know who’s going to be working in her department from one week to the next!

But I have a wonderful new job and I’m looking forward to seeing more of my family.

As a final note of irony … not only am I teaching Food and Textiles Technology (HE) … I’m in charge of the department!!

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Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge

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